Thursday, April 30, 2020

More Stuff I'd Do Differently in GURPS DF Felltower

Here is the latest thoughts in my "If I could do it differently . . ." posts about my DF game, Felltower.

No Signature Gear

When we started play, we did Signature Gear as written in Basic Set - 1 point = $500 worth of plot-protected item. Later, we changed it to a 1-point perk that makes an item Signature Gear, but doesn't provide any $ to spend on items (DFRPG does it this way, too.)

If I could do it again . . . I'd get rid of it entirely.

The issue is that in DF, especially old-school style megadungeon play, stuff is fungible. Stuff is the point of delving, but stuff can and does get lost, destroyed, or otherwise separated from your PC willingly or not. It also gets replaced with better stuff. Signature Gear is specifically opposite of that approach. Your special sword/knife/axe/hat and whip/etc. is part of your character. It can't be destroyed, it can't be lost, it can't be sold off. It's part of you.

But megadungeons are places where a poorly-worded wish or stepping through the wrong portal teleports you naked out of the dungeoon. Megadungeons have rust monsters who you stab in the eye when you're fooled by the illusion of a giant rat. Megadungeons are places where you fall to your doom off a staircase and get saved . . . but your weapon doesn't. Oh, but then it does, because you paid 1 point to have that weapon come back safely after all.

Then comes the potential threat of people finding artifact-grade weapons, using Signature Gear to bond to them, and then what? If they lose it, I'm obligated to keep it around and make sure it comes back to them. But megadungeon play and old-school play isn't like that.

Signature Gear would be axed if I was able to start over from scratch.

Buy All the Spells You Want

My players insisted a while back that we go from "1 spell per downtime" to unlimited. I really thought it would be a problem. It hasn't.

It has been an issue in that people do seem to figure out a way around then "and then you do nothing else that downtime" issue. Someone else shops for them. Someone else finds the sage and does the research. Someone else gets their items enchanted. So that's an issue. Probably better to just have said you can spend your points as you wish and moved on from day one.


I'd absolutely hand out a lot more treasure, which would be less of an issue with early caps on buying magic items in town. I'd go for my 10x cost for magic items but 10x the treasure in the dungeon approach.

Speaking of which, I'd also couple this with flat resale prices for potions in town, ala DFRPG. $100 each, no matter what. You can sell them but that's that.

I'd actually also make gems and jewelry sell like items - 40%. That would encourage people to buy levels of Wealth and skill in Merchant. It also gets odd when people try to figure out something is more "gem" or "jewelry" than "item" so they can get a free markup. Nah, it's all the same. There is 10x as much, though, so you're still getting more.

This one, by the way, is still tempting to do. Most of them are, actually, it's just that they'd be trickier to do in play. I'm likely to not allow buying something as "Signature Gear" when you find it, no matter how long you use it. If it's really "part of you" than make it up with you.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

PC Tips from Darkest Dungeon

Darkest Dungeon has some lessons to teach a player for a tabletop old-school game. Chronologically it's the reverse - Darkest Dungeon rewards you for playing like you memorized Gary Gygax's advice in the back of the AD&D Players Handbook.

Here is are some "Darkest Dungeon" tips and how they apply to the tabletop.

Have a Plan

You can't just go willy-nilly after an adventure. Unless circumstances force you to just go and see, have a plan for what you want to do. Even if you have to just go and scout around and hope . . . make that the plan and go with reconnaissance in mind. Know what "success" looks like for the plan, what is a sign of failure, and have a secondary objective in case the primary one is out of reach. And if things aren't going well . . . see "Managing Risk" and "One More Room," below.

"Go in and find enough loot" is a hope, not a plan. It's a definition of success not a plan of action.

Bring the right people.

You need a mission that suits your party and a party that suits your mission.

In DD this means choosing the right four and the taking them against the foes and into the areas that best suit them. On the tabletop, this means only going to places you can handle with the group you have. If you need to purge a temple of evil, have your cleric. If you need to fight a large force of fodder types, bring your multiple-attacking fighters. If you need to fight one big monster, make sure you've got at least one guy who does high damage. Etc.

Bring the Right Stuff

You don't have unlimited money and encumbrance (item slots in DD, weight in most tabletop games), so you can't bring enough of everything. You need to decide what you absolutely need to succeed and bring that, and some "this would be nice" stuff if you can afford it with money and space. But it also means don't bring more than you need - the "everyone has a 10' pole" line from Gygax in the PHB is apt, here. Extras are nice, but overages are still overages. Don't over-pack and don't under-pack.

Food and light sources, though - you probably can't overdo those in most cases. Aim to end with extras, just in case things take longer than you thought.

Don't Get Distracted

DD is full of curios. Most of them are a bad idea to touch, at least some of the time. Best bet? Don't touch them. Ignore them and move on unless they're part of the mission or clearly, unmistakeably treasure. Even then, have a care. Tabletop . . . the same. If you have a plan of action that doesn't involve some distraction, avoid the distraction. Get in, get your plan executed, and get out safely.

Manage Risk

You need to be bold and take risks to get anywhere in games of these sorts. But don't be bold when there isn't a reward, and don't take risks you don't need. But cuation won't get you anywhere. If you're being totally cautious and careful you won't get anywhere. You'll need to risk injury or death, put resources on the line, or flat-out just expend permanently resources you can't replace in the service of getting to your goal.

Risk has to be managed - when the risk comes with a certain reward, you may need to take it. If you're always being very careful, eventually, you'll be unable to complete your missions and run out of resources. That goes for DD and on the tabletop.

Don't go "one more room."

If the mission is successful, unless you have absolute certainty you have easy profit and no or minimal loss, just end it there. Get out. Don't go another room, another fight, another hallway. Just leave. Anything less than certainty is risk, and risk isn't your friend. Sometimes "one more room" pays off. But in general, it's not going to.

This is especially true if you're either just being a completist. And for those moments when you're saying, "Well, that door probably leads to an empty room, which would be great, so let's just open it and make sure it does." You know, those moment when you don't want it to be a monster, a trick, a trap, a puzzle, or mystery. So just leave it alone. Make it part of the next plan, for next time, and come prepared. But don't risk victory trying to make it a more complete victory. Or risk a near-TPK becoming an actual TPK because you decided just to check out that one thing on the way home.

Actually if this whole post has one takeaway for you, let it be this one. Don't go "one more room." It's far more often a mistake than a good decision.

Found a Weird Wizards quote

This quote would have been perfect for my Weird Wizards post:

“None can use black magic without straining the soul to the uttermost—and staining it into the bargain. None can inflict suffering without enduring the same. None can send death by spells and sorcery without walking on the brink of death’s own abyss, aye, and dripping his own blood into it. The forces black magic evokes are like two-edged poisoned swords with grips studded with scorpion stings. Only a strong man, leather-handed, in whom hate and evil are very powerful, can wield them, and he only for a space.” —Fritz Leiber (in Swords & Deviltry)

I stumbled on this on Ray's Reading

I should have put it in my post! Maybe I'll do so retroactively.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Darkest Dungeon

The other day I posted that GOG had put Darkest Dungeon on a very steep discount. It was $5. I'd been eyeing it for years, literally, after having heard a couple of my players talk about it.

For $5 I figured that even if I got only a few hours of fun out of it I'd be okay. And heck, maybe I could get an idea or two for my own gaming.

What I wanted was a game I could play with minimal thought. I ended up with a game that takes some thought and planning. Nothing like the mind-drain that is War in the East or (to me anyway) its more complex brother, War in the West. It still takes planning.

If you're not familiar with the game, I'll give you a quick rundown:

- your ancestor was a bored rich person who dug too deep and dreamed a little too much of a dream of power. In the paraphrased words of Glen Cook, he brought back fingers cobwebbed with damnnation.

- you take a ride to a sad little hamlet next to your ancestral home, a ciffside house with a nearby wilderness, warren, ruin, and cove as well as the titular "Darkest Dungeon" and recruit adventurers to send to clear out the evil.

- the whole game is hardcore mode. It saves continuously. Everything you do is permanent.

- character death is something to try to avoid, but it happens. It's basically permanent (although there are events that affect that.)

- characters suffer stress from delving, from getting critically hit, from almost dying, from running away, from standing to fight, from darkness, from too much light (with the wrong manias), etc. Enough stress and they can go crazy, which is stressful on others. Enough stress and they can even die from it.

- injury can also kill you. Injury happens a lot.

- even totally successful delve can have negative, lasting (or costly to fix) impacts on your characters.

- you never have enough resources to go around. Nor enough space for treasure needed to replenish it. You'll find yourself tossing treasure to keep food, torches, or special unguents or quest items. Equally, you'll find yourself tossing torches, food, and special unguents to make room for quest items and treasure. Everything is a tradeoff.

All in all, it's black, bleak, very Warhammer-like, and fun.

It can be maddening, mostly when you click the wrong button and bad stuff happens. The initiative system is round-based rolling, so it's dreadfully common to have one side go twice in a row. If that side is the bad guys and they include a multi-action foe, you can get curb-stomped down from 'totally healthy and sane' to 'dead and mission failure' while you just sit and watch.

All in all, though, it's fun. I'm not likely to plunder it for ideas, not for my current gaming, but it is a lot of fun. Probably even $25 worth (list price), if I ever spent $25 for non-giant-wargame video games.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Random Links for 4/27

Just some links I wanted to post but didn't get to over the weekend.

- There is a podcast up with Dr. Kromm over on Roleplay Rescue. I haven't listened to it yet. I've found that I'm a big fan of podcasts while I'm driving, and I work from home at the moment due to COVID-19. I just don't listen when sitting around my house when there is - oooh! Shiny! So I've downloaded this and I'll give it a listen once I'm commuting again.

- According to Kromm, my book was edited and is headed to production. Hopefully after the exhaustive work put into making it better by Doug, Chris, and Matt, it didn't need much editing!

That's it for today. Just a quick update.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Opponent Mix in Felltower

This post was sparked by a tangential discussion in the comments of one of my posts.

What kind of foes are encounter in Felltower? Are they mostly monsters or mostly PC-like, template-built or template-like, "human-like" foes?

I could split it by appearance, but that gets even wonkier. The question really was about template use, so let's try to keep it there. Foes who use any templates will count as non-monsters for this purpose.

If we're comparing "monsters" versus "PC races and PC templates," flat-out, hands-down, monsters win.

Encounter Mix in Felltower by Type

The vast majority by types are monsters.

That is, I've used more unique monster types than non-monster types.

You can see this list here.

Some of that is inevitable - ten bandits is just one listing, but an ooze and an ape demon are two monsters.

By type, then, hands-down it is monsters.

Encounter Mix By Numbers

Here it is like to be more "even." I use a lot of orcs at once. A lot of cone-hatted cultists. Dozens of norkers.

On the other hand, I use much smaller numbers per-encounter of monster types. I'm very likely to deploy 50 orcs at once but dragons and beholders are likely to be singular.

Overall totals are tough . . . but it's possible that non-monsters win here just because of the orcs.

Encounter Mix by Frequency

Monsters win here.

In a given session, it's much more likely that all encounters will be with non-human, non-human-like monster types.

It's extremely rare for a session that's only human-like foes. I'm not certain there has been any recently.

Encounter Mix by Importance

Most of the big, important, carefully-placed encounters in Felltower are non-template built monsters.

There are a few - Rangol Grot is built with a template. So are some wizards and high priest types. The cone-hatted cultist group was partly built with templates for most of the group. But thinking it through, most of what I place down aren't basically Mirror, Mirror PC groups. I'm not really as interested in whowouldwins between Wizards and Clerics, or Barbarians and Martial Artists, or can you kill the Bard with your Knight before he makes you join him. It tires me out to my soul, almost instantly, when that comes up. I'm vastly more interested in when all six of them team up and fight a black reaver or a napalm-spitting dragon or a beholder. So I don't set up a lot of fights.

So, in Felltower, Monsters basically win.

But, if you think about it, humans are the real monsters!

So what? I live in a world where there is no magic, no treasures waiting to be pried out of the hands of monsters, and where humans are the real monsters. So I'm playing a game where those are all incorrect assumptions. I've also played fantasy games mostly not about treasure, or fighting monsters, and where most of the enemies were humans. Or specific to this post, they were basically like the PCs. Inhuman foes showed up, but they were vastly outnumbered by simple country bandits, guardsmen, soldiers, wandering warriors, wizards, and other "normal" types. This is not that game. We did that for 10 years or more, coming out of another game that was 5 years of about the same.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Review: Battletech: The Fox's Teeth

For more reviews, please see my reviews page.

The Fox's Teeth: Exploits of McKinnon's Raiders
Produced by Jordan K. Weisman
Written by L. Ross Babcock III, Patrick L. Larkin, Richard Meyer, William H. Keith, Jr., Richard Meyer, Walter Hunt, Lisa Hunt, Evan Jamison, Samuel Brown Baker II, and Dorothy Elizabeth Baker
48 pages
FASA 1606

The Fox's Teeth is a scenario book for Battletech (the 1985 version.) It is centered on a House Davion/Federated Suns unit, McKinnon's Company of the 7th Crucis Lancers. It features a history section, details of the full 12-mech company, and 14 scenarios including a 4-scenario campaign.

It starts out with a history House Davion and the formation of the Federated Suns, and a gazetteer of some important locations - the capital, New Avalon, New Syrtis, the home of the ambition brother-in-law of the Prince of the Federated Suns, and others. Then it segues into a history of McKinnon's unit.

Unlike the heavy-firepower assault-troop Black Widows, McKinnon's company is more standard. A heavy Command Lance, a Medium Lance headed by a heavy mech, and the all-jump capable Recon Lance with two mediums and two lights. The troops reflect a similar mix, though - the wiley commander, the wiley commander's younger and more irresponsible brother, the cold professional with a grudge over her arm injury, and even a religious fanatic. Most of the mechs are undamaged, but a few have special issues - over-heating guns, armor limits from previous severe damage, and gyro issues to name three. The unit is famed through its history as raiders, guerrilla warfare experts, and being sneaky and clever.

The scenarios really use the personalities of the mechwarriors, too. One scenario is centered on the younger brother getting pushed into a tough mission to make up for previous errors, another had a duel with a twist between one of McKinnon's mechwarriors and the husband of a wife he seduced, and still another has the enemy dealing with command while their frequency is blotted out with the religious fantastic's incessant Old Testament quotes.

The scenarios also have some really unique elements. One is in, and under, water - complete with rules for underwater mech warfare. Another features buried mechs in ambush in a desert, and rules for that. The campaign features a crate of valuable supplies and rules picking up and carrying a crate. It's get-the-McGuffin except you've got to tote it around the map and not get killed trying to make off with it. Mechs without hands - Warhammers and Marauders or Riflemen, say - have issues here.

War Stories: I played some of these scenarios. I didn't really love the big 4-scenario campaign, though. It wasn't that great for solo play when I tried it. I really liked a few other of the scenarios - the underwater fight, for example, and the desert ambush. There is a bizarre mass-of-lights-vs.-standard-lance scenario that is a lot of fun, too.

Overall: While I didn't enjoy this as much as Tales of the Black Widow Company, I think this is almost equally as good for a Battletech player who wants new rules for early Battletech and a solid block of enjoyable scenarios to play out.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Review: Battletech: Tales of the Black Widow Company

While I'm looking at my old Battledroids/Battletech stuff I'm writing reviews of the two Battletech supplements I have - Tales of the Black Widow Company and The Fox's Teeth: Exploits of McKinnon's Raiders.

Here is the first of those two reviews. For more reviews, please see my Reviews Page.

Tales of the Black Widow Company
Produced by Jordan K. Weisman
Written by L. Ross Babcock III, Patrick L. Larkin, Richard Meyer, J. Andrew Keith, and William H. Keith, Jr.
48 pages
FASA 1605

Tales of the Black Widow Company is a scenario book for Battletech, centered around a specific mercenary regiment's elite company. It includes 15 scenarios, including a 4-scenario campaign - The Battle for Hoff - pitting Wolf's Dragoons against the Eridani Light Horse.

It start with a history of Wolf's Dragoons, the unit that Captain Natasha Kerensky's Independent Company aka The Black Widows belongs to. This book expands on the mention in the rulebook that Wolf's Dragoons fought for and against all of the major houses, and has some kind of supply base outside in the Periphery. It's implicit but strongly implied by their actions that they're scouting out the Inner Sphere for some purpose, and are supplied externally to do so. For what? Well, we know a ruler named "Kerensky" went into exile and that not all of the Star League Army followed him. I always assumed that Wolf's Dragoons were part of that force that followed Kerensky, and they had access to supplies, replacements, techs, and mechs stashed outside the Inner Sphere by the ruling Kerensky, setting them up as a spearhead for a return of the Star League Army. The game went a different way, eventually, but the clues are there for that kind of campaign.

It then goes on with a one-page summary of the origins of the Black Widows and several of their major actions.

The unit is a full company, with four lances - Command Lance, Fire Lance (with two Archers, ouch!), and Recon Lance. The personnel range from professional soldiers of high quality to Dirty Dozen cast-offs from other units. The recklessly brave pilot and her trashed Crusader, the war criminal under a sentence of death who just won't get himself killed, the thrill-seeker, the clueless guy who someone is trying to get killed, the thief . . . all good stuff. Many of the mechs are in good condition, but many others have specific, idiosyncratic issues that haven't been, or can't be, fixed - and the writeup explains where and when that happened. These do give the unit some color, and make it more interesting. It's a tabletop wargame, of course, and you can have the reckless one hang back, the careful one charge berserkly, etc., but it's a lot of fun to try and play them as described.

The opposition is rarely given much personality besides a "main" enemy, if then, but mechs are often equally damaged, not-quite-100% working, or have oddities about them to make the fights interesting. The scenarios have victory conditions that usually are more than just "destroy the enemy" although that's generally not a bad thing if you manage it. They have extra rules, too, to cover the special conditions. One I especially liked are rules for morale and recovery/repair of units in the 3rd Battle for Hoff, a short-ranged high-density slog of a fight between two battled mech companies over a dry riverbed.

It does have some oddness - a pair of special mechs with engines too small, by the rules, to give them the MP they have. It's clearly not a typo as a later rule makes it clear they have their listed, too-high MP. But that's all that I can find.

The art is good, although Kerensky's portrayal is a bit mixed. On the cover she looks like Betty Boop striding through a war zone. Inside, she generally looks like an attractive but serious Russian woman a gun and an attitude. It's kind of amusing to think of crew sidearms when you're fighting with mechs, but I guess when you have to bail you'll want a handy long arm. In any case, the art includes Jim Holloway, whose work I always enjoyed.

In actual play: I played most of these scenarios out. Not all of them - you have a scenario with mechwarrior trainees with very high (in other words, poor) Piloting and Gunnery skills lead by a vet with excellent skills, but I couldn't figure out how to use the Gunner skill because the rulebook lacks an explanation.
I remember specifically playing out the four Hoff scenarios, especially the 3rd scenario and its 21 mechs fighting at short range. It was a lot of fun, although Kerensky herself got waxed from a critical hit to the head from an opposing Phoenix Hawk early on. Oops. The Widows won, barely, as far as I recall but it was amusing that the major character died. Hey, it's combat. The morale rules were good, too, in actual play. They made the fight more than a slog to total destruction.

Overall: I really enjoyed reading this book and playing out the scenarios. I'd play them again if I had time and table space. Highly recommended if you can find a copy.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Weird Wizards

I love weird wizards. The W is for Weirdo.

While I first encountered "normal" wizards like Gandalf, I eventually stumbled across really odd wizards.

Fritz Leiber's duo of patron wizards, Ningauble of the Seven Eyes and Sheelba of the Eyeless Face, plus a few unsavory wizards in his books. Then I ran into Glen Cook's Black Company series, full of wizards like The Hanged Man, The Limper, many-voiced Soulcatcher, big smelly Shapeshifter. And then his Dread Empire books, with the Egg of God and Varthlokkur. (Is it any surprise when you find out Glen Cook and Fritz Leiber were close friends?) The Dying Earth books of Jack Vance came next, with equally strange wizards. Or utterly normal-seeming types who take wizarding like a hobby, but otherwise are very non-wizardly, like wine-swilling Pelias in Robert E. Howard's Conan books.

Therefore when I make wizards in my games, I make weirdos or guys who'd hang out in bars with Oliver Reed.

Wouldn't it be nice if you had to be one or the other? Maybe both?

TSR's Lankhmar City of Adventure supplement points the way. In that game, if you were a Black Wizard (you took Magic-User and Illusionist spells), after a few levels you rolled on a table of deformities.

Why not do the same in GURPS?

This could be a fun campaign switch.

For every 10 points in spells or spell-related advantages (you know the ones), you must have at least -2 points in disadvantages that reflect a weird, bizarro type. These can be any of:

Bad Smell
Disturbing Voice
Dread (holy objects is an easy one; how about beauty?
Frightens Animals
Ham-Fisted (stubby fingers)
No Sense of Smell/Taste
Phantom Voices
Unnatural Features
Unattractive, Ugly, or Very Ugly

or from a pool of social waste:

Compulsive Behavior (you know the ones - gambling, carousing, spending)

So DF wizards with Magery 6 (65 points), Energy Reserve 5 (15), Improved Magic Resistance 3 (15), and 75 points in spells (75)? That's 65+15+15+75=170 points in magical advantages, so that's -34 points of his -55 in disadvantages and quirks must be oddball ones. As you progress in power, you'll need to start to swap out your healthier disadvantages (Sense of Duty, Charitable, Duty, etc.) for these less savory ones.

I'd have to throw in more details, but I think this a pretty good list to start. You'd start out nice, sure . . . but as you earned points, you'd either totally let loose of your morals or your connection to other people and your humanity, one or the other. But you do get more powerful, and you probably already took Obsession (Become the most powerful wizard in the world) so you'd not going to argue with the tradeoff.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Battletech Gunnery Skill

As I went through my Battletech/Battledroids stuff yesterday, I went and looked into something I'd had lurking in the back of mind for a while. That is, what does Gunnery skill do in 1st edition/1985 edition Battletech?

If you use variable Mechwarrior skills, you get a Pilot rating and a Gunnery rating, which is either 3 or 4. Pilot skill rolls are all over the place. You have to make them to do just about anything cool.

Gunnery skill, though . . . I can't find a single instance where it comes up except under Variable Mechwarrior Skills (p. 36). That's it. You have the skill, and you can improve it over time . . . and it doesn't seem to do anything in play. MW skills go down as you get better, so I'm not even sure how you'd use it. Giving Gunnery as a positive modifier to attack rolls means everyone is going miss even worse than before (+4 to the target number on 2d6 roll-over mechanics isn't conducive to hitting; +4 on the roll means the more skilled, the worse!)

Anyone familiar with Battletech know the answer?

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Battledroids pictures

1000 Foot General has been posting summaries of his Mechwarrior games.

I mentioned that I started playing when Battletech was still Battledoids.

My cousin originally bought the set - I think from The Compleat Strategist in Montclair NJ but it's also possible he got it from what would eventually become Timewarp Comics & Games, but was then Fat Moose Comics & Games II. It's hard to remember at this point.

We played it, a lot, and I eventually picked up the next edition when it came out, Battletech. This was back when all of the mechs were straight-up visual copies from Robotech. Thanks to that, I to this day can sight-identify any of those mechs but I can't really identify any of the "new" mechs.

I kept playing on and off over the years. Eventually I found friend who played during the Clan expansion and the later years. I never really enjoyed that era. You went from risking valuable mechs in combat, fighting over scraps of old tech, to finding out that the "Inner Sphere" was surrounded not by bandits and hardscabble nobodies but actually powerful clans with advanced tech. Er, okay.

Anyway, I digress.

I told the 1000 Foot General that I'd roll out what I had. To my disappointment, when I opened the box I couldn't find the rulebook. I'm not sure if I ever had it; it's possible that when I inherited the collection the book was already gone. It doesn't seem to be in my other stuff, and my couple of Battletech supplements are in the box, too. So sadly I can't compare the rules.

The boxed set also came with two mech models to build. My cousin built those, but didn't use the decal transfers. I still have those transfers.

So all I can do is show what I have:

- the box

- the paper minis

- the decals

- the maps (identical to the later ones, except they say Battledroids)

- the record sheets. I have blanks, but here is my cousin's pilot "Logan" piloting a Warhammer.

If I turn up the rules, I will absolutely post about them. I'm really disappointed they weren't in there.

Monday, April 20, 2020

GURPS DF Session 131, Felltower 102 - Lost City 10

Date: Sunday, April 19th, 2020

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

Aldwyn Hale, human knight (297 points)
     Varmus the Hanged, human apprentice wizard (145 points)
"Mild Bruce" McTavish, Jr., human barbarian (267 points)
Crogar, human barbarian (294 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (431 points)
Gerald Tarrant, human necromancer (374 points)
     2 Skeletons (~35 points)
Hayden the Ebon Page, human knight (307 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (306 points)
Wyatt Sorrell, human swashbuckler (293 points)

We started off with the delvers in Sterickburg, gathering rumors including, "You can't trust any damn dirty ape!") and how all of the bodies of water from pools on up in Felltower are connected to each other. The PCs also did some shopping, picking up a few spellstones, but since they expended little last time they had delved. Aldwyn had found and taken on an apprentice wizard

They headed out, met up with Galen on the fringes of town, and headed up to Felltower.

There Ulf put Hide Thoughts on Wyatt and Galen, and himself IIRC, and Gerry created a Skull Spirit.

At the top, the trapdoor was once again locked, and zapped a skeleton. So they headed down through the main entrance, Galen in the lead. Their spikes for the guide ropes were gone. The left pillbox's shutters were open, but Galen waited for a few minutes without hearing or seeing anything. So they crossed over in the usual fashion - jumping Wyatt, Levitate on Ulf, Silence on the spiking, and so on. Everyone crossed. They passed the noisy room quietly, and then had a discussion about the Pool Room. Some new guys wanted to go, but they eventually just decided there wasn't anything valuable or useful there so they moved on.

They headed downstairs, then to the GFS, and then down from there. The stale air downstairs got several of them - Ulf and Aldwyn. The others (including a Luck-using Gerry) managed to deal with it okay. Ulf wondered at a "cure" or magical protection from it, but Mild Bruce scoffed, saying there air is stale and that's that.

They headed quickly to the Lost City gate and found it open. They heard a distant door slam, and then another closer and louder. So they piled right on through the gate after a brief stop to put on Resist Fire on a few people, including Ulf and Varmus and one-two others.

One of them was not Aldwyn, who critically failed his daily HT-2-Enc roll and dropped almost 100% of his FP and nearly collapsed in short order. Pasty knights from Cornwood shouldn't go into the jungle without protection. This immediately derailed the trip.

Ulf recently gained Power Investiture 6 and Sanctuary, and cast it. He opened up a door to a 17-yard cube nowhere space and they entered.

Ulf tried to engage Varmus on the matter of his soul. He replied in a strangled, choking voice, "I worship the Good God. I'm not legally required to discuss my faith." So much for that. Poor Ulf is surrounded by heretics (Bruce, Heyden), clueless wizards (Gerry), all-too-clued-in wizards (Varmus), and disinterested types (Crogar, Galen) and a co-religionist who claims to be an Inquisitor sent to keep tabs on Ulf's religious purity (Wyatt). The others rested. This took the better part of 10 hours, with Aldwyn needing to sleep off his heatstroke and exhaustion, as did Gerry. They managed to recover from the affects of the "stale air," too.

They popped back out into the darkness of the night in the Lost City of D'Abo, more of them protected by Resist Fire including Aldwyn, now. Aldwyn managed to fall of the roof climbing down, though, but was unhurt. The rain made eveything a bit more difficult but it wasn't nearly as hot.

They headed down a different path than before, to avoid any ambushes or traps set on their nearly-identical path each trip. However, they decided to go on Dome Street, past the spooky temple shielded by a magical dome. They did. At night, though, it gave off a black-and-purple radiance (and spooky sounds, but I forgot to mention them) and caused Fright Checks all around. Galen and Heyden failed theirs. Galen was briefly stunned and picked up a quirk (he has a mild phobia related to octopuses and mollusks and such). Heyden got the vapors and fainted away for several minutes. Most of the others were fine, although Ulf was mildly disturbed, too. Wyatt wasn't, and declared himself completely unfazed by the sight.

They pulled back and went around by another route, but then came back into view of the building once again. They all needed Will rolls not to look (Wyatt just went ahead and looked; he made his Fright Check again.) Aldwyn ended up picking up a new quirk - he's afraid of purple, now. Heyden was stunned again (and his player voluntarily got another quirk about fearing ghosts at night; I told him to swap out one of his old ones.) They hurried on.

The trip to their destination was tough. The city was very much alive at night, and everything seemed to be out, hunting, and hostile. Especially as the rain tapered off and the sliver of moonlight came out. The PCs elected to travel with their full lights out, so they were a beacon for anything wanting to find them and were night-blind except for Varmus, who has Night Vision 3 and eyes that reflect like a cat's, and Galen, who was under Dark Vision. They ran into flooding in a street, and their detour through a side street ran them into a 25-30' long slug. They backed out quickly as it sat there eyeing them.

They went around and came up behind the street with the slug, but then Galen spotted vegepygmies crouched in the path ahea, as if in ambush. They backed off, not having Quenton with them to talk and unsure of their reception. They made their way to another route, and then found their chosen path - the north-end rush around the Path of Kings - was flooded. Two crocodiles (or alligators, they're not sure) came after them. Galen shot them both dead in a few seconds. They moved up so Gerry could Zombie one, but then they saw more crocs. They backed off and tried to continue on, but this route was flooded, too. They backtracked, avoiding the crocs who showed up and were now doing dominance-establishing hisses and snaps to determine who got the choice bits of their dead fellows.

They couldn't find an easier route, and they desperately wanted to avoid the Path of Kings because the Kings would give them away with sound even more than all of their light had to vision, they felt.

By this point, they'd been slogging around for a few hours. It's a small city but it's slow going in the rain at night. They crossed the Path of Kings and tried to clamber over some rubble with varying degrees of success, but another giant slug squeezed itself out of a ruined building. They climbed back over as the slug advanced, and move east and then south. They needed to rest - they'd slogged around for hours, it was tiring, not everyone had been able to get sleep (and reset their clocks), and Varmus has Unfit so that didn't help. They dragged him and their tired selves around further, wanting to rest only when they found a safe building.

As they did, several of them saw a bluish glow in the night a short ways off to the West. They all veto'd finding out what it was. Heyden was especially insistent. (GM note - I should have forced Gerry, who has Curious, to roll a self-control roll.) They needed to stop but had no clear or safe place.

Frustrated, Ulf created another (and I quote) "God Damned Sanctuary" and they went in and rested there for another 2 hours.

They popped out again, and moved along the south wall around some ruined buildings in southern Kingston, as they named it. They reached the nearest cover to the bronze/brass gates. After some debating, they sent up Galen to scout a bit and then moved up as group to the gates, going around a wall that blocked easy access. They had a long debated prior to this about if the snakemen used the gate or not. About 1/3 of the group had no opinion, 1/3 said the snakemen use it, and 1/3 that the snakemen didn't flee this way and it was clearly a gate locking in some demon or whatnot.

Galen settled that - he spotted snakeman tracks indicating heavy use, and saw a peg of bronze gleaming with steady use near the door. No key, though, and the gates were locked with a giant intrinsic lock that was vastly too big for normal lockpicks. It clearly needed a key-to-the-city sized key to open it. They put Heyden on guard with See Invisible in the back, and set Wyatt to work to pick the lock. He took extra time (8 minutes), and just managed to pop the lock open. They eased open the gate and moved on, once they were sure the gate wouldn't just lock itself behind them (it couldn't, it required a turned key)

Beyond was a wide corridor that went on at an angle for a few hundred feet, then a narrower passed with a natural tunnel of the side. As they approached it, waves of fist-sized black spiders rushed at them. At least 10 yards deep and 3 yards wide worth of spiders, packed leg to leg. Galen joked it would take a while for him to kill them all. They began to cast spells. Varmus ripped off a large Create Fire to block the way. The spiders kept coming, but stopped just short of the flames as Ulf lashed out with a Sunbolt, Varmus with a Fireball, and then Gerry with an Explosive Skull Missile. Each of the groups hit by the spells just disappeared, leaving no dead spiders or any trace except for scorch marks from spells. More came, and Varmus went to toss another Fireball but critically failed, scorching his hand . . . except he had Resist Fire! (Unluckily, he took enough damage to burn his hand off. Luckily, Gerry's player remembered that Varmus had Resist Fire on. Oh yeah . . .)

They moved down the corridor, avoiding the side passage. On the other end, a passage came into the tunnel from the back-right. Galen spotted more spiders, this time milling around and moving back slowly. They decided to follow. As they did, Galen spotted two thin threads across the passage. He wanted to "disarm" them but couldn't see anything they connected to. So he ducked them after marking them with chalk, and they followed.

Ahead, they saw more of those spiders . . . and webs overhead. They immediately decided to back off and continue south, their original plan.

That took them up a slowly rising tunnel 20' wide and 450 or so feet in length.

Near the end, they saw a widened out room with two doors, and between them another bronze/brass/orichalcum gate. This one had no lock, and seemed like it must retract into the ceiling, or the floor, or both.

They moved up to investigate, and started to move to the door to their right. They posted Galen over on the left. With his Dark Vision, at the end of the area he could see was a giant King Cobra with a female human face, reared up, hood open, staring at them. They all heard a loud rattle. Galen alerted the PCs and took two shots at its eyes, making both shots despite the range and the narrowly space bars of the portcullis (-2 on straight-line shots, -4 on angles), but both came right back at his eyes!

He dove for cover and both missed him. He yelled out what he saw, and the group slowly reacted.

Most of the fighter types took a position and Waited, with no particular trigger (by default, Attack vs. first opponent in reach). Gerry began to cast Great Haste, Varmus Fireball, and Ulf moved in closer to the fighters.

The naga moved forward, hissing with amusement in a feminine, and somehow attractive, voice. With it were three giant snakes, but with each end of the snake had a head! They moved forward in a sidewinder fashion. Galen snapped off two arrows at one of them, and they both missed - Missile Shield. The PCs didn't like their own tactics turned against them.

The snakes and naga moved up to a couple yards short of the portcullis. Gerry sent his skull spirit after it, but it found it couldn't pass the narrow portcullis (it's Diffuse but lacks Infiltration, and the bars were more than skull-width apart. I think the PCs assume it's insubstantial.)

Galen tried to kip up with Acrobatics but failed. So he got up slowly, shooting as he could at the nearest double-ended snake, but the shots all missed. The Naga hissed at him and looked at him, but his Hide Thoughts spell protected him. So it turned its attention elsewhere. Ulf drew his Wand of Holding and zapped it, but it had no effect. It hissed laughter at him, and said, "Your God is weak here, Priest." And the Good God was - Ulf would later find it was a Low Sanctity area.

Varmus tried a Fireball and hit the portcullis instead of his target snake. He started on Pain directed at the naga. The naga tried its powers on Aldwyn or Crogar (I think Crogar) but was resisted.

Meanwhile Crogar had been standing near one of the doors but just waiting. Mild Bruce got impatient and ran at the door and used All-Out Attack to do a running shoulder slam into it to open it. He rolled a critical, and smashed the door open . . . and ran right into three flesh-eating apes! Oops. They quickly mauled him with thighbone clubs - the first hit him in the skull and dealt 20 injury, knocking him down, stunned. The next two hit him in the left leg and torso and wounded him badly. Aldwyn moved up close, but didn't want to have bad footing from Bruce and just waited outside of reach. The apes beat on Mild Bruce a bit more, as Ulf ran up. Ulf scolded Aldwyn, who asked what he expected him to do. "To be a knight and get in there, not do nothing because of bad footing!" So scolded Aldwyn moved in and engaged the apes.

He cut at all three, and decapitated one, but the other shots were dodged. They fought him for a few more seconds but parried his blows narrowly over and over. Ulf meanwhile put Hide Thoughts on him, but with an effective skill of 9, Aldwyn has only a 9 and then a 10 to resist any magical influence.

Gerry finished Great Haste and moved over to Galen and started on Animate Shadow on the naga. The naga hissed laughter at him and said, "My powers protect me more than yours do you, wizard." It resisted Animate Shadow (resisted by Will in my game.) Gerry responded with a Stench spell over a semi-circle on the far side of the gate. The naga was unimpressed.

Crogar, meanwhile, ran over and tried to bash the other door open. He took two tries but couldn't kick it open, when it opened . . . revealing three more apes! Crogar was unhappy at this for some reason. Gerry put Missile Shield on Galen, so he can crit-fish the naga with eye shots (we allow a 3-4 to penetrate Missile Shield and Reverse Missiles).

As this all happened, Heyden was still guarding the rear. He heard a whispering hiss, "You should join our side." He failed to resist, as he stood holding a Strengthen Will spellstone, and he thought that was a great idea! His Per 10 and See Invisible just didn't do it as a rear guard . . . and Wyatt saw nothing. Wyatt meanwhile moved over to support Galen and Gerry and Crogar. Suddenly Ulf and Varmus were attacked. Varmus was bit in the neck by a snakeman who appeared behind him! It bit through his leather neck protection and injected venom . . . which greatly weakened his Will. Ulf was also bitten, and his Will plummeted badly as he failed his roll by 5, even with his Protective Ring.

Galen spotted another snakeman moving up to flank him, Wyatt, and the others . . . the snakeman was invisible but Galen has See Invisible on.

That's when we ran out of time.

This is where we left it:

(The ninja mask denotes a snakeman who is invisible.)


Aldwyn showed up with a henchmen. This led, inevitably, to complaints about why Varmus gets a full share, and it doesn't either come out of Aldwyn's share or just as a salary that Aldwyn pays. I had to point out that everyone benefits from having another NPC, some NPCs come for shares (Melchior, Orcish Bob, the Meeposian brothers, Raggi, etc.) and no one has an issue. That seemed to settle that issue. The fact that Varmus also has to contribute to group expenses, pay for his own upkeep, etc. also helped.

Speaking of Aldwyn, we did finally nail down where he's from. Cornwood, ruled by the beloved and heavily armored King Titanius I. Cornwood was already canonically in this game, but not that Aldwyn is from there.

The players had a pre-game discussion this session about buying Wealth, too. The ones who'd benefit from it the most also have the least likelihood of getting it (it's not a Gerry thing, given his Obliviousness and lack of interest in wealth for wealth's sake, for example, and Galen is a hard-hearted minimalist with Intolerance (Urbanites) so he's out, too.) The ones who are most likely to buy it don't have the money or points. And there is an ongoing discussion about how much extra the person with Comfortable gets to skim off of the top for earning extra cash.

The stale air on the lower levels continues to bother them. There is a solution, but it's not really a matter of guess-the-spell or roll-the-skill.

I still have a lot to learn with Roll20. It's very frustrating sometimes. I'll get smoother but I miss face-to-face.

I don't like to end sessions in the dungeon but this was inevitable. The PCs took a long time to get to their destination and the fight wasn't going to be quick, and it was impossible to extricate themselves from it. So be it.

XP for the session was 0, because it's per-delve not per-session, but MVP for the session was Gerry because his player reminded everyone that Varmus has Resist Fire on.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Felltower pre-summary

Summary goes up tomorrow, but here is a pre-summary:

- Aldwyn found a henchman - an apprentice wizard named Varmus the Hanged - and brought him a 'delving.

- the PCs geared up to delve in the Lost City, sure the gate couldn't be closed two delves in a row.

- they made it to the Lost City, but heatstroke disastrously derailed their first day of delving, but Sanctuary helped.

- they found out why it's a bad idea to pass the weirdly domed "temple" building at night. More Knights with the vapors! New Quirks for many!

- flooded streets, lurking vegepygmies, slugs, crocagators (or allodiles), more slugs, and weird glows made for a rough trip across town.

- the bronze gates were penetrated

- weird spiders were fought

- and the PCs ended up in a nasty battle against a naga, her double-headed snakes, snakemen, apes . . . and some of the PCs.

- and this is Part I delve, because the battle couldn't be finished. Not as good for XP but it should be fun from the word go next time.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

The Cost of Doing Business

It's expensive to delve in Felltower. You need to pay weekly upkeep, and then the PCs tend to spend, spend, spend on potions and spellstones and burn through them heavily.

They also expend more "mundane" thinks such as Power Item charges ($5/FP), rope, rations, Alchemist's Fire, and occasional repairs to armor and weapons.

They do so to earn enough money to reach their loot threshold.

This is an interesting emergent behavior that comes from making a delve about a specific amount of loot, not about a profit.

Let's break that down.

Loot Threshold

With a loot threshold, it only matter that you take home enough money. How much - and what - it costs to get it? Irrelevant. This is a very old-school approach. If you burn through 3000 gp worth of potions and scrolls, get a henchman you spent 1000 gp recruiting and equipping killed irrevocably, and find 10,000 gp . . . you get 10,000 xp. The cost of achieving victory isn't the important part; it's the victory.

This is how my current XP system works. You spend $5,000 each to earn everyone between $200 and $4000 depending on their thresholds? Great, 4 xp each for loot. Thrift doesn't matter, only victory does.

Profit Threshold

Dungeon Fantasy 3: The Next Level has a profit-based system. You have to generate a profit - of any kind, even $1 - to get full XP for loot.

Cost of victory matters. You can't spend $5K to make $200 and call it a full-xp delve. You have to make each arrow, potion, scroll, and point of Power Item FP count.

These result in very different behaviors. The first encourages spending, spending, spending, regardless of how much, even if delves are mostly operated at a crushing loss.

The second encourages careful expenditure of resources. You can't take big risks for big rewards, or worse, big risks for small rewards. You need to manage your costs.

It's just an interesting result of the path I chose.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Darkest Discount

Just FYI, GOG is having a special discount sale on Darkest Dungeon.

It went out to subscribers to their emails. I'm not sure if you sign up now if you'll get the offer, but it's worth a shot. It's $5 after the discount.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Unfocused Thoughts on Wizard Hunter

The Wizard Hunter Power-Up (originally from Pyramid 3/61) has occupied a corner of my mind for a while now.

Specifically, will I allow it in Felltower, and if so, will I modify it at all?

Wizard Hunter allows two things I generally don't love in my gaming: a broad but not rigidly defined power, and effectively allowing for one-way immunity.

Not rigidly defined, in that it allows you to ignore magical defenses from spells. But does that include enchantments? It doesn't say either way. I'm 100% certain my players will argue that it does. Let's say I'm right, and it doesn't include enchantments. In that case Deflect and Fortify will provide full defenses. Bladeturning can turn the weapon. But not much else can. If I'm wrong, and enchantments are included, then are magically-enhanced defenses ignored? Do you bypass the plus to Dodge from Haste? Do you ignore the DR from an Invulnerability ointment? Who can tell?

One way immunity? How is an offense power a one-way immunity? It allows for, say, Missile Shield for PCs while allowing them to freely buy Wizard Hunter to ignore it on enemies. Give the Scout Wizard Hunter and all of his arrows ignore spell-based defenses. Now put Missile Shield on him. Only enemies with ranged attacks unaffected by Missile Shield (few) or who have Wizard Hunter (none) can fight back. Force Dome or Shield or Armor won't help, either.

For all that it does even with a rigid limit (spells only, and only defensive spells and not spells that buff defenses), it feels underpriced to me - I bet if I charged 30 points for it some people would still save up and get it. At 15 points, it's a bit of a no-brainer once you really give it a look. It's best for Scouts and good for everyone else.

So I'm undecided on allowing it at all, at the current cost. It might be a little too cheap and a little too whiz-bang for my style of game.

If you have experience with it in actual play, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Buying Wealth in Play

In my Felltower game, we use the fees for purchasing new advantages and skills. Training costs, because, hey, AD&D 1st edition.

What about Wealth, though?

We use slightly special rules for wealth.

A new advantage is usually $40/point, but for Wealth you need sufficient money for that Wealth level's starting wealth. So to get from Average ($1000 starting wealth) to Comfortable ($2000 starting wealth) will take ($2000 - $1000 =) $1000. Getting to Wealthy ($5000 starting wealth) would cost $4K if Average, $3K if already Comfortable. It costs money to establish those connections in town.

Otherwise you end up with a seeming oddity of "Wealth" requiring less actual small-w wealth than you have when you start. In fact, if you start with Comfortable you get 2x as much money as another starting character, and have contacts in town(s) to sell goods at 60% of list price. But if you bought it later, you only need $400 worth of capital to establish those contacts? That just feels odd. It doesn't have a natural symmetry.

But charging the wealth cost does. So we do.

Takes money to make money.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Making up an Ally NPC

One of the PCs in my Felltower game wants an Ally. Specifically, a wizard ally.

He gets to specify what he's looking for, and then I design the NPC.

I can sum this up in one phrase.


I followed the letter of the request as much as I could. I took his name inspiration from Jack Vance, after I saw how his disadvantages started to stack up. I had an okay name, but then I modified it a bit and made it very . . . very . . . Dell'Orto. It's that weird amalgam of Vance and Cook and my own linguistic amusement that leads to "Gort" or "Orcish Bob" or "Melchior the Malevolent."

Now if he passes muster - and I think he will, as my players have senses of humor - I just need to find an appropriate mini. Time to dig around.

Hopefully I can up a pic of the mini and the full stats of the NPC soon!

Monday, April 13, 2020

S&S Rumor Generator

Over on In Places Deep, there is an excellent Swords & Sorcery adventure generator.

This would make a great rumor generator, too.

"Gang of Pirates DETERS Being of the Outer Dark" becomes, "They say the Southern Pirates are all that stands between the release of a God of Elder Things and this world."

"Hidden Cliffs HIDDEN BY Many-Eyed Wizard" becomes, "The Hidden Cliffs contain great riches within their caves, but they're hidden by a many-eyed wizard."

"Great Shackles PRODUCE Screaming Statues" becomes "Beware the great shackles of Felltower; they turn their victims into helpless statues able only to scream their insanity at the world!"

Hmm . . . I think I'll include one of those as actual fact in my game. There are some blank spots a few more levels down in Felltower . . .

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Felltower, the "Ape Gate," and the PCs

The PCs recently discovered the "jungle gate" actually is better described as the "Ape Gate."

Right now, the options facing the party for the "ape gate" are fairly limited:

- Trade with the apes.

- Fighting "savage" apes.

- Fighting the civilized apes.

Everything else they'd like to do - get a quest (by whatever name - a job, a request, a requirement for access, etc.), fighting in the arena (Mild Bruce's goal, and almost certainly Wyatt would do it to show off), explore the city, find out information about the kingdom (presumably without giving any back, a bedrock PC concern in many games, including mine for some reason) . . . they all require a first step by the apes. The PCs can show up and just hope someone with authority and interest gives them something to do.

So exploration-wise, it's at least momentarily a dead end . . . or is it?

What they know is the area with the gate is a "dead end" of wild jungle surrounded by a C-shape or U-shape of mountains the civilized apes deem impassible. Inside of that are the "savage" apes. What else is in that jungle? They don't know. Are the mountains impassible? They don't know. Why is the gate blocked off so far away from the gate itself?

So there is something to find out, if only if the civilized apes are telling the truth. That might not be a profitable delve, and would need some better outdoor skills to back up Galen.

Let's call that "fighting the 'savage' apes."

The other options?

Trading is possible. It's unlikely to be a source of XP. It's possibly a way to get money, depending on what's on offer this time. The PCs have a personal coin from a merchant of some importance. They don't know what that means, though.

Fighting is also possible. It'll definitely be a way to get loot - assuming they could haul away the gear from the big ape guards, they'd have some unique weapons to sell. They might only get scrap prices from them unless someone has ogres to arm, though. The apes clearly use money and the more important ones wore jewelry of some value (they saw some gold or at least gold-colored jewelry.) They have wizards, so it wouldn't be a walkover no matter how much they buff up their best fighters. But it would be a very PC move.

Developing this into a larger adventure location is going to take some effort by the PCs - either repeated contact or just getting in there and doing something. We'll see which one it is, or if they're distracted by their need to "complete" the Lost City, or by other events in the main dungeon. But the apes will be an element in the future for sure.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

WIP Gladiator Ape

By now you've all seen these apes from Felltower:

They're from the 100 Kingdoms miniatures game. They're all sculpted by Jason Wiebe, who also sculpted the various ape minis I use in my Felltower game to represent flesh-eating apes and "ape shaman."

Pretty much, if Jason Wiebe sculpts an ape, I'm probably going to buy it or at least consider it.

Here is a Bones IV ape (or was it Bones III?) "gladiator" I'm quickly painting up in case I need him for the next time the PCs go through the "ape gate."

For now he's got a base coating on some major areas. He's not going to stay dark brown, exactly - now that he's base-coated in Apple Barrel Colors Burnt Umber, I'll heavily drybrush him in black and then browns. His armor and weapons are bronze for now, but I may change them to a mix of bronze and steel. We'll see as we go. The paint is forgiving enough for another layer . . . the bronze usually requires 2-3 at least so it doesn't look streaky.

Friday, April 10, 2020

White Plume Mountain 5th edition - Session Summaries

Over at Wayne's Books is the first session report on White Plume Mountain:

White Plume Mountain session 1

I'm a big fan of White Plume Mountain.

Here is my review of it:

Review: S2 White Plume Mountain

And here are session summaries of it when my normally-GURPS centered group played it with AD&D 1st edition.

Character Generation

Adventure Logs

Session 1

Prepping for Session 2

Session 2

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Gamma World defined by our Gamma Terra GM

Over on Black Ray Gun, andi jones put up a post defining Gamma World:

So What is Gamma World?

It's a good look at Gamma World and has links to a lot of official images . . . and ones andi has found on the web that represent Gamma World elements well.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

New Brushes

I ordered some new brushes as soon as I ended up with extra time thanks to COVID-19 work schedule changes. It took a couple of weeks for them to finally ship (and then they came the next day.)

Here they are:

It's a new Windsor & Newton Series 7 size 00 to replace my worn-out 00, which finally died just before this whole thing hit, and a set of ProArte brushes that had for a lot less than individual brushes would cost me. The set includes a 0, 2/0, 3/0, 4/0, 5/0, 10/0, and 20/0.

They'll replace some 0, 5/0, and 20/0 and other assorted 1s and 0s and 00s that have worn out.

So far they seem pretty good. I can finally get back to painting without needing to use a W&N 0 to paint literally everything that requires some detail work.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

GURPS Felltrader: Trade & Trading in Felltower

In our game on Sunday, the PCs made peaceful contact (!) with some intelligent apes and monkeys and traded with them.ful

Let's talk about trading in Felltower.

Trading in General

Trading in the last session was interesting. I wanted to avoid the "price list" approach of "find out what everything sells for here, and we'll find out what it sells for in Stericksburg when we get back, and then come back and trade." Prices fluctuate a lot, as does supply. Besides, the merchants are making a price exchange on the fly, here. They're not list pricing pepper and tea and leather products and so on; they're trying to make a deal based on their current supply and what they think they can or need to move. Maybe for "standard" gear a price list works, but it's hell on a trading situation in a game . . . and besides, if I did standard pricing, any price differences would be permanently exploitable or I'd need to adjust for supply and demand anyway, one or the other. Or prices would flatten out and trade would be impossible. The way I did it was a lot less work. So I went with this approach: decide what you want, and they'll make an offer. Prices are final unless you want to dicker with Merchant skill (Exploits p. 13 and p. 16 or Dungeon Fantasy 2 p. 4 and p. 15) and take your chances.

Also, trading was interesting because no one has Merchant skill. So no one had a good way to assess purchases. A lucky (literally Luck-y) roll by Gerry allowed for a good purchase and sale. Even then, since no one has Wealth, and these goods would then sell for 40% . . . that made it vastly more amusing.

Wyatt had a great idea of buying a few things as samples and then creating a demand by marketing them . . . and then filling that demand. Lacking Merchant and other appropriate skills, though, this is very likely to fail. It's a good idea with a character lacking the knowledge to really take care of all of the nuances and negotiations. Execution trumps idea, or that guy Tom on Friendster would be richer than that Facebook dude, as an example. Plus, developing a demand will take time and timing. You'll need to put in a lot of time to do it, try and fail and try and fail until you try and succeed . . . and then you need to be able to fill it. That's nice for potentially putting money in the pockets of PCs but it's hardly as fun as them going into dark tunnels and fighting monsters.

Which brings us to . . . XP and trading.

XP and Trading

For this initial session of trading, absolutely, trading profit was worth XP. It was a new experience, and a risky venture, and it took place in a "dungeon" related adventure.

But will it apply in the future?

This is neither a blanket no, nor a blanket yes.

We all have no interest in playing a trading game. Yet purchasing and sales can be fun. It's fun when the PCs explore and find something they can exploit for profit in a way that doesn't require swords and HP as much as coins and cleverness. It's not fun when everything they run into, or any civilized group it all, come with "my guy keeps an eye out for anything that's selling for less than 40% of the list price in Stericksburg" and it turns into a backhand trading game. I could bust out GURPS Traveller: Far Trader and have a lot of fun with a fantasy trading game. But we won't. Because that's not really as fun as the going into dark tunnels and fighting monsters.

So I may provide XP for trading profit in the future, if the circumstances (or perhaps just the goods) are new and interesting. But I won't routinely just say "profit is loot." By that theory, really, the PCs could actually just spend 10,000 sp to get 2,000 sp and divide up 5-6 ways and have everyone make their threshold, just like when they use $10K in potions to take home $2K in final sale value of enemy weaponry. Or I could say trading never gives XP. But then why do it instead of slaughtering the merchants and taking their stuff, which then amounts to more XP for your paper man?

Giving XP when it's novel, and making it clear when it's no longer novel (like going back to buy and sell spices and river rocks with the apes), seems to be the way to go.

So we'll be doing that.

Monday, April 6, 2020

GURPS DF Session 130, Felltower 101 - Jungle Gate

Date: April 5th, 2020

Weather: Cool and clear near Felltower

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

The PCs gathered in Stericksburg. They gathered rumors, bought a few items - notably, some "ear plugs" of wax and cotton - and headed out, gathering up their wilderness dwelling companions Bruce and Galen on the way. They stopped outside of town for Gerry to make a Skull Spirit. Ulf put Hide Thoughts on their fighter-types.

They found the trapdoor locked, again. One of the skeletons trying to open it got zapped for 1 HP of injury.

Instead they went down the main entrance, taking the usual precaution of sending Galen to scout, and then Wyatt across to tie off the rope (despite his default Knot Tying, he managed.)

They cross with a mix of climbing and Levitate spells and made it around to the noisy room. Mild Bruce shouldered the door open before Ulf could remember to cast Silence. They noisily passed the room but didn't seem to attract much attention - the first level seems largely unpopulated at this point.

They wound their way to the second floor and then to the GFS. As they headed that way, they head a metal clanging noise. Several of the party - including especially Gerry and Galen - wanted to check it out. So they did. They sent Galen down the wide corridor to the right, off of which is the "draugr area."

Long story short, Galen saw two double doors open to the room where way back (112 sessions ago) when they'd found Krug the hobgoblin petrified. He approached and peered in with Dark Vision and saw only familiar old wreckage.

The party approached and sent Wyatt and Galen in. They advanced. They startled . . . something . . . that Wyatt saw and Galen heard. Galen saw a corpse. They tossed a lightstone and further alarmed a giant grey rat . . . for the second it lived. Galen put two arrows into it, killing it. He put in another to make sure.

They moved around search the room - Wyatt checked the corpse after circling to ensure no more rats were around. He found it had its face and ear chewed up, and the right hand had two fingers gnawed off. The clang was an axe falling from a turned-over table, and it had nicked the floor as it fell.

He flipped the orc with his boot after prodding it with a chair leg. It had its face chewed up and its eyes eating out, and had been disembowled and its throat repeatedly stabbed. He had no loot - or boots - and clearly someone had cut his purse strings, taken his weapons, pulled off his boots, and left him here after cutting out his belly and stabbing him about six or seven times in the throat.

They decided to summon its spirit after Wyatt check it for loot, and Mild Bruce checked out the "closet" - a toilet, which he then used to relieve himself. Door open, of course.

They summoned the dead orc, and managed despite their lack of information on him. They questions him about his name, what killed him (his friend gacked him for a sword they'd found, stabbing him in the throat), the size of orc patrols (4-12), how many orcs they had (many dozen patrols), and some other information of probably minor use. They asked questions about the sword - it was clear they thought it might be Gram, but it was just some thrusting broadsword. Eventually they gave up and let the dead orc's spirit go.

They took its armor and put it on an underequipped skeleton, and the axe went to Aldwyn.

They headed back to the GFS.

Carefully proceeding, they made it into the stairs and down to the "apartment level." There they carefully moved along with Galen on point until they reach the gate to the Lost City of D'Abo.

Which wasn't a shimmering pane of nothingness between the two pillars. It just was nothing. They tried tossing a light stone through. No, it just passed between the stones and nothing happened. Wyatt tried passing through, and nothing.

The gate was closed. They set up a short camp and had rations and rested while they figured out what to do next. They had a long conference behind a Silence spell while keeping out Galen as a guard.

They discussed many options but settled, at Gerry's suggestion, with the "jungle gate." His argument was they were ask ready for such a gate as for the jungle-surrounded Lost City of D'Abo. They decided he was correct and planned on that.

Basically, they headed there, carefully advanced with Galen in advance a short distance. They eventually reached the stairs and climbed up to the "Jungle gate." Not without difficulty - there is a spot that's barely wide enough for a normal person. Mild Bruce was too thick for it. He tried a few times and found that if he went up, he could squeeze through better. Still, it was tight.

They climbed the stairs and found the cave with the "jungle gate." Gerry used a scroll with Scry Gate to check it out. It showed them what they saw when Dryst did it last time - a jungle clearing.

They went through, headed up by Wyatt, who insisted they just pile through, no caution this time. They did, and quickly looked around. It was just a clear, about 12-15 yards across, with a pair of columns in the center with a gate between them. Wyatt carefully searched the treeline, checked for ashes from campfires, asked after details of all sorts - he didn't want to miss some damn staff against a tree like other gate travelers had in other places.

The clearing had only one easy way out, which had been traveled heavily but not recently. They headed out that way, past the swaying trees of the jungle, blue lizards, multi-colored snakes, big butterflies, multi-colored birds someone recognized as parrots, big red cardinals (smaller than the ones in the "forest gate"), and other fauna. They traveled down a path that widened out from 3 yards to eventually 10 yards or so wide over the course of 1 mile. Near the mile point, as they approached a ridge about 0.25 miles away, they decided they needed to send Galen to scout it and Gerry made him Invisible. As they did so, they heard noises - it sounded like apes.

And it was - six flesh-eating apes charged from each side of the trail. They were a bit mangy, but otherwise healthy looking, and toted thighbone clubs. They rushed the party at full speed.

They didn't last more than about 5 seconds. Galen immediately broke his Invisibility spell to shoot one ape twice in the vitals, killing it outright. The others wait for the onslaught. Wyatt blinded and killed one ape with two stabs to each eye from his two blades. Aldwyn decapitated one. Mild Bruce wounded one, then fending off a club swing, wounded another, and then turned back to the first and disembowled it. The skeletons fended off a couple for a few seconds but then one skeleton was hit in the skull and utterly destroyed by one of the apes, as the other dropped it axe with a critical failure. Ulf was savagely clubbed down to the ground by one. Galen shot down an ape menacing Wyatt, who was freed to spin and go stabble-stabble on the ape trying to finish Ulf, and then spun and chased a running ape and cut off its left hand and crippled its right leg. Galen shot down a pair, splitting arrows between the vitals of two of them. They dropped, but not satisfied he spent another second putting an arrow into each as they lay there, unmoving.

A couple of apes broke off and tried to run. The first made to the jungle and jumped into the trees, but Galen shot that one down. Another fled on the other side of the fight, and Galen shot him down, too. Mild Bruce finished the ape he was fighting as the skull spirit and one of the skeletons finished their foe, too.

Gerry had cast Great Haste on himself, and used that and some extra time after to get a Zombie spell off on one of them. They zombie ape dragged the others off to the side to clear the path for other travellers. The PCs searched the corpses but found nothing - they were just apes with clubs.

The moved up to the ridge, and saw down into a bowl of a valley, with a city in it, with jungle trees growing up all over it. It was clearly in active use.

They hit the dirt and looked down.

They watched for a bit and observed a pair of giant watchtowers with a rope walkway between, but no gate. And no walls - just obelisks every 6 feet or so in a semicircle in the jungle to either side. They saw humanoid figures - which Galen said were apes. Clothed, and some armed, apes. The city was spread out, with cyclopean tan stone block buildings eventually given way to columned white buildings in the distance. They could also hear a distant roar and clapping from an oval shaped building (it seemed.)

Eventually they decided to stash the zombie ape in the jungle (Gerry, "Play dead.") They then headed down to the gates in plain site. They were seen right away; a half-dozen 10' tall apes in blue uniforms and metal armor came out and stood blocking the entrance at rigid attention.

The PCs closed in and Ulf spoke to them.

One clearly outranked the rest, and barked something in a hooting, grunting tongue. Ulf tried Common again. Exasperated, the gorilla tried again, louder. Still, Ulf wasn't able to understand. At his wits end with this helpless foreigners, the gorilla called over to a nearby monkey (who Wyatt had noted and decided was clearly the leader-type.) It barked at the moneky, who bowed and scraped and ran into the city at a great pace.

They stood around a good 20 minutes in the sun. The gorillas stood at attention, eyes above the PCs.

Evetually, a well-dressed ape with a staff, man-sized (but beefier than most of the party) came up, accompanied by a brown-furred monkey and accompanied by four massive red-garbed apes.

(left to right - messenger, blue-garbed guard, red-garbed guard, Praetus Lucius)

It tried to speak to them, and eventually tried Goblinian. Galen translated as best he could. It asked something like "trade," "slaves," and "money?" Ulf tried Common again, and told Galen tell them they came in peace. Galen said a few words (he speaks Broken Goblinian) and the ape responded with something like "Who you?" After another exchange, it got annoyed and opened up a scroll and read it. Then it spoke in perfect Common, "Who are you? Where do you come from?"

"We're travellers from a far-off land."

"You come from Grak Yorl?"


Luckily, Ulf does his homework. Bruce said, "What does Grak Yorl mean?" "The Boneyards." "Oh," said Bruce, pleased.

They spoke to the ape more. Ulf tried to negotiate a way into the city. The ape wanted to know if they were friends with the goblins. Ulf said they had a goblin friend. It seems the goblins bought slaves - savages (meaning wild, flesh-eating apes) in return for coined money. ("Now the Apetrium makes perfect sense.") The apes traded only savages back to them. The ape was noncomittal, and unimpressed when he asked if the party had anything to offer and Bruce offered their services as warriors, motioning to his 10' tall apes armed with swords the size of most men. They mutually pried, but no one got much. Ulf questioned him about the obelisks - are they a magical barrier? The ape changed the subject.

Eventually, it asked about "fellow learned ones." They revealed Gerry, who turned visible. The ape bowed to Gerry and called him a "fellow of true knowledge."

After a lot of time talking, they eventually convinced the apes that despite being heavily armed, stinking of blood and death, they came in peace. Saying they slew a dozen "savages" did seem to help.

They wanted to trade, they said.

Trade what?

Depends what you have, they said, fishing.

(The PCs were at a bit of a disadvantage - the ape spoke Common, and they all had to use it to speak to each other.)

The ape eventually relented and said they could come trade . . . if.

The ape asked Ulf to swear, on behalf of himself and his party, to follow the laws of the city. Ulf asked that they were. The ape was exasperated, and said, "Are you not civilized? Do you not know the laws of civilization?" Ulf tried to beg off about making cultural errors, and the ape said that wasn't an issue, as they couldn't speak well enough to accidentally upset anyway. As this went on, Wyatt put his weapons away (but was keenly evaluating the ape warriors). Bruce dropped his weapons. Ulf agreed and so swore [and in so many words, unlike the usual PC "I agree to the thing you think I just swore to but didn't" approach.]

They were allowed in, and had to put their weapons to the side.

They put their weapons in a guard house - one of the tan houses. They were told to stay there, and that speaking their tongue made the ape tired. He left, and soon enough a number of monkees came - they appeared to be females. They came with food - cashews, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, bananas, jackfruit, pineapple, dragon fruit, papayas, and some roasted mammal that was probably capybara. They ate. Ulf was deeply concerned about making a good impression, so he did his best not to overeat and didn't stuff extra food in his pockets.

Eventually some merchant-types came. They had their own messenger monkeys, and carts brought by mangy slave-apes like the "savages" in the jungle.

One of them spoke accented Common and helped lead the negotiations. They displayed a lot of wares - leather goods (all too big for humans, even the big guys like Bruce), spices, raw gemstones, and slaves. The PCs honed in on the gems and spices. There was lapis lazuli, agates of various kinds, turquoises, and some weird pink stones like looked like river rocks. The spices included white tea, green tea, black tea, black pepper, red pepper, white pepper, and whole nutmegs. After a lot of discussion, pooling of cash, and haggling (and a Merchant roll by Gerry, made exactly thanks to Luck), they decided on buying some pepper - two pounds each of white and black, which they could get for 55 and 45 silver per pound if they bought a lot (a pound plus was enough.)

They also bought a bunch of the pink stones. Why? Someone asked what they do. Mild Bruce, IIIC. The ape got a bare-toothed look and made obscene gestures and size increase gestures. That's all it took for them to purchase. The bigger the stone, the bigger the tree, as they say here in the ape city. They invested in some stones.

After they bought those, the slave barked something out. The translator (who Wyatt eventually found out was named Gaius) told them the slaver wanted to sell them slaves "cheap." They PCs refused - Ulf because it's illegal in Stericksburg, Wyatt because he didn't have a buyer for apes right at the moment, and the others because no one cared. The price was good - the somewhat starved-looking apes pulling the merchant wagons would go for 200 sp each. No? Really? That's a low price. . . okay, fine. Mild Bruce asked about the games - it was Arena Day, they found out. [Kind of; the players named it that.] The games included races, wrestling, and fighting. Bruce told them he definitely wants in. They mostly ignored him.

Ulf gave the ape some of his Elven rations to try. Gaius was impressed for some reason, and gave Ulf a gold coin with weird writing on one side and a scales on the other side. "My coin," he said. "It shows you deal with me." Wyatt also gave him a Dwarven ration (that he'd found with Scrounging) but for some reason the ape wasn't as impressed and just nodded.

Eventually the PCs were visited by the first ape again. Bruce tried to ask after the games and was ignored again. They did find out his name - Praetus Lucius.

The PCs gathered their things, and were escorted to the watchtowers. Praetus Lucius told them they'd have an escort. He sent along four of the big blue-clad apes to guide them.

As they left, Wyatt continued to carefully evaluate them. They seem strong and potentially skilled, so he decided they'd need a Feint before an attack.

The apes were pretty rigid, but relaxed a bit after they saw the carnage of the dead "savage" apes. Were they more at ease because the threat was lower, or because the PCs had killed the savage apes? It wasn't clear.

The apes eventually escorted them to about 1/4 mile from the clearing and then stood aide rigidly and let them go.

They returned and went right back through the gate.

One the other side they headed back. Unlike the first time, though, someone failed a HT roll from the "close air." Gerry did, with an 18, ironically 2 minutes shy of Luck being ready to use again. Hah. He vomited up bananes, cashews, capybara, and other nuts and fruits. Bleh. All over the place in a stinking pile. They put him closer to Bruce to keep an eye on him. They made it back to the GFS.

The delvers reached the top of the GFS and opened the door. As they slunk out carefully, they heard a distant scrape-thump, scrape-Thump, scrape-THUMP getting louder the whole time. They ran for it, headed past the formally webbed-up room instead of the intersection they usually pass, and kept running. They heard the sounds coming from behind, closing in. Bruce grabbed Gerry to carry him, and they all sped up a little bit and kept moving.

They fled all the way back up to the first level. They headed to the trapdoor and went out that way. They retrieved their rope from the main entrance and headed back to town.

They, they sold their pepper for 150 and 188 an ounce base, 40% for their connections (Wealth) level, and made a fair profit. They also sold the axe and the leather armor as that proved key to making enough loot for their trip. They paid back Bruce the cash he fronted for the pepper.

The pink stones, sadly, didn't impress anyone in town. They got offers of 1-3 sp on 30-100 sp stones. Turns out the city folk don't thinky they turn batons into oversized knobbed clubs after all . . .


I wrote recently about disadvantages. Wyatt has Overconfidence, if you haven't noticed. Galen has Bloodlust, which is why he makes sure to overkill everything. He's tactically better off splitting his shots, but only does that when he's assured of another second to put extra arrows into the fallen. He's also the #1 killer of fleeing opponents, because he likes everything dead. Gerry has Curious and Clueless, and plays those well. Mild Bruce, surprisingly perhaps, has Bad Temper. That's why he's so keen to attack not the most tactically appropriate foe but the one who just did the best to mess with him. I figure a disadvantage fits the PC when you'd know he had it from the way he's played.

Some gates - maybe all gates - are not always open. So it's not always possible to cross into a specific location. Unfortunately for the PCs, they were armed and ready to attack the snakemen in the Lost City and unfortunately the gate wasn't open. This is a good example of the idea of a world approach where the PCs react to the world and the world doesn't always take "game convenience" into account. It would have been more convenient for them and for me if the gate was just open. But the dungeon as designed had the gate closed today (I won't say if it was random, on a cycle, or something else) and so the PCs hit me with the curve ball of another gate. They did ask, flat out, if that was okay, since gates take some prep. Sure. Playing from home meant I have everything I needed around me. It would have been messier otherwise. But that's a big of a digression - the setting said the gate was closed on Sunday, so it was closed even though the PCs planned on going there.

Ulf is their spokeman, as demonstrated by his lack of any skills to back up his needs. Typical delver approach. Broadsword-22 and Extra Attack 2? I'm helpless in combat! Default social skills and only some reaction penalties? Face character!

I'm not sure why the PCs never brought up the gold coin with Gorillicus the Great on it. Probably for the better - none of them have it, and none of the PCs who had anything to do with it are still alive and in the group. Galen missed it; he was off at the Troll Wars during that time. Dryst has the coin, but the Wizard's Guild has declared him essential workforce so he's unavailable for the duration. It was purchased in town for 2 gp back in 2015, which is around session 54/55.

The apes/monekys never mentioned the skull spirit or skeletons. Not one of them ever took any notice. Gerry would have been pleased except he's Clueless [-10] and doesn't actually notice how people generally react when he brings skeletons to church with him, or talks to them, or anything like that. But some of the others noted this attitude.

I'll have a entire post about trading tomorrow, and link to it here once it's up. Suffice to say this won't become a trading game, and the PCs would have done a lot better if they had Merchant and even more so if they had a real Thief or Bard with Merchant.

XP was 2 each for loot for Galen and Gerry (20% of loot threshold), 4 xp for the others. Everyone received 1 xp for exploration, 1 xp for peaceful contact with the simian civilization, and MVP was Ulf for all of his talking.

Fun, fun session. I purchased these minis back in 2003 or earlier. I remember getting some while I was playing my last GURPS game. I purposely built them into the dungeon, and had them as an excuse (and an in-game reason) for using all of my ape minis in the dungeon. Why dungeon apes? Some folks were buying them on the cheap and using them as shock troops! Heh. All it took was 130 sessions of play to get to these guys.
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