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.


  1. "I'd actually also make gems and jewelry sell like items - 40%."

    They do. Only coins go for full value in DF/DFRPG. Was this a change you made for your game?

  2. Your last point gets at something I've been wondering about: given that new characters always start at 250pts, doesn't the relative difficulty increase as the higher levels of the dungeon are cleared out? Not only do they have to go deeper for treasure, they have to go deeper to find new areas for exploration XP. Reading through the session reports, it does seem to me like the average XP per delve has gone down over time (even accounting for changes in XP rules).

    1. Yes.

      The amount of XP per session has gone down. A good chunk of that is what you say - higher levels cleared out, and less experienced delvers taking on harder areas. But we also have a larger group size, which means treasure is divided more ways. The larger group also, inevitably, means the same amount of dungeon takes more time to play out. So that slows down exploration and access to treasure, too.

      The idea has always been to have this drive more risk as you always need to push deeper and take on tougher monsters. Instead it's driven more cautious play. Go figure.

    2. Well, once your paper man has more than 250 points and better than "staring gear", it's //strategically// better to be cautious and withdraw and make only incremental changes rather than "risk it all" with one hasty toss pf the dice.

      I mean, you lose a 'Vryce' or a 'Dryst' and that a hard PC to replace, impossible to do so without //years// of leveling.

      If videogames have taught me nothing else, you can't have a "fast risky" playstyle when you're playing on Iron Man mode. Unless you want to restart all the time.

    3. That's the viewpoint of my players, for sure.

      But the amount of easy-to-retrieve loot is limited. It goes down as you delve and find them. Thanks to wandering monsters, the amount of loot-free risk at best stays the same and may in fact go up. Therefore, you spend more and more delves getting less and less loot (nevermind profit), and therefore less reward and less xp. So it becomes a slow grind up in power. You may last more delves that way, but you get better very slowly.

      The PCs have occasionally taken risks, such as delving down the second giant staircase, that they couldn't sustain . . . but that's not quite the same as taking risks they can sustain in order to get a bigger reward. Trying for the risk-free payoff is nice but it's functionally impossible most of the time in this type of game. By design.

    4. Right, the problems boils down to risk assessment. If they can't accurately assess the risk, they have to, by design, either be extra cautious or go all in on the risk. This to either grind or TPK, with occasional big score.

    5. At a certain point, even if only a hypothetical one, doesn't it become unsustainable? The loss of Vryce was mitigated by the existence of Gerry, and the (in retrospect fortuitous) panicked fleeing of Gslen. If something happened to both those guys, it's hard to see how the party could recover.

    6. There should be more big scores that way, though, because the big scores all require risk.

      That's another reason why I think 10x the treasure (and 10x the cost on magic) would be good. At least the mundane drag on resources would be lessened, which might encourage more henchmen, more expenditure of non-magical consumables, etc. and help mitigate the risks a bit.

    7. @Benjamin - It might. We have side-accessible places in abundance, though. Not that the PCs can go back to the Lost City, the Caves of Chaos, and the Cold Fens endlessly, either, but there are also a half-dozen gate locations, locations within those gate locations. There are a lot of places to delve. So if it merely sustains until we're bored that's fine. It doesn't have to be theoretically infinite to be sufficient for fun.

    8. "We have side-accessible places in abundance, though."

      Also given enough time of the party just zipping through the upper levels, something may begin to repopulate... unless the lesson taught to the Orcs was spread far and wide.

  3. Yeah, I'm not too fond of Signature Gear generally. I've found that the one use I have for it in my games is a way to tie gear to superpowers, like Duplication or something. Otherwise, it typically gets in the way of my sense of plausibility, which usually means that it interferes with things that I think should happen in the game.

    1. Plot protection is fine and dandy in worlds that operate with that kind of approach. It's really a bad fit for what I'm doing here. It would have been nice to realize that earlier.

  4. I have a set mechanic for leaning spells; you find a teacher and pay them the by the hour rate plus $20 ,per base FP to cast the spell and explain it (they roll to cast and to teach) anfmd you roll thaumatology to understand it. Some errors that cane about have resulted in weird spells like Glueball, which was supposed to be glue, and is now a missile weapon that can cause suffocation on a face hit.


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