Sunday, May 31, 2020

Felltower / Lost City Pre-Summary

Part I of a multi-part delve today as the PCs are stuck in a combat.


- brought along a new companion, a Holy Warrior of most flamboyant mien (a returning player),

- summoned up Rangol Grot's spirit and played 28 questions with him,

- read the prophecy in the Lost City,

- went out at night in the city to try to meet the ghostly princess, and did so,

- penetrated the "evil temple" and got into a big brawl with an evil priestess or witch of some kind, deathtouch skeletons, snakey skeleton women, and more.

We ended mid-fight as the PCs crushed much of the opposition and found their final foe didn't seem vulnerable to things like "attacks" or "damage."

Full summary tomorrow.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

My Famous Gaming Buddy Ryan

Wyatt's player shared this article from Variety with us the other day:

Inside Joe Manganiello’s Epic Dungeons & Dragons Campaign

Why do we care about some celebrity's D&D game?

Because one of the players is one of our gaming buddies, Ryan. If you ever hear me talk about Malkav the Apocalype or that guy who gave me Ruins of Undermountain and who convinced me to play Borderlands 2 (I'm still playing) or runs the craziest Vampire games . . . that's Ryan. He's from the same town as me, Wyatt's player, Gerry's player, Dryst's player, Honus's player, Mo's player, Borriz's player, Inquisitor Marco's player, and even the player of the entire Barca clan.*

That's him, second from the right, a couple of chairs down from the guitarist from Rage Against the Machine.

Amusing stuff. Ryan's a heck of a GM and a player. He can drive you 10 kinds of crazy in a 9 crazy game, but it's enjoyable. It's amusing to no end to see him written up in this whole "Hey D&D is so geeky it's cool!" wave of press.

* Yeah, most of my gamers are from the same town. One that got some play on Futurama, even, despite not being in New York or on Mars. It happens - I tend to game with my friends, and play only those games we collectively want to play.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Thoughts on Holy Warriors

I'm supposed to be prepping for game at the moment. But a couple people mentioned Holy Warriors on our game email chain, and I had some thoughts having seen a few made - and made a few myself.

Here are the notes I wrote, plus some general tips.

- you can "specialize" in both Undead and Demons, but I'd pick one or the other and emphasize that. It's hard to be good at fighting both demons and undead. And if you're going to specialize, really go for it - you can get a +3 instead of a +1 to your "to hit," damage, parry, and resistance rolls against one of those classes of foe right away for a mere 15 total points - 5 of which are mandatory for your template anyway. My opinion is that it's no good to be slightly better vs. a foe instead of maximally better. A Holy Warrior with Broadsword-16, Shield-16, a Medium Shield, and Higher Purpose 3 has a Parry of 16 and Block 16 against your specific foe, and with base ST do 2d+3 cutting or 1d+5 impaling and swing at a 19, and with your skills aim for weak points other delvers just can't target. Be really good at fighting the one foe, so you can more than hold your own when they show up. You can't turn down a fight with that type, but were you? Seriously, delver up here. As my friend Ken would say, you'll need to put your big boy pants on and do what needs to be done.

All of that said, one good way to "do both" is to spend some of your Quirk points on Hidden Lore, Physiology, and Psychology for the other type. Then it's merely a matter of buying up Higher Purpose for the other type later on as you earn points. It takes 3 points to get a start on each of them, and then 5 points later to get your +1.

- Combat Reflexes isn't a required Holy Warrior trait but probably should be. Don't be a fighter type without it. You'll regret it.

- Will is a strong point for Holy Warriors. Don't sleep on that; you can resist a lot of evil effects and non-evil ones as well. Consider beefing it up.

- Consider Fearlessless or go all-out with Unfazeable (which provides out-and-out immunity in most cases.) My PCs have dealt with a lot of Fright Check-inducing foes recently. Fright Checks are capped at 13 (14+ fails) without the Brave perk, which raises the cap to 14 (15+ fails). Unfazeable just works. Given my choice, I'd plunk down the 15 points and give a two-fingered salute to demons, undead, and Elder Things with Terror auras. This is a power that can set you apart.

- When it comes to powers, it's worth considering what you'll be doing. Divine Favor is worth it - get a +1d to ST or DX, say, for 9 points, or 18 for +1d to both. Turning is 24 points, but it does involve you presenting a holy symbol, winning a Quick Contest, and then just standing there. Odds are, when you really want it to work, it's going to fail in the face of Low or No Sanctity* or special exemptions due to place or powers. If you take it, expect when it's time to fight undead you're going to be warding them off, not finishing them off. That's how one Holy Warrior went down in my game, too - trying to turn undead and failing, when the party really needed another sword. Sense powers are very good overall, though, and can help keep you on track.

- Avoid the temptation to out-Knight the Knight. In other words, load up on Combat Reflexes, High Pain Threshold, ST, DX, more HP, Enhanced Parry, etc. The idea is sound - most of your opponents are likely to be other than demons or undead, so be good at fighting them. But I think this is a trap. You won't be half as good at fighting normal human types as a Knight with Weapon Master or a Swashbuckler, for that matter. Your ST, DX, and weapon skills will lag. You will have less attacks doing less damage. Be better at doing what you do, don't try to do better at what they do. You'll never keep up against "normal" foes, so you need to make up for it in your specialty.

Anyone else experienced making 250-point DF / DFRPG Holy Warriors with an opinion here?

* In my games, anyway, Low Sanctity affects some Holy powers, and No Sanctity negates many of them entirely. That's not per the books, but it makes perfect sense for many of them - if your god has no power somewhere, and your power comes from your god, you have no power. If you take the approach that it's your faith in your god that brings the power, and faith alone, not your god's abilities to affect an area, that allows for those effects, then Sanctity in any direction shouldn't matter. Both are valid, but only the first one is correct in my current game.

SJG T-Shirt Kickstarter

Just passing this along - this Kickstarter closes Monday, June 1st.

I like that Car Wars shirt but it would have been better back in the day.

It's also another chance to get DF, DFRPG, and other gaming materials from SJG. And maybe some free dice if they unlock that.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Revised GURPS Magic: Great Haste (take 2)

Great Haste is a source of a lot of talk in my games. It's very, very effective for its cost. You can use it to multiply the effects of your own spellcasting, too. Wizards usually cast it on themselves first, then use the sped-up casting to speed up fighter-types.

It's such an effective spell that it's basically impossible to make a wizard without it. You can try, but it's
expected that you have it - players used to getting Great Haste in support of their own characters won't have high regard for a wizard who shows up unable to do it. It's also very easy to get (especially if you want Missile Shield and/or Phase and already have a bunch of Movement College spells.)

So it's a game-changer that is easy to get and is therefore part and parcel of almost all fights in my DF game. A few of my players and I have tried to figure out a less-powerful but still thematically appropriate approach to the spell. Here is Part 2 - here is Part 1 and a related post.

Here is another attempt to revise Great Haste so it's less of a game-breaker.

Great Haste

Speeds up the subject - a lot. This has the following effects:

- Your Move is doubled - or if you choose a Maneuver that allows a Step, you gain one additional Step over your normal amount.
- You gain Extra Attack 1 - or if you choose Concentrate, you gain an extra Concentrate's worth of actions.
- You gain +2 to all of your Active Defenses.

Spell is otherwise as written.


- Basic Move effects and Step are not cumulative. It's either/or - if you have Move 7 and you take a Move and Attack, you have a 14. If you choose Step and Attack, you have 2 steps. You could Committed Attack (Step) and get 3 Steps, or choose All-Out Attack and run 7 yards up and attack . . . but you most specifically do not get 14+ move for a basic 2 steps, thus 3 with Great Haste, 4 with Committed Attack . . .

- The Haste spell adds to the final numbers - if you have Move 4 and Haste 3, your move becomes 4 x 2, +3 = 11, not (4+3) x 2 = 14.

- The wording should allow casters to cast 2 spells or cast one twice as fast, but not cast-and-throw Missile spells or cast-and-attack. I'm open to changing the wording to allow for cast-and-throw but you have to consider that it's shorting physical combatants (who lose out on Altered Time Rate) for wizards (who, effectively, don't.)

- The wording doesn't allow for ready-and-attack, either, which doesn't please me. I'd like to allow for Step & Ready & normal attacks, for example, or pulling and drinking a potion in one turn. That's hard to do without essentially sneaking in a full extra Maneuver in through the back door.

- the overall effect is to be quite an effective buff for fighter-types. It's +1 attack every turn, +2 to defenses, doubled steps. You can use this for very fast maneuvering around the battlefield or to pile on attacks on a foe. But it's significantly nerfed.

- Why is cost the same? I think 3s/5 energy is actually a good price for the above and very cheap for 10 seconds of Altered Time Rate. You could always reduce (or even eliminate) the cost in FP to the subject. That's probably fair; this isn't all that much more of a buff than other spells which carry no cost to the subject. I'd suggest dropping it to 2 FP.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

More Operation Uranus

I'm not exactly sure why I've gotten hooked on Operation Uranus in Gary Grigsby's War in the East. Maybe because I'm reading about Case Blue (the German operation that led to the Battle of Stalingrad)? Maybe.

It's a fun scenario.

I did better this time, having moderated my approach and saved exploitation forces for, you know, actual exploitation. I haven't cut the Nazis off - the AI clearly hasn't gotten Der Fuhrer's command not to budge an inch and just outright abandoned Stalingrad - but I've got a more serious cut of their rail lines and made sure to seize the right places to earn some Victory Points (VP.)

What's also better is that I saw some YouTube videos of people with nicer maps. So I went and downloaded the so-called "A Rainy Day in Russia" maps.

Why aren't these the default? Why is a player-generated mod vastly superior in attractiveness and readability to the official maps?

Whatever. I'm just glad it's a simple file swap.

Bask in the more attractive maps!

Here is how it went to turn 4:

On turn 5, I surrounded and annihilated a number of German divisions and put myself here for the final turn:

And in the end, I advanced past several of my objectives and just short of a few more. Still, having inflicted ~195,000 casualties, 2604 guns and 164 AFVs for only ~130,000 or so. 1917 guns and 778 AFVs, I was well in the lead. They're not 1:1 on points because the Soviets can afford more losses. The Soviets out-produced the Nazies by more than the 5:1 in AFVs that I lost.

Fun game, and I feel like I'm getting a little more of the hang of it. I'm not quite ready for the campaign game . . . one recorded playthrough runs 70+ episodes of 2+ hours each. Yeah . . . I'm not sure that's for me right now. So fun though.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

More Shield HP Calculations

Basic Set: Characters p. 287 gives some extraordinarily high DR and HP for shields. The numbers are identical to 3e's one-shot breakage number (which becomes DR here) and overall HP.

Low-Tech has new, different shields with standardized DR (2 for flimsy ones, 4 otherwise) and HP based on their weight.

What if we apply the rules for Damage to Objects to Basic Set-weight shields?

Light Shield 2 lbs. = 10 HP. 60 HP to get to -5xHP. Overpenetration DR = 7 (4 + 10/4)
Small Shield 8 lbs. = 16 HP. 96 HP to get to -5xHP. Overpenetration DR = 8 (4 + 16/4)
Medium Shield 15 lbs. = 18 HP*. 108 HP to get to -5xHP. Overpenetration DR = 9 (4 + 18/4)
Large Shield 25 lbs. = 20 HP**, 120 HP to get to -5xHP. Overpenetration DR = 9 (4 + 20/4)

* 19 HP, and 114, if you calculate it by hand as Cube Root of 15, x 8, rounded.
** 23 HP, and 138 HP if you calculate it by hand as Cube Root of 25, x 8, rounded.

Metal versions, per Low-Tech, would just be lighter for the same DR 4 and HP. I'm not sure why the same DR; it should be 6 like any other all-metal weapon.

Now, these are actually much more fragile if you use the rules from DFRPG. Exploits, p. 55 has object broken automatically at -1xHP. So they'd actually break on 20, 32, 36 (or 38), and 40 (or 46) points of damage, and cease to function as shields at 0 HP, which means just 10, 16, 18 (or 19), and 20 (or 23) damage past their DR 4.

If I used those numbers vs. my proposed Felltower shield rules:

- Light Shields are 20 HP and 40 HP to destroy automatically.
- Small Shields are 30 HP and 60 HP to destroy automatically.
- Medium Shields are 40 HP and 80 HP to destroy automatically.
- Large Shields are 60 HP and 120 HP to destroy automatically.

So the smaller shields have less maximal potential HP but are threatened with destruction earlier in the system above. The larger shields are proportionally not much worse off in the system below - and the large shield is much stronger in the system below. The system at the top makes for weaker metal shields, though, as they gain a lot of weight (2x weight using DF modifiers, generally) but HP don't double; cube roots are tough on large items.

To really fit DFRPG rules, they should be non-functional as shields after 20, 30, 40, and 60 HP. Assuming DR 4 and a single blow.

Light Shield: 18 cutting damage (18 - 4 = 14, x 150% vs. Homogenous) or 24 crushing.
Small Shield: 24 cutting damage or 34 crushing.
Medium Shield: 31 cutting or 44 crushing.
Large Shield: 44 cutting or 64 crushing.

An option at 0 HP is a confirmation roll, like under Broken Weapons, p. 56. 1-3, your shield is broken off the handles and useless. On a 4-6, it's hanging on; you get DB from it but can not longer use it to Block. For a buckler, 1-3 the shield is broken off the handle and useless, 4-6 the shield is broken in half; DB drops to 1 DB (0 for a Light shield).

So it seems like an either/or. The second system is non-canonical but has less rolling. The one at the top has a lot more rolling but has the benefit of working exactly like any other object breaking in GURPS.

I'm still deciding what to do, here. Probably the sturdier shields with the automatic breakage at 0 HP, with a confirmation roll.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Operation Uranus - Final Status

I posted about this in the morning - I'd made a big mistake, I'd claimed, trying to slam the doors shut a little too soon on the Germans in Stalingrad.

I was right. I kept trying to nail the door shut, but those pesky Nazis kepts managing to clear a supply route every turn and kept desperately pushing me away from Victory Point (VP) locations.

I jumped the gun and didn't have the firepower to seal a gap too close to the powerful German front line units.

Here is the final state:

And the result:

At least I have the consolation that I inflicted more Axis casualties than I took by a small margin (like, 110,000 inflicted for 100,000 lost.) Mostly Axis allies - Hungarians, Rumanians, Italians - but the Soviets could afford to trade 1:1.

I'm not surprised or disappointed. I didn't do well, here. I had advantages and I got a little too ahead of myself so I wasn't able to capitalize on them. My command of air power and logistics is still weak. I may give this another play-through as the Soviets or the Germans.

I do really enjoy this game, though. It's just a little too detailed for me. I need more AI assistance to take some of the load off. Still, good stuff.

Memorial Day Link Post - Mostly Wargames

Some random links to enjoy on Memorial Day!

- Ditch the Stash - dropping stuff in DF. Generally, I agree - dropping stuff is not always a free action. Actually, most free actions shouldn't be.

Now, onto the wargaming!

- A Bridge Too Far. This guy is playing Holland '44 - Operation Market Garden. Oh man, that looks fun. There was a double-blind game on Market-Garden back in the day - does anyone remember it? And not for nothing, but I've seen A Bridge Too Far about twenty times end to end. Maybe more. I love that movie. Shame about the entirely non-German looking tanks; pretty much only Kelly's Heroes made a really proper effort at that before, say, Fury.

- Speaking of solo wargaming, here is one of Overlord.

- I'm playing my own game, too - War in the East. I'm trying Operation Uranus as the Soviets. All I need to do is slam the door shut on General Paulus's 6th Army in Stalingrad by blowing apart some Rumanian, Italian, and scattered German forces. How am I doing? Uh, let's say I got too aggressive too early but I have hopes of putting the Germans into their own damn kesselschlact yet.

Picture of Oops:

(most of the map - it's too big at maximum zoom-out to fit on one screen.)

It doesn't look bad, I'll admit, but it's a picture of getting a bit too excited and rushing my exploitation before the breakthrough phase was really completed. I blame reading Cition's "Death of the Wehrmacht" while reading this.

At least I feel like the Italians (in yellow) and Rumanians (in light blue) just don't have the ability to really stop my armored units; the Wehrmacht is still man-for-man the superior of the Soviets and will remain so until, say, 1945. Hopefully I can shake free some forces to finish my breakthrough.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

DF Felltower Allowable Off-Template Advantages

This is an attempt to make a list of what "off-template" advantages are allowed purchases in DF Felltower.

I get a lot of requests for off-template advantages. Lifting ST is the most popular request, but it's followed frequently by Fit, Enhanced defenses, "Strong Will" - a 3e-ism, and Fearlessness.

I've gotten occasional questions about stat limits - if your template doesn't list a bonus to a given stat at the level you want, is it "off-template?"

I get questions about skills, too, but that's a different (and shorter) post.

Here is a list of what you can add to your template:

Statistics & Secondary Characteristics

You are limited per your race per Dungeon Fantasy 11: Power-Ups, p. 5, modified for your template also per Dungeon Fantasy 11: Power-Ups. Remember template maxima are before racial modifiers. (For most templates, for a human, this is 20 in stats, secondary characteristics 20 or figured off of stats with a cap.)


Anything on your template can be added freely. They cost $40/point for a new advantage or to expand a current advantage. (In other words, buying Fearlessness 1 costs $40, 2 costs another $40, etc.)

Advantages are capped at the maximum level listed on a template - for example, Ridiculous Luck is only available to Bards and Swashbucklers even though Luck and Extraordinary Luck are on other templates.


They cost $80/point for a new advantage advantage or to expand a current advantage unless specified otherwise.

The following traits are available for any delver, regardless of template:

Attractive [5]
Combat Reflexes [15]
Fit [5] (but not Very Fit)
Reputation [varies]
Wealth [varies] (cost per this post.)

General Power-Ups - all those on pp. 10-13 are available as are the Utility Power-Ups on p. 16. All of these are "on template" for costs.

Casters also have access to Caster Power-Ups pp. 13-16 with the exception of Spell-Archery (not available.) Please note that "Psychic Guidance" is not being used; use Mystic Guidance instead.


- On template means on your specific template. If a related template has an advantage, that's not relevant. A regular Barbarian lacks Born War Leader and thus cannot get it even though it's listed on the Savage Warrior. You can't jump back and forth between the DF and DFRPG versions of your template, either, if they vary.

- Assuming cases are restrictive, not expansive. If it's not specifically listed, it's excluded.

- Specific power-ups for your template may also be off-limits; we're not using Wizard Hunter or Bow Fencer, for example, even though those are listed for some templates as a valid power-up.

- Some power-ups need specific external training (such as purchasing a Lens) or require an in-game explanation. These include Reputation - which must follow from in-game events, Claim to Hospitality - which also requires a solid in-game explanation, and Wealth - you need the money and the access to a town, effectively making it impossible to get for non-town-dwelling PCs.


Otherwise . . . that's it! I'm open to expanding the list if someone (meaning my players, for the most part) can point out a generically useful, logically generally available advantage I may consent to adding it.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

The Bits I like from Various Retro-Clones & D&D systems

This is an answer to Rob Conley's question about what I like from the various D&D-based retro-clones and old-era D&D systems.

What I like about the systems I'd consider:


- Power level. I like the HP levels. I have a strong dislike for d4 HP thieves and I like d10 fighters better than d8 fighters.

- Cleric spells. I like clerics getting spells at level 1, and bonuses for Wisdom are fine with me. I get why from a world-building standpoint the vast majority of clerics being level 1 and not getting spells makes PCs quickly become special . . . but I'd rather have them start with a spell.

- I like AC starting at 10, not 9 (but see below.)

- I like that 1 isn't always a miss and 20 isn't always a hit.

- Treasure Types that I have imprinted on my soul, so I don't have to go look them up when I read them.

AD&D Lankhmar

- I like the multi-classing approach of the Lankhmar supplement for AD&D for humans.

Advanced Labyrinth Lord

- a lot of the basic systems for exploration, opening doors, etc., hiring NPCs, etc. etc.

- Weapon weights.

- Encumbrance system seems actually workable.

Basic/Expert D&D (Moldvay)

- Morale. I love, love, love the morale system.

- Alignment. I like three-fold alignment. I could have gone with Good, Neutral, and Evil, too, but I think well of "You're on the side of order, the side of chaos, or you're on the sidelines." I think that's better than the nine-fold alignment system. It's easier to understand, it's clear you are picking a side, and you don't have to deal with the weirdness that comes from a party with a LG cleric, a CG ranger, a CN fighter, a N wizard. What does that even really mean? Endless words have been spent on defining what they are. Better you just choose a side, or to not have a side. (And potentially get shot by both of them.) LNC I think allows for more varied play, actually - GNE is tough because no one who chooses Good should be negotiating with Evil. But the forces of Law dealing with the forces of Chaos when that suits the results civilization needs . . . that's more plausible.

- The compact, two-books-do-it-all presentation.

- The reaction rolls/parlaying system.

Basic Fantasy

- Simplified stat bonus charts. It's just easier. I don't think you need to split bonuses. And I do like the idea that you get +1 to +3.

- Easy to use Attack Bonus system.

- free single book solution with cheap printed option.


- Single target saves. Modified by stat bonuses.

- free single book solution with printed option.

Stuff I'm neutral on in general:

- Ascending AC. I agree it's easier. I still understand AC 10 < 0 < -10 though, natively, without having to translate it.

- Multiclassing. I like the Lankhmar approach instead of dual-classing for humans, but I could live with a different one. It's easier if I didn't have to so I can use AD&D modules unchanged.

- Ability checks. I haven't really seen a system I love more than others. Lots of old D&D modules did roll-under on d20, which isn't bad. Target rolls on a d20+stat bonus would work, too, and I know some systems do that.

- Initiative. I'm actually okay with AD&D initiative as we play it, but I'd use another system.

Stuff I dislike:

- Race as class. This is a deal-breaker.

- Weird Saving Throw systems (AD&D).

- platinum pieces. I'd simplify treasure, for sure, to copper/silver/gold/gems/jewelry.

- SM/L damage splits. Just have weapons do one damage; too many monsters are much weaker because they're L and suffer extra damage from PC-popular weapons. We took two-handed swords because 3d6 vs. L sized creatures is just the boss.

- Crossbows being weaker than bows.

Some other systems have nice bits - ACKS and DCC for example - but they haven't really given me something I'd absolutely have to have in my own system. Grappling would be the system Doug and I made.

I suppose I could dedicate a huge whack of my like to make "Dungeon Fantastic Delving & Dragons" but I'm not really going to do that.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Simplified Shield Damage for DF Felltower

When Felltower started, we skipped shield damage as too much to track. Plus, in 4e, it can take a while to batter a shield down, and it just wasn't relevant that often.

Since then, though, PCs and monsters have been doing enough damage that breaking shields really should be a thing.

Here is how we'll try doing it:

Damage to Shields

A shield may take damage if deliberately targeted (GURPS Martial Arts, p. 112) or on any defense made by the shield user.

Shields . . .

- have HP per Basic Set Characters, p. 287, and DR 6 4, unless Dwarven (9 6 DR, x2 HP), Orichalcum (unbreakable), or Meteoric (9 6 DR, x2 HP). DR can be improved with Fortify, and HP with Shatterproof. Oversized shields gain a HP multiplier identical to their weight increase (x1.5 using the weapon rules.)

- take damage, minus DR on a successful block by the margin of the DB of the shield OR on a deliberate attack on a shield not Blocked or Dodged. Shields may take damage (or suffer other effects) on any Block from certain attack forms.

- are damaged as Homogenous.

- At 0 HP or below, make a HT roll to avoid destruction. Additional hits that put a shield closer to -1xHP also require a roll. HT is 12 unless Fine, in which case HT is 14.

- At 0 HP, the shield is damaged and possibly useless. Roll 1d. On a 1-3, your shield is broken off the handles and useless. On a 4-6, DB drops to 0 (light or small shield) or 1 (medium or large shield.) A DB 0 shield is hit on any Block roll made by a margin of 0.

Every hit after that point requires a HT roll (12, 14 for Fine shields); success means the shield continues to work as above; failure destroys the shield.

- Destroyed automatically at -1xHP.


This will make shields flimsier than Basic Set does (most will take 40-80 damage to break), but still fairly sturdy. Damage will be easy to deal with. And now there is an actual value to Shatterproofed shields and Orichalcum ones.

(Editing Later: However it will make shields sturdier than the rules in Low-Tech do. Another option is to just use those numbers, and let HP go down to -5xHP like anything else. More negative HP numbers, more variability in shield survival.)

We aren't using Overpenetration, (Basic Set Campaigns, p. 484) It's thematically inappropriate for DF.

What about Shieldslayer? It works as written; this does not change its effects at all. That's a special attack form. So are rust monster antennae, and some other special attacks.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Games I'd Like to Run 2020 edition

I've posted before about games I'd like to run, and games I'd like to play.

Here is a new list of games I'd like to run. I doubt I'll ever get to do most of these, but it would be awesome to do so.

1) Star Frontiers. I'd like to run a canonical, non-modified, no-supernatural powers or extra races SF game. The system is good enough, although these days I'd probably consider GURPS. My dream campaign would be to run some city-based ferret-out-the-Sather-spies game that leads to some of the published adventures - not necessarily the Volturnus modules, but probably Sundown on Starmist. I'd love to see it go through the 2nd Sathar War (SWII) with the players running the UPF, followed up with the post-SWII modules involving Sathar space. I just think it would be such a fun game to play out. My gamers would need more time and include better wargamers, though, or I expect SWII might end as it did last time I played it out solo - not well for the UPF.

2) AD&D. I'll run AD&D again. D&D5 would be fun but more complex, AD&D even more in both directions (easier for me to run, even more complex to deal with), but yeah, part of me would love to run a full game. It's so damn clunky, though, and more fun to visit than to live in. But there is this strong pull to go live there on a weekly basis . . .

3) Dungeon Fantasy Gamma World. I think this made the earlier list. I still think I need to do this - dump DF characters into my version of Gamma World. The PCs in my DF game are convinced despite evidence otherwise that they visited The Warden. Why not really do it? GURPS is the perfect engine for it.

4) Gangbusters. This is something I could run as written, no problem. But GURPS also has the Adventure Guns series. I'd probably try to mashup the earnings and money from Gangbusters with GURPS and run it that way. I still remember the combat system well - Basic Combat has a Thompson burst do 20 wounds. Trivia I remember.

That's what I'd like to run. 3/4 of them are GURPS or could be.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

HT rolls, Hard to Kill, and Death Checks in Felltower

In our Felltower game on Sunday, Aldwyn went to more than -1xHP and had to make a "death check." He rolled a 17. As usual - his last one that he rolled was an 18, the previous session.

I ruled he was dead, given the rules discussed here. The player pointed out he had HT 13, and Hard to Kill 2, for a 15. So a 17 is a miss by 2. A miss by 1 or 2 is a Mortal Wound, not instant death, per Basic Set p. 423 and Exploits p. 60. His guy had just died the previous session, so I said okay, he's Mortally Wounded.

In the future, though, I'm ruling differently - and I feel as the rules intend.

Per Basic Set p. 348, and Exploits p. 7, "A roll of 17 is a critical failure if your effective skill is 15 or less; otherwise, it is an ordinary failure." I feel that rule for Mortal Wounds doesn't trump the basic rules of success and failure. A character with HT 16 who rolls a 17 would be mortally wounded, and one who rolls an 18 should be dead even though it's a failure by 1-2.

A critical failure should be bad, even if the rules provide for a failure margin that has a lesser effect. Playing at the top end of the bell curve shouldn't forgive you that except as specifically noted (i.e. 17 becoming an ordinary failure.) Even though specific rules generally trump general rules, I feel this general rule should carry through. Otherwise it's possible to be practically immune to death - death only 1 in 216 times (and with Luck, make it possible to die outright only 1 in 10,077,696 times.)

All of that said, for the future sessions of game I'm making this ruling - the general trumps the specific, here. On an effective total HT+bonuses of 15 or less, 17-18 is a critical failure and death. On an effective total HT+bonuses of 16 or higher, 17 is a normal failure (and thus mortally wounded) and 18 is a critical failure.

I don't think that's different from the rules intend, and I don't feel it's unfair or even unduly harsh. And that's how it'll go.

And does that all mean guys who bought HT 13 + Hard to Kill 2 and then get Fit and increase HT to 14 have effectively no effect from the second level of Hard to Kill? Yes. This is what I meant about over-patching.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Roll20 Headaches

We wrapped up our online game on Sunday around 10:30 pm. We'd been aiming to wrap up at 8 pm. But our combat extended and accounted for a good 2 hours of that overage.

Usually I'll gripe about players taking a long time. But generally folks were pretty prompt. Roll20 provided us a lot of slowdowns.

- grabbing the "tail" of a token to turn it isn't always easy; sometimes it gets covered by the other display buttons.

- it's not well-suited to GURPS in its choice of status icons, inability to lay people down across two hexes (I may need to find some "dead" tokens), and so on.

- Sometimes rolling took a long time. We'd click . . . and wait . . . and wait. Actually, as much as I like the character sheets, often people had to click around a few times to get to the right "roll" and then make it, taking more time than just a basic macro'd 3d6.

- The behavior of the interface drives me nuts. I can't ever tell if I'm on pointer, reveal area, cover area, the Map Layer vs. the Token Layer vs. the GM layer, etc. So I'm eternally cursing and clicking and clicking and clicking to move things or modify things. I'll have an icon on the GM layer because the NPC is not visible, then click to move it to the Token Layer, then I need to go back to the Token Layer, then re-grab the token and do things.

- As the GM I have control of all of the tokens (and need it), but that means in close combat (or just close combats) I constantly need to pick up every token and move it aside to get to the one I need or use the interface to swap who is on "top." It's clunky and slow.

- Moving figures is slower because people need to click, drag, drop, turn, etc. to get around while demonstrating their path of movement.

- And not for nothing, but why do I have to give a token sight? Why is unsighted the base standard?

- Finally, if there is a Help command to spit out the command list, I can't find it. ? and Help don't work. So I suffer from a skills deficit on Roll20 and it's tough to find the time to practice so I can whisper, emote, speak to, etc. Or even just do very basic things besides talk and roll.

We also had some Zoom problems (and we're using Zoom because Roll20 just didn't work well when we tried it the first time.)

But the effect of all of this has been that combats are taking much longer. We judge it to be about 20% longer for a given fight, or maybe a bit more. We can't easily do mapless or semi-mappped fights because it's harder to keep track of where people are with a mix of video and phone-in. So everything is tactical in an interface that goes slowly and slows down tactical combat. It's really making it harder to have set-piece fights that don't drag out for hours. That worries me as I see a few set-piece fights coming up and I don't want to dumb them down, shrink them, or otherwise make them less of the fun that they are just because Roll20 is likely to make it take longer.

So we're struggling a bit here. It's been a game-saver but also is making the game run longer.

Monday, May 18, 2020

GURPS DF Session 133, Felltower 103 - Lost City 11

Actual Date: May 17th, 2020
Game Dates: May 17th-18th, 2020

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

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 (456 points)
Gerald Tarrant, human necromancer (374 points)
     2 Skeletons (~35 points)
     Skull spirit
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (306 points)
Quenton Mudbourne, goblin druid (317 points)
Wyatt Sorrell, human swashbuckler (293 points)

We started out in Stericksburg, with the PCs gathering rumors. Amusingly, Crogar, Varmus, and Gerry all heard the same rumor. Clearly, they were all at the same bar. One rumor Wyatt picked up was that a dwarf wizard and his companions came down from Felltower . . . and they'd been there a year. He couldn't find them to talk to them personally.

Ulf did some Panhandling after giving a big speech and took in about 12 sp in donations.

They gathered a lot of Strengthen Will spellstones and Paut and headed out. They made their way up to the dungeon and made spellstones and Gerry created a Skull Spirit, and noted he was running low on skulls. Wyatt took specifics of what he needed (sapient creature skulls.)

The headed through the trapdoor, which was unlocked. They made their way to the next level, to the stairs down, and to the gate. Even in their brief time on the "gate level" Aldwyn suffered from the thin air. Again, they remarked they needed to "do something" about the air.

The gate was open, and they headed through. As usual for winter/spring, rain was sheeting down in the Lost City. They settled in for the rest of the day, waiting out th weather with Galen and Wyatt and Quenton outside in a Weather Dome and the others inside. In the evening the rain slacked off, so they set pairs of guards, each with two one-hour shifts, and waited for morning.

Overnight Varmus spotted some blueish/white lights flashing in the southeast, but Aldwyn wasn't able to see them. No one else saw anything in their shift, but heard a lot - bugs, rockfalls, splashes, slitherings, scraping, and other less pleasant noises.

In the morning they headed to the vegepygmy fort, taking the long way around to avoid the shielded temple. They made it to the vegepygmies over the flooded path, and sent Quenton in via Levitation. He brought up their offer to help find Rangol Grot and they agreed to do so right away. Their chief designated one druid and six others and two thorn hounds to go with them. They left by the north "gate" which just opened and closed itself for them. They made their way across town, picking up more vegepygmies as they went.

Eventually they reached the switchback path that Gerry and Quenton and a previous group had used to come down into the lost city, where they fought vegepgymies.

There they picked up a last batch of vegepygmies - given them an escort of 34 vegepygmies including 4 druids plus 6 thorn hounds. They trekked off a few miles, stopping once on the way. The vegepgymies tried to give them an idea of distance but couldn't get it across; they'd end up going about 5 miles. A mile out from Rangol Grot's place they stopped to eat on the tight trail. They wanted the vegepygmies to scout ahead, but not if they couldn't assure they'd be undetected. They said they could go but couldn't assure they wouldn't be sensed. So they spelled-up Galen and sent him, including Invisibility and No Smell.

Galen moved off and found the came, right at a three-way path intersection. The path was guarded with two covered pits, with only a narrow path in between. There were five small one-man tents, and a cave mouth. Walking around were two gnolls with bows, and Galen spotted an orc in one tent, clearly sleeping. There was a firepit that had been used frequently, set up for the smoke to dissipate against the canopy before escaping to the sky. Galen scouted around and determined there were three orcs, three gnolls (another showed up with a large monkey on its shoulder, which the gnolls began to butcher), and two tents with unknown occupants. Galen tried to check the cave but a heavy curtain was set up inside to block all light.

He headed back, after briefly considering just killing them all.

Once back, he told the others and they geared up and headed out. They left the vegepygmies behind after they said they'd done what was asked showing the group where to go. Galen was given a 30 second lead, and then they followed - all as stealthily as possible. Galen watched the camp and saw the gnolls had posed themselves to guard better - two of them, anyway, one was missing - and the orcs were awake. They'd clearly heard his friends. He moved into the camp and lined up a shot at the curtain, waiting for something to emerge. Wyatt was also invisible, and was also to go and wait near the curtain to kill Rangol Grot as soon as he came out.

The PCs advanced and engaged the waiting orcs and gnolls. The orcs took up stations behind the concealed pits, but Galen's directions were explicit and no one walked into them.

The orcs threw javelins but Crogar and Aldwyn deflected those. The PCs moved ahead, slowly so Wyatt could move past as the fighters moved up. Gerry immediately began a cycle of Great Haste spells on himself and on the fighters. The orcs were quickly slain, lasting only a few seconds as Aldwyn and Crogar moved into them. Aldwyn took a shot from a gnoll concealed out of immediate line of sight - and it rolled a 4. The arrow hit his mail and didn't penetrate.

The PCs moved into the camp, and as they did so Mild Bruce took a blowgun dart in the face. As he ran to attack the tiny many who'd stepped out of a tent to shoot him, another dart hit him from another angle. He raced after the first horde pygmy, who fled. Bruce followed, only to be shot and wounded by a gnoll archer waiting down a side path. He slammed the pygmy down and for good measure tried to run down the gnoll. That didn't work and the gnoll dodged, and bit him on the shoulder as he went by; Mild Bruce critically failed his Dodge and fell. Crogar ran up and right over a concealed pit!

Lucky for him, he had Levitation on from Gerry, who wanted it as a way to neutralize him if he was charmed. Crogar didn't fall in the pit but he was stuck. He managed to wound the gnoll but was stuck. Gerry paused and dragged him back to "land." Crogar moved off to deal with new prey.

Meanwhile the curtain parted about halfway. A shadowy form was glimpsed behind it - Galen took three shots. All three should have hit, but narrowly missed. Missile Shield! Out from behind the curtain swarmed 5 hexes worth of black bats! They came right out and attacked invisible Wyatt, who was next to the cave mouth. He took some cuts on his exposed skin from bat bites (and would later need a HT roll.) Gerry saw this as he advanced and changed up an Explosive Skull Missile. A moment later he threw it in the midst of the swarms. It blew up, wounding Aldwyn and Crogar, and Wyatt, but demolished all but the bats swarming Wyatt. Those would go down a few seconds later from cumulative attacks and another Explosive Skull Missile.

By this time, Galen had gotten bored and engaged the two gnolls, killing one and wounding the other. A moment later the other was slain, too, by a combination of attacks. He also shot down the other horde pygmy he'd seen hit Bruce, firing through the tent slit to kill him.

Aldwyn rushed the curtain and cut it down. Beyond was a cave floored with rugs, and he glimpsed booted feet beyond.

Meanwhile, as Bruce and the gnoll fought - and eventually both ended up prone thanks to critical failures. Bruce jumped down and mounted the gnoll and tried to punch him, as the gnoll tried to bite back. They ended up rolling around on the ground for a while, before eventually Crogar came back and took a few swings into the fight and hit and wounded the gnoll. Bruce disengaged and Crogar finished the gnoll off.

At the cave, Gerry put Great Haste on Wyatt and Aldwyn. Wyatt threw in a visibility dust grenade but didn't reveal anything. They sent in the skull spirit and it attacked a man standing off to the side. Wary for pits, Aldwyn pushed his sword into the doorway and found one. Galen shot into the cave and killed the man standing there, being attacked by the skull spirit. The figure dropped. Aldwyn jumped in after probing for a safe spot, and then Wyatt followed shortly after. They shrugged off charm spells thanks to Hide Thoughts, but then Wyatt was put down with a Sleep spell. He dropped. A mahogany-skinned woman wearing nothing but a leather bikini bottom, a cape, and thigh-high boots grabbed sleeping Wyatt and lifted him one-handed and brought a black knife to his neck and said, "Hold or I'll stab your friend." Aldwyn attacked immediately, slashing her arm twice. She parried one but the other hit, and slashed her arm nicely . . . but the cut healed instantly on the other side of it.

As this happened, a loud voice echoed around the room saying, "Let's talk! We want to negotiate."

Gerry sent the skull spirit to attack the woman but it missed and hit grappled Wyatt, instead, waking him up! He immediately (see notes) broke free thanks to two turns of Great Haste. The woman stabbed him but he defended. They ended up in a three-way fight. Aldwyn was put back to sleep, and the woman grabbed him and pulled him into close combat. Wyatt drew his wooden sword and tried that as well as his magical sword. The magic sword did nothing, but the wooden sword made contact and left a mark. So he kept battering away with the wooden longsword, wounding her a bit. Aldwyn was woken up by the skull spirit attacking him, but the woman was faster. She bit Aldwyn on the neck and started drinking his blood. She also stabbed him as Wyatt kept hitting him. Aldwyn tried to break free but kept failing, and she kept stabbing him and draining 3 HP per second from his neck. Soon he was making rolls against death. Ulf cast Sunlight, wounding the vampire. Its effect was immediate, but slow - she'd hold on for a while.

Gerry used Hidden Lore (Undead) to try to figure out vampire weaknesses.

The voice kept yelling, "Parlay, dammit, let's negotiate!"

Eventually even with her on him he freed up a Great Healing potion and drank it (lots of DX rolls), putting him to positive HP again. The vampire woman, still getting battered by Wyatt, tried to cut Aldwyn's throat. It took three tries but she finally cut him through his armor and wounding him terribly. He managed to escape from her grasp. Wyatt had kept hitting her and trying to Disarm, but her ST-based Knife skill well outdid his DX-based Broadsword skill.

Galen came into the cave at this point, and started looking around. He spotted a shallow grave that had skins and cloths tossed aside from it, like it was an unmade bed.

The voice kept demanding a parlay, and calling them murderers for not listening to his pleas to talk.

Galen looked around more. Eventually Gerry decided Rangol Grot must be behind an illusion, not Invisible, since Galen's See Invisible didn't help any. So he sent the skull spirit around bumping into walls. That eventually broke an illusion of a cabinet, which hid Rangol Grot. Wyatt immediately broke off and ran over and attacked him, cutting off one of his legs and then stabbing him four times in his one good eye. That killed him outright.

They went back to work on the vampire. Aldwyn got out a wooden stake. Galen ran over to Ulf's calls and caught one that Ulf tossed him. They ran over. Aldwyn managed to stab her with the stake and left it in. She was wounded but not dead, and slashed him in the neck. He rolled a 17 on his death check . . . and despite HT 13 and Hard to Kill 2 he was still mortally wounded.

The PCs piled on the vampire. Bruce ran in and slammed her, took a lot of damage, and fell down. Wyatt splashed her with holy water and injured her. Galen moved up. As Aldwyn went down, Galen stepped up and stabbed at her twice. One hit . . . for 1 damage / 3 injury. That was just enough to put her to a death check, and she dropped.

They poured holy water on her face, damaging it a bit further. Then Bruce punched the stakes in deeper. Then they stripped her naked and Entombed her after using Shape Earth to destroy her resting place.

That done, they used the Bell of D'Abo and searched. They found an orichalcum key with an orange tassel on it (magical), her knife - a black piece of obsidian (magical), and the other bell. They gathered up the weapons, the cash on the gnolls and orcs, and the heads of everyone intelligent (minute the pygmies, who Bruce stomped on the head for poisoning him), and then dragged out of there.

They found at this point that the "mage" that Galen had shot down was a dressing dummy that had been covered with Illusion Shell.

Wyatt made a HT roll after the fight not to catch disease from the bats.

Bruce later made his HT roll not to catch GNOLLVID-20, too.

The PCs made it back to the gate, escorted by the vegepygmies. They camped out there, healed everyone up, and returned to Felltower and from there to Stericksburg.

Back in town they sold off the salvaged gear, got the orichalcum key and knife analyzed, and eventually sold off the knife and divided up the loot.


The weather was terrible again in the Lost City - I rolled 15+ on the weather table most of their recent delves. The second day I rolled a 5, though, for perfect weather, so that probably made up for it. They had to hike ~5 miles from start to finish to Rangol Grot's place. In even usual rain that would have been a slog.

The PCs had no interest in parlaying with Rangol Grot. Wyatt scoffed at Galen's interest in Rangol's call for negotiation, as if Galen was the only one the guy was talking to. In the end, they killed him. It got me thinking, though - are there any disadvantages that essentially make you talk to civilized foes who ask to? I can't think of any in DF. Pacifism, maybe, but you're not likely to be fighting in the first place and it's not a PC disadvantage in DF. Someone, I can't recall who, suggested that Rangol Grot had a lot of nerve asking to parley after trying to kill first Gerry back in the day. You know, the first time the PCs barged onto his property and started killing everyone. Delver logic is actually among the most painful forms of spurious logic.

Also gamer logic, there was some discussion about how the vegepygmies promised to help them fight Rangol Grot, and that the plantfolk need the shielded temple dealt with to purify their city. The vegepygmies said they'd show their druid friend where the one-eyed elf is. They never mentioned the temple.

Spell question - can someone with Levitate fall, if the spell is on them but the wizard hasn't actually moved them around yet? It hadn't come up until Crogar knocked the cover off of that pit. We went with no. But that also means a person with Levitate can't jump down (and probably shouldn't be able to jump across, something I forgot later.) Part of why I ruled this was is that in Bard's Tale you used a levitation spell to avoid pits. I did rule that Walk on Air would be different - a fall breaks the spell, so falling would happen and the spell would be broken. They used the old "run one inch off the ground" thing, which I figure is playing it way too fine, but whatever.

I rolled a lot of criticals with the gnolls - lots of 4s and 17s, specifically. I rolled none with any other NPC. Lucky for the PCs - a single 4 by Rangol Grot would have meant a charmed PC or someone sleeping until the fight was over (or longer), no resistance.

The usual "oops" moments. One was the gnoll shooting Aldwyn in the chest. He went vitals because they're all in leather armor, right? I rolled a 4. Sweet! Except Aldwyn says, "Good thing I have my full armor on!" He does? He did. I didn't ask. The gnoll wouldn't have put a broadhead through mail; he'd have gone for the less-protected face. Sigh. What should have been the shot of a lifetime bounced off of the DR. Annoying, but I'd already called the shot. More annoying still was the PCs "discovered" the way to deal with Sleep is with the skull spirit just hitting the sleeping PC to get a HT roll and wake up. That happened by accident with Wyatt, who immediately sprang into action and did 4 Break Free actions a split-second later, followed by 3 more on the second turn of Great Haste. I forgot that - and the players who looked up the spell didn't note that - you are mentally stunned. Oh sure, Wyatt would have recovered with his 16 or less (IQ 10 or 11 plus Combat Reflexes) but it gain him a full turn of successful CP depletion that foiled the vampire's next move and got him away a full second earlier than would have otherwise. So yeah, that was a big deal error. I should give out XP rewards to people who inflict the full extent of the rules on their own characters. It would just make my life easier.

I'm still of the opinion that 17-18 is a critical failure and death on a death check unless you have 16+ on your roll. But I let it go.

The vampire was fun; I've used that mini before (as the vampire of the Evil Stone Head island in my last campaign.) She could have made some better decisions but her disadvantages limited her options a lot once triggered. Spoiler alert - I use a few different kinds of vampires, with overlapping traits but not identical curses. I was surprised they didn't immediately deploy weapons suited for vampires, though - Sunlight, holy water, garlic, and wooden stakes seemed pretty obvious choices, especially since they carry these items and took that spell to deal with vampires. It's like running into werewolves and trying to beat them to death with normal weapons while your silver dagger is in your belt sheath. Even more strangely, they didn't deploy some of these until after Gerry rolled Hidden Lore to remember what he could about killing vampires. Wasn't staking a vampire kind of an obvious choice? Wyatt had nothing better than his blunt wooden sword, but they really frittered away a lot of time before helping him with specifics. I know the players will say they didn't think of vampires, but geez, bat swarms! Sunlight-proof cave! Fangs!

They took Rangol Grot's head to use for Summon Spirit. We'll resolve that email (or more likely, the beginning of the next session because folks are too busy to get to it before then.)

They also salvaged the orc and gnoll heads for Skull Spirit spells, took every weapon (not the armor, it wasn't in great condition), and everything salable or portable - such as the vampire's thigh-high boots, leather bikini bottom, and cloak. They'd have brought her, too, if they thought they could sell her (Wyatt suggested her fangs were loot.) Just goes to show with delvers in general, and especially with a necromancer in the group, everything is loot down to the bodies themselves. I'm glad I've been so strick with Repair spells or every single thing the PCs find needs full dimensions, weight, price as-is, price new, and materials needed to repair. And I'm not even kidding.

They're not sure what to do with the key. It summons something, but they need a command word (at least.)

The knife was obsidian, but fine quality and both Puissance +1 and Shatterproofed - value $15,000. They spent a good 5 minutes or more debating the knife. Bruce wanted it until Aldwyn pointed out that his ST exceeded the maximum of a "normal" large knife. They sold it, in the end, because they needed the cash for loot and no one needs a knife especially much. They got $6,000.

XP was 4 each for loot, 1 xp for exploration - 2 and 1 for Galen who only took home $800 not the $4K he needs. MVP was Wyatt for keeping the vampire busy.
(Speaking of "needs" I really shouldn't have gone with my hybrid loot levels system; I did that to quiet complaints about sudden rises in loot needed back in the day. I think the smoothed, heavier progression is actually more logical and more fair risk-to-reward. In other words, I'd do Method 2, not Method 3, from this page.)

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Felltower today & Ulf's speech

We have a session of Felltower today.

The plan, such as it is, is to go to the Lost City and go after Rangol Grot, last seen many, many sessions ago. The vegepygmies seem to be able to find him . . . so they'll take another crack at him.

The backup if the gate is closed is . . . I have no idea. Not another gate, as far as I can tell.

So assuming the gate is open, let's see how they do in an attempt to seize the other Bell of D'Abo and open up the shielded temple.

Also, preserving for posterity, here is Ulf's speech as he uses Panhandling to gather more coins for the cause:

"Listen here, citizens of Stericksburg! Listen the tale of how a few pious followers of the Good God defeated evil once again, and destroyed a powerful champion of the Evil Snake Cult. Nine of us went, far to the Lost City, where evil has run roughshod. There we went, searching for the minions of the evil snake cult, you know the one—their symbol is two snakes facing each other! (Gestures appropriately) And those minions we found—the snakemen who worship not the Good God, but this ancient and evil religion.

Oh, we found their lair, and defeated their flesh-eating ape servants, who fell before our swords like chaff before the wind. And behold, what did we see, but giant two-headed snakes, with deadly poison, yea, verily, commanded by a gargantuan snake with the head of a woman—an evil woman, a trickster! A charmer! A beguiler! Legends say she is a naga, or a nagini… Whatever she is called, she was a cruel and wicked tormentor! So for the glory of the Good God, we attacked the vile beast and her pets, though snakemen were nowhere to be found. Ah, but they are sneaky, these snakemen, preferring to attack from the darkness and shadows. And so they did, with their poison and wily charms.

A terrible battle it was, my friends. The snakemen and that evil bitch tricked and bedeviled some of our comrades. The murderous and malevolent nagini ensnared and poisoned good Aldwyn of the Cornwood, and we feared all was lost. But it was not so, for we had Galen Longtread! Good people, he may not oft frequent these streets of fair Stericksburg, and perhaps ye see him not often in the Church, but the Good God works in mysterious ways, and through Galen and his companions, the Good God saw the evil nagini defeated that day!

But I was not gifted with that sight, dear followers. Nay, though I stand here before you, truth be told, I was slain in that battle, not by the snakemen, or the dread nagini, but but one of my own companions, bewitched and enthralled against his will! Thus see you here the scars of that battle (points to his chest) when good Ulf Sigurdson was killed.

That was but a temporary respite, my brothers and sisters. For it seems that the Good God was not done with me yet! Nay, when Galen and my comrades brought me to the Church in Stericksburg, they raised me up, and I stand here before you, one who has died but yet lives! For what purpose, then? Why did He bring me back? As a tool, an implement of his faith, to spread His word, my friends! And with that great responsibility, I say to you this: Followers of the Good God, always be vigilant! Ever must you be wary of those lurking to subvert the Good God—even your friends and family, lest they turn against you! For evil lurks around every corner, hiding in the shadows. And evil does not rest.

But as I say, the Good God brought me back to spread his word and do good deeds in his name. And that means that we must shine his heavenly light upon the sons of darkness and crush all who oppose him!

Those who worship the snake cults, yea, they must be

The horrid demon cultists of Sakatha rumored to be active in the Cold Fens, yea, we must
destroy them!

Those evil demons and beings who roam the walls of Felltower and beyond, yea, we must
obliterate them in the name of the Good God!

All these must fall, my friends, so that the Good God’s flock may continue to prosper in these lands. And so I ask you, good people of Stericksburg, to give us your aid. For once again we will be treading those perilous paths to protect all of those virtuous souls who worship the Good God. And thus I pass my hat.


Saturday, May 16, 2020

Random Thoughts & Links for 5/16

Here are some posts I thought I'd share:

- Dorks and Dumbasses has a post of magic items. Some of them are really neat, and I'd use them. Others, not really my type. A couple I'm not sure how they work, exactly (that rat box generated about 10d10 questions for me.) Thanks to Black Ray Gun for linking to it.

- I just saw this excellent post by Justin Aquino on old ships. The conclusions alone are interesting - yeah, buying old stuff to save money by putting in extra time? I'd agree it's a young being's game. "I can do it myself and save money!" makes sense until that time could make you more money or you have so much less time.

- I won't post a link, here, but I will note that the very final post on so, so many blogs on my blogroll go kind of like this, "Wow, it's been a while! But I'm going to be posting again regularly from now on!" Heh. I'll probably go out that way, too, as that's how one of my old blogs went once I had too little time to write . . .

- I've edited in some further thoughts into my 10x Treasure idea. Still lingering issue - how would you implement this in play if you wanted to do so after the fact?

- Also in a non-post related note, I spent a good hour yesterday consolidating down my minis collection into fewer plastic trays. I got rid of some boxes and made more shelf space. I also found that I'd kept some Bones IV minis I don't actually like. Geez, how did that happen? I'll figure out something to do with them, I suppose. I should sell them and others off now, but I'm not excited about multiple trips to the post office. Or any trips. I didn't even like to go before there was a special health risk.

- I re-read a fantasy battle sequence the other day as a light breather during a read-through of a larger, longer, historical war book. Casualty counts in fantasy battles are ridiculous. In the one that I read, the good guys manage to kill off 1000 guys with no one escaping and without marking up the battlefield enough to give themselves away . . . and then have a battle where they lose 50% of their number in a hard-fought victory. Geez, Pyrrhus did better than that, historically . . . but it made me think of other battles in other fantasy novels where 100% losses inflicted is just a normal thing and losing huge chunks of your own force is also just a normal thing. Compared to the US Civil War, which I'm reading about, where losing 1:2 in total losses - dead, wounded, missing, and captured - and inflicting a 10-20% loss on the enemy was a shattering victory, fantasy armies are expected to have way better discipline and morale, eh?

Friday, May 15, 2020

Nearly Complete Thoughts on 10x cost magic and 10x the loot

I've been given serious thought to how I'd implement the "10x as much treasure but magic is 10x as expensive" approach to loot.

Fundamentally solved

- All loot amounts are 10x as high as written in pre-written adventures.

- All loot on treasure generation tables is 10x as high. Values of items are not 10x as high - if you want 10x the value, put 10x the stuff!

- Permanent magic items, items that convey spells (scrolls), and potions cost, and are worth, 10x listed or $200/point of energy.

- Starting Wealth is unchanged.

Sticking Points

The real questions on "x10 cost for magic" are:

- Magic-like concoctions. Is Alchemist's Fire $100 or $1,000? How about clearly magical poisons, etc.?

- Paut. Does Paut remain $135, as a "mundane" item, or $1,350, as a "magical" item? My lean is toward "magical." It's a bottle of magical energy replacement. Healing potions - also clearly magical - would cost $1,200 for a Minor Healing Potion.

- Power Items. Recharging would need to cost $50/point, not $5/point. But would Power Items use the scale listed when access to high-value mundane items is 10x higher? A $1,000 item is 8 FP, but a $10,000 item is 25 FP (7 and 20 if you also use the numbers as minimums.) PCs would have access to power items frequently 3-5x as large. That might be an acceptable increase in power since warrior-types will have much more ready access to mundane arms of quality.

- Spells in town. Does it cost $150,000 for Resurrection and $10,000 for Remove Curse? If not, healing in town is trivial. If it does, it's no easier than before.

My lean on these are:

-No, 10x cost is for magical items.

- Paut is 10x cost. Players of wizards will squawk at this, hard. Maybe enough to scuttle the entire idea. Logically, saying you get $10,000 in loot instead of $1,000 on a given delve and spent $2,700 replacing 2 Paut instead of $270 is still a net benefit - you end up with $7,300 to spend on mundane costs. But sticker shock at higher Paut prices will probably upset players badly. It's one thing is Paut costs less than upkeep; it's another if it costs more than suits of armor.

- Power items use the stricter table reading - $50 and up is 1 FP, not $50 and below. Cost to charge is 10x. The benefit to mages of larger power items means casters will generally be able to get off larger spells, or more lesser ones, even if they're not willing to pay for "more expensive" Paut.

- Spells cast in town are also 10x cost. That's why Resurrection isn't common, it's $500 per energy point and thus $150,000 . . . 150 times average wealth.


- Coins are heavier - 50/pound like in DF/DFRPG not 250/pound like in DF Felltower - and are still on the silver standard ($0.10 copper, $1 silver, $20 gold). Jewelry prices adjust accordingly with silver being $50/pound and gold $1,000/pound instead of DF8's $1,000/pound and $20,000/pound or the middle ground of my current game's $250 and $5,000 to the pound.

This has the upside of making carrying coinage a logistical issue. It has the downside of making weaponry very valuable loot - two pounds of silver coins is $100 but a two pound shortsword costs $400 and sells for $160 with average wealth, making it worth $80/pound. "Leave the cash, take the mundane weaponry" has its charms but it's also kind of out-of-genre.

A bit of an alternate approach is the "A lot of money back then" approach. Cut all mundane prices by 10. You start with $100, Broadswords cost $50, a staff is $1, Upkeep is $15 . . . both otherwise everything is the same. It's not nearly as fun as giant piles of loot, though.

Any other edge cases (or critical cases) that I haven't noticed?

[Addition 5/16/2020]

- One of my players asked about Bottomless items - purses, backpacks, etc. given that coinage drops in effective value. Price is 10x, as any other magic item. Capacity is unchanged. They're "purses" but they'd get used for equipment far more often than for cash. If we changed coins from 250/pound to 50/pound that would make them less useful per-pound of capacity for carrying coinage, but a) more useful because of more weight of coin and b) more valuable for carrying non-coin items that have a better cost-per-pound.

- I'd also drop to the DFRPG standard of $100 per potion in town - but it would be $1,000 per. Specific potion type doesn't matter - the alchemists don't trust you and they're guild workers and have set prices.

- Another sticking point - if you wanted to do this after play began, how would you do so? What happens to the value of items held, cash on hand, etc.? Simple answer is 10x as much, so as not to hurt those that saved vs. those that spent on now-10x as expensive items. But someone will inevitably lose out based on purchases and savings approaches.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

DF Book is Almost Ready

My book is proceeding nicely. I was given a pre-production preview to read.

Basically, the book with proposed art, layout, etc. but still with "p. 00" and a chance to change things.

I made a few wording change suggestions after deciding my wording was more obtuse than usual.

I also made a quote change. I liked the quote chosen . . . but given space I liked another part of the same quote better.

Unfortunately one I'd really rather liked doesn't fit very well. I'll post it with my "Designer's Notes" blog post.

So soon enough a new DF book will come rolling along with my name on it! I'm very excited. It's a line built for me to write for.

I'm hoping it comes out in the next few weeks but I really have no idea.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

New Twilight 2000?

Apparently there will be a new version of Twilight 2000:

New Version of Twilight:2000 Announced

Neat. Twilight:2000 had the best supplements of any game system, always providing a well-developed sandbox with a plot to take advantage of the setting. Maybe we'll see more of the same?

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Yet another reason to value Actual Play

I was looking for errata on an old AD&D module, one I'm planning to run with my group in AD&D at some point. So I won't mention the module, or link to the discussion that I'm pulling quotes from. If you really want to know, search for the quoted text.

I've said it before, but I'm a big fan of actual play feedback. I'm less impressed with proclamations of what will happen than what did happen. Even an educated guess at likely results isn't the same as actual results.

Case in point, this module. It has an ambush right near the beginning. The module spends a couple of pages on the stats of the fighters, a mapped battleplan, and round-by-round discussion of ambush tactics. It admits right out that it's a high-level module and high-level PCs are likely to just open up a can of whupass on the ambushers and be done with it.*

I found a discussion of the module, with a really amusing example of what I mean:

Initial Post: "I don't know if my players are just good, but the ambush would never work. The PCs would know about it long before it was sprung and use their considerable resources to create a counter ambush [. . .] I know it's not that the PCs are overpowered - they're comparable to the pre-gen characters from the module (actually slightly lower level and ability scores). I know my players will [. . . blah blah . . .], use [blah], [blah], or [blah} . . . "

I got it. You players are highly skilled and won't fall for this kind of thing. This module is written for less sophisticated players, clearly.

After-first session Post: "We started play last night, aaaand...the PCs walked directly into the trap."

Turns out they figured out the ambush, but walked into it expecting to use magic, Charisma, and food bribes etc. to make friendly contact with enemies they'd been told were viciously evil man-eaters.


I'm not faulting the GM, here. I'm just using this as an example - projections and predictions aren't always accurate. "My players always . . . " meets "But for some reason, this time . . . "

Conversely, PCs can sometimes out-think a problem. Same module, another thread, someone pointed out his players deciphered the thing to do, and did it, and finished in a single session. Also something worth considering, and is Actual Play that shows a potential flaw in the module if your goal is a series of sessions and not an afternoon's quick jaunt.

* The module also has a weird couple of circular references to monster stats that contradict each other, so I was searching for an "official" answer to that but couldn't find anything.

Monday, May 11, 2020

The Battle of Al-Bunrab

Way back in the 90s, I quite accidentally ended up working with someone I'd known in Junior High School and High School. We eventually started gaming together again - he ran Borriz Borrizman the dwarf in Felltower most recently. But still back in the 90s, a co-worker of his came across a website about the "Battle of Al-Bunrab" and posted a link to it to answer a trivia email about early tank battles, not having adequately read it. My buddy showed it to me, and it's been something I've never forgotten.

The website itself went away years ago, but thanks to whomever started because it's preserved here:

The Battle of Al-Bunrab

You can read about the battle between American, British, and German land ironclads - not tanks, land ironclads - instigated by the wily Rajah Rabiid of Bunrabia in Ouargistan.

The whole website is filled with fun miniatures action. Sadly, in the archive the pictures are quite small. But the steam-powered "land ironclads," penny-farthing torpedoes, and bunny-shaped steam tanks are clear enough. I wish the original site was up, but this is what we have. I'm mostly linking it here for those who missed it back in the day, and so I can find it off my own blog next time I want to read up on it.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Felltower: What Disadvantages do the PCs have?

Here are the answers to the guessing game:


Bloodlust (12)
Callous (12)
Intolerance (Urbanites)
Sense of Duty (Adventuring Companions)
Vow (Own no more than can be carried.)

This is an exact description of Galen - he's a cold, heartless loner who hates city-folk, lives a backwoods minimalist existence, and kills everything that crosses his bow sight if it'll benefit him in any way. He's true to his companions, but if you get outside of his in-group, he'll kill you and not give it a second thought.


Curious (12)
Sense of Duty (Adventuring Companions)
Stubbornness (12)
Weirdness Magnet*

Gerry is actually quite religious, and brings his skeletons to church with him. He hasn't noticed this is a problem. He does still have Weirdness Magnet but we've been discussion replacements. Being Excommunicated is a big deal in a one-church setting; it's basically playing on hardcore mode as the cleric won't heal you and you can't get Resurrection or other healing magic performed. So Heyden doesn't have it either, but he's been getting close with his out-and-out worship of a magical idol instead of the Good God.

Mild Bruce

Bad Temper (9)
Easy to Read
OPH (Underdressed Savage)
Sense of Duty (Adventuring Companions)
Social Stigma (Minority Group)

Bloodlust (12)
Easy to Read
Gluttony (12)
Sense of Duty (Adventuring Companions)
Social Stigma (Minority Group)

Important quirk: Dislikes swamps. The player's mom told him to avoid swamps in my games.

Crogar, like Mild Bruce, Mo (his momma call him Kle), and Bjorn are/were all Shirtless Savages from DFD: Barbarians. They have DR that doesn't stack with armor - no Vow, just an advantage negated by armoring up. This does wonders for Move, Dodge, and savings! Unlike Bruce, though, he's not an underdressed savage. Presentation and comportment matter.


Compulsive Generosity
Disciplines of Faith (Ritualism)
Gluttony (12)
Honesty (12)
Intolerance ("Evil" religions)
Sense of Duty (Adventuring Companions)
Sense of Duty (Co-religionists)

Those are subject to change; I haven't seen his new list post-Resurrection but it's possible he's getting Charitable and re-jiggering his disadvantages.


Gwynneth, Quenton Mudborne (but not Quenton Gale), and Galoob Jah - only the latter two have Cowardice. Felltower Goblins have Cowardice. Gwynneth was just a low-HP, low-DR wizard and thus very squishy. She was appropriately cautious; I don't think anyone ever accused her of being run cowardly.

Varmus has Disturbing Voice but not Criminal Record. He say he's not required to discuss his hanging (if indeed he was hanged) with you, because he took the Legalistic quirk.

Inquisitor Marco had Intolerance ("Evil" religions) and Fanaticism (Destroy Undead.)

Wyatt - Overconfidence, yes. Only at a 12 or less but like Hillbilly with Bad Temper, he never rolls. He doesn't have a Delusion about being an Inquisitor, but we've talked about upping it from a quirk to an OPH based on how frequently he gives Ulf a hard time (basically, every time Ulf talks, or fails at a spell, or otherwise expresses "doubt")

Hasdrubel and Dryst both lack Sense of Duty to anyone. Both had/have an Obsession to become the world's most powerful wizard. Both also had/have Laziness, so don't feel too threatened. They'll get to their ambition later.

Did I miss anything?

Disads and Quirks in my game are flexible; you can change them as needed. You're expected to play the ones on your sheet, but you can change them to whatever actual reflects how you want to / actually do play your character. So some of these changed and will change as people change how they play. Galen and Crogar have been very steady - they play like they read.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Art, chosen!

I forgot to mention this the other day - I was asked to, and put in, my art requests for my upcoming GURPS Dungeon Fantasy-related book.

It's not really that exciting; I got to choose from art instead of ask for what I want. Still, it's nice that there will be art. And I'm certain that what I chose fits the theme of the book.

Naturally I don't get the last word. Or even close to it. But the book is that much closer to the end of production. I have no idea when you guys will see it.

Now, I have ideas for my next book. So I just need to do the outline and pitch it!

Friday, May 8, 2020

Felltower PC Disadvantages Guessing Game

Late this past week, one of my players emailed me about the possibility of changing up disadvantages.

He posed an interesting question - without looking at his character sheet, what disadvantages did I think the PC had, at what self control rolls? (and presumably why I thought so.)

It wasn't really a fair question to me. We played this past Sunday, and as part of pre-game prep I look at everyone's sheets to remind myself of their ads, disads, and quirks. Mostly disads and quirks; a 15-advantage list like Aldwyn's can glaze my eyes over.

But I thought . . . what do the blog readers think are the disadvantages that PCs have? You don't get to see them played, but you do get to see their actions through my words. I've flat-out stated some of them, but others I expect just are obvious.

If you'd like to play along, just post in a the comments the PC, and what disadvantages you think that PC has. I'll post the actual lists of any PCs people guess about on Sunday.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Final (?) Treasure, XP, and Notes from Session 132

How did it all turn out after Session 132?


In the end, the PCs:

- kept the Bracers of Shock. They're trying to figure out who'll get them. Right now, Aldwyn is in the lead.

- melted down the torc for the gold value, destroying it as an evil artifact. Varmus handled this with Create Fire and patience. Or Fireballs, either way.

- paid for Resurrection and Remove Curse out of the gross proceeds before division, as usual.

- sold the bulk of what they found outright, keeping only the Mana Gout, the scroll of cleric spells, and the Hero's Brew, which are probably going to Gerry, Ulf, and Wyatt respectively.

- they're still debating keeping some of the snakeman hollow-tipped daggers.


- The PCs used Summon Spirit to confirm that Aldwyn and Ulf wanted Resurrection. Both opted for Cut-Rate Resurrection to save $5K on each one. Each took a new -10 point disadvantage to make up the shortfall.*

- Crogar got Remove Curse done at the church.

- Ulf was was Resurrected.

- then came Aldwyn.

- Ulf used Remove Curse on Aldwyn, successfully.

- Ulf used Remove Curse three times on Wyatt, finally defeating the naga's charm the third time.


The loot was sufficient for everyone's threshold.

- 4 xp for loot

- 1 xp for exploration of new areas

- 1 xp Awesome Bonus for the final battle with the naga, involving Galen and the skeletons hacking the naga down in melee.

6 xp each, 7 xp for MVP of the session Galen (and thus 7 for MVP of the previous session, too.)

And in theory, that is that. $21,000 fixing the damage from the naga fight still netted everyone a few thousand silver and the group a few new magic items.

* I've decided I'm not allowing people to take more than -10 points or one new disadvantage of any value to cover Resurrection shortfalls. Any additional must be reduction of current abilities. Folks who want the "changed by death" feeling should change their disadvantages when raised. I'd like to avoid an unplayable pile of disadvantages. "Yes, I've got a Sense of Duty, a Vow, an Obsession, a Bad Temper, a Compulsive Behavior, and a Code of Honor . . . but now that I've seen death, I'm also Charitable, too!" = Yikes.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Revised Disadvantages for GURPS DF Felltower

In light of my recent post about disadvantages, here are some revisions.

Bad Temper

As written, plus you must make a self-control roll not to lash out verbally or physically at any foe that insults you, or attacks you, even if you've got better (or other) targets. If you also have Bloodlust, you will not be distracted from finishing a foe before moving on to the one angering you . . . and any that anger you must force a check at the lower of your Bad Temper or Bloodlust self-control roll to stop hitting the foe after its down, even when it's obviously dead.

Code of Honor (Chivalry)

Per Dungeon Fantasy Role-Playing Game Adventurers, p. 58, not per Basic Set, with the following clarifications:

- "civilized folk" includes things that appear to be civilized folks (if it looks like a dwarf, treat it as one) and things that clearly aren't "folks" but are clearly civilized. People/things with Social Stigma (Outsider), (Savage), (Criminal), or (Monster) can be dealt with as lessers; for everyone else fights must not take unfair advantage. No flanks, no fighting the unarmed while armed, etc.

"Must protect" doesn't necessarily mean you need to interpose yourself between the squishy types and the enemy at all times, but it's a good move and it should be your go-to. You'll take extra risks above and beyond those necessary if that's what it takes. Sacrificial defense perks are helpful for this but not required.

"Never refuse to defend civilization against Evil." Using negotiation to defuse a threat is fine; not seeking out a fight you can't win is fine. Deciding a fight against Evil is unwinnable shouldn't actually cause you not to fight.


Contrary to popular belief, this doesn't require a check before going on a delve.


Includes Truthfulness to an extent - you must make a self-control roll to lie even when it's not illegal to do so. Your ability to do so is not impaired.

Vow (Never refuse a challenge to combat)

Clarification: this is any goad to fighting, not just a formal challenge. Answering an informal challenge with a formal one of your own is fine, but you will fight regardless of your opponent's willingness to accept a formal duel. Nothing in this Vow insists the fight be fair on either side - if you insist on making it so, take an appropriate Code of Honor; your opponent is not bound by any disadvantages except their own.

If you have a Code of Honor which already requires you to accept formal challenges (Chivalry, Bushido, Gentleman's), the vow is only worth -5 points as it only expands the challenges you'll accept from "honorable foe" to "anyone."

Sense of Duty

Note that Sense of Duty automatically overcomes other disadvantages that interfere with it. These include Cowardice, Bloodlust, etc. You still must attempt to follow Codes, Vows, etc. - you'll just do so in a way that helps those you have a SoD toward.

(Good Entities) isn't really relevant in Felltower. (Coreligionists) covers the same ground for all purposes since there is only one major religion in the area.


As Adventurers, pp. 66, plus a self-control roll is appropriate when someone else proposes a plan that's different from yours.


I'm looking to provide clear, preferably mechanical, guidelines for when and how disadvantages affect your character. This way they're easier to adjudicate and everyone goes into each character's creation and play with an idea of what their disadvantages will really do. Some disadvantages a just a bit harsh, too, and I prefer to make some of them less so in order to make the game play more smoothly.

The "Never refuse a challenge" vow is one we've had issues with. It's generally been held to mean, and played as if, it only applies to formal, fair duels. "Fair" as defined as one-on-one, with the enemy refraining from any and all support of the duelist. In other words, it was played as if the disadvantage applied to the enemy. If someone banged a shield or issued a clear call to fight, the PC would generally throw back a "come fight me man to man or you're a coward!" response, and then only grudgingly fight if that was the case. I want to make it clear that you're the one with the issue, and you'll step out there even when it's a terrible idea and the fight isn't fair, because you vowed you would. People who want to live a long time don't make this Vow and keep it that long. Remember that even Musashi retired.

I'll add to this post as I notice more disadvantages that need special additions or subtractions.
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