Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Gary Grigsby's War in the East - Axis Turn 18 start

I know, I know - I've been cluttering up my blog with all sorts of posts about "dungeons" and "fantasy" stuff. Crazy. So I'm giving the people what they want - more updates on War in the East!

So, the rasputitsa came - the Fall season of mud.

Here is my current situation on Turn 18 (10-16-1941).

I came just short of completely taking Lenningrad - one part of the city is still holding out. The muddy conditions even affects urban combat - I think that's a design issue with the game that'll certainly be revised in WITE2. So I lack the firepower to blast the Soviets out of that portion. Until I do, the Finns won't attack the Soviets past the line they're on.

I also fell just short of Moscow. I reached its suburbs - I was adjacent to the city's urban hexes - but as the weather called for mud I didn't want to get swamped in a massive Russian counterattack I pulled back. I had only a needle of penetration, anyway, and I couldn't crack the level 4 forts in the urban hexes. Forts range from 0-5 . . . 4 is formidable. You can see to the west of the city where I'd pushed in and was now pulling back.

South of the city I broke through, I could have effected a pocket had it been a month earlier. The Soviets have so many units in the area it's a slow to fight through, coupled with major and minor rivers and wooded terrain. Still, I took Bryansk. My units are all isolated as they're too far from the railheads for trucks to reach them. The only saving grace is the Soviet offensive operations are likely to fail, too. I just need to ensure I have an actual line - semi-isolated units out front can still be surrounding if the Soviets are willing to throw away men to do it. They are, so they will be. And the offensive penalties during rasputitsa means I cannot just do what I normally do - use my firepower to demolish the units trying.

Partisans are coming up in my rear, and I'm not sure they best way to deploy to keep them down.

In the south the Soviets are already pushing back as I close in on Rostov.

I blocked off the Crimea, but there is no way I have the firepower to punch through to it, and I need to hope the Romanians can hold the couple of hexes they hold.

It's a complete mess.

However, I think the mud ends in 3 turns (I'm playing with historical weather.)

Then I get a bit of hard ground to fight on as the blizzards roll in. I doubt I can take Moscow, but I'll consider a try if it seems possible. Stalingrad is too far - I couldn't drive there unopposed if the weather stays this way, nevermind fight my way there. All I'd really like at this point is to get a solid, defensible line that keeps my furthest major gains (Ryazan will be hard) and to seize Lenningrad. Opening up sea supply to the port, with the rails running from it, should help. Plus it'll shake loose von Manstein's panzers to be deployed . . . somewhere. It'll be interesting. I might get pushed, like the historical Axis, to go for a big blow in the South because the North is cemented in and the center is too damn hard to break.

Pictures - yeah, they're not pretty. It's the mud. For illustration I left on the "far from supply" and "isolated" toggles. Yellow is far from supply. Red is isolated. Yes, I outran my supply badly in the south . . . it's hard to keep the rail repair going forward and the railroads don't always run the way you'd hope.

Monday, June 29, 2020

DF Cold Weather Gear

One of my players (he runs Wyatt) put this together:

The blank spot for crampons/foot spikes is on the assumption that "doom cleats" are some cinematic upgrade and "normal" crampons should be available. They are not. GURPS High-Tech says they are TL5. They are rules-identical to doom cleats. I may allow a jury-rigged approach of spiked books, but it, too, will be a permanent change to boots and be expensive.

So the PCs are equipping up for the "Arctic Gate."

Some rulings:

- Yes, even with Armor Mastery you suffer a -1 DX from wearing Arctic Clothing over your armor. No, you cannot wear it underneath your armor.

- Cold will affect exposed gear. You can put your potion belt and delver's webbing on the outside . . . but it may suffer from the cold. It will be cold. The rooms near the gate are frozen. In GMing terms, we call this a hint!

- Arctic clothing does not include mukluks. Clothing sets never include any protective footwear. They probably include socks, but not external footwear.

- Polar beer isn't available in Stericksburg.

- Yurts have an upside over tents - see DF16 p. 18.

- No one asked, but my cousin would if he was currently playing - Riding (Tauntaun) is not a learnable skill . . . in Stericksburg.

Hopefully someone springs for Survival (Arctic). Galen has a solid default, but I require IQ-based rolls to figure stuff out and sometimes you can't use gear or claim benefits without at least a level in the skill. From a game design perspective, I wonder if defaults of types like this works better as 1-point perks or techniques off a basic "Survival" skill? That's a post on its own.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

GURPS DF Session 136, Felltower 105 - Random Visits

Lots of little things this session, so I'll be briefer than usual. It was more of a roundup delve than anything else.

This session really depended on the conceit we have that the PCs can go back and hear the stories and read the accounts of the previous delves - most of the delvers had never been these places, but the players had. That was interesting.

Date: June 28th, 2020

Weather: Hot and humid.

Crogar, human barbarian (303 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (456 points)
Gerald Tarrant, human necromancer (384 points)
     2 Skeleton (~35 points)
     Skull-spirit (?)
Hayden the Ebon Page, human knight (307 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (306 points)
Sir Bunny Wigglesworth, human holy warrior (250 points)
Wyatt Sorrell, human swashbuckler (300 points)

We started off in town. The PCs gathered rumors and picked up their custom-made gear ordered right after the last delve - ornate plate armor for Sir Bunny, for one.

The PCs tried to use Summon Spirit on Rangol Grot again to find out how to use his magic chest. The summoning failed, though, so they need to wait a year to try again. They did try some experimentation to get the chest to go away, but nothing seemed to do anything at all.

So they headed up to Felltower, stopping only for lunch and to create a Skull-Spirit for Gerry.

Once inside the castle, they had a skeleton open the trapdoor, and headed down. From there, they headed to an area they hadn't been in a while - the so-called "mage's apartments" where the PCs had once fought an electric jellyfish and taken much loot. They'd re-looted it again in the "I'm Brother Mo!" incident. They went back again, to see if they could find anything. (They had some particular reason in mind, but I don't know what it was.)

First, the raised the portcullis and spiked it up - again. Ulf zapped one of the faces with Sunbolt from a distance, but that did nothing.

They decided to have Ulf and Heyden rush in; they hoped Heyden could block for Ulf (he couldn't.) They put on Resist Fire and make a run for it at full tilt. They got zapped as they passed the first pair, taking some lightning damage. The again, more lightning the second time. Once inside on the tiled floor, a voice boomed out, "Who are you?"

"We are of the brotherhood, by the brotherhood let me pass!" said Ulf.

The floor turned ice-cold and both Ulf and Heyden were attacked with Frostbite spells. Ulf immediately took enough injury to be negative, and Heyden was injured badly, taking a major wound. But as they tried to move, it happened again. Heyden quickly scooped up Ulf and moved to a nearby door, and kicked it open. This took three more seconds, most of which he took more injury. Ulf healed him with Faith Healing from within his arms. Heyden stepped through the door and to safety a moment later.

"I think this means you're married," quipped someone. That kept up most of the session.

Ulf and Heyden healed up while the group waited outside. Then, they searched the apartments until they located a secret door indicated on their map. They managed to open that, and then opened up one that led out. Ulf went back in, leaving Heyden to guard it, and explained to the others where to go.

Gerry led the group around the dungeon, through the pillboxed entrance, and through to the correct room. They rejoined there.

At this point, Ulf took a look in the temple, and felt out the edge of the "death zone." He took 1 injury doing so, from a soundless shriek in his brain.

He decided the thing to do was try to use Exorcism with Dismissive Wave. So he ran into the "death zone" with Haste 3 on him, did his wave (to no avail), and ran back. 7 injury later, he was panting and hurt and the evil temple was no worse for wear.

Once this was done, they retired to the apartments and rested. Galen, Wyatt, and Sir Bunny felt around the floor - they decided the plush carpeting must conceal something. They weren't willing to cut up the hundreds of square feet of it, though. In any case they found nothing.

That all done, they headed to the "Saints of Felltower." They found the metal door to it locked, but Gerry was able to unlock it with Lockmaster. Once inside, Ulf oriented himself on the map and then used Seeker on the missing heads, starting clockwise from the left.

One failed, one succeeded and showed a statue head on a wooden or stone plinth or stand with a golden crown on its head, one succeeded and showed a head in a circular room along a circular corridor. The last one was deep enough to roughly be the gate level or thereabouts, they're not sure, but it did match a spot on their map.

That done, they forced the door near the stairs, and marched down to attack the orcs. They reached a room with a rotating statue, moved to the far door, and tried to force it. That failed utterly, so they used Silence and hacked it down. Beyond it was a solid wall of stone and wood. Those darn orcs!

They tried another door, and it was jammed. So they used Silence and hacked it down, then marched past and had to lift a heavy portcullis. Heyden (ST 20 with his belt) and Crogar (ST 19) lifted it easily.

They explored a bit past the portcullis, and tried to puzzle out the demon face crudely done in relief near the temple. They could not - it was too generic. So they squeezed through a bent portcullis and opened the might doors to the big temple.

They stopped for a look at the giant, now-eyeless statue from the big fight. Galen said, "You should have been there."

From there, they headed up to the altar. Sir Bunny Touched it and 69 of his silver pieces turned to gold.

That done, they headed to the orcs, and found another blockage. Wyatt had a pickaxe so they gave it to Crogar, but then realized it would take hours to clear (1/4 speed with improvised tools and hands to dig, after breaking up the rock with the pickaxe), and gave up. They tried another path and it, too, was blocked.

Frustrated, they gave up on attacking the orcs - and reaching the lenses! - and decided to go talk to Big John. Someone had purchased wine just in case they fought oozes, to clear off their corrosive slime (I think), so they could bribe him with that.

The group climbed down the "scary pit" (so it says on the map) and retrieved a rowboat their notes said was stashed behind a secret door. They pulled that out, along with a pole, and brought it over to the balcony overlooking the flooded prison.

The realized no one had Boating, but they wanted to talk to Big John.

Wyatt hucked a lightstone into the water, but all it did was stir up some bats and fish. Ulf called out to Big John to come talk to them, they were friendly. He didn't answer immediately, so Ulf told Wyatt to throw a lightstone at his dock. He missed by a couple yards to the right.

Heyden suggested that he has Penetrating Voice with his Helm of Command, so he should call Big John. He did so.

Eventually Big John stuck out his head - a troll with grey-peppered hair. Galen resisted the urge to just take a shot at him using Dark Vision (he was Invisible, too.) John eventually told them to come and talk.

They did, by sending Ulf and Wyatt over with Levitation. They arrived at the dock, and talked to Big John.

He was off in the darkness inside his lair, and they were on the docks, lit by their lightstones. They saw his fishing net and fishing pole. Ulf offered a gallon of wine for friendship, and a deal - would he retrieve the valuable items, including an orichalcum shield, from the water in return for wine? "You have it with you?" "No, but we'll bring it."

Big John said he'd give one item for one barrel of wine five times the size of the one they brought. They agreed. They also spoke of friendship, and of knowing the delvers who came before. Big John said he knew them. "They had friends here, too, until they came and killed them all." "Yeah, well, we don't approve of that," said Ulf.

They soon got brought back, having made a tentative deal with Big John.

That done, they stashed the unused boat, and climbed out of the pit.

After that, at Gerry's insistence, they headed down to check out the big orichalcum doors.

Long story short, they made it down, and resisted the close air of the level. But as Galen scouted ahead, he saw two bronze spiders on the ceiling seemingly rebuilding the much-hated black hemispheres. So he shot one three times. They turned and acquired him as a target. He shot the same one three more times; it critically failed a dodge and fell off the ceiling with a bang, and three more hollow-sounding bangs later Galen had hit it again. As it turned over, the other rushed forward. Galen moved back a little and waited. The one of the ceiling jumped at him. He shot it three times and acrobatically dodged aside - he hit twice, it missed. The party meanwhile was running up. For most, at Move 3, it never mattered.

Galen ran back, hoping to draw them in - but the spiders moved back closer to the hemisphere, around the corner. So they had to rush forward. They did, Crogar first - and two spiders jumped him. He dodged them both and swung his axe. He missed, critically, but managed to turn it into a hit with Luck before missing with the other. It dodged. He missed his next two strikes, and blocked a bite. The skull-spirit came up and attacked, but it couldn't harm the constructs. Galen shot one a couple more times as Wyatt moved up and struck at one. Galen destroyed it a moment later, and then Wyatt attacked the second. He hit it three times in the neck, damaging it barely with two strikes and slightly with another. Then Crogar managed to land a hellacious blow and get critically dodged on his followup. He destroyed the bronze spider and dropped his axe in the process. But it was over.

They waited 10 seconds (literally) and listened, but didn't hear the Lord of Spite. So they carried the spiders back to the stairs. They waited a bit longer, and then headed to the doors.

Once they reached the 18' tall, 9' wide (each) doors, they used See Secrets on Galen and Ulf to look for hidden mechanisms (nope), studied the inscriptions (Heyden further recalled it was a desert civilization called the Osirians, from near Sham, that died off long ago except for the remnants of their biggest structures.) Gerry and Wyatt looked for patterns in the pictures. Sir Bunny studied them for demonic images. But they couldn't find a keyhole or make sufficient sense of the pictographs.

After about 15 minutes, they heard a distant stomp noise. They immediately moved to the stairs and up.

They made it back to town without incident.


Lots of little stuff today; the plan was to do much of this, but also to try See Secrets on the lenses and to go to Five Ooze Corner and destroy the ooze pool there. The blockages derailed a lot of that - they realize they've been walled off from the lenses. That may explain why the orcs haven't really bothered with the pillboxes.

So that's not the answer to the "Who are you?" then is it? That trap can be lethal - it's potentially 3d per second for at least 7 seconds, based on today's results.

I ruled that range does matter with Exorcism - you have to get right up close, not do it from 17-18 yards away.

People always choose All-Out Attack (Double) on doors. That's the best decision on wooden ones for high-damage fighters. On ironbound doors, not so much. It took 50% longer with (Double) than (Strong) for Crogar. +3 damage meant 3d+13 instead of 3d+10 vs. DR 15 . . . the first door bounced a few attacks and he did some 4-6 HP cuts. On the second door, his lowest damage was 10.

It was amusing watching them talk to Big John - first they yelled, then threw lightstones at his dock, then actually talking in person once he spoke back. Even funnier was them trying to have the best of both worlds - claiming to be friends of the delvers who dealt with John peacefully, then throwing them under the bus when John pointed out those delvers killed the others who lived here even after they'd been friends.

We did end up coming up with a nice list for my upcoming book, If You Give A Troll Five Gallons of Wine . . .

Wyatt is determined to decapitate a construct, but hasn't succeeded yet!

XP was 4 each for loot for the newer guys, but only 2 xp for Gerry and 0 xp for Galen. Galen was MVP because he didn't get sufficient loot and helped spot and mangle the bronze spiders, so he ended up with 1 xp. Loot was ~200 and change each, after the gold coins (turning $69 to $1360) and the spiders ($210 for the pair as scrap.) Nothing like what they need.

Next delve, they decided on the "Arctic gate." They put in a large order for personal arctic gear today - I'll get the exact details down soon. It's going to be hard to get into the spirit of a frigid icy hell when it's humid and 32 degrees celsius around here.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Dungeon Fantasy 21: Megadungeons

Yesterday SJG announced six of the twelve PDFs in the GURPS PDF Challenge Kickstarter:

GURPS Action 6: Tricked-Out Rides
GURPS Hot Spots: The Incense Trail
GURPS How to Be a GURPS GM: Ritual Path Magic
GURPS Steampunk Setting: The Broken Clockwork World
GURPS Action 7: Mercenaries
GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 21: Megadungeons

Shock of shocks, I wrote that last one.

That was my short writing project I mentioned a few times back in March. It really came to fruition thanks to a lot of helpful comments by Christopher Rice, Douglas Cole, and Matt Riggsby. Everything in it, though, came out of building and running Felltower as I discovered how to map and run a megadungeon. It's based on my experience, and features some of the tools I use to stock the dungeon, too. Not the tools to run it during a session, exactly - that's got to be a whole 'nother book - but how to make it hang together, fill it up, and pitfalls to avoid while you do that. The book is GURPS-centered but much of it is just useful advice for megadungeons, I feel. You could find it elsewhere, but this is a good starting point if you're just coming into the megadungeon-centric game.

The project will need to hit 5 stretch goals to get to my book, so let's hope we can do that. Spread the word if you're interested.

I also like the fact that I wrote DF12 and DF21. I see Sean and I need to co-author DF51 when it's time for that.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Friday Links Post for 6/26

Random links for Friday!

- Ever wonder how a pressure plate works? Courtney might be able to help out. On the Thursday Trick, Triggers Pressure Plate. That's helpful to me, because I can design nasty traps but I don't really know enough to describe how they work. I might just be pulling stuff out of my imagination. Warning: Does not apply to combat footwork or grappling.

- After the Ogre talks about Allies vs. Hirelings. I like the limit on Allies. We've never had someone ask for a second Ally, but I think that's a good guideline.

- Hans wrote a nice article on the G11.

- Totally non-game related, but gamer related. Apparently there was a brief thing about picking a fight with someone 31 years older than you. Do you know who is 31 years older than my gaming buddy since high school, Tom? Chuck Norris. I don't like his odds. I'd tell Tom to take it to the ground, as Chuck is a Tang Soo Do expert . . . and Tom has both Ground Fighting (Wrestling) and the Ground Guard perk. But Chuck Norris is a black belt in BJJ originally from Jean Jacques Machado, so I'm not sure that's any better of an idea.

- This post reminds me of the book Queen Victoria's Little Wars. There are just so many small but interesting conflicts - either visually or tactically interesting or both - in this time period. The book is a good starting point for the whole series of wars that Edmund Blackadder mentioned involved saving people from particularly sharp slices of mango.

- I find treasure-rolling systems fascinating. I personally use a value-based system, so I get a total and back-fill what makes up that value. But still, I like them in general - AD&D for sure, Rolemaster had a great one that inspired me a lot, and everyone in the world liked rolling on the found objects table in Gamma World. One system I played around with and didn't like was 5e. I think this post explains why.

- I haven't played around with it, yet, but there is a GCA file for DFRPG. Since my campaign is more of a hybrid, I need to see if just adding that file on is a good idea. I suspect not. I might need to rebuild my data set around it, and add in my own changes (and imports from Basic Set and Magic, plus Wizardry Redefined) into their own file. I'd overlooked this file a while back, but a recent post on the thread alerted me. I don't hang around the forums anymore, but I do like to get pinged when GCA posts are up.

- This one is Felltower related - one of my players asked about fencing masks. We're not using them. Just getting that out there. I may have a whole post on why, at some point, but for now, no fencing masks from Denizens: Swashbucklers.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Free Actions in GURPS

I'm not a big fan of "free actions" in GURPS.

Don't get me wrong - some things should take so little time that they're effectively an extra you can throw in.

But I've found the term gets tossed around a little too freely in my games sometimes, and it's used to allow a lot of actions.

If it's Free, it's for Me.

Here are the canonical free actions, all on Basic Set p. 363 unless noted otherwise.

Talking. Speech is free, which is an appropriate idea for a game written in the U.S. of A. But you have one second . . . the rules account for this but say it's more fun to ignore it. I can vouch for the fact that this is not always true.

Maintain Spells. Not cast or change them, but you can pay the FP cost if a spell needs it.

Dropping things. You can drop something as a free action, at any point in your turn. Related - you can let go of a hold as a free action, too (or throw a weapon away from you, nevermind just drop it, per Actions After a Grapple, per p. B371.) Letting go of picks is a free action (p. 405).

Crouching. You can crouch at the beginning of your turn, or rise from a crouch. The "beginning" of your turn isn't defined. What counts as enough action to end the beginning? Presumably, not any free action, but any other action at all even if it's instant (see Problems, below.)

Drag someone. This is described as a "free action" on p. B371, but moving is not a free action, so clearly this is meant to just be an extra you get with any Step or movement if you qualify for it.

Speaking of grappling:

Adding a hand or Releasing a hand are both free actions, per Martial Arts, p. 117.

Activate a laser sight. Per p. B412.

Tonfa grip change. Per p. B209. Oddly, this is worded differently from Fast-Draw - it's free, or a full Ready.

Dissipating a held Melee or Missile spell. Per p. B241.

Dismissing a summoned Ally. Per p. B38.

Raising or lowering a Mind Shield. Per. p. B70.

Using Rapier Wit. Per p. B79.

Hit someone with spines. Per p. B88.

Adjust your grip with Grip Mastery. Per Martial Arts, p. 50. Interestingly, this is one of the few free actions that comes with a limit on use, like crouch does.

Quick Sheathe with Fast-Draw. Like Tonfa, this one on Martial Arts, p. 51 elevates a Fast-Draw to a free action on a success.

Quick-Swap weapons. Per Martial Arts, p. 51.

Use a Schtick! Per Martial Arts, p. 51

Use Sensitivity.

Brace a teammate. Per Martial Arts, p. 52, if you both have the Teamwork perk and are formed up.

Pin after a Piledriver. Per Martial Arts, p. 86.

Switch skills. Per Martial Arts, p. 104.

Drop into kneeling or prone while skidding. Per Martial Arts, p. 105.

Use Light Walk. Per Martial Arts, p. 129.

You can do any and all of that, given the right circumstances.


There are two problems related to this:

The everything fast is free. I've very often heard players refer to instant actions as free actions. In other words, Fast-Draw? It's a free action. "And I Fast-Draw my sword as a free action." Well, no, you don't. You attempt to ready it with a roll; if you succeed, you ready it instantly. But it's not technically a "free action." This matters, because of rules like Multiple Fast-Draw (Martial Arts, p. 103), and because failure means you're forced to take a Ready next turn.* This is important - so if you're doing another action, like a Long Action digging for something in a pouch, you can't Fast-Draw as a "free action," unless you've got a hand free and it has consequences for failure.

Also, it leads to the assumption that any other sufficiently fast action doesn't count; what's "sufficiently fast" seem to vary by player. "I can take a Wild Swing** as a free action, right?" No. You can do a Move and Attack, and any attack that's sufficiently difficult might be a Wild Swing, but that fact that you can attack on the run (or just run) doesn't mean it's a "free action."

You also get the idea that any action not specified to be a maneuver is actually free. Perception rolls? Free, how can that be an action? Facing changes come with Movement across a hex map, and Step comes with facing changes, so they must also be free. And so on. It shouldn't take long, so it's free.

Layered "free" actions."

In other words, free+free+free=free.

This means you get the guy who does all of this:

"Okay, I've going to step over here. I drop my sword to my lanyard, Fast-Draw a potion, drink it***, drop the vial, yell over to [so-and-so], 'We need to gang up on this monster, so flank him and use cutting because I think he's not really hurt by impaling,' Fast-Draw my sword from my lanyard, and yell to the high priest, 'I'm going to kill you!' - hopefully that will distract him, do he get a roll to avoid that? No? Okay, fine. Oh yeah, I drop my buckler and Fast-Draw my other sword with my off-hand. Then I turn my facing over to here so I can't be flanked by that guy and so I can see my buddy [other so-and-so]. Can I make a Perception roll to see that he's been poisoned? I mean, it should be obvious. Oh, and then I crouch."

Nevermind you can't do the last one, but I've seen "crouch" as a free action become "crouch or un-crouch at any time."

I'm barely kidding here. We've had people concentrating on multi-second spells wanting Perception rolls to spot things and make multi-sentence speeches. Technically the second part is free, but it's not actually reasonable. (And it gets worse if you add Great Haste to give a full additional turn.)

It's one second . . . and it takes more than one second to even think of doing all of the above.


If this kind of thing doesn't bother you, go with it as above.

If it does . . .

Limited speech. You have one short sentence. Have a speech? Make part of it, make the rest on your next turn.

Limited free actions. Just cap the number at 1-2.

Cumulative free actions count. Allow one of the free actions per turn without a penalty plus one-sentence talking; all others get a cumulative -4 to rolls a la Multiple Fast-Draw. So if you uncrouch, talk, drop a weapon, and then go an Fast-Draw a new one and attack, you're at -0 for the crouch, -0 for speech, -4 for dropping a weapon . . . so your Fast-Draw is at -4. You then attack at -4. That, of course, makes "free" not free, and not-free better. You can just make it a -2 for each one, instead, and count them all. Crouch, talk, drop = -4 to Fast-Draw, -6 to attack (all attacks given by Extra Attack would use this same penalty.)

Too much counting? Any free actions past one means a total -4 to everything else on that turn. This makes a single action a nice bonus, but then you're just distracting yourself trying to do too much.


If you think Free Actions get too much abuse or even if not, it's worth reviewing what is actually free.

If you think they're abused, try the limits I mentioned above. You can always be flexible if the circumstances dictate, but it's harder to suddenly be less flexible.

For me, I found it interesting to just track down the words "free action" in the core books (Basic Set, Martial Arts - Magic has nothing Basic Set does not.)

I'm not sure how I'll rule on these, but I do like the idea of limits. One second is just so much time . . . and it's getting tiresome to deal with talk-step-drop-fast-ready-attack-drop-talk-turn-look over and over.

Hopefully this look at free actions is helpful to people besides me.

* Which is occasionally an issue, when people read this as "Success means it's out now so I can parry; failure means it's not out until my next turn, which I can use normally." Failure is so infrequent at higher power levels, such as my current campaign, that it doesn't come up much. But I have retroactively realized someone has failed Fast-Draw and then acted normally on the next turn, having just not parried in between.

** Usually they mean a Move and Attack.

*** My house rules allow a one-second open-and-quaff for potions. I recommend giving it a try.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

SJG PDF Challenge & Me

By now you've probably read these posts on the upcoming GURPS Kickstarter:

Big News from SJG

This Deal Is Getting Worse All The Time

June 23, 2020: Coming Next Month: Steve Jackson Games' GURPS 2020 PDF Challenge

The short version is this:

It'll start with one PDF. $3 gets you that PDF and any stretch PDFs (eventually, 12 PDFs, each 10 pages.)

You can pledge at these levels:

$3 - You get all unlocked PDFs.
$30 - You get all unlocked PDFs and $30 in credit to spend in BackerKit on existing GURPS PDFs.
$99 - You get all unlocked PDFs and $125 in credit to spend in BackerKit on existing GURPS PDFs.

Basically, if everything unlocks, you get 12 PDFs for $3 and $27 in extra stuff for the second tier. For the third tier, you get 12 PDFs for $3 and $122 worth of other stuff, for $99. So that puts a roughly 19% discount on anything you buy in Backerkit.

So, what to do? I'll be in for $3, at least, and I'll think about getting in for $30. It's going to be hard to find $125 worth of stuff I need in Backerkit, even if it's also print products. I own most GURPS books already. There are a few I need to pick up, but I don't think they'll reach $125. I'll have to see when they launch the Kickstarter what I need of what they offer.

Overall, it's a very good deal if it fully funds. I'll be in on this to help make sure my book does.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Outline submitted - Again!

I submitted a 2nd, and a 3rd iteration of my outline today.

As always, Sean Punch is an amazing sounding board. I submitted, he commented, I came back with revisions and "hey, could I do this?" . . . and he came back with more suggestions. I submitted a 3rd iteration today, with changes and some ideas that weren't even nebulous ones became fully-fleshed out, publishable ideas in a quick back-and-forth.

I miss us both having the time to write together. GURPS Martial Arts was the first, and I still read that sometimes and I think it exceeded my best expectations of the value of a GURPS book that I could create.

But this book will be nice, I think, and it'll be better thanks to Dr. Kromm - as usual!

War in the East - Axis Turn 11 Start

I managed to squeeze in 6 turns of Gary Grigsby's War in the East since my last post.

How am I doing?

My results are okay. Not great, but good . . . and I'm starting to wonder if "good" is "good enough" on the Russian Front!

So the front is so big, now, I needed to zoom out a tad more just to fit this in only five pictures. It would have been more like 7-8 without.

Army Group North

I've smashed a path to Leningrad. In the process, I'd trapped some units in Estonia, so I deployed two divisions and then a reinforcing corp to clean them up. They're mopping that up now, although it'll be a hard assault on the city itself. The Finns also pushed down to the "Finnish No Attack Line" - as far as they're willing to fight; basically, just short of where I really need them to fight. They're only interested in gaining back the territory they lost in the Winter War. They did manage to smash the garrison at Hanko, finally, but it declined in strength and numbers . . . I suspect the Soviets bled out some of the troops.

The rest of AGN isn't in bad shape, but not in great shape. I've cleared about half of the suburbs south of the Neva River, but the city itself is heavily fortified and garrisoned - a unit strength of "X" means 100+, and I can't even match that without the issues of forcing a major river crossing. My goal is to push East, but there are a LOT of troops, and the Soviets keep counterattacking hard to keep me from taking Novgorod and then pushing up to Lake Ladoga. I'd like to cut off Leningrad in the next month so they starve out. To do that I either need to take all of the lake ports, or cross the Neva River west of the city and take that port. Both are tough, and there is just a massive pile of Soviet troops. They don't break or shatter like they did on turns 1-4, either. Even 10 to 20:1 actual odds against tends to force a retreat in good order, not a rout. They counterattack any holes I break and force back my German divisions, costing them sometimes 50:1 losses but they can handle it.

So I'm pulling up more reinforcements to try and seize Novgorod, take the suburbs, and make a threatened end-run around Lake Ilmen to force the Soviets back. That might be too much, because I'm running low on men . . . but I do need to do all three.

A mistake was not pulling all of my heavy guns out of every front and moving them north - everything 203mm and larger - but I'm rectifying that now. It's making it hard to really smash dug-in troops but I'm doing what I can. (Also, unrelated, I made a mistake in pushing out construction units to front-line units. They're doing better work auto-assigned by OKH and the main HQs on rail work.)

Army Group Center, when we last left, had seized Smolensk. It basically stalled there, having to try and clear the waves of Soviet troops that poured into a big west-facing U shape. The Soviets even steadily pushed north toward Smolensk . . . I tried to stop them, then I just stalled until I could pincher them off. I did that last turn, and I'll annihilate the pockets troops ASAP. I punched a hole near Ryzhev toward Moscow, but I don't think I have the fuel and manpower to go through it.

I've got my rail lines getting very close to the front, finally. But I don't have enough units to do all the things I want, and the area west of Moscow is a tangle of rivers and forests. It's a slow slog, and I can't afford costly errors.

Still, it's shaping up. I'm hoping to seize Moscow before the snows fall, but I've read that a useful strategy is to seize a good defensive line instead to ride it out. We'll see.

In the south, I've managed to break a Soviet push toward Kiev and then connect with Army Group Center. I'm pushing to cut off Kursk and Kharkov, but fuel is an issue. Again, lack of fuel on my front-line units is slowing me down. But I've taken Odessa, and I'm pushing on Dnepropetrovsk. My goal is to cut off the cities and then capture the garrisons. I'll send some units to cut off the Crimea when I can. The South is so big that I'm throwing the Italians, Hungarians, and Rumanians all forward. They're vulnerable to Soviet armor, but I need to make weight here with any unit I can. Russia is so damn big.

I'm aiming at cities with important resources and armaments, because I can't afford to let the Russians keep them.

Overall, my best turn was a few turns back, on turn 9. I actually caused more than ~500,000 casualties in one turn, crushing two big pockets of Russian troops, and I wiped out 64 divisions and brigades that turn. The Russians can make more, but a destroyed unit loses more than a routed one, and it cost much more resources to make the replacements. Speaking of, I only captured ~65 T-34s, and way too many scrap-worthy T-26s and BT-7s. Guns, same - lots of captured 45mm AT guns and not enough 76.2mm AT guns. Come October some of my units might get captured T-34s and 76.2mm AT guns issued, and we'll need the mouse-eared machines and those solid AT guns.

At the moment, losses are:

Aircraft: 549 vs. 5,637
AFVs: 1,263 vs. 12,362
Guns: 3,020 vs. 28,304
Men: 224,182 vs. 2,317,526
Of those, ~56,000 dead and ~1,200 captured vs. ~272,000 dead and ~1,655,000 captured.

Fun game, but turns are starting to take 3 hours to complete. We'll see how I manage with this one. Like I said, I'm doing well . . . but is that good enough?

Monday, June 22, 2020

Outline - Submitted!

I'll try to get a post of some substance up later, but despite a packed day I managed to get in a bit of writing.

I finished, and submitted, a preliminary outline for GURPS I can't tell you what.

Preliminary outline?

I could write the book I outlined. I don't think that's a big issue. But I do expect Steven Marsh and Sean Punch to have a lot of comments, change demands, and requests that will substantially change the outline in ways I don't expect.

So we'll see what comes of this, but it's good to have a project in the works again. I needed a break after the last one. I filled my COVID-19 changed schedule with many things . . . but now I feel like I can start to fit some writing into the mix, too.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

The Changing Faces of Religion in Felltower

Character turnover is a thing in Felltower. Only one player has played one character only - Galen's player.

Shifting characters has led to a shift in the type of party.

Early on in my Felltower campaign, the group was mostly greedy loot-seekers.

These days . . . there are still greedy loot-seekers.

One thing has become clear, though - the group is getting to be more and more religious. And more and more fanatical about it.

It's worth noting we had religious types from the beginning - one of the PCs from our playtest session, and then from our first actual game session, was Inquisitor Marco. He was an undead-destroying priest in the D&D vein. However, he was also profane, had a sense of humor, only opposed to evil religions, and scoffed at having a vow of chastity.

But the current group?

Wyatt has Sense of Duty (Coreligionists) and takes religion seriously.
Aldwyn is heading, slowly, to a Holy Warrior lens. He took Sense of Duty (Coreligionists) upon his Resurrection.
Ulf is a religious fanatic. He has the usual clerical host of disadvantages focused on ones that keep him rigid and unmoving in his fath - Intolerance (Evil Religions), Honesty, and Sense of Duty (Coreligionists). He's accepting of any being that is of his religion, and not of those that aren't, largely. He's displayed some skepticism of druidism/naturism as a "good" religion, and what he doesn't see as "good" is "evil."
Sir Bunny is a religious warrior. He has a Sense of Duty (Coreligionists) and hunts demons. He recently destroyed the unholy water they were seeking because, you know, it's evil.*
Heyden was a religion heretic for a while, but after accidentally killing Ulf on purpose that one time he's forsaking the "Ebony Death Goddess" cult and has gone all-in on whatever Ulf says is the right thing religion-wise.

Gerry lacks any of those, although it is often stated he goes to church and brings his skeleton "buddies" with him. He has Clueless and Oblivious, so you can imagine he's been told this isn't the thing to do and he hasn't understand any of the hints.
Bruce is still a heretic, but that's kind of a side issue.

Out of the other regulars, who isn't really religious? Quenton has his own belief system, as a druid. Crogar doesn't care about priests except for buffing and healing. Galen doesn't think much of any city folk and their ways. Varmus is a wizard, and therefore is likely evil. Ahenobarbus hasn't been around, but likely doesn't care about religion except to say whatever you need him to say so you'll give him your spell benefits. That's about it.

So 5 out of 9 PCs take religion seriously enough to have it on their character sheet and get disadvantage points for it and/or have it affect their actions on a regular basis.

It has started to push delver actions from "let's find a good place to seek treasure" to "let's find places to smash evil, especially those that have treasure . . . but smash evil anyway." Recently it's been profitable. But the driver is "smash evil" not "get loot." It's been an interesting change in the character of the party.

* In the player's defense, no one told him they wanted it. A word of "and if we find unholy water in this temple, do your best to preserve it because we need to access another evil spot to destroy it" and he'd have done that, for sure. But no one said anything. And with all of the flailing for solutions, they'd probably have decided they needed to destroy it anyway.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

New Blog Addition: Lich Van Winkle

I found this new blog from Dreams in the Lichhouse's blog roll.

It's a thoughtful blog from an old school gamer who returned to gaming after stopping in the mid-90s.

It's a really interesting perspective, because his memories of the "old days" don't always match the description usually attached to the "old days." It's okay, his don't match mine, either, which is kind of the point. It's hard to generalize.

Here are some posts I found especially interesting:

Gygax said your D&D is fake and inferior (1982)

The Time before Sandboxes and Railroads

Player Skill versus Skillfully Playing Your Character

At this point I'm just reading the whole blog front to back; it started in February and just new seems to be getting really rolling. I'm enjoying it a lot and he's going into my blog roll, too.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Random Links & Thoughts for 6/19

The usual random thoughts and links for Friday night.

- I started some discussions about a new GURPS book. We'll see how it goes. I know I can write it, but I also have a lot of real-life schedule uncertainty coming up so I need to be careful about what I commit to. The outline should go in Monday for SJG to look at.

- I started putting down notes for a GURPS book I've been wanting to write for a while. It's too far off for me to even propose it, but at least I've started in on my notes.

- It's tempting to keep pushing your luck, either when it's going well, or when it's going bad. Surely if you stick it out, the law of averages insists you'll start rolling better and getting better results? 538, and Poker, say no.

- Bruce Heard takes a look at economics and weapon prices. D&D: How Much for that Sword?

- I like video game lessons for tabletop play, so I appreciate this post on Minecraft Dungeons over at 9and30kingdoms.

- There is a new Kickstarter of GURPS books coming up. I wrote one of them, a DF volume. Iron Llama doesn't know much about it, either, and he did twice as much for it as I did.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

DFRPG Armor - Cost & Weight Per DR

I had a few minutes the other day and I wondered, what's the cost-to-DR and weight-to-DR for the various types of armor?

Per 1 DR:

Cloth/Leather, 18 lbs, $150
Heavy Cloth/Leather, 18 lbs, $225
Light Mail, 12/36 lbs, $500/1500 (Avg $1000)
Light Scale, 16/24 lbs, $320/480 (Avg $400)
Light Segmented Plate, 16 lbs, $600
Mail, 11.25/22.5 lbs, $675/1350 (Avg $1012.50)
Scale, 21/28 lbs, $412.50/550 (Avg $481.25)
Segmented Plate, 18 lbs, $675
Heavy Mail, 10.8/18 lbs, $720/1200 (Avg $960)
Heavy Scale, 24 lbs, $660
Heavy Segmented Plate, 19.2 lbs, $720
Brigandine, 12 lbs, $1080
Plate, 10 lbs, $1250
Heavy Plate, 10.29 lbs, $1285.72
Extra Heavy Plate, 10.5 lbs, $1312.50
Epic Plate, 10.67 lbs, $1333.34

Split numbers are for split DRs.

Some notes:

- Plate has the best weight-to-DR ratio. Dwarven pushes it down to 8.57 pounds per DR but spikes the cost up to $6000 per DR.

- Light mail looks really good, but it is pretty heavy and costly for what it gives you. It's not a bad choice, but it's not as good as it sometimes appears at first glance.

- Scale types have the worst weight-to-DR ratios.

- Epic plate isn't that much more hefty or expensive than plate; it just adds up to a lot because it has 50% more DR.

- Brigandine is really good, but it's so close in cost - and identical in weight - to plate that it's only a good choice if you need to avoid plate for some reason or lack that last little extra bit of cash.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

War in the East - Axis Turn 5 Start

Here are some screenshots depicting my current starting points in War in the East.

These are pre-arial reconnaissance, however, so if the Soviets seem thin on the ground it's because of that. They certainly have more units to oppose me, especially around Leningrad, Moscow, Kharkov, etc.

The Finns entered combat last turn, and knocked a couple Soviet units about in the north. The Soviets are pulling back, and I need to chase them and trap as many as I can because they'll just garrison Lenningrad. I want to take the city, and take it soon, as it can cement my naval control of the Baltic and supplies from the sea, and free up piles of divisions from a drive toward Moscow and the area around it.


I got really, really lucky in the north. I had just enough MPs left to reach Pskov, assault the units dug in on the west side of the river, then two of the hexes on the east side, and then push a reserve unit through the mess and seize the city itself. I'm not sure it's technically a coup-de-main but I took the city on the run. Instead of having to pry out the Soviets from dug-in positions across a river, I just had to keep expanding my position and rammed a lot of infantry up through the gap.

Army Group North:

In the center, a bit of the same. Keeping in my mind my twin goals of a) not getting my panzers pinched off and isolated while b) not giving the Soviets a chance to form a defensive line, I kept up a steady move against Smolensk. A key I learned in my previous games was to punch a hole with my panzers and motorized divisions, line the sides of the hole with infantry, and then rush through. I haven't pulled off much of a kessel/pocket in a while, though, which concerns me, but having played Road to Smolensk and spent it grinding against dug-in troops in a solid line I'm happy with my current situation. I'll see if I can encircle some troops and cut off Smolensk and wipe out some more divisions. I also managed to punch across the river right near a bend, forcing the Soviets back from my easiest transit corridor. That reduced the ZOC effect across the river and means other units can move just a bit faster.

I also had two of my panzer corps do a HQ Buildup last turn - so they should have some rest and have more fuel and supplies and ammo this turn.

Army Group Center:

In the south, though, it's been tougher. The Lvov pocket was formed June 22-26 and closed since June 27th yet Lvov had a massive amount of supplies. So many of the units are still in good shape. I've been hammering them down but it's taking more effort than I expected. Although I was able to seize Kiev in a true coup-de-main (I just drove in, it was empty once I smashed a brigade in front of the city), it's so damn far from the trains and supplies that fuel has been a real issue. So is my porous flank to the south and somewhat to the north, too. The Soviets helped me by pulling back. I'll regret letting those divisions escape but I couldn't close them off without abandoning Kiev and my river crossing. I won't want to fight for those again.

Lvov Pocket:


Rumanian Border:

Overall it's been a lot of fun. There is so much to do and so few troops to do it, and the distances are staggering. Converting Soviet-gauge to standard European-gauge rails is a major issue in the game. Keeping them open is, too. I have no experience garrisoning against partisans, either, and I'm not sure how to go about doing it. I will figure it out. It's a tough game, too. Units have Movement Points (MP), Fatigue, damaged and ready AFVs/Guns/Squads/Trucks/etc., supplies, fuel, ammo, experience levels, morale, leadership skills of their leaders . . . and distance from the HQ matters, and the HQ from the superior HQ, and all of them from eventually O.K.H. and supply sources as well. You can use Administration Points to promote leaders or shift them around, or put them into units (I wasn't letting, say, Walter Model sit out the early part of the war) . . . but the cost varies based on how much of a change of the chain-of-command is involved. And leaders who don't like each other won't cooperate well. It's a mess. You get a real feel for how vast the war was.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The Lost City & Missed Opportunities

I avoid "Monday morning quarterbacking" as much possible here on my blog. The actions of the PCs are their actions. They don't need me coming along and telling them the "right" way to play. I'll point out errors in character development or systemically poor approaches to a task, but otherwise, they can do what they like.

Still, I think it's worth noting how things could have gone a bit differently in the Lost City.

Sunday night, after the game ended, a few of us sat and talked for a few minutes about the self-described flailing of the PCs, trying to try something that turned out to be the right thing to do. The irony of doing the "right thing" and then not following up on that was painful; it all could have ended much earlier and with much less expenditure of resources. And had they just focused exclusively on the priestess instead of activating the jaguars by bothering the statue, they could have puzzled it out and experimentally tried options and defeated her. They did find her one weakness - she was a poor grappler and couldn't use her "deathtouch" ability without a free hand and couldn't cast spells while grappled. They just didn't really exploit it, and tried damage long after it was clear damage wasn't the way to do it. It was just hopeless action for a while - attempting to do the same thing again just to stay busy.

I will say the jaguar statues were a trap for typical delver behavior - smashing anything that could be a golem before it activates would spark an avoidable fight. Also, smashing everything in places they visit just in case they conceal treasure, or because they're "evil" (not a priority until combat is over and it's clear the "evil" thing isn't valuable and salable), or because they're bored. Had they showed some restraint, they wouldn't have needed to fight them. They didn't do a lot of harm, but they did enough, and 2200 worth of obsidian chunks sold for 880 and it cost probably that or more in paut and healing potions expended as a result of them. Net/net, it wasn't a good use of time or resources.

But the lost opportunities go way back, to the first series of delves in the Lost City. I won't enumerate all of them, just a couple that directly bear on the current session's results.

Back when they first attacked Rangol Grot (pre-emptively getting him back for trying to kill them, and for the high crime of possessing an item they also wanted), they managed to savage Rangol's companions and force him to flee. Angus was pursuing Rangol Grot, but couldn't run him down due to inferior Move. So he gave up and went back to the group. Actually, that's a whole post on its own - running away when you have less Move and pursuing when you have inferior Move.

The missed opportunity is that they gave Rangol Grot about 20-30 seconds time before the next group of pursuers came. That's not long, but it was long enough. He was able to gather up a couple of prized possessions, including the Right Bell of D'Abo, and flee. He only needed a brief respite to escape. The PCs gave it to him. Had they kept after him Rangol would have needed to flee without the bell, hoping it would stay hidden. The PCs having the Left Bell of D'Abo, they'd have been been able to triangulate its location and find it eventually. It wasn't safe from them in the house. It was safe out of range. He fled to an encampment, which the PCs never blundered into, and then from there into the jungle itself. There he got himself some new friends, and it was there they found him . . . years later.

The second missed opportunity was the message from the Princess. Multiple times, from the first few sessions in town to the Naga delve, the PCs saw that glow . . . and ignored it or actively avoided it. The message isn't that deep, but having had it, it would have made the task more clear. Instead, it grew in stature . . . eventually, it became "let's go get the Princess and bring her to the temple" and it's clear that this wasn't the way to do it. Instead of just pointing the way early, as intended, it was sought out when they hoped it was the how-to guide for clearing the temple.

Sometimes sitting on the GM's side of the screen it can be frustrating watching the players miss opportunities. It's like watching a comedy or a horror movie where the protagonists make some error, just narrowly miss some connection, or otherwise act "foolish" because of a lack of complete understanding of the situation.

But it's also fair to look at it from the side of the players, and see how they could make decisions based on limited information.

Still, some of the above was really odd - even with a party with multiple people in it across the delves with Curious, they'd rather self-control rolls than investigate a strange glow in a town they were searching for treasure, and that they were searching for a rumored ghostly Princess who appeared there. The lapse in not chasing a fleeing foe more than a few seconds because he was too quick meant another loss. Those seem more like mistakes than choices made in the absence of good information. Even so, the games were fun to play . . . just it was sad how often "we need the second bell!" came up and how often "If we could find the Princess . . ." was said. The bell was in their grasp at one point, and the Princess was at all points. They just needed to go and look for it.

It's sparked some discussion with the players about how to organize delves, combat and otherwise, and we'll see what comes to pass with that.

Monday, June 15, 2020

GURPS DF Session 135, Felltower 104 - Lost City 12 - the Dark Temple (Part II)

This is part II of a delve. Here is Part I.

Actual Date: June 15th, 2020
Game Dates: May 31st-June 1st, 2020

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

Aldwyn Hale, human knight (287 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)
     1 Skeleton (~35 points)
Hayden the Ebon Page, human knight (307 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (306 points)
Sir Bunny Wigglesworth, human holy warrior (250 points)
Wyatt Sorrell, human swashbuckler (300 points)

We picked up from last time, with the peshkali down, the priestess disarmed of her "wand" (a baton), and seemingly unconcerned.

The priestess started to concentrate on a spell. Bruce rushed her, and grappled her around the neck with both hands.

Wyatt grabbed the priestess's hood and yanked it down, revealing her face:

(That, sans the faux-metal headpiece)

The other PCs mostly stood around or moved up to support him, but there were no enemies left.

Crogar decided to fix that. He was standing next to the statue, so he hauled off and used a Rapid Strike to hit it twice, knocking some chips off.

That caused the obsidian jaguars to animate and attack. They launched themselves into a run and jump at their nearest targets. Bruce was pounced on from behind, Ulf was as well and mauled, and Heyden and Crogar were attacked as well. Bruce couldn't turn because he was grappling the priestess and Wyatt has grappling her, too, and he was unwilling to let go.

Wyatt attacked the jaguars by slashing at their necks, trying to decapitate them. Galen shot one in its vitals, or where vitals should be on a real jaguar. Heyden broke one up, as did Aldwyn and Crogar. Wyatt broke the leg off of one that was biting Bruce.

Heyden shoved and knocked over a candelabra, putting out its candles, as he fought one of the jaguars. Soon enough, though, the jaguars were all destroyed by the superior firepower of the PCs.

Meanwhile, Bruce executed a takedown on the priestess off of his neck choke. She kept clawing at him with her hands, and eventually landed a strike - and did about 10 injury. Clearly, her touch was lethal. He tried snapping her neck, twice. Both times he heard cracking and popping, but it had no lingering effect.

Heyden dropped his sword and dove down and grappled the priestess's right arm.

Crogar hits the statue again and the building shook and rocked people but no one fell. Gerry called over to Crogar and said it was a bad idea. Meanwhile, he used Dispel Magic and knocked Strike Blind off of Sir Bunny, who moved ahead near the priestess and Bruce.

Meanwhile, Wyatt picked up a candelabra and moves it a few yards, to "defeat any geometry." He moved it a few yards away.

Meanwhile the priestess drew a statuette from her sleeve and stuck it it out into the treasure to her side and activated it with a choked-out command. It grew in an instant to an Ebony Death Goddess (DFT3, p. 16.) The EDG attacked Bruce, slashing him four times. She wounded him badly. Wyatt ran around the statue to engage her. Bruce held on to the priestess and Heyden tried to break her arm. The EDG crippled Heyden's leg with a cut and hit Bruce more. He was at nearly -100 HP by now, with a crippled arm and two crippled legs. The priestess struggled to get free but wasn't able to.

Wyatt attacked the EDG and destroyed it in three seconds - one hit to the body, then three arms destroyed, then a final hit to the body. It fended off attacks from multiple PCs in the process, but Wyatt's skill was too high to allow it to defend effectively against him.

Meanwhile, Sir Bunny slammed his holy water, originally intended to hand to Bruce to dump on the priestess's face, and poured it into the water in the basin in front of the statue after realizing it was too wide-based to be tipped over. The water in the basin began to bubble and steam away.

Gerry and Ulf pulled out their bells and rang them, first separately and then together. They did nothing they could see.

Crogar got tired of not attacking the statue for two whole seconds, and hauled off and whanged it again with his axe, knocking chips off. This time, there was a strange warping sensation, and everyone needed to resist with the worse of Will or HT. Crogar and Galen failed . . . and disappeared. The group didn't know it at the time, but they were expelled to the top of the temple, outside. They tried to find a way to re-enter, including running down the stairs and back up, but it didn't work. They spend the rest of the session outside of the combat.

Ulf used Faith Healing to heal Bruce, and used his staff as well. Bruce eventually let go of the Priestess after Sir Bunny grappled her left arm. Varmus tried to hit her with a Fireball but missed, and then cast Pain on her and she yelped in pain and annoyance.

Gerry headed off to investigate the skull piles. He saw it was a big pile of hundreds of broken skulls, with an intact skull on top. Gerry charged up a Skull Missile and smashed it.

The priestess started to make seductive promises of wealth and . . . other things . . . to Sir Bunny, and then to Heyden, but they ignored her. They noticed that her voice seemed weaker.

Ulf puts Silence on the priestess to keep her quiet.

Wyatt ran over and smashed another skull.

Varmus moved over to get a third, but Gerry, with Great Haste and Haste, easily beat him to it and smashed a third with another Skull Missile.

Wyatt then ran across the room and smashed the fourth.

Aldwyn decided to stab the priestess a few times, and did so. She seemed pained, but she did several times before. He gave up after a couple of stabs. He then grappled her robe and tried to cut it, to get her out of it, since they couldn't think of how to pull it over her head when

They decided to search the priestess at this point, and Heyden and Aldwyn groped her heavily, looking for rings, jewelry, etc. that could be keeping her immune to their attempts to kill her. They found she wore little besides a silk shirt and a loincloth beneath the robes.

Wyatt decided it could be the candles, so he ran around and blew them all out. Varmus tried to help, but Unfit and a bad HT roll didn't help.

In any case, it had no visible effect.

Gerry moved up next to the priestess, and cast Animate Shadow on the priestess probably close to 10 times, but each time he failed in the contest and she resisted.

They just kept searching her and there, starting to pull up her robes and then stopped, debated breaking her arms but decided that hadn't worked, etc.

Somewhere in this time, maybe earlier, Ulf tried a Dismissive Wave but utterly failed to exorcise the evil from the temple.

Also sometime in this time Wyatt kicked the "wand" over to Ulf, who contemplated destroying it as it was clearly magical and special. Instead he dumped it into the bowl, which Ulf had added holy water to.

Wyatt eventually joined the pile-on and grappled the priestess's left arm, allowing Bunny to get up off of her and investigate the statue and bowl.

They examined the statue, suffering Fright Checks (not Sir Bunny, though), trying to discern if the eye sockets were holes for something to put in, or held something. The statue seemed either slimier, or wetter, and it felt to Gerry (who rolled a 6 on Occultism) that it was either becoming more attentive, or hitting it was drawing attention to it.

Gerry tried Summon Spirit to call the princess, but it failed. The priestess seemed contemptuous of them.

Eventually, Ulf decided to pray - Wyatt mimed that at him a few times. Ulf took a knee and spent a few minutes in prayer.

He recalled a passage - "Blessed is he who completes a task, blessed is he who follows through." He decided this must mean destroying the statue.

He told the group this, so they carefully policed up the loot, tied up the priestess's feet, and wrists, twined up her fingers, made a wadded-up ball gag and gagged her, and looped the wrist and feet ropes together. Gerry pointed out that she could still concentrate and cast spells like that, so they needed to have someone grapple her and keep her from concentrating.

Everything prepared for when they got teleported . . . away . . . Ulf wound up and hit the statue with his axe, doing nothing to it at all. The room darkened briefly.

Aldwyn snapped, "Oh, just give it to me." He took Ulf's axe and really whanged the statue.

The room darkened considerably for an instant, and everyone in the room except the priestess took 12 injury. Ulf collapsed, unconscious. The priestess had a look of contempt on her face. Ulf was out, so they just left him laying there.

Next they tried pulling the statue down with ropes on both side and rocking it back and forth. It didn't budge at all, not even the slightest rocking.

So they stipped the princess down, nude, taking off the ropes while she was in a choke hold and taking off her clothes while keeping piled on her. Several of the delvers felt really uncomfortable with this.

Then, she was stabbed a couple of times by Aldwyn and she sagged down in Sir Bunny's arm. She didn't bleed but the wounds did stay. They decided that the holy warrior needed to kill her so she couldn't come back as undead. So she was stabbed by Sir. After a few stabs, there was a blue glow.

In the blue glow appeared Princess Ailivo of D'Abo. They stood around and started talking to her. She frowned and asked why they didn't bow before royalty. They all hurriedly took knees. Except Ulf, of course, who was unconscious.

She told them to get ready, now that her mother was destroyed she could end the curse. Once they were free, she told them to come to her palace for a reward.

They had gathered up all of the loot, so they just decided to wait. The room glowed blue.

The PCs found themselves warped out of the temple, out in the street. The temple began to collapse. Crogar and Galen stood on top of it, and ran down the stairs as it began to fall down under them. They made it down and out. The strange-shaped building fell into rubble.

They headed off to find the "Palace" the Princess spoke of. They headed first to the "Prophecy" plaza. She wasn't there. So they started to look at the map and go around to places that they felt looked like a palace. They searched the five-towered building where they found the bell, Rangol Grot's house, went past the broken tetrahedron, and walked up and down the Path of Kings (who were silent.)

Eventually, someone suggested going to where they'd last seen the princess. They did, and entered the building. They saw a glow, and went deeper into the building to find its source. They found a wide room with a throne sitting on a three-step dias. Upon it sat Princess Ailivo D'Abo, translucent and glowing blue. She told them of the curse, and how her mother attempted to sacrifice her to summon and control the demon-god. She explained that her mother split her soul into 4 skulls to make herself immortal. She told them of her loyal servants, who spirited her body away and hid her royal goods. She imparted into them a feeling of how to find it. She thanked them, and faded away. All that stood was the three-step dias, with old scrape marks where a heavy throne was dragged away long ago.

They followed their feeling and found a masoleum-like structure. In it, below a blank and normal-looking floor stone, they felt the location of the royal goods. Bruce helped pry the floor up. Beneath it they found a stone-lined pit, and in it a tiara, a somewhat feminine but barbaric helmet, two rings, a necklace, and a bracelet. They took it all headed to the gate. Ulf suggested using Sanctuary to stay, but no one was interested. In the fading light of the day they headed to the gate and back to Felltower. From there, they made their way home.

Thanks to odd dilation effects, they found they'd lost a couple of weeks either in the temple or in the gate. They summoned the chest from Rangol Grot and looted it (and kept it, for later use.) Divvying up the treasure netted each of the 10 about 17K worth of silver, and three magical items got handed out to those best suited to have them.


- Remember that Wyatt had +6 ST (for a 17) and +6 DX (for a 21), and thus most skills in the mid to high 20s for this fight thanks to two potion rolls.

- No amount of prep and visuals help. People asked me what the priestess looked like, and if she looked human, after I posted the picture. They asked me if the statue had eyes (it doesn't, in the picture), and something else about it too that clearly wasn't in the picture.

- At one point, Varmus had little to contribute, so Aldwyn's player said, "He'll go over and collect my [dropped] swords." Aldwyn's player's brother said, "He's not your servant!" Damn right. Wizard rights and peace!

- This is why the PCs don't have any unholy water. The first thing they do when they find it, if the fight they're in is going any way except a one-way massacre in their favor, is destroy it. So, again, no Cold Fens delve. Maybe they'll find another dark demonic temple and manage to defeat its occupants without destroying the unholy water they need to penetrate into Sakatha's tomb in the Cold Fens. But then again, they sought it for a while, and then destroyed it.

- Of course, someone eventually cast Affect Spirits to attack the priestess. I forget what term I used to describe it last night, but it's basically the default "let's try this!" spell. It's been used against almost every single creature or opponent that even vaguely seems hard to kill. I'm in retrospect surprised they didn't use it on the vampire they fought. I've got a post on the spell to write - it's actually much, much, much more narrow of a spell than it seems to swell to in the minds of the players when they can't figure out how to hurt something. Ulf's player pointed out that it works on wights, but I pointed out that wights are defined as semi-corporeal and their immunities are largely tied to their partly-spirit nature. That it works on a spirit doesn't mean it works on all things hard to otherwise damage, much like spirits are.

- Animate Shadow was an interesting choice, but it's a tough cast vs. another caster. Even weak casters have Will 14-15, so the Rule of 16 limits you to a small positive margin in your favor. Hers was much higher. He did roll well a few times, but so did I.

- Overall, a good session although it dragged a bit. The PCs were, in their own words, flailing around and guessing. The irony is that they hit on a good solution early, and then abandoned it partway through and then just various half-measures. Their own Silence spell put paid to the only real cue about the weakening of the priestess, and then gagging her meant she couldn't provide any other information. So they ended up jumping from one idea to another and eventually hitting on to the solution from lack of ideas.

- They also almost destroyed two valuable magic items - the plan to strip the priestess by cutting her robe apart was only foiled by a poor damage roll followed by PC ADHD. "I tried for one second and it failed! It'll never work!" And there was a brief discussion about destroying Necros's Finger. Fighting the jaguars netted them some extra loot, but it also dragged out the fight and cost them some damage they needed to heal with potions and paut. Maybe net/net a loss?

- Ulf took the priestess's robs - Hooded Robes of Protection with Fortify +3. Gerry took Necros's Finger. Aldwyn took the D'Aboan Helm of Command.

- I did a bit of a post-session review with them, something I don't normally do, but it seemed appropriate. I'll put that up tomorrow.

- I thought "Come see me at my palace" would immediately trigger the PCs to say, well, let's check where we met her last time first. No, they went around from building to building to building, looking for "looks like a palace" locations. I guess it was late and people were brain-fried. I told them they were overthinking it, but maybe it was totally underthinking it. In any case, they eventually settled on going where they met the princess and that was the right move. I knew the skulls-puzzle thing was opaque, it was meant to be, but I thought this was obvious - why not start with the place you met her?

- XP was 4 each for loot, 1 xp for new exploration. MVP last session was Aldwyn, and it was Bruce this time for what his player described as "my only sound tactical decision ever."

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Felltower pre-summary

We wrapped up the previous delve of Felltower today.


- the obsidian jaguars made an appearance.

- Bruce made the one sensible tactical decision of his life.

- the priestess proved hard to kill, but not necessarily hard to keep under control.

- a long frustrating attempt to figure out what to do.

- success.

- and victory.

Full summary tomorrow night.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Rules We Sometimes Overlook: Grappling To Hit Penalties

GURPS has a lot of little rule exceptions. Not like AD&D subsystems a lot, but a lot. Heh.

One I find we forget occasionally is that Hit Location Penalties are halved for grappling, rounded up. So grabbing the neck is only -3, arms and legs are only -1. If your initial attack is causing damage, you're probably attacking, not grappling. (Grappling and Hit Location, p. B400)

This isn't one I'm fond of, really, since it's an exception. Also, because players in the past have tried to work the words "and hold on after" into attacks to take advantage of when the rules treat grappling differently. "I claw him, and then hold on!" or "I stab him, but I'm really trying to stick the knife in so he can't get away, so it's more of a grapple" or "Instead of touching him with my Melee spell, can I grab him and then immediately let go as a free action?" No, no, no. That said, some monsters will do basically that - grapple, but touching them is bad for you (they're made out of fire, drip acid, exude poison through their palms, etc. - but the initial intent has to be to grapple, and you cannot "let go" as a "free action" until your next turn.

Still, I know it gets forgotten. Posting up here will remind me, and probably remind my players, that it's the law of the land for grappling in GURPS.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Lazy Friday Post 6/12

Just some links for today. I trained for, uhm, 4 1/2 hours today, sandwiching some other work-like activities and cooking, and then relaxed with War in the East for a while instead of writing.

So you get a nice lazy post!

- Although I have no interested in The Fantasy Trip, I do want to put this up here - it's just a bit over 24 hours out from the end of Doug's latest Kickstarter for TFT support:

I've said it before and I'll say it again - Doug puts out only high-quality products, and he has a star cast of writers writing for this one.

- Wasn't I just talking about fiction series that come out of games? So is John Arendt. (FWIW, I like the Malazan books but there were a lot of extraneous characters - how many old guys with swords are there? I lost track of who was who - and a world so damn depressing I'd rather be dead here than alive there. Still, good books, and some of them were amazingly funny.)

- Sometimes my treasure is like this. Hopefully not too often.

- Finally, I'm really looking forward to Sunday's game session. No game prep, because it's mid-fight. Even better, because I'm out all day tomorrow and I'm not in the mood to do any prep tonight, either. Hurrah!

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Some Initial Thoughts on Poisoning in GURPS

I've been unsatisfied with poisons in GURPS for a while.

My current campaign, DF Felltower, has compounded my dissatisfaction.

Some of it is my own fault. Characters get poisoned, and I forget to keep applying the effects. Players, let's face it, has zero incentive to remind the GM to kill them off with the poison that affected them. They often don't even know if they've been poisoned, especially if the GM is enforcing fog-of-war to avoid PCs casting Instant Neutralize Poison a split-second after because they meta-know the character was poisoned with an ongoing effect. It's one more thing for a GM to track, and with the size of my group and my battles that's asking a lot. Add in the delay of some poisons - especially if the victim is SM+1 and adds an additional delay - and it's tough to deal with.

Some of it is the fault of games in general. You get poisoned, you usually get a roll to avoid the effects. Most of the time, you either suffer a lesser effect on success or a bad effect on failure. Cyclical poisons have an ongoing effect, but again, you generally get to keep rolling and usually this negates the effect. So poisoning isn't that scary, especially if your hearty and healthy PC can shrug it off. In a game with GURPS with point-buy, even the least healthy and least hearty among the PCs will be superior to the average human in HT.

One way to deal with it - that I've done - is to make poisons much more instant and save-or-die. My DF game features a lot of quick poisons that have HT rolls in the -3 to -5 range, and almost always have an effect even if you make your resistance roll (a D&D "save.")

Despite all of that, poisons aren't terribly scary. You can usually tough them out and deal with the effects with a couple-three healing spells and move on like it never happened. Neutralize Poison is a useful spell but it's not critical to have; you can get away without it most of the time. It's just convenient. Antivenins, magical and otherwise? Don't waste your cash, it's likely you'll shrug off the effects or just heal the damage.

I'm not pleased with that. Getting poisoned should be a big deal. In some games, especially video games and some PBM games I was involved it, it was major - you got poisoned and you needed to deal with it in a specific way or eventually die/suffer long-term from it. How to make that the case?

Here are some ideas.

- Poison resistance should determine the severity of poisoning, not negate its effects. A straight HT roll means that 50% of people exposed to a poison show no effects from it. It should be more like 50% suffer less than the other 50%.

- Poisons should all have some kind of medium-term and long-term effect; this may be curable or something you can tough out and eventually heal, but the effects should require specific cures. It shouldn't be enough to just drop down a lot of Major Healing spells or drink plenty of Minor Healing Potions and be done with it.

- Getting poisoned may not be obvious to the PC, but the player may need to be informed so they can track it. You can deal with the meta-issue by required people to make some kind of roll to understand they've been poisoned. Either that, or under any threat someone may have to be flagged as poisoned until they know they're not.

- There needs to be some kind of way of physically or virtually (in a VTT) tracking a poison. That way the effects aren't left to memory.

I'll be working on the first two for my venomous creatures; the second two I think I can implement right away. I'd like poison to be a lot scarier and a lot easier to implement. It's supposed to be a threat, and it's supposed to be the way a creature deals with foes without just inflicting massive direct trauma (in other words, high damage rolls.) This isn't meant to punish players or PCs, but it is meant to challenge them and bring poisons forward as an actual threat, not just a roll to make and then forget about.
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