Monday, August 31, 2020

Ultima IV: The Slog of the Avatar

I decided a few weeks ago to go back and finish Ultima IV, for two reasons:

- I'd never actually completely won the game,


- I'd purchased Ultima IV+V+VI as a triplet for like ~$1 from GOG, even though had IV already, so I could play V for the first time. You can port over your guy from IV to V, so why not complete it first?

So I'm working on that.

But it's a terrible, terrible slog. It took hours for me to go from having two of the eight stones - Yellow and Red - to having five - adding Purple, Blue, and Orange. I have three more to get. Even armed with a complete map of the game, dungeon maps (yes, I'm using other people's maps), and a wonderfully equipped party . . . it took hours to put myself a further three stones from the next step.

I got off to a slow start, having to locate where I was with my sextant, and then moving towards a city, then getting a ship, then getting the dungeons (Covetous, Deceit, and Shame today). There are just




Here I am, chased by orcs, headless, and cyclops. They all move as fast as I do, and faster than I do in rough terrain. I will have to fight them all, no matter what I do.

Combat is a slog. I'm going to win each and every one hands down, it's just a question of doing so. Straight-line row-and-column targeting and movement, a lack of a quick combat mode, and orcs, rogues, liches, headless, ettins, lava lizards, nixies, sea serpents, mages, etc. just keep showing up. Fight, fight, fight. It's actually boring, and takes a lot of time.

The game doesn't have a pause function, either - you just "Pass" if you wait long enough. Do that outdoors for a couple of minutes while you check the map and you'll be in another boring and useless fight. Experience is given only to the person who delivers the killing blow, so your better combatants quickly max out their levels and the lagging party members keep lagging. Especially, say, Katrina the Shepherd, who can only use a sling (the weakest ranged weapon).

Still, I'm determined to finish it. I finish relatively few games - the "end game" screen isn't always worth it, and once the fun becomes not-fun why keep playing? But for Ultima IV, one of the truly unique gaming experiences . . . yeah, I'll tough it out.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

What is a Monster in DF Felltower?

This springs out of a recent post I made where I argued against the idea that orcs changed from "monsters" to "humanoids" - in other words, from not-people to people - between the original D&D set and AD&D. In the comments I ended up posting some of my philosophy on "monsters" and "people."

In DF Felltower, there is not necessarily a sharp dividing line between "monsters" and "non-monsters," "people" and "not-people."

Instead, what I do is apply a combination of factors to determine how something acts. Encounters in Felltower run along a continuum of friendliness, from one end where the being encountered is certainly friendly to the group encountered, to the far end where the being encountered is certainly unfriendly with the group encountered. This, naturally, varies due to two main variables - the "being encounter" and the "group encountered." In simpler terms, how does that NPC being get along with the PCs?

How the PCs react is their own decision - limited, as always, by the disadvantages they chose and those of their companions. And their own needs based on the game - meaning a need for loot to grow, since the game is explicitly about gaining wealth by adventuring and nothing else.

Broadly - I don't decide if something is a "monster" or a "person." Demons, orcs, puddings, tigers, golems, whatever - they're all run from the same basic standard.

GURPS DF / DFRPG makes this relatively easy. The lack of a hard-coded pattern of belief and behavior (alignment) in DF is important, too. Races - and members of races - are defined by their disadvantages. These describe how they act, and what limits their options. A lot of beings have unpleasant traits that clash with those of player characters, or of most non-player characters who'd just be going about their lives. Others are generally easier to get along with. Some have very positive traits, from a get-along-with-others perspective.

Still others have Truly Evil. These beings serve either themselves or a higher, darker power bent on capital-E evil. It's that kind of universe. Some things just are inimical to other life forms, and even if you choose not to seek out conflict with them they'll seek it out with you, or cause you harm out of an active desire to do so. Their schemes and goals conflict with an ability to be peaceful and live and let live.

Even those, I'll run as if they are "people" - they have goals, wants, needs, and desires. They have interests. These may be limited, perverse, or self-destructive - and they may lead to hostile encounters with basically everyone or everything (Eyes of Death, classic example), and they are probably viewed as "monsters" by the PCs and by the society the PCs come from.

Some - such as a Social Stigma, describes how society views them. It's not always fair or nice, but in a fantasy game, it's often a reasonable reaction. Races with Social Stigma (Monster) usually has other traits to make them viewed that way - eating other sapient creatures, urges to murder, dependency on the life force or blood of other sapient creatures, the fact of being created out of other sapient creatures, and the usual rampant killing. Those types will act hostile because of their traits and society treats them according to those traits even if they are an exception to the usual of that race.

In all cases, though, the theme is the same - I run them with respect and care. An IQ 0 critter isn't going to be smart. A Bully with Bloodlust and Overconfidence is likely to pick a fight to the death that it can't win, while a being with Code of Honor (Soldier's) won't run away without breaking morale even if its IQ 13 tells it the fight can't be won. It's all just a matter of running them as they are - based on their traits, and their interests and goals, and their stats. Random elements like Reaction Rolls come into play to see how they feel about the PCs. And the PCs get their own decisions - most of the time, they revert immediately to violence.

But I don't explicitly decide something is a "monster" and therefore always okay to kill, and something is a "person" and therefore is not always (or is never) okay to kill. PCs are welcome to murder whoever or whatever they want. They'll get the consequences of that behavior based on how society and laws sees those actions. Generally, it's not a big deal - this is a violent world. It's a game of paper man vs. paper man (even when some of those paper men are "monsters") and it's all for the fun and the challenge.

This is way, way more complex to explain than to do. All I do is:

- run everything according to its traits,
- play them as if they were real,
- let the PCs do what they want,
- and reap the fun of seeing stuff happen.

It's not any deeper than that. It's really just a fun game.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Game Inspiration - Silver Warriors cover

I pulled a couple books off of my shelf - ones I hadn't read in decades, and ones I had never read before. One of the former is "The Silver Warriors" by Michael Moorcock.

I am a big fan of this book cover:

It's by Robert Gould.

At first it seems a bit cluttered, but the more I look at it the more elegant it seems. Sword and goblet on the one side, poem on the other, runes like those on Stormbringer in Robert Gould's covers for the Elric series across the bottom.

The poem down the side fully evokes the whole Eternal Champion books, especially self-aware Erikosë.

The Black Sword is the Champion's Sword,
The Word of the Sword is the Champion's Law,
The Blade of the Sword has the Blood of the Sun,
The Hilt of the Sword and the Hand are One.

Yeah, that sums up the books for the most part. Not that all use black two-handed swords, but some of them sure do.

Actually, interestingly, the Eternal Champion name "Konrad Arflane" comes up. He's the hero of The Ice Schooner, which I read just prior to this. That's one I had for decades but it sat unread, and unnoticed, on my bookshelf until I found it tucked in between two Hawkmoon books. It's a good book, too, if you like post-apocalyptic glacial worlds sailed by ships converted to skim the ice on runners. So yeah, it's a good book for everyone:

Put this down under "stuff that makes me want to play games."

Friday, August 28, 2020

Random Links for 8/28/20 - Combat Wheelchairs, Quarterstaves, D&D as a Skirmish Game, and More

More random stuff!

- When Matt Riggsby posted about a combat wheelchair, I didn't realize this was a thing on the internet. By "thing," I mean "controversial idea that is Hurting Wrong Fun." But also, GURPS probably has stats for a combat wheelchair - after all, the Silver Horde of Cohen the Barbarian is in GURPS Discworld. I'm far away from my 3e copy, and I don't have a 4e copy, but perhaps it has stats for Mad Hamish's scythe-bladed wheelchair?

- So you want to play D&D as a skirmish game? And create amazing terrain out of foamcore to do it? And complain about odd results with unusual amount of results-clumping from using online die rollers?

D&D Tactics: Goblin Arrows Part 1 - Ambush

- Joe the Lawyer interview Robert Conley and Tim "Quantum 1s" Shorts.

Great guys.

The Epic Tim Shorts and Rob Conley.

- There is a lot of game inspiration here, in this article in Smithsonian about ancient Nubia:

In the Land of Kush

The clash-of-empires bit as Egypt dominates Nubia, then weakens, and then is conquered in turn by Nubia is gaming-rich material. So is the eventual fact that the Nubian dynasty was eventually replaced by still more conquerors. Like China, Egypt was conquered repeatedly but often its conquerors adapted its ways. That's a useful thing to remember when structuring a fantasy empire, too. Oh sure, the hobgoblins conquered the elf kingdom, but then they started to be less and less goblin-y and more and more elf-y, appointed elf counselors, spoke elvish as a sign of their place as rightful rulers, start to dress like elves . . .

Anyway that's afield of what the article covers - but it's one of those articles that makes me think, "I want to play RPGs right now" as I read it.

- Map geormorphs. I'm not sure what I can do with this post, but I was really interested by it. Mapping on a computer would probably beat graph paper in the long run.

- But What is a Dickhead? - This post has good examples of bad behavior by players. I think they all boil down to "don't put your fun above the group's fun" or "don't clash with the group culture." There is probably a better way to say it, but like "don't be evil" or "don't be an a**hole" I think "don't be a dickhead" and mine re-phrases all have one big issue - telling people what not to do isn't always a good approach. In coaching, saying, "Don't do X" isn't as effective as "Do Y." "Push your knees out" is better than "Don't let your knees collapse in." So maybe we need a better expression? I could rephrase one of mine as "Put the group's fun ahead of your fun." Something like that, perhaps?

- James M. has a post about the change in orc entries from OD&D to AD&D. I see some of the change he's talking about - orcs going from often being lackeys to someone else (25% per 100 of a fighter, 10% chance per 100 of a high-level magic-users, 10% chances of a dragon or trolls per his post) to a kind of people, with young and females and whatnot. I still disagree with his conclusion - that OD&D orcs are "monsters" and AD&D ones are "humanoids" and thus more people-like. The OD&D ones lived in villages when above ground. Villages = civilization to me. Especially since they also have walls, towers, escort wagon trains, defend their lairs quite fiercely (no morale checks until outnumbered 3:1!) - so they clearly have a sense of home. You can be a culture and a civilization without villages, but I don't think you can have villages and be "monsters." That might be my own limited imagination, but I think it's less of a stretch to say their village dwellings in white-box D&D suddenly gaining a specific number of females in AD&D (and losing their class-and-level champions, who presumably were not orcs . . . although D&D doesn't specify that) suddenly changes anything. It feels like they're just as much "humanoids" in their first iteration as they are later. Halflings and Cavemen, for other examples, also don't mention women and children, but presumably they have them. Suddenly adding them doesn't make "cavemen" no longer monsters.

It just feels like a stretch.

- I was googling my latest book recently, just to see if I could find any other reviews besides Mailanka's. Instead, what I came up with was this:

Roleplay Rescue Episode 105: Delving the Megadungeon

I couldn't figure out why, so what the heck, I gave it a listen. Turns out I'm brought up by name in the podcast. Considering the only reasons to write RPG books are a) fame, b) fortune, and c) because no one wrote the book you need - and there is no b), I was pleased. Also, surprised that I had no idea that this happened 20 months ago and no one mentioned it to me. Hah.

I will say I think he mis-characterizes my suggestion that megadungeons aren't low-prep with meaning they aren't fun to prep. They can be both. It's work. Just because you like the work, doesn't mean it's not work. Doing a megadungeon with GURPS takes a bit more work than it would with another system, but that's a side issue. So I disagree there. I love my other job - I'm a trainer, kickboxing instructor, Pilates instructor, and nutrition coach - but it still takes time and effort. Just like Felltower does.

Anyway, the main point is, I blame everybody except me for me not knowing I got a podcast mention.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Wandering Monsters: "Nuisance" Bugs

The past few years we've had Asian tiger mosquitoes where I live. They're nasty, in that they bite during daylight hours and aren't weak flyers, so you can be in the sunlight on a breezy day and get bitten many times. They're not always completely dissuaded by bug repellent, either - miss a spot and they'll find it, miss your clothes and they'll get under them.

For adventurers, such annoyances are usually that. Maybe a mention in some boxed text, a throwaway line in a description, a mention here or there by the GM. When they come up in fiction, heroes generally get bitten by bugs when they're waiting patiently for their prey, ignoring it stoically. They don't get an allergic reaction, they don't get disease, they don't itch until they bleed, they don't do something stupid because they're so distracted by irritation they make a bad decision. Nuisance bugs are a signal for being a badass, like not blinking or flinching, or going without food and water while they maintain their preternatural strength.

So why not make that an encounter? Oh sure, you've got plate armor on over mail and your greathelm is on. A dog-sized spider might be able to punch a hole in leather armor and deliver venom that can kill a man in seconds. But against heavy armor, it's helpless. But a tiny spider - the size of a fingernail - can crawl into armor and bite you. Some of them can deliver venom that won't kill you in seconds but it might kill you in hours. Fleas won't kill you but they carry disease and their bites really itch. All the armor in the world won't keep the bedbugs out or ticks from working their way in.*

Wandering Itch Table

In my Lost City campaign, my random tables including these entries:

3-Nuisance Bugs (1d-4 FP, plus HT roll to avoid Jungle Rot at -2 to +3 based on roll.)*
4-Nuisance animals (rats, army ants, fire ants, spiders, snakes, etc. cause 1 hour delay)

* Roll another 1d. On a 1, a potentially lethal insect is encountered. HT roll or suffer 1d6-3 HP of injury (min 1), -1 DX per 3 points of injury; cyclic, 1 hour, 12 cycles. Critical failure does maximum damage for that cycle and all following cycles.

If that doesn't quite make sense, the die roll for the bugs causes 0-2 FP loss. Jungle rot resistance is based on the same roll. 1 = 0 FP loss and HT at +3, 2 = 0 FP loss and +2, etc. up to 2 FP loss and -2 on the roll. Basically it's 4-die roll.

That alone right there is all you need to play them in one fashion - as just travel hazard - but we can go one better, and provide some additional details and other methods of use.

Nuisance Bugs

Roll randomly for how many characters are affected (or just apply to everyone, if the circumstances make sense), and apply any effects. I'm not a big fan of allowing defense rolls, stat checks, etc. to totally avoid these effects . . . you can mitigate them (sometimes down to zero) but not make a roll to totally avoid the effects.

These generally result in one or more of the following effects:

FP loss - blood drain and the irritation and swatting and movements to get that damn bug out of my ear holes in my helmet causes fatigue. 1d6-4 (min 0) is fine; most of the time it's not significant but it can be.

Disease - HT rolls to avoid a disease effect, either immediately or later on, is common. Just in the real world you have malaria, zika, dengue fever, lyme disease, and bubonic plague. Nevermind the Dwarven Sprue, jungle rot, the purple shakes, mummy rot (from undead bugs!), etc.

Itchiness - lasts anywhere from 1 hour to 2-3 days, unless you have a nasty reaction to it. Either a HT roll with margin of success reducing effects and margin of failure increasing them - or just the duration - you can have itchiness.

Pain - especially appropriate for be stings.

Venom - like FP loss, a scaled approach to venom makes sense. The lucky delver who only gets a couple of bites or stings vs. the one who gets dozens. Find a poison with sufficiently mild effects that you can scale up, and have at it.

Distraction - fighting with mosquitoes in your face, gnats in your mouth and eyes, and flies in your ears is distracting. -1 to -3 to all rolls, depending on how distracting, can be a game changer.

Smell - Some bugs spray musks which will make you smell bad . . . annoying, and attracts more attention to you as it always messes up your ability to smell.

Damaged gear - some bugs won't bother you, but bother your stuff. Ants getting into your rations, say, or fantasy speed termites into your weapons, etc.

Figure out what kind of bugs you want to deploy, and if the encounter is with a lot of them (you've stumbled on a bald-faced hornet nest) or a small number (you've come across a few scattered ticks in the grass) or a single one (a brown recluse drops onto someone.)

Not all of these have to have noticeable effects, either. PCs might come across them and not notice until later - when they've picked up some ticks, or gotten leaches on them on everything not sufficiently covered (or down into their boots and socks), or find ants have gotten into their food, or find they have fleas.

Think of the fun, here - fighting, say, lizardfolk in a swamp (-2 to attack, -1 to defend for bad footing), while you suffer distracting bug swarms (say, -2 to all rolls) and the FP-sapping effects of their itchy bites . . . while the lizardfolk are at -0 due to native DR and Terrain Adaptation (Swamp) . . . suddenly they're more of a match.


You can make them a bigger issue - or just a bigger nuisance - in terms of size. Entry 5 on my wandering monster chart is that, really. Nothing that can be a big issue, just something that kills time or takes some effort. Of course, you can always make them an issue.

These can be bug swarms if you want a combat.

These can be bug hordes if you want a bigger combat, or just an obstacle to wait out. Like army ants going by, or coming across a mass of spider webs or having parachute spiders drop into them (possibly harmless, possibly not).

Perhaps PCs will willingly stomp through and take any consequences, but pack animals or guard dogs or henchmen might not feel the same way . . . and require Animals Handling or Loyalty checks (see DF15) to continue.

Too Tough to Itch?

As mentioned before, fictional heroes - and thus cinematic heroes - don't seem to itch or flinch from bites. Halo round their heads, too tough to die - but how to be tough to itch?

So what would help you be that guy?

Will rolls, with penalties for especially bad stings and bites - are a good way to go. Margin of failure can be used as a negative

(And no, because I have a player that will ask, margin of success doesn't provide a bonus. You're never better off for having resisted a potential negative than for not having that negative in the first place.)

High Pain Threshold will help with pain - stings and bites. But it won't help with itchiness, distraction, etc.

Single-Minded will give its bonus to any rolls to avoid distraction. Stubborness will not help - it just means you'll likely keep trying even as penalties pile up.

There is a lot of magic to help with bugs, but I'll leave it up to my players and yours to discover what spells really do help deal with blundering into a cloud of disease-carrying mosquitoes or keep the black widows out of your wizard robes.

(And because I have players who will argue, Purify Air won't remove bugs from the air, and flying bugs are not subject to Missile Shield or Umbrella, and Lifebane might kill bugs but they always get to bite you, first, and now you're infested with dead fleas and lice, which isn't all that much nicer.)

* Weirdest tick problem I ever had was one on my hip . . . under a tucked-in t-shirt, under long pants, under a button-down shirt over it. It may have crawled up from my boots, past my tucked-in pants, past my socks, and worked its way up to my hip. All in the hour I was out fishing. So I'm not convinced steel plates are going to keep them out.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

DF21: Megadungeons reviews

The critics like it!

Or at least, bloggers like it!

Or at least, Daniel Dover likes it, and he's not rabid DF fan!

GURPS PDF Challenge: GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 21: Megadungeons

There are lots of very complimentary lines in the review, but two things really stood out to me:

"the most valuable sort of words written in an RPG supplement under "But it's not ready yet!""

I don't mean to pat myself on the back, but yeah, I think this is the most valuable thing I have to say. You really only need just enough dungeon to play, to play. Keep writing, keep expanding, and have an idea in your head so everything hangs together . . . but you have to start playing before you're done. I'm not even half done with my original conception of Felltower and we've been playing for nine years. Nine! How long is the average campaign? Probably not 130+ sessions and 9+ years. Imagine if I'd waited until I was "ready."

"This book pleases me on a philosophical level, but it managed to deflate some anxieties I've had about the game, which isn't what I expected."

Honestly, if all my book does is give you some tools and advice to make you feel less anxious about running this kind of game . . . it's a win as an author.

So, I'm pleased at the reception. Mailanka places is below Action 7, but I'm not hurt - Action 7 is really, really good and too, too short.

(Apropos being an author, I stumbled across this today looking for something else I'd written:

My Author Page at

I need to add a bio and picture to that.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

What to put in the World of Felltower Gazetteer?

I have decided to make a real effort to make the World of Felltower Gazetteer more useful.

The way I envision the World of Felltower Gazetteer is:

- a series of short, punchy and evocative sentences about a given entry.

- a quick reminder of who/what/where something is. Mostly Who and What.

- a place to put down facts that have come up in play but are orphaned in my notes.

It's not meant to be as detailed as a Wiki entry on the subject. I don't intend for them to be filled with reference links to specific posts. To specific labels, sure, where they are relevant, or to expanded history if that's important. Something more "elevator pitch" than "Traveller Library Data."

Basically, you read it and get a handle on the major places and peoples of Felltower. Or, you realize you forgot what Falcon's Keep is or why Dwarves don't speak Dwarven so you can look it up.

I do not intend to put in PCs, past or present, unless they tie to a location very specifically and add to the lore of that location.

I also do not intend this to be a monster list, or an NPC list, either. So no entries for Lord of Spite or Rangol Grot or Trolls or anything of that sort. This is world-level detail not campaign-level.

So what entries do I need to put in? What do we throw around the table that the gazetteer is missing? I'm happy to take suggestions. It's a tool for my game and my players, but I know blog readers will find it useful, too.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Blog cleanup

Nothing exciting and new to post. I just did some cleanup work on some of the pages and posts. I took down a page that wasn't relevant anymore, and I put up a link to this:

World of Felltower Gazetteer

. . . and edited it a bit. More to come later.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Felltower, Religion, and Intolerance

I probably blogged about this a while back, but ever since Google switched to the "improved" blogger interface my in-blog search results have been total garbage. So, now Google does search poorly? I may have to DuckDuckGo a solution to my problem.

Religion in Felltower

In my DF Felltower game, religion is basically a monotheistic pseudo-Christian religion centered around the "Good God" and his many saints.

A good part of why I chose a monotheistic religion is because a lot of Western history is centered around monotheistic religions. You can have fights between believers, too, because worshipping the same god doesn't mean you all agree on how to do it.

I also chose it because the lack of experience with polytheistic religions means players don't quite know how it works. This is why you end up with a guy whose PC worships Ares going around attacking NPCs who worship Athena or Poseidon, or the priest of Tyr trying to convert heathens who worship Thor or Hel. I don't know a whole lot about polytheistic religions myself, but it doesn't seem like you generally chose a specific, single god and then treated that god as if it was the only one. It's not a collection of mutually-exclusive monotheistic religions all with the credo of "accept no other god as a god."

Plus, people have a very, very mixed bag of knowledge about non-Christian gods. I didn't want to make up a bunch of my own gods, and I didn't want to deal with the usual D&D party of one worshipper of Thor, one of Nuada, one cleric of Athena who otherwise acts like a Christian priest, a Dwarf who worshipps Clandeggin, and an atheist (we always have at least one.)

To avoid that kind of issue, I went with a simple, vaguely defined, humorously named "Good God" and moved on. Clerics are clerics of that religion. Undead fear its power. Demons hate it. And done!

Other Religions in Felltower

That said, though, I never said that the Good God was the only God. Or that worshippers automatically reject the existence of other gods. Just that PCs didn't have the option of worshipping other guys and most "pagan" religions were old belief systems largely fading away.

What I figured as the world and game expanded, was that I could start sticking in "Old Beliefs" and the religions of different cultures. The Good God might not have sway in those areas, but still have reach in those areas (in other words, Normal Sanctity.)

All in all, I could have a simplified religion that wouldn't get in the way and be able to have some unique cultures that NPCs belonged to or ancient gods people could stumble across.

Actual Play Ensues

But something different happened in play, though - the players and their PCs have defined a strong subset of Good God worshippers as being very strongly No God But God oriented. That is, there is worshipping the Good God, and there is demon-worshipping evil, and that's that. We've had one Arab-themed PC that I can recall, but he wasn't around long enough for his beliefs to come up. Presumably he worshipped the Good God but just belonged to a different approach to worshipping him.

We've had vaguely-defined heresies, too, like when two characters decided they worshipped the Ebony Death Goddess, a magically animated statue* for a while. One of them eventually renounced his beliefs. The other just has a tattoo and doesn't say anything about it.

We've had a number of different priestly orders, from the fanatically evil-hunting but earthly Holy Inquisitors that Inquisitor Marco belonged to, to several unnamed demon-hunting and undead-hunting orders, to a generic priest or two. We've had one PC who insists there is an Inquisition that acts as Internal Affairs for the priesthood, watching and judging all clerics on their behavior. It's mostly a joke, but I'd bet money that someone will eventually make a character who is part of that Inquisition.

In general the line of play has become this:

- Worship of the Good God, in increasingly fanatical and intolerant versions;
- Mild acceptance of casual worship of the Good God, which gets you grudging acceptance by the Clerics and Holy Warriors;
- non-worship of the Good God, which makes you unworthy of help (unless you're a PC);
- heretics, who worship any god but the Good God, who must be destroyed (or reasoned with, but not too strongly, if they're a PC);
- Evil, which consists of everything else (and any other kind of worship.)

Even druids, who respect and interact with nature and take that as the basis of their power, are at best suspect. Elves, who all have Sense of Duty (Nature) and hold that above all else, are considered non-believers in the Good God and therefore bad** and suspect.

NPCs who don't worship the Good God but have the Cleric template - well, I'm not sure anyone knows what to make of that. Evil Cleric, sure. But getting power from a supernatural non-Good God source? Ehh . . .


What we've ended up with in my campaign are:

Sense of Duty (Co-religionists) [-10] = a very broad disadvantage that applies to many, many NPCs. Potentially everyone you meet.

Intolerance ("Evil" religions) [-5] = you have a specific and intense hatred for specifically evil beings and their worshippers. Demons, intelligent undead, etc. and anything marked with Truly Evil. Some overly broad play of it is making it very similar to the next disadvantage.

Intolerance (Other religions) [-10] = you have a specific and intense hatred for anything that isn't part of your religion. This does mean you hate druids and the beliefs of elves, too. Don't take this if you ever intend to negotiate with NPCs who aren't also worshippers of your god in the same way you are.

Sense of Duty (Good Entities) is meaningless because Good Entities are also your co-religionists. Or are part of your actual religion's structure of beliefs.


I think it's far too late to put the genie back in the bottle. I know some of my players will read this, and will want to make a non-Good God worshipping polytheistic "Old Believer" but allowing that was never my intention. Allowing it now won't help, except to cause more issues as all of the hard-core believers to have to dance around the wording and spirit of their disadvantages to adventure with your guy.

So here we are - in a Good-but-intolerant vs. Evil worldview dominating the game space.

Interesting, isn't it?

* That totally cleaned up in a fight, because it's a powerful combatant. But also because the player running it didn't read the description, I didn't notice, and the EBG was run as a player-loyal, tactically-deft, analytical fighter leveraging its many attacks and high skill instead of being an IQ 8 construct that basically coin-flips between two tactics and just kills the next nearest foe. I guess that was a special EDG, after all.

** Witness Rangol Grot, who the PCs were looking for excuses to kill besides "he has something we want and we don't want him around." Not a Good God worshipper? Okay, the cleric is on board with killing him because of that.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Gary Grigsby's War in the East - Axis Turn 36

I know everyone has been waiting on the edge of their seats - how am I doing in War in the East?

Let's go north to south.

Overall? See those numbers in the upper right hand corner? They say I have X number of trucks but (need X). So yeah, that's how I'm doing - I literally have only less than 2/3 of the motor vehicle transport I need. I have ~105K trucks, I need ~180K trucks. Oh, and they break down faster than I can manufacture them in these bad conditions. Many of my units are short on fuel, supply, and ammo. A few of my units are in the front lines and fighting incoming Soviet formations and have 25% of their listed TO&E. Amusingly, sometimes those units get "upgraded" to 1942-level units, but it's just a paper improvement because they can't get any reinforcements deployed to them. I'm losing 1 man for every 2 the Soviets do, but at least most of theirs are killed and captured, most of mine are disabled - and most of those will eventually return to the reinforcement pool.

Red-limned units are isolated.
Yellow-limned units are getting limited supply.
Red Soviet units have been promoted "Guards" status from combat experience.

Leningrad. I launched a winter offensive and pushed the Soviets back. I got tired of bouncing their units from my front and went for it as soon as the freeze hit. I am trying to connect my two fronts - the handful of Finns in the north and the Germans and Finns to the west - but the Soviets have bunched up a solid mass of troops in that area even as units withdraw thanks to their historical schedule.

Here I'm doing fine. It's a slog but the terrain dictates a slog.

Army Group North and Center. Here I'm slowly, grudgingly giving ground. I'm trying to hold on to a city or two but I lost a few valuable ones as the Soviets pour troops in north of Moscow. I had to deploy two of my Panzer divisions from winter quarters to stem the tide - and cut off a tank brigade and a cavalry brigade in the process. I'll liquidate them shortly but I can't seem to hold that area . . . and I had to deploy my reserves south of Moscow to deal with an even more serious hole in my lines.

Moscow. I took it when the computer inexplicably weakened its defenses a bit. Well, maybe not so inexplicable. I deployed a number of solid units there, kept some out of the front lines a reserves, and systematically ground up any Soviet units south of the city. So when they reinforced that area . . . I levered the others out of the city. I have a nice hole I punched through the lines but I can't secure the flanks over a large salient and the terrain dictates a slog.

Lipesk and Voronesh. This is a pocket in the making. I was stubborn about losing those cities, both of which anchored the sides of a flank and held some defensible terrain. Now I'm clawing to rescue the units there. It's getting ugly and it's taken a lot of reserve units moving up to salvage the situation . . . and I'm not sure how much it'll cost to get my panzers out of there.

Voroshilovgrad. The Soviets have pushed me back. I finished my high water mark of the original offensive at Boguchar and on the Don river. Hah. I've been steadily been pushed back since, mostly by so many units that I have to withdraw to avoid getting cut off.

Rostov. I narrowly missed taking Rostov. Now, my few non-smashed Romanian units are holding flanks in the hopes that the Soviets don't make a real push. A mixed panzer/motorized/cavalry force of Germans holds a major city and a few minor ones I can't afford to lose without unhinging the whole south. I ran rails to the city but partisans cut them off and the computer hasn't seen fit to bother deploying units to fix them - so I've been forced to slowly move back one of the larger rail repair divisions to try and fix that.

I did re-deploy von Manstein and I Corps - probably my best overall commander and my best all-infantry formations - to bolster the area in general. We'll see if that works.

Crimea. The Soviets are pushing out of Crimea. Not easy to see on this map, but I deployed some panzers in winter quarters north and west of here, so they eventually are setting themselves up for a Spring decapitation. I'm not sorry I didn't push into the Crimea back in the spring.

Random notes:

- it's interesting to see how multi-national Operation Barbarossa was. As the Axis, it's not the Germans vs. the Russians. On the Axis side are Germans, Italians, Romanians, Hungarians, Slovakians, Spanish (the 250th Infantry Division), French, Russians, and others I'm forgetting.

- nothing you do can really stem the Soviet tide. You can maul it but there are always more of them. And "pull back and use mobility against them!" sounds great until you actually have to do it, deplete a lot of strength as you lose tanks, artillery, trucks, and men to breakdowns and injury, and burn up supplies on the pull back, and then have insufficient fuel arriving to maneuver. But it's not unwinnable - it's just so damn bloody.

- changing to "Reduced Blizzard Effects" was a major decision. It really did allow me to seize Moscow and hold on a little better. I was getting totally, demoralizingly gutted under the harsh rules. I'd have lost about twice as many men and least twice as much ground had I left it alone. I was getting utterly destroyed, although the Finns were a death machine. I think the revised rules are more likely.

- Overall, as much as I like how air power can be used to hammer specific units before an offensive, I suspect I'll like the War in the East 2 "air phase" approach so I don't need to micro-manage my air power so much. The Soviets have been such a non-issue that I stopped bombing their airfields and just concentrate on ground combat support and air recon and we're doing just fine.

- You can compare with my Turn 18 situation, half of the game ago.

Good game. Takes a long time, but it's fun.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Friday Links & Random Thoughts - 8/21/20

Just a quick post today, as I have a lot going on that isn't Dungeon-related and not especially Fantastic. Not bad, just not Fantastic.

- So, James has been blogging at a ferocious pace over on Grognardia. Maybe he had a bunch of queued posts and then just started hitting Publish on them? I don't know. I missed a couple and had to go back and read them since they've coming many posts a day. Here are a few that might be of special interest:

Interview with Jeff Grubb (Part I)
Interview with Jeff Grubb (Part II)
Retrospective: Dwarven Glory

- Character Deaths in the blogs this week:

Metropolis: The Eagle is Down


Dragon Heresy: Fatality

The first shows the importance of multiple characters per player in a modern game with guns and no cinematic re-dos (Meta-traits like Luck or supernatural abilities.) The dice just have to hate you once to end a long career of adventuring.

The second, though, reminds of something I learned while teaching. My observation was that kids have especially keen senses of "fairness" and exaggerated senses of justice . . . that don't match adult ones. In Doug's post, 3 PCs stumbled into 4 difficult opponents. Despite sub-optimal tactics, they manage to kill 3 and chase off 1 . . . but one PC died in the process. Yet at least one player felt it was unfair. Is it? Mistakes were made and paid for, but even so they won a victory. At a cost they didn't want to pay, but sometimes you can't un-take a risk ("Oops, too tough, close the door and leave.") And I bet from the enemy perspective, losing 3/4s of their number permanently to inflict 1 casualty on an intruder is a disaster. The victory may have been Pyrrhic, but even Pyrrhus's foes would have taken his victories over their losses in those battles. It's better to win with unsupportable casualties than lose with unsupportable casualties, if said casualties can't be avoided.

Still, no one really loves losing their paper man.

- Beating Rogue straight-up is worth a blog mention at the very least. I never even came close. I beat Larn a number of times, but never Rogue. And I never got into NetHack.

You can play Larn online but I miss having it on my PC. I'll go download that if I can . . .

Speaking of permadeath . . .

- Darkest Dungeon is 75% off again.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

GURPS DF Felltower - Absolute Direction II

I have some players new to DF Felltower, and we've been running into rules questions where DF Felltower clashes with the rules as written. It's causing confusion so I am hoping this will clear it up.

I've posted about Absolute Direction before, way back in 2013:

Absolute Direction and the Megadungeon

Here are two more clarifications:

- the person with Absolute Direction has this as a passive ability. They cannot "sense" when it's "off" or confused by some supernatural (or other) effect. They just can tell you north (roughly - they're not going to be useful for mathematical calculations as they take step by single step so you can do trig) and don't get lost, until they're wrong and do. It's possible that in areas of such effects, they'll just get inaccurate information but think it's accurate. They can't "check" with their ability. Again - purely passive.

- there are times when the second underground ability - recognizing a place you've been before - fades over time. I'm not physically marking the map with notations to tell you someone with Absolute Direction was there, and who it was. So if it's been a while, you might not be sure if you've been there before. Absolute Direction doesn't assure Eidetic Memory.

Otherwise, above ground, it works as written. Below, as in that post.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

DF Felltower - What do I expect from the players?

Yesterday I posted a long gripe about us forgetting modifiers in play - I, the GM, and they, they players, forget to apply modifiers.

The session in question, I mis-remembered, and then mis-wrote down, and thus mis-ran, the rules for ice.

But that same session, I told the group repeatedly they had a -2 to attack and a -1 to defend . . . yet looking back on some of the rolls, it seems pretty clear some players didn't always apply the -2 to attack and it's possible once or twice the -1 to defend didn't come up, either.

Similarly, when I call for Stealth or Climbing rolls, it's fairly common for people to a) not subtract their encumbrance level, per the rules, and b) not know offhand what their encumbrance is. I say fairly common, and I really mean always. If I don't bring it up, it doesn't get applied.

I don't really expect them to do my job for me. However, I am GMing for 7-9 players and 10+ characters most sessions - 7-9 PCs, plus one PC has a henchman, and another PC has 2-5 skeletons and often a skull-spirit (A DF Toxic Skull) under his command, too. I have to run all of the foes that such a large group encounters. Running 5-20 foes on top of ensuring that 7-9 PCs and 4-7 player-controlled NPCs are being run correctly, at all times, is too much.

What I'm asking is just a subset of the following, all of which I really do need in such a large game:

How to be a Helpful GURPS Player During Combat

How to be a Helpful GURPS Player During Combat II

They're generally good at some of that. Everyone knows their cumulative defensive penalties, even if we can't go a session without, "Hey, (GCA/GCS) has my (Dodge/Parry/Block) wrong!" (It doesn't.) The mages always know how much their spells cost and how many spells they have up - almost all of the questions about cost come from other players ("It'll cost me 3 to cast, 1 to maintain." "No, you get -2 to both because of skill 20, so it's 1 and free to maintain!" "I counted that already.") We do get some issues with area spells, as people sometimes multiply the cost post-skill reduction instead of pre-skill reduction. Everyone knows their basic skill, damage, how to calculate a Deceptive Attack, the penalties for hit locations, and those things.

Generally, though, for those areas we're okay. They'd remembered and done properly.

But some things, no so much.

In combat, to this day most of my players can't tell a Wild Swing from a Move and Attack, and every session we've had someone think they can Move and Attack and still parry and retreat. That's a big issue because if I catch it, they're automatically thinking or saying, "I wouldn't have done that, then." If I don't, it's a free pile of 9s to hit the enemy on the full run with no downside.

Nobody knows their large-area DR. I get that it's variable, but having a basic "large area DR front" and "large area DR back" note on your sheet can't be too hard. Round up or round down? I wouldn't need to answer that if you wrote it down.

Out of combat, I don't think anyone really knows the basic bonuses and penalties for skill we use regularly - Stealth, Climbing, Survival, First Aid (but everyone remembers they get a bonus from something, usually something they don't actually have), and Swimming especially.

I'm not actually asking for mastery of the rules. I'm asking solid familiarity of the rules in general as they apply to your PC, and any specific numbers as they apply to your PC. If you have a skill, know its default bonuses and penalties for your equipment. You don't have to police each other, but you can help each other . . . just do as much to play your guy as written. The GM can't GM as effectively if you can't hold up your end of the game's details. We're playing a detailed game, and the players love using those details, but it's overwhelming for the GM given the sheer size of the game right now and all of the other issues going on (interface management, for one.)

And I'll conclude with a note on DF. I say this again, because it's true - this is especially important in DF. We have guy with Parry and Block in the high teens and low 20s, so they're succeeding 98.1% of the time even when prone, on ice, and attacked with a Deceptive Attack. People have so much DR that 3d attacks aren't a lethal threat, just a threat to hurt them sometimes. People start with 305 points worth of abilities and grow into 500+ points worth, with access to special abilities. They have all of that to face dangerous threats. It hurts the game if those characters also get to ignore penalties because people just can't remember. It also slows the game down as I end up having to double-check numbers constantly. It's less fun that way. And fun is the only reason to do any of this.

Further reading:

Building a Better PC

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

More notes from DF Session 138

Here are some more notes from Sunday's game session, DF Session 138, Felltower 106.

Looting the pools. Wyatt asked Gerry to analyze the acid, to see if it was alkahest. It was very similar, and did the same damage. I noted though, for loot purposes, alkahest isn't really that valuable. Grenades of it are $1,650, but much of that is from containers that will shatter on impact but which won't dissolve when containing a universal solvent. That acid resistance is what is the real expense, there. It's still valuable if found. This is similar but not actually alkahest.

He also asked Gerry to figure out if the pool of cold water with chunks of ice in it either is, or can be used as, the filling of a Liquid Ice grenade. Gerry didn't have any tools to analyze it other than observation and tasting it, so he couldn't figure out much. Aldwyn drank it, though, so it probably isn't.

I expect at some point there will be another attempt to loot the pools.

And more frequent use of the purple dream pool.

WHY? I forgot to mention that they used Silence to force the doors on the so-called "noisy room" that echoes any sounds within it through much of level 1. Ulf said, "Be quiet in here." Crogar immediately shouted, "WHY?" and then started giggling. Crogar's player does enjoy his opportunities for humor.

Orc Walls. The orcs have clearly put in some hard work making it hard to get to them. Solid stone plugs are costly even for an Earth College mage with time and FP, and the orcs have at least one reasonably powerful Earth mage. But the PCs have killed a lot of orcs. The orcs tried patrols - they got killed. They tried barricades and ambushes - they got broken down and the orcs killed. They tried rubble walls - they got dug through and orcs killed. They tried all of them in combination, plus ambushes, traps, caltrops, oil (flaming and otherwise), and expendable monster shock troops both strong and weak - and got killed. Even a high willingness to take casualties to inflict casualties hasn't helped - they usually just take, but don't inflict, any casualties. It's one thing to accept losing 10 to kill one, but losing 10 to kill 0 isn't a useful tradeoff. Orcs are culturally callous and care little about the cost to other orcs for their gains, but they're not especially bright (IQ 9) but they're not especially stupid or stubborn, either. They'll learn, and the PCs have noticed they learn combat-related lessons relatively quickly.

So clearly they've invested in a much more secure form of passive security. The PCs did take a serious run at the orcs a while back and did a lot of damage, but eventually gave up in the face of heavily orc'ed fortifications. I'm curious what they'll do next. Some players have discussed making up Earth-focused wizards they could play to get past the barriers and kill orcs. We'll see if they do so. It's oddly gamey but, hey, they can make up whatever characters they want, and only access their skills while they're in actual game sessions.

Icy Slipup Looking into the ice rules, I was way, way, way too nice. I really should have re-read them before the previous session. This is a failure of GM preperation.

I remembered to apply:

-2 for bad footing
-1 to active defenses
DX roll to not fall.
+1 movement cost.

I forgot to apply the following:

-2 to all DX rolls, so it's DX-2 to not fall and DX-2 to Change Position to kneeling, standing, etc.'
-2 to combat skills also applies to bows (we didn't apply that, that I noticed.)
DX-2 roll after every attack roll or defense roll.
DX-2 roll to not fall if you move, two rolls if you move more than one hex (possibly every hex, depending on how you read the 4e rules vs. the 3e rules)

On a related note, I need to figure out if "falling" and "knocked down" should have similar effects. I've fallen a few times on ice. Something I hold onto what's in my hands, but not always. Maybe a flat DX roll or Retain Weapon roll to not drop what you're holding?

There should have been, potentially, a lot more falling. DX-2 rolls all over the place, attack and defense, less deceptive attack, and slower movement since people wouldn't do "in for a penny, in for a pound" and run instead of using Step.

So again, we had my least favorite combination:

- very high powered PCs with very high base rolls
- forgotten penalties (by me, this time, not the players)
- easier circumstances than should actually apply.

That really annoys me because, to me, part of the challenge of DF is the environment and the circumstances. You should still feel challenged. Giving the PCs enough points that skill-20 in a combat skill is moderate and ST 15 is low for a front-line fighter and DX 14+ is average should open up the game to dealing with horrible penalties. It should give you dominance of ideal conditions, strength over bad conditions, and a fighting chance in terrible ones.

Instead, with forgotten and misapplied penalties, you get dominance in terrible conditions. The PCs fought in -100 degree F weather on ice against a powerful ice-adapted monster with limited maneuver room to avoid its attacks, and all it did was 1-2 HP of injury to one character and damage a wooden shield. It was really only a threat if I managed to roll really, really well, and even then the best it could have done was wallop one PC. It depended on environmental penalties that I mis-applied.

It's on me, but honestly, generally people don't remember penalties but can tell you any bonuses they have - the guys with hobnailed boots remembered that, but I can't recall anyone ever mentioning the =1 to Stealth for wearing them. A game with lots of fiddly details can be fun. It's not as fun when this happens. I really need to bear down on this. Otherwise it's really just a high-powered game with high-powered bonuses, which wears thin quickly for me.

I think we have an issue of my players thinking, Peter will remember the penalties, we need to track our bonuses. But that's not really true. I need people to remember all of their modifiers, positive and negative, because I'm not always going to remember them all. In fact, I'm demonstrably going to forget some every single session.

I need a method for dealing with this. Perhaps I'll have to identify someone who can keep tabs on this kind of stuff for me, and reward them with XP if they do so correctly (I'll check after, so "Oh yeah, we should have all had a -4 on that roll an hour ago" isn't netting you 1 xp.)

Monday, August 17, 2020

GURPS DF Session 138, Felltower 106 - Icy Gate II - Escape from Icy Gate

This is a continuation of the delve started in Session 137.

Date: August 16th, 2020
Game Date: August 4th, and then 17th, 18th.

Weather: Hot, sunny.


Aldwyn Hale, human knight (303 points)
     Varmus the Hanged, human apprentice wizard (150 points)
"Mild Bruce" McTavish, Jr., human barbarian (306 points)
Crogar, human barbarian (317 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (461 points)
Gerald Tarrant, human necromancer (374 points)
     3 Skeletons (~35 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (306 points)
Sir Bunny Wigglesworth, human holy warrior (259 points)

The group was standing on an icy, windy mountain-top ridge facing a cave their Navigator said contained a gate to Felltower. They headed in, led by Galen. Their idea was to get inside the cave mouth, out of the wind, to change up their cold-resisting spells. That would tough, as the cave was long but not wide (only 3 yards wide and high) and they take up a lot of space (11 hexes of people.) They moved in and Galen moved ahead.

Galen saw more marks on the slick ice of the movement of something big.

They moved into a cave system and found a raised section of ice to the east, another tunnel out to the northwest. Galen scouted to the northwest as they heard a scraping and sliding noise. He saw a large cave and the sound got much louder! As they started to react, a gigantic ice-crusted "worm" slide down the ice from a nearby cave at high speed. They formed up and Galen dodged back behind the shield-carrying fighters, luckily keeping his footing on the ice. The others just chose Wait or AOD (Dodge.) The worm breathed out a huge cone of frost and ice chunks, hitting the front ranked fighters (the others, including Wyatt, were out of sight around a corner.) No one was more than mildly hurt, though, as it rolled very poor damage (ranging from 6-10 on 3d-1) and the PCs were both bundled up in arctic gear and armor. They tried to advance on it, but Aldwyn and Crogar slipped. Sir Bunny stood in place and waited. Galen shot it a couple-three times and chipped off ice on all three shots.

The PCs attempted to close with it, but it stayed back. It tried to bite and sting Crogar a couple times, but he was able to block and parry those, and climbed up to his feet. Aldwyn got up, too. Galen kept shooting, aiming for inside its mouth as it bit (I allowed this as Chinks in Armor, -8). In the back, Varmus created a Fireball and eventually tossed it at the ground to melt the ice, and did, then stood in the water and cast Resist Fire on himself. Gerry put Great Haste on himself, and on Galen. Wyatt crushed a few spellstones, including Walk on Air, and ran up.

The wyrm kept biting at the PCs, including Bruce, who ran up with a Move and Attack. He managed to Dodge with two 8s, despite the ice, lack of Retreat, etc. It never managed to do any damage except some to Crogar's shield. Bruce and Crogar hit it a couple of times and did some damage, but Galen just kept putting six arrows into its mouth per second. It died in only 2-3 seconds of this. It was badly wounded, and then Galen hit it for 16, 15, 7, 8, 16, and 14 impaling, all in one second. That more than finished it.

With the ice wyrm dead, they checked around to ensure it was alone. It seemed to be. They got to work carving it up for parts based on Galen's Survival (Arctic). He got to work on the teeth, and Ulf was to attempt Surgery with a -5 for lacking any proper tools. It was IQ-based, so Gerry offered up a Wisdom potion that he'd reconstituted from dust and wasn't really sure of. Ulf took it. He rolled a 4, and was able to extract the cold-producing organs from inside the wyrm. He used a scroll of Suspend Animation to keep it fresh and put it in two sacks to carry it. Galen was able to extra the teeth - 1d of them. He rolled a 1. He used Luck, and got another 1, and a 2. Oh well.

They took their loot and explored the tunnels. It got colder and colder as they went in. Down one path they eventually found a deeply freezing room with the gate. Down another, they found a room with icy walls studded with big chunks of blue crystal that looked like some kind of quartz. Mage Sight didn't show them to be magical. Galen recently learned Prospecting so he used some improvised tools (a mallet, a mace, and iron spikes) to chip out ten of them, weighing ~50 lbs in total. The rest broke into useless splinters. They spread them out among the warrior types and headed to, and through, the gate. The crystal room and the gate room were a stunning -135 F, and despite their gear and Warmth spells some of them began to lose FP at an increasing clip. On the far side of the gate the temperature was a sweltering 0 degrees F (-18 C), so they started pulling off their gear.

They forced the door out, and then moved out. The portcullises were still up, the coals still burning, so they headed through, leaving their torch between the portcullises for next time. Gerry lent 6 FP to Ulf so he could cancel 6 Warmth spells early. Then Ulf used Sanctuary and they went inside. They rested for 1 hour 40 minutes, and then exited and headed out, FP recovered. Aldwyn opened the two handprint doors, and they made their way to the GFS and up, encountering nothing along the way - and no one succumbing to the stale air (Gerry used Luck.)

Once they reached the top, carefully checking for traps as they went, they headed toward the orcs. They found a solid block of stone where they expected some rubble they could clear with a pickaxe and shovels. They made their way to another area, and found they same. Since they were near a bricked-up room where their map showed secret doors, they bashed down the brick wall and headed in.

They used See Secrets and checked the wall, but found no secret doors. They realized their map was just wrong, having tried in an earlier delve to find the secret doors from the other side.

They headed back to the stairs and up, intending to come to the orc hole from behind.

On the way, on level 1 they stopped in the pool room after Ulf semi-sold the idea to enthusiastic delvers who hadn't been there.

The door was locked but yielded to Gerry's Lockmaster spell.

They went in, and explored the 13 pools. All held something, even one they expected to be empty. They put Resist Poison on Aldwyn, who drank from one and had his wounds healed. Two others unknown to them turned out to be water, one bitter and one stale, and the last acid, which did 6 corrosion damage to Aldwyn's mouth and tongue. He wasn't too mangled, and Ulf was able to hear him. He noted the acid was powerful but it didn't affect his helmet. They decided it could be alkahest, and Gerry concurred it could be that or something like it.

Eventually they started to drink from the purple pool "of dreams." They each prayed or stated what they wished to dream of, then drank. Ulf did so and fell asleep. Wyatt drank, too, and fell asleep. After waiting three hours, Ulf woke up. He'd dreamed of shattered the chains on two giant doors, and finding a huge room carpeted with coins many layers thick - copper, silver, and gold. The he woke.

Aldwyn drank, too, and also fell asleep. Wyatt woke up, and related his dream of a circular room deep in Felltower with a plain fountain in it. He touched it, and gained great power - more strength, agility, health, and speed. Much of it, he knew, was temporary, but a percentage of it was permanent. He also knew not to touch the fountain again or he'd lost his gain. Then he woke. Crogar tried to drink, but didn't fall asleep - Gerry, the same (his Improved Magic Resistance "aided" him here.) Varmus drank, too. He was still sleeping when the PCs realized a) they'd been in the room for ~9 hours, and b) the lightstones seemed just a little dimmer, and the shadows around a little thicker. Around now Alwdywn woke up. He dreamed of free-climbing a tall pillar that he couldn't see to the bottom but heard splashing when pieces of stone fell. When he reached the top, he found a little alcove in the pillar with a chest in it. Inside the chest were coins, jewelry, and gems.

So they left - using Lockmaster on the door to leave. Mild Bruce carried sleeping Varmus.

After that, they headed to the altar so Ulf could run in and use Dismissive Wave. It failed. He was injured. He was healed and they moved on.

Next, they made it to the stairs down to the second level, and found they door they'd destroyed. Beyond it was solid stone.

They went back up. They tried to use the "bugbear tunnels" to leave, but found the corridor down that way had partly collapsed.

Next, they headed into the are where delvers - including Galen - fought some wights may years ago. It was closed off roughly with stone and mortar, again. So they woke up Varmus with Awaken, cutting off his dream. He said he dreamed of them opening a door, and something killed them off violently and quickly . . . and they woke him before he could identify the door clearly! They kept asking if doors "looked familiar" but he couldn't remember a single salient detail from his dream thanks to his early wakeup.

They bashed the wall down quickly.

They found nothing except some empty rooms and bits of bone and shattered coffins. They did find the door at the far end of the corridor was intact, and locked. It had a small waist-height viewing slit plugged with wood. They used a knife to push that in, but it hung in place. So they opened the door. Beyond it was a large room - 80 x 100 - that had been used as a living area. Whatever used it was long gone.

They found evidence of a target practice area, a fire/cooking area, a pen for 3-5 dogs, and an emergency toilet corner. The viewslit plug was on leather straps so it could be moved and used, and then dropped to cover the slit easily. They also found the hinges were new, and oiled - but probably not used in a long time. Finally, they found 411 hash marks on the wall ending with a check mark. Probably 10-12 people - likely surface-dwellers based on the smell and habits - stayed there for a long, long time.

Ulf put See Secrets on Galen. With it, he spotted a concealed trapdoor in the floor. It was easily pried open, but it was sealed with Shape Stone. They decided this must be connected to the gnome.

After all of that, they headed back to the surface, which wasn't very far from where they were.


- a couple of guys have hobnailed boots, which negate bad footing. This includes ice.

- I think falling should be nastier than it is, now in our games. You should risk dropping weapons (or just drop them, like with Knockdown), for one. I think I'm supposed to require a DX roll per hex of movement, too, not just one roll. You really shouldn't run 4 yards on ice just because you have Move 8 and roll DX just as often as taking a Step. I need to re-read those rules again. I thought I remembered them, but maybe not.

- I let my players roll the two d6 rolls needed for their dreams. I'm pretty sure they wrote down the numbers, so they can compare in-game results to the dreams to the rolls. Amusing, because I often re-number and re-arrange my tables. They write down the numbers they roll for rumors, too, and track that. I don't leave rumors in a particularly slot, either. I move them around as formatting and convenience suits. I use dummy rolls, too - rolls that don't do anything. And sometimes I call for rolls that aren't immediately relevant, too - roll now, used later for results. Rolling is fun. I like people to have the deciding roll, but not to use the numbers to try to triangulate their results in some way. The numbers don't have any in-game existence, so they can change.

- Roll20's rolling frustrates me. It's very slow, and also I roll, on average, below average. We also get a lot of incidences of repeated rolls - two 8s, two 9s, three 11s, etc. It's possibly just statistical clumping but it's also possible it's just a junky roller. It's certainly slow enough to be very annoying.

- Best line of the way wasn't one particular line, just the whining about how the orcs kept blocking stuff off and someone else (Mild Bruce? Aldwyn) pointing out that maybe they don't want to have every member of their tribe killed just to have an easy way to explore deeper in Felltower.

- the Wandering Monster rolls were kind today. I do need to modify my approach a little, though - more on what I do now, and what I'm going to do, in another post. Not to make them more frequent, exactly, but to make consequences of time and exploration happen more often.

- that said, you spend too long in some places in Felltower - or maybe just in Felltower - and stuff can happen. Not just a quickie monster to kill, either.

- the group lost two weeks in the gate travel. One player figured that meant the time spent past the gate didn't matter. It did, but they also spent roughly 23 hours before and after in Felltower. So they ended up coming home on Tuesday morning.

- they took home 37,500 worth of loot plus two very fine knives, which I ruled cost $40 each for getting wrapped and hilted and such since no one wanted to risk Aldwyn's low skill (11.) 40% of that is 15,000. Yes, Wealth would be useful. Still the hangup is someone saving the points up, and then that character possibly wanting an uneven cut of loot to reflect their extra value. Had someone had Comfortable it would have netted another 7500 right there. Not small change.

- Full XP for loot for this delve, plus a point for exploration. MVP for both sessions was Ulf, although Galen voted for himself and I think had a real claim. He mostly killed the wyrm all by himself and his skills and senses were critical this session. But so was Ulf's 4 and his spells.

(More notes here.)

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Felltower pre-summary

We finished up the previous session of game play today.

- the PCs fought an ice wyrm

- Ulf did surgery

- they made it back to Felltower.

- they tried to get to the orcs, but were repeatedly frustrated by stone passage filler.

- they re-explored some areas the group hadn't been to in years, and found some evidence of folks camped out in the dungeon for an extended period.

They pulled in some loot, though, from crystals and monster bits from the other side of the Icy Gate. I'll get a summary up tomorrow.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Auctions ending

Most of my auctions are ending tomorrow morning - this is just a quick reminder.

Gaming stuff includes a Reaper minis boxed set, a Star Frontiers minis boxed set, and a Ral Partha boxed set.

eBay Auctions

Non-gaming stuff includes a DVD of Zardoz. Just saying.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Friday Random Links & Thoughts - 8/14/2020

Random stuff for Friday.

- I have at least one of the demons from the Daemon Derby. I won't say if it is pictured, or if it's one mentioned but not pictured.

- Wandering Monsters have come up a couple of times in interesting posts:

Wandering Monsters For the First Time over at Lich Van Winkle
The Problem with Random Encounters over at Monsters & Manuals

- Monsters & Manuals has a nice coin generator. I'm not sure why scorched coins are worth less - if the value is symbolic, it's still the symbol that matters; if it's based on metal value, some carbon on the outside isn't going to reduce that value.

But I do like the descriptions of the coins. That's handy - you don't want every coin to be ruler front, symbol of the kingdom on the back. Ancient people weren't so limited, so why should you be?

I don't do a lot of "collectible" coins in my campaigns, though. Ultimately, it's color, and the weight of coin and the purity (assumed to be on average, the same) that determine value. So, ultimately, a pound of gold coins is worth a pound of gold coins. I do like coinage color, though, to liven up a game and give some background depth to your setting.

- James Maliszewski is blogging again. At least, he blogged. Very exciting, even if I won't buy that game he's talking about.

- Twilight:2000 Kickstarter - there is a Kickstarter for a new edition of T2K. I'd probably just run it with GURPS, myself, but it's nice to see someone keeping the flame of nuclear annihilation alive. I heard someone say, why aren't we more scared of nuclear war now than in the 80s? I don't really know, as proliferation is still a big issue and more and more non-state actors with aims they'd see aided by mass destruction exist, ala Gamma World. But in the 80s, it really felt like it was coming, and both sides rattled sabres. And had things like Able Archer happen (read it, it's chilling.) That might be it.

- The WOTC D&D Survey 2020 is up, if you'd like your voice heard on D&D.

- Has anyone ever written a good guide on how to play spy games? There was an article in Dragon, but that's about all I can think of.

How about about one on how to run gangster-era games, either as gangsters or cops?

I'm curious, and I'd like to read them if they exist. I'm not planning a game of either genre, but I've been thinking about how I don't really have a good handle on how to run such games.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Review: Dungeon Fantasy Adventure 3: Deep Night and the Star

For more of my reviews, please see my reviews page.

This is a short review for a short item.

(Image coming when I can find one.)

Dungeon Fantasy Adventure 3: Deep Night and the Star
by Matt Riggsby
Published 2020 by Steve Jackson Games
10 pages

This short (10-page) adventure was part of the GURPS PDF Challenge of 2020.

The adventure is, without spoiling too much, a raid by PCs into hole in the universe to where the Elder Things live. Or at least one thing - a god or mountain named Atoep - exists. The PCs need to go there, kill some stuff, break some things in specific ways, and then run back before said hole in the universe closes. Their sponsors don't have a lot of reward to offer, so this is a save-the-world quest.

The adventure has a relatively adventure area that gets used multiple times. It's an atmospheric place, if run as written, and both the environment and the monsters provide challenges. The environment could have been a little more thematically body-like, though, which would have added some charm to a place that just feels like tunnels and rooms full of weirdness. It's well-illustrated and the map is attractive and very clear. It's too bad the map doesn't also come as a .bmp or .jpg so you can more easily upload it to a VTT or print it for tabletop use at minis scale.

The short length does cost, though. Maybe the most interesting thing in the book is the sky-ship, but it gets only a couple of paragraphs - enough to use it, not really enough for how game-changing it could be if the PCs manage to keep it.

It's not the typical kill-and-loot, it's a smash-and-run, and as such is a potentially nice change of pace. It can also be frustrating if the PCs go in expecting loot, and acting only centered around loot - they won't be happy and will likely spend a lot of time searching for such instead of getting on with saving the world. The fights are potentially interesting, but suffer from a common adventure flaw - one-note encounters. Room 1 has monster X, Room 2 monster Y, Room 5 monster Z . . . so you never had to do more than figure out the best way to fight that one, and then do that thing. In my experience mixed-monster fights are generally more interesting and more challenging. But it's a small complaint, and the lack of mix makes sense for what's here.

It does have one new monster, and stats for another foe, both of which can be useful elsewhere.

Overall: This is a nice little adventure for DF. The monsters are oddball enough to require some reading and planning, but the encounters are generally single-flavor so it's not that hard to prep. It's a good adventure. Like a lot of these 10-page PDFs it could easily have been, and probably should have been, longer to support more detail and adventure depth. Good overall, and you can get $3 of worth of it if you want/need a drop-in adventure for your game.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Star Frontiers Robots added to my auctions

I added another item to my auctions:

Star Frontiers Metal Miniatures Robots

I'm tempted to get rid of some other mini collections that I have mostly in like new condition - some Warhammer stuff, mostly, but I'm not quite there yet.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Old D&D House Rule - Using DEX for offense, levels for defense

I promised the other day I'd show the entire page of house rules my uncle had in his D&D binder - along with Rolemaster critical hit charts, Moldvay Basic, Moldvay Expert, and materials from Holmes D&D (which I remember him using at the table.)

This is something I've never seen elsewhere, and to date I haven't seen anything quite like this elsewhere.

Here is the whole sheet:

Here is the text, retyped (with extraneous spaces removed):


During a round any combatant cane use some or ALL his/her dexterity bonuses for attack or defense. For example: A fighter with a dexterity of 17 can use his 3+ bonus in any combination between Attack and Defense (no fractions). Thus the above fighter can elect to add up to 3+ on his to hit roll for that melee round. Any dexterity used for attack cannot be then used for defense in the same round. ALL decisions of use of dexterity must be stated BEFORE the initiative roll.

Also a combatant may also elect to use some or ALL of his/her experience levels on defense. This subtracts the amount of levels used from an opponents to hit roll. The combatant must then strike at a level he has left. i.e. A 6th level fighter elects to use 3 levels for defense. Any striking at him must subtract 3 levels from their to hit roll. The fighter would then only strike as a 3rd level, however.

I think this is very Rolemaster, actually. In Rolemaster, your attacking ability with a weapon - which used bonuses from STR (Strength) or AGL (Agility) (or optionally both in a weighted average) to split between defense and attack.* The idea that you could split your D&D level is very similar to that.

The Dexterity option is an interesting tradeoff. Instead of being DEX 17 with Chainmail and Shield for AC 1, you could be AC 4 and get a +3 to hit. Or AC 3 and +2, or AC 2 and +1. Against a big bad foe with low AC and a lot of allies around you, you're really not taking too much of an extra chance. Oddly, though, if you choose to use a Missile weapon, you get only a +1 to +3, not a +1 to +4, but you do always get your bonus to AC. Stacking both seems excessive, but I'm not sure it's totally broken. It just means briefer fights as both sides in a missile exchange hit more often. It's very useful coupled with the spell Protection from Normal Missiles.

I can see a few ways to abuse this with, say, AD&D. If your DM uses the attack tables unchanged, and doesn't reward fighters with better to hit rolls every level, you may as well use one level towards defense every time you are even-number-leveled. Magic users with their improve "to hit" every 5 levels means a 5th level magic-user should always be -4 to hit, even in melee. Actually, there is never any reason for a non-melee combatant to use any levels for offense. I'd probably rule that you need to be actively engaging in melee for this to matter, and that you cannot claim this as do any non-melee non-missile attack (in other words, not while casting or turning or using a wand.) It might work better allowing you to trade away ranks on the to hit table. Or with THAC0 rules only allow tradeoffs that raise your THAC0. No tradeoff-free defensive bonuses.

As I've mentioned before, this is material my uncle had in his possession in late 1981 / early 1982 when I started gaming with him. A cousin of mine ended up with it, and I inherited it from him along with some of his other gaming materials when he moved out of state permanently (such as Battledroids.)

The sheet is clearly a photocopy of either another photocopy, or of a typed sheet. My uncle certainly didn't come up with this himself.

I don't recall ever using the top two rules. We did have the critical hits come up at least once playing B1 In Search of the Unknown.

* Not that anyone ever used any levels for defense, and then remarked, loudly and often, about how lethal Rolemaster was. Yeah, GURPS is pretty lethal if you only All-Out Attack. But coming from AD&D, where defense was purely a passive effect of armor and DEX, it was an odd thing to think about, using half of your offense for defense.

Monday, August 10, 2020

The Majestic Fantasy RPG Basic Rules Kickstarter

I need another ruleset like I need another hole in my head.*

That said, I backed this:

Rob is a good author, and I really liked two of his other works:

Review: Supplement VI The Majestic Wilderlands

Scourge of the Demon Wolf

His writing is clear, his rules decisions sound, and his ideas interesting and creative. Give it a look. I'll pay $8 to get and read his book when it comes out.

* That would have worked, if you hadn't stopped me.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

The Forgotten Entrance to Felltower (not really)

One of the entrances to Felltower was through a poison ivy covered hole in a foundation wall. It's gone disused because it's a terrible entrance for most purposes and it's a terrible exit for all purposes.

It doesn't quite look like this, but this kind of claustrophobic crack that I saw today on a walk could easily have been that entrance:

After all, why shouldn't big dungeons have small, really unpleasant tunnels that lead into the inhabited portions? Not that the small, really unpleasant tunnels should be inhabited. Or untrapped. Or safe in any way.

Of course, given player's estimations of difficulty, someone is going to claim they can crawl into that with their Medium Shield ready, rapier in hand, and be able to Retreat when attacked. My answers would be ha, ha, ha.

Auctions are Live

My eBay auctions are live here:

peterdellorto items for sale

(Editing later: the Warhammer fort and the MST3K tapes are gone already.)

(Editing later: I added some movies, and a set of Star Frontiers Robots minis.)

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Auctions Queued

I spent some time and put a few items up for auction on eBay.

They'll all go live 9 am tomorrow morning, and run for one week.

Here is the link to my profile which has all of my sales.

Ebay User peterdellorto Items for Sale

Gaming-wise, there are only a few things:

- Black Prince's Chariot of Fear

- GW Warhammer Fantasy Battles Fortress

- Reaper Minis "The Court of Abyst"

There is also a Nikon camera, some Sam & Max and MST3K VHS tapes, a Doctor Who episode (The Talons of Weng-Chiang), a John Lydon movie, and I think that's all.

I'll update with more links when I have them. I'm a bit exhausted after all of the listing - taking pictures, typing, checking weights, checking shipping costs, setting prices, etc. etc. I was going to list a big lot of VHS tapes, my old Microsoft Sidewinder joystick, and possible a few books, but forget it. This took 5 solid hours just to list this stuff. Now I remember why I stopped doing eBay listings!

Friday, August 7, 2020

Random Thoughts & Links for Friday - 8/7/2020

Some thoughts and links for the week.

- My week is always more quiet after a multi-session delve breaks off mid-session than between regular sessions. PCs can't do anything, so I get a lot less emails about in-town activities to answer.

- House Rules for Swords & Wizardry - I always enjoy reading other people's house rules. These are pretty interesting. In a game like S&W, where stat increases are helpful but not game-breaking, the re-rolls are interesting.

- 2020 GURPS Challenge PDFs: Incense Trail - Matt goes over some pricing for incenses in GURPS. In the comments you can see us discuss gold vs. silver prices. 12.5:1 was the official Roman level, so a slightly less valuable gold in 10:1 would make sense. If I did bigger and more inflated coins in my DF game, $1 silver and $10 gold wouldn't be crazy. Of course, with 50 coins/pound would mean gold is $500/pound or 1/10th of my current, and a 20-pound gold ingot is a mere $10,000. Heh. A lot of stuff becomes worth its weight in gold in such a system. It's a thought!

- Help the Asfolk Viking Martial Arts School If You Can - in Doug's post (read it) is buried something that could be game-useful. Doug says, "It’s a distinct alternative to the traditional Asian martial arts (not throwing shade there: I was a happy practitioner of a Korean style for more than 15 years)".

It's telling that Doug mentions a difference from traditional studies of Asian arts, and then has to cover by saying he's got a background in that. The often-bitter Asian vs. European martial arts conflict is alive and well. How to represent that in game?

For most games, this is a quirk.

Delusion (Asian arts / WMA are objectively superior)
Intolerance (Asian martial arts / WMA)

For a martial arts centric game, this should be -5 points for either. If the delusion causes you to underestimate the abilities of others, it's more like -10 or even -15 most of the time. See GURPS Martial Arts (p. 53-54) for examples.

- The Many Deaths of the OSR. Lich Van Winkle links to many conflicts within the OSR. I link to, and linked to, a lot of self-described OSR blogs. I have played retro-clones. I run a very old-style dungeon exploration game, using a mix of what we never did plus ways I always played games back in the day. I never knowingly described myself as part of the OSR. I've always felt like I was on the sidelines. I play games with a similar bent, and played with self-described OSR people, and I recognize some connection, but I always feel like I'm my own thing here.

- Someone is buying my Ogre minis as a lot. I probably could have gotten more on eBay, but I could also have ended up with extra stuff no one bid on, and had to do the whole thing again.

I will get the auctions up in a few days with some other stuff, though - terrain, movies, and some other non-gaming stuff.
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