Wednesday, September 30, 2020

How do you get through A2 in 3 hours?

The A-series module has a 3-hour time limit to get through, basically, nine "encounters." *

You have three hours.

That's three hours from the start inside the curtain wall.

My players took 7 hours to get halfway through, and then 6 more to get to the end and die.

That's 13 vs. 3 - more than 4 times as long.

How would you get through A2 in the time limit?

I think you'd need some or all of these.

Experienced AD&D players.

Some of my players have played all of the eight AD&D sessions I've run in the past few years. For some of them, that's the entirety of their AD&D experience. Others have players 2nd edition AD&D, 3rd edition, 5th edition. One of my players is an old AD&D vet of mine from high school, but that was Unearthed Arcana era and we used THAC0 instead of the hit tables, simplified initiative (winning side goes and does everything), and higher-powered and higher-statted characters with more magic items than they get now. Only two of my players have independent 1st edition AD&D experience of any note.

So it's a bit unfair to expect them to rattle off stats, know spells, recognize monsters, and have experience dealing with traps and such . . . we found yesterday I could find a rule from memory faster than they could find with "Find" in a PDF. Would guys with that level of play experience back in the day do well in the tournament?


So you really need to know what your guy can do, and have a solid idea of what others can, too, so you can synergistically operate. Any time you spent figuring out what your paper man's capabilities are is time away from that limit. This was a challenge to the player skill and player rules knowledge and player luck, in the end - no awards for role-playing or playing to rulings not rules or using your imagination to expand your capabilities. Some of that might help it along, but the ankheg, the "mummies," and the pit traps are ones that really call for game knowledge to inform your choices.

Especially rote knowledge of spell effects

You don't have time to look up spells and decide - you need to have the knowledge of their limits and powers quite well. My players finished the game with nine casualties but plenty of unused spells, mostly the ones without obvious combat effects. Why? A good part of it is that looking up the spells one by one to figure out if this is a good place to use them is a time waster . . . and you have precious little of it.

A Caller or Leader

Three hours for nine areas doesn't leave a lot of time for democracy, feeling out of options, and collegial discussions. Someone needs to be in charge and make the final yes/no executive decision. You may need to have that person go around the table and take a quick opinion from everyone . . . but they'll need to decide.

For every major obstacle you have 30 minutes to arrive at it, decide what to do, and then execute it.

If the GM has to go around the table asking each person, "What are you doing?" you waste a lot of time. You don't have it.

Decisiveness & Alacrity

You can't waste a second on declaring actions for combat, or making moves outside of them. You have to know what you're doing now and immediately be thinking about next round's actions as this round's change the battle situation. Combat - and other obstacles - must be resolved quickly.

I think if you had all of those . . . you'd have a shot at finishing in three hours. Not a certainty - and the scoring reflects that. But a chance at it. You have to be decisive and skilled at the game of AD&D to do it. Luck bouncing in your favor when it's a big roll, too, is important. It's probably what separated some of the teams back in the day, too. A bad roll here or there can turn a fight in AD&D.

We'll see if my players have more of the above, the more we play AD&D.

* Which isn't nine rooms, or nine hallways, or nine doors - what counts as an "encounter" is sometimes not so clearly defined in the non-tournament versions we're extracting the tournament version back out of! I think if my players read this and try to game-plan around "nine" areas, they'll likely spend a lot of time counting and "saving" effects for "the ninth one, which is the boss fight." Yeah, it might be, but what if you double-counted? Or under-counted?

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

GURPS 101 - When to use magic?

Yesterday I blogged about when to use magic in AD&D.

What about GURPS Dungeon Fantasy?

Here is a basic overview which might prove helpful to newer players or provoke some thought in vets.

When to use spells in GURPS

Spells in GURPS have a major advantage - you can use them quite freely. You're not limited by a number of spells you can cast, but only by your skill - which limits the spells you can keep active - and your energy.

Since your energy can be recovered during rest - or by drinking paut, or by time alone (for an Energy Reserve), there really isn't a useful maximum on spells. Spells tend to be more limited in effect than in limited-spell-use systems, but can be very effective for all of that. They tend to last effectively longer, too - 60 combat turns is a common. It's vastly easier to buff combatants than to weaken or kill foes, and much easier to reshape the battlefield with area-effect magic than to directly affect enemies on it.

Potions have longer effects - an hour is typical.

In other words, spellcasters tend to use magic often and steadily throughout all situations. If you have a spell that can solve a problem, you can generally use it to always solve that problem, over and over. There is rarely a need to restrain yourself - given Levitation, climbing is only for those skilled at climbing. Given Shape Earth, digging is only for cases where the hole isn't in earth. Given Silence, you never need to risk noise unless you don't care to conceal your noisy door-bashing and gate-spiking. Spells like Explosive Fireball or Great Haste or Invisibility can be used repeatedly, during the same fight, and every fight - you can essentially depend on magical fire support or magical buffing as long as your mage is conscious. Energy limitations might cut how much of an effect, but for DF-level wizards, it's rare to be unable to cast a spell at all.

Only high individual costs or time constraints practically limit the utility use of magic. The only real barrier is cost to maintain - which may add up for big spells - and spells "on" penalties, which may increase the chance of a critical failure. Even then, often wizards have a greater net chance of a critical success than a failure. Cast away!

When to use magical healing

In GURPS DF, healing is generally best done as early as possible. Unlike offensive spells, healing spells are uniformly powerful. It's much harder to kill with magic alone in GURPS than to heal with magic alone. And the magic needed to slay a foe is costly and unreliable, while that to heal one is relatively inexpensive and reliable. For true nicks and scratches - wounds that are below a single maximum healing from Minor Healing - it's generally worth leaving them alone unless further combat is not expected. In that case, heal up quickly.

For heavier wounds, it's best done as early as possible.

Since healing results change with HP, it's tempting to knock off a few points with a lower-energy casting, but more valuable to hold it until later. A knight with 20 HP - easy for a starting character - can be healed 16 HP for 4 energy base cost with Major Healing. You're better off waiting until the knight takes a nasty, heavy blow and then heal it on the spot. Healing is fast, it's easily done in combat, and you can do it repeatedly.
(Editing later: in combat, of course, wounds that cause crippling, threaten unconsciousness, or reduce Move and Dodge should be healed immediately - doing so can be disproportionally valuable even if they don't really maximize the healing-to-cost of doing so.)
Healing suffers from a cumulative -3 for repeated castings, but DF delvers are highly skilled - your basic cleric will have 15+ in most spells, and getting to 19-20+ in all of them is easily done. So casting at a 15, 12, 9 isn't a problem - or 20, 17, 14, 11. Each spell has its own cascade, so get 2-3 different spells going (Minor Healing, Major Healing, Great Heal), plus healing potions (no penalty cascade) and Faith Healing, on top of difficulty in dying, and that 20 HP knight takes far more than 120 HP of injury to kill for sure. A bad roll can kill you, but it's hard to go down and stay down.

Between fights, getting everyone to full just requires time - a few seconds to cast, minutes to recover energy through rest. That can be sped up with cash by purchasing paut and using it. Given a relatively short time, you can heal up almost anything. Given more than 24 hours and you should generally be able to take anyone from nearly automatically dead to fine. Recovery doesn't really require rest with a PC-class cleric. It's a rare case where you need to "ration" spells between characters.

Essentially, healing should allow you to recover quickly from any fight you can win. Only broken limbs and dismemberments really slow you down - and not even then, given sufficient energy, not even then.

Monday, September 28, 2020

AD&D - When to use spells?

As always, when I say AD&D I mean 1st edition. If there isn't a efreet on the cover and you're not prying out the eyes of an idol, I'm not interested.

After our last game session, we'd ended early so we chitchatted about AD&D and did a Q&A on the module we'd used. One thing we talked about were spells.

When to use spells

It's not always clear to players, especially relatively inexperienced AD&D players, when to deploy spells. They're use it or lose it, but they're also a limited supply, and often do things you cannot do without magic. You're torn between the need to conserve your spells for real need, and the need to use them to avoid costs to other resources.

Personally, I find the whole "When to use spells" question a lot of fun to think about. In my own philosophy its relatively simple. For me, it's simply this:

Use a spell when you have a good opportunity to use it.

My way of thinking is this - you don't want to use spellcasting as a desperation move. A lot of the spellcasting can be described as basically flailing for success - casting Command at high-level foes, hoping for a missed save, Hold Person to bail out a fight going bad, Fireball because there doesn't seem to be a way to reach a distant or fortified foe, Magic Missile because the mage doesn't have anything else to do. Sleep maybe when you're getting overrun. That generally doesn't work well because those aren't the best conditions for those spells.

Instead, you use Command when you need a way to distract a foe for a round, especially a low-level one who doesn't get a save. Hold Person to open a fight, targeting dangerous opponents. Fireball when you have an open area and many foes to potentially hit. Magic Missile to hit low-AC targets you can't touch otherwise, or enemy spellcasters - either to kill them or interrupt up their spells. Sleep is a great fight-opener against low-level foes, as it can drop a lot of them in short order before they accomplish much (or anything, even.)

By all means, pull spells out of your butt when things go badly, but don't expect them to work as well as they would had you chosen better circumstances. I try to think of ways to have a spell end a fight at the beginning, not turn it around at the end. By using a limited-use resource of a spell early and effectively you can save yourself needing to use other resources to solve this same problem. A spell deployed when it's the best opportunity to maximize its benefits should mean minimizing other costs in the long run.

That's my approach anyway. I'm also the kind of player who tosses torc grenades into bar brawls because it's a heck of a target. Maybe we'd have won that fight anyway, without the grenade. Who cares?

That said, it does mean you need to know what your spells do, and have given them some thought on how to use them. With tournament PCs, that's an issue. Maybe you'd never bother with ESP or Levitate or Mirror Image but there it is, on your sheet. You need to find a way to make it shine . . . you don't have a lot of them, so you can't spray them around and hope. As a GM, you can - your NPC is probably going to die that fight or cause a TPK, so go for it. Use them all, as fast as you can. As a PC, though . . .

That's my thoughts on it, in any case. I'd love to hear other people's working theory on spell usage. Not specific spells - just an overall strategy on what spells are for in general.

When to use healing spells

This one I've been giving a lot of thought.

My players generally use them right away. After a fight, as soon as you're down enough HP that a maximum roll would heal them all (don't want to waste any), they'll heal people up. Have 25 HP and suffered 9? Cast Cure Light Wounds, and get him to 17-24 HP. This means that, pretty quickly, they're out of healing spells.

I'm thinking that's a mentality brought about by three things:

- being used to games where healing is plentiful, or at least replenishible.

- a use-it-or-lose it attitude - you don't want to die with healing potions unquaffed.

- feeling vulnerable when you're down HP in a harshly deadly game and going to 0 HP takes you out for extended time, not just until you're healed.

I also mentioned to my players that I was thinking you might need to save healing spells. Yes, the guy with 25 HP who is down to 16 after a fight is more vulnerable than when he's fully healed. But what happens when you're in a fight later, and another fighter starts with 20 and then is at 15, 10, 5, because he just can't seem to catch a break on the "to hit" rolls? Then what? It might be useful to have the spell then, and apply it to keep someone up now instead of to minimize the risk of someone going down later.

Healing potions as well - it doesn't take that long to drink them (although it does take 2-5 segments to take effect.) They might be more useful as a mid-fight boost than in just pools of replacement hit points between fights.

Of course, you'll need them between fights as well . . . but how to deploy them? As soon as possible, to keep as far away from 0 HP as possible for as long as possible? Or when needed, because you don't really know who'll get to 0 HP first or who will be most necessary to keep alive later? And if it's a mix, how do you decide what that mix is?

I'm wondering what other people's strategies are.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

AD&D Session 8: A2 Secret of the Slavers Stockade, Part 2

Today we played our 8th session of AD&D, where we run through old modules as-written just because it's fun. We use AD&D as much as possible as-written, except where the rules are nonsensical (Weapoon Speed, say) or impeded play (Initiative). But generally we revel in them. It's a nice vacation from GURPS.

Today we played the rest of the first part of A2 Secret of the Slavers Stockade, as part of a planned series of sessions that will eventually take us through the aerie (A3), and dungeons (A4) of the Slave Lords.

We had a slightly different mix of players, as four people who played last time couldn't make it, and one that couldn't last time, could. So we had lots of two-PC players.

SPOILER ALERT! This will absolutely spoil chunks of the adventure for you.


Elwita, Dwarf F6 (J.D.)
"Ogre", Human F5 (M.H.)
Freda, Human R4 (M.L.)
Karraway, Human C6 (A.J.)
Blodgett, Halfling T5
Dread Delgath, Human MU5 (M.D.)
Phanstern, Human I5 (V.L.)
Eljayess, Half-Ef C3/F3 (A.J. then V.L.)
Kayen Telva, Elf F4/MU4 (M.H.)

We picked up where we left off last time - the PCs in a room, having hacking down a door that leads to hobgoblin barracks.

The PCs decided the way to go was back - retreat past the pit, move to the other door they'd spotted, and find a way down or South (into the complex) that way. They used Kayen Telva's scroll of Hold Portal to lock the "bear door" closed, crossed the pit by climbing down one side and out the other, and ran to the door to the West. It was dusty near it. They forced the door but it took several rounds. Meanwhile, hobgoblins had finally forced the east door open once the Hold Portal ended and advanced to the pit. One had a sling, the others swords.

Phanstern asked Kayen hold to say, "Jump in the pit and lay down!" in Hobgoblinese (Hobgoblinian?) and then ran to within 30' of them. The slinger hit him for 2 HP with a sling bullet. Phanstern won initiative managed to get his spell off the next round, casting Hypnotism. Unfortunately, despite needing a 17 to save, four of the six targets saved! Two jumped into the pit and layed down. The others climbed down. The leader launched a sling bullet at Phanstern, hit him, and did 3 HP of damage . . putting him to 0 and down.

The other PCs managed to force the door open. Beyond it they saw a cobwebbed and dusty room, heard low moans, rattling bones, and saw a ghostly form fluttering. They rushed it, with Dread grabbing the door to close it. Eljayess cast Light (which I let last way too long, actually.)

The "ghost" turned out to be a curtain, the moan a breeze through a crack in a fireplace wall, and the bones a wooden wind chime. They closed the door and spiked it shut.

They explored the area and found nothing but another door. They spent a fair amount of time checking rooms in a clearly burned-out area of the keep, found a hanged hobgoblin, saw eerie messages, had poltergeist-like weirdness happen, looked fruitlessly for secret doors, and eventually realized it was a dead end. So they unspiked the door and went back the other way. As they went, Karraway pulled on torch sconces to activate secret doors (or whatever) but it did little. The hobgoblins had taken the torches, and Phanstern was gone, too.

The pit was reset, so they crossed it carefully and forced the door. The room was cleared, with everything piled to the side near the north door they'd hacked down. They sent two over to check the piled "desk," casks, etc. and the rest started on the south door. As they did, seven hobgoblins burst into the room - six plus a sergeant. They charged the PCs. In a brisk fight, the PCs killed them all - but took some wounds in the process. They decided to head north to clear out the hobgoblins and find the way into the complex, hoping for stairs down ("stairs down" was a theme by now.) They heard lots of them coming - dozens, maybe.

So they backed off to the south door. Dread Delgath used Wall of Fire from his Wand of Fire, using 2 of its 4 charges, to block the hobgoblins off.

They forced the south door open, and again, the mummies appeared. They opined they weren't mummies, but Karraway got ready to turn them anyway. They advanced slowly. They spotted a metal mirror on the west wall, and were sure it was a secret door. They were only willing to spend one round looking, a few of them looked around for loose flagstones, triggers, wall buttons, pulled on torch sconces, etc. A round wasn't much and they couldn't find a trigger. They headed towards the impatiently moaning and gesturing mummies. Eventually they got most of the way down the hallway and saw it had a mirror at the end on an angle - the mummies rushed around the bend and attacked. As they did, the secret door they'd suspected opened up and out came six hobgoblins and a leader with a sling - the same ones as before, actually, from two previous encounters. The PCs didn't have anyone keeping watch on the rear so risked surprise on a 1-3, but I rolled a 6. They ended up in a double-ended fight as the hobgoblins charged. They had an option to fight two-across or three-across, and they chose three. Dread cast Slow and Karraway tried to Turn Undead.

The back rank was Freda, Eljayess, and Kayen Telva (with 5 HP left). The front faced the mummies with Elwita, "Ogre," and Karraway. They slogged out a fight. Freda killed a hobgoblin right away and then couldn't hit for the rest of the fight. Kayen Telva took 4 HP of damage and stayed in melee until eventually he took another hit and dropped at -2 or -3 HP. One of the mummies got killed right away, and then Dread's Slow went off. They hacked down the slowed "mummies" in a round or two. After Kayen went down Karraway turned and cast Hold Person on the hobgoblins in the back, holding the leader and two others. They meleed the one still standing for maybe 4-5 rounds as the door behind them was being hacked down. They finally put him down, just as Karraway finished beating the held hobgoblins to death (it's slower than Gold Box video games make it seem, by strict AD&D rules). They sent Freda to check the secret door, but he didn't see much as the door was hacked down. They ran. They forced their way into the next room, but hobgoblins pursued them. Karraway spiked the door shut with two spikes as the hobgoblins who took the secret door burst in from the north. They fought them and took them all out, but again, lost some HP doing so. They forced a door to the north into a carpeted hallway lined with curtains. Freda tried to slash one down but almost broke his sword on the wall. So they spiked the door shut behind them, and ran up the corridor, seeking to put as much space between them and the hobgoblins. They found a door and forced it open, easily, and found it was a looted storeroom. They headed along. The curtains and carpet ended suddenly. They advanced.

And Elwita and Ogre fell into a pit. It was 10' deep and 7' across. They took a lot of damage - the pit was 1-6 for being 10' deep, plus 3-6 rusty spikes for 1-6 each. Elwita took 26 HP, "Ogre" 9 HP. Freda jumped the pit hoping to help them across, but hit a black-painted wire 4' off the ground and fell back into the pit and took ~25 HP. Elwita and Freda were both out. Blodgett and Kayen were in the pit, bleeding to death. They managed to get "Ogre" out, grab some gear from the fallen, and run as they heard hobgoblins coming.

From there they kept forcing doors, and eventually found their goal - stairs down! They found them in a damp room with tuns of water with spigots. They spiked the door shut and went down the stairs . . . and found their way to the fort's well. No exits.

They unspiked the door and continued on.

The next room they penetrated had stadium seating on the four walls, filled with slack-jawed and staring humans neck-shackled to the wall, surrounded by flittering shadows. A hobgoblin stood slack-jawed at the far end. They moved in to kill the hobgoblin and get across the room, but felt anxious as they did. As they reached the far end, they barely heard a sound, just at the bottom edge of their hearing. It unnerved them a bit but they made their saves. In a moment, a cloak from the far wall detached itself and flew at them, moaning - a cloaker! (They'd fought one in my GURPS game.)

It tried to moan them into nausea, and failed. They chopped at it, and Elwita, Karraway, and "Ogre" all hit it. It tried to Hold "Ogre" and succeeded. It enveloped "Ogre" and started to tail-smash Elwita. They just couldn't hit it, and eventually it knocked out Elwita with its tail. Dread burned it with Burning Hands twice, which hurt it badly and finished off unconscious and held "Ogre," putting him below -10 HP. Eljayess drank his Potion of Speed, passed his System Shock roll for aging a year from magic (a 30 against a 97% chance) and finally hit it with his spear and finished it off.

Then there were three. Eljayess speared the hobgoblin in the eye, Dread took his cloak (it was a Cloak of Protection +2 it turns out), and they headed in further. They spent a little time trying to force a door before deciding to just check the hallway to the end.

At the end, they found a door and immediately forced it. (As in, "We force the door [roll, roll] and I made it.") So they just ran to the door and bashed it in . . . and found themselves entering a kitchen/feast hall, with a raging fire, a barricade of casks and barrels and a big wine cask in the middile, facing this guy, and his minions:

Icar, the 7' tall black man in black plate with no eye holes in his helmet, wielding the Two-Handed Sword +1 "Death's Master." (And the main reason I wanted to run A2, part 1.)

We checked but no surprise.

Eljayess still had 3 rounds left of his Potion of Speed, so he launched a Javelin of Piercing at Icar and hit for 8 damage.

Initiative was tied.

Some hairy humans threw axes - all at Karraway - and one hit, just as he finished a Command spell on Icar to "Surrender!" - he made his save with ease, rolling a 17.

Dread threw a flask of oil into the fire. It splashed on Icar, who ignored the burning oil on himself.

Karraway's second javelin (Haste) hit Icar and did 11 more damage. 19 so far!

Next round, hobgoblins popped up and threw axes, Icar kicked out the supports of a big wine cask and sent it tumbling at the party, and the humans ducked and hid.

Dread's second oil flask missed badly and hit no one. Eljayess ran in, sword out, and took cover. The rolling wine barrel took out Karraway, knocking him out (he was down ~2 HP) and ending the Spiritual Hammer spell he was trying to cast, and Dread was hurt and stunned for 1 round. The hobgoblins threw axes at Eljayess but missed (medium range and low AC, as he upgraded gear as PCs went down.)

The next round Icar moved up and attacked Eljayess, and wounded him, and then got his second attack (# of AT 3/2) and finished him off just as Eljayess was trying Command to "Surrender."

Not that Command would have ended the fight - surrender, yes, but it's 1 round duration.

Out of options, Dread Delgath attacked Icar with his dagger, rolled a 17, and missed. Icar cut him down.

And thus ended the attempt to defeat the slavers.


Well, that was fun. I'm glad they got to the final battle. I assumed Icar was confident in his fort, and not willing to stop his party just because of attackers . . . he'd deal with them personally if they made it that far. An upside of evil is you can sacrifice your minions without a care, and a downside is you can't trust them to do the hard work and need to put in a hand personally. I'm sad they didn't get there with enough juice in the tank to compete in it, or even win it. It wasn't looking good at the start of the session and it wasn't really possible after the second pit trap. Even hits on every strike and failures on every enemy save in the last fight wouldn't have won it for them.

Speaking of which, that second pit trap was obscenely lethal. Detecting it would have been possible with some caution, but once you fall in it . . . 1d6 damage plus 1d4+2 x 1d6 damage. So a range of 4-42 damage. Average 3.5+(4.5*3.5)=19.25 points. That's more than average damage for falling in a 50' pit or getting hit by a fire giant (5-30, av. 17.5). Plus, the more spikes you land on, the more damage you take? Very old school, but wouldn't the more spike you hit potentially mean more distribution of landing force and thus less depth of penetration? And AC doesn't matter, so landing on it in plate armor and landing on it with nothing . . . same. It just seems a bit much. In a campaign game, I'd nerf that trap a lot.

The whole mission was really on the edge of failure after that first bloody fight in the courtyard. Once the PCs lost Blodgett, they lost a lot of ability to deal with locks and traps. They also really wanted to avoid the straight-up-the-middle approach the tournament module demanded, and spent a lot of time trying to get around the "obvious" mummy trap. Hacking up the door to the north meant that I had to deploy monsters not included in the tournament - lots and lots of hobgoblins. They cost the PCs ammunition, spells, charges off the wand, and HPs they couldn't get back. I couldn't let them off like the tournament demands because they legitimately made efforts to get to the guard barracks and spent extra time messing around, noisily and violently.

The "mummies" didn't fool them - no one thought they were mummies - but it did result in an excess of caution that harmed them greatly. Net/net, that set piece encounter worked. They dithered in front of it, and when they eventually went for it they were down on HP, characters, and spells. They ended up losing a PC in the fight, wasted time Turning, used up 2 precious charges on the wand (on the other hobgoblins, thank to their first attempt to avoid the mummies), used up their only 3rd level M-U spell, and a Hold Person spell. So maybe they didn't buy them as mummies, but they ended up paying more than it was worth to defeat three disguised hobgoblins. They rightly suspected a trap, and worried it was a pit, but never really chose any of the options early enough - attack, search for a secret door, or use magic such as a Fireball to just clear the area.

Hold Person - save vs. spells, or paralyze? I went with Spells.

Karraway has a scroll of Raise Dead. That's utterly useless in a tournament setting for AD&D. I'd thought it must be because this was written pre-AD&D, but no, it's a 1980 tournament. So what gives? Assumption you wouldn't run the spell by the book, just a feel good item, a way to question the dead if you bring them back? They used it on "Ogre." So he's a slave, now. Heh.

Oddly, they ended the game with a lot of spells left. No obvious offensive ones, but ones like Spider Climb, ESP, Invisibility, (Although Kayen died with Sleep, though, and Charm Person), a Potion of Clairaudience, Suggestion . . . I think they just didn't know how to use them. Maybe next time I'll divvy up the characters a week out so people have time to read the spells and think about how to try and use them.

Next time we play, I'm going to do a post-session inventory. People weren't sure how many spikes they had, how many arrows, who had what item from Blodgett, etc. I made us type out remaining HP in Roll20 but I think it's worth going for the whole deal.

Also next time we play, we're using Weapon Speed. Maybe Weapon vs. Armor Type, too, just see how it actually plays out.

But again, this was a lot of fun. I love GURPS, but I am having a total blast running AD&D. It demands a very different approach in some ways, yet rewards a lot of the same sensible actions. You just have different resources for the job.

Next AD&D will likely be A2, the subterranean levels, with the same PCs. IIRC they upgrade, gear anyway, for A3. We'll start afresh like we did with this one. I'm hoping to play it soon, while AD&D is still in people's heads.

AD&D Today - A2, Section A, Part II

We're playing AD&D today - Part II of A2, Section A. When we last left, the PCs were down Blodgett, the halfling thief, out of healing, and fairly well mauled.

They'd just hacked down the door to what seems like the hobgoblin's barracks area. Behind them is a trapped hallway with a door outside, where the guards are alert. Ahead of them is a long hallways with three mummies, and some hobgoblins that took a shot at them with a slign from behind.

What will they do? Forge on ahead - whichever direction "ahead" means here - or try to fight it out in place? Will they find the secret of the slaver's stockade and complete their mission? Or will they ignominiously submit to a "what would have happened, had you lived" post-action assessment?

Let's find out, shall we?

Saturday, September 26, 2020

The Rest of My Order - Zayene & Arcane Treasury

I mentioned my (re-)purchase of Battlesystem yesterday.

What else did I get?

I purchased some Rob Kuntz stuff.

First of them, the one I went looking for, was El Raja Key's Arcane Treasury. I saw a mention of it over on The Blue Bard, and then looked and saw a review over on Grognardia. They intrigued me enough to take a look. It doesn't seem to be available in PDF, but it wasn't much on Noble Knight Games.

So now I have this:

While I was there, I figured I'd fill out my "Zayene" series of adventures.

I picked up the first of these, the D20 version of M1 Prisoners of the Maze, at a gaming store that was down the block from my martial arts school. That's the same place I purchased the Silver Anniversary set, too. I purchased the second either there or another game store. Now I've finally gotten the last two. I don't particularly mind that they're different editions.

I'm not sure I'll ever run them, although the first one especially has a lot going for it, especially as a one-shot and not a campaign drop-in. I'd need to basically re-write it for AD&D or GURPS, though, as I don't run 3rd edition-compatible D&D. It would be easier to re-write it for GURPS than for me to convert it to AD&D, though. I'd actually be better off getting the original versions if I intended to run them in AD&D. The other two that I just purchased, I'm not sure yet - I need to spend the time to read them all in a row.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Battlesystem 1st edition - repurchased

I received a package from Noble Knight Games.* Someone mentioned a book I'd never heard of, which sounded interesting. I couldn't find a PDF for sale, so I checked Noble Knight Games. They had it, along with modules 3 and 4 in a 4-book series I own 1 and 2 of. But I figured, while I'm there and ordering, I should see if they have some other things I'd like.

One of them was a boxed set of TSR's Battlesystem.

They had two - one unpunched, and one partly-punched. The unpunched had a better box condition . . . so I ordered it. It arrived today:

The cover depicts the fantasy battle we all want to have played, but didn't.

Everything is as-described. It lacks the minis, which is fine. Less fine is the fact that the record sheets have clearly been folded over in the box for years. Ugh.

But hurrah! I have an intact copy of the AD&D mass combat system. Thanks to a used bookstore pickup years ago, I own the original Companion Set and Masters Set books so I have War Machine, too.

The annoying thing is, I owned Battlesystem. As far as I know, I still own it. While I did give away all of my duplicate books at one point, and I did box up and sell off a big whack of gaming material, I don't recall selling Battlesystem. I doubt I would - I really like the rules, and I still have pieces of the sheets (both the originals and hand-typed ones for my own big battles) in one of my folders. I found it when I went digging for my battlesystem rules.

I just couldn't find the rest of the rules.

I have the two minis from the set, and painted the one I liked better. I have all of the counters (well, I'm sure I lost a few). But the box? Long gone. The rulebooks? I just can't find them. The painting guide? It's not with my mini painting guides I have handy, and I can't lay my hand on it. It's very mysterious. Like I said, it's not something I would have given away, I don't throw out game materials, and who would buy random bits of Battlesystem even if I did sell it?

Hopefully I'll stumble across it.

As it stands, though, now, I have a complete set, minus the minis, unpunched. The counters will stay unpunched in case I ever do sell it. I have enough if I want to use the system anyway. Another 801 counters isn't going to make my left better. All I really needed was the rulebooks and tables.

I'm not sure I'll get to use it, but I hope so. I played a lot of Battlesystem in the 80s. I played every battle in the book, and ran the battles from Dragonlance modules, too. I bought H1 Bloodstone Pass and played that out by myself since no one wanted to play a mass-combat centered game.

I have to admit I was surprised when I found some real hate for Battlesystem on the blogs back when I started reading them. Or just antipathy and a general, "It sucks" attitude. I really like it, and I found it worked as scale-modified AD&D pretty well.

We used it in my big Unearthed Arcana-era AD&D game in high school. Only myself and one of my players thought that was interesting, and ending the campaign with a big battle (using Old Stoney, the castle from Dragon magazine, as the objective) was probably a mistake. It was probably going to end anyway, as people had started to drift out of gaming or into different groups. Which was also too bad because everyone was name level by that point - an 8th/12th ranger/druid, a 10th or 11th level Cavalier-based Paladin, an 11th level magic-user, a 9th level fighter a small army of troops and some henchmen, another paladin around 8th level, a thief of some significant level (11th? 12th? I can't recall), and they had just started as a group to enjoy bossing around the NPCs. A lost chance, I suppose.

Now, all I need to make me really happy is a replacement copy of X10 Red Arrow, Black Shield. I should just invest the money in getting the PDF version I do own printed nicely and the counters printed on cardstock, so I could play it again. I know that in my current group maybe 1-2 people might be into it, but I suspect most of the group would just want the war in the background and chafe at needing to do diplomacy and just want to kill things. That reason alone stays my hand on the "Print" button.

In any case, thanks Noble Knight Games. I'm quite pleased.

* I remember ordering from them back in the day when they'd mail a .csv file with a list of books. My copy of Elric! and Sea Kings of the Purple Towns and some Twilight:2000 modules are from them. I missed out on Sorcerers of Pan-Tang, which someone else bought before my order arrived. That was . . . mid-90s?

(Editing later - Rob Conley has an Ascending AC Adaptation for Battlesystem.)

(Editing Even Later - James Maliszewski did an interview with Douglas Niles, game designer for Battleystem.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Might & Magic I magic items in GURPS DF

The magic items in Might & Magic I are more interesting than they seem at first glance. For example, you can have a Staff +1 or a Staff +2. Easy comparison, right? Staff +2 is better as it has better "to hit" and damage. But the Staff +1 gives a +1 to Intellect, the Staff +2 gives a +2 to Luck. For a wizard, that +1 to Intellect means more magical power, while a +2 to Luck is just a nice bonus to saving throws. You might want one or the other, but it's not as clear cut as "+2 beats +1.

I am always a fan of items with additional effects or tradeoffs.

I'm also a fan of stealing ideas from video games, such as item sets (see DFT3, p. 5), although the idea of items bits with power that have more as a whole goes at least back to the Rod of Seven Parts in the AD&D DUNGEONMASTERS GUIDE.

One of the PCs in my game has a "Belt of Power" - I think he's written it down as a "Belt of Might." It's an item easy enough to make with GURPS Magic, but the reason for it is that I loved finding those in Might & Magic I back in the day.

As I've been playing the game, I found a few more items I thought would make good Dungeon Fantasy magic items.

Elemental Shield

Elemental shields come in several varieties - fire, electricity, cold, or acid. They are medium shields with Deflect +2, but when held ready provide an additional 10 DR against attacks inflicting using the same type as the shield. The shield itself will take no damage from that damage type.

Smelling Salts

A crystal vial full of strongly-smelling vapors, which, when properly mixed and released, are especially effective at waking people up. When held and opened (which takes one second), it release the vapors. Allows all within a 2-yard radius of the user a roll at HT+5 to wake up - at -3 if unconcious from injury, -6 if drugged. Has no effect on magical effects that are not stictly "sleeping," such as Suspended Animation or Daze. The vial is not a grenade, however, and smashing it is not terribly effective - if it does break, it usually doesn't mix very efficiently and it will work at reduced effect. The HT roll will be at HT-2, not HT+5. Has no effect on victims with Doesn't Breathe or No Sense of Smell/Taste.

0.5 lbs, $100.

Staff of Curing Poison

Casts Instant Neutralize Poison with no chance of failure on a subject when the bearer touches them and wills it so. Requires Power Investiture or Magery, but also requires the bearer to be basically good (GM's call on what counts - usually one or more of Honesty, Sense of Duty (Good Entities), or Intolerance ("Evil" religions) and no negative traits.) Once per subject per day. The bearer is also immune to poison while holding the staff ready. If used in combat, treat it as a normal quarterstaff with Puissance +2.

Those three items are a good start, I think, on the fun that Might & Magic I has to offer to a DF game. I didn't bother with costs, but it's possible to price these out if you intend to allow them to be on the market or sold.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Might & Magic Update

One of these treasures doesn't belong:

I have to hand it to Might & Magic I here. I'd forgotten that they had 10' poles as loot. They don't seem to do anything - you can't equip them, and the (U)se command does nothing.

Maybe it's a quest item . . . some items seem to be. If garlic, belladonna, and wolfsbane do anything except satisfy a quest chain designed to get you to move around the map . . . I don't know. They don't seem to be.

When I last mentioned the game, I was really hurting for cash. I was constantly broke, barely able to afford food and had to re-load when I found a cursed item because I was too broke to conceive of finding enough cash to remove it.

Basically, I spent a fair amount of time grinding. I got killed a number of times, and had to re-start from my last save (a native feature of the game.) I lost a lot of time when I'd get massacred by some wandering monsters before I could save.

But once I got rolling, it was fine. I got just high enough level to beat a group of wyverns over at the Wyvern Peaks and survive to rest and replenish. So then I could repeat that. The wyverns were worth a substantial amount of xp - 1333 - 2333, most of the time - and dropped between 300-700 gp per character per fight. I went from "slow level raise" and "broke" to going up a levels quickly and accumulating a 150,000 gp in no time.

I played before a long time ago, so I know that a) there was a castle with a fountain that converts gp to xp, and b) it was Castle Dragadune, and c) where to go to get to said castle.

So I did. My first time I spread the gold out, which leveled everyone. From then on, I built up some gold and then went back and dumped it all on my cleric. Once the cleric was level 14 and had the 7th-level spells that max out the game, I did the same with the wizard. Once they were both level 14, I did a few runs to fill out my gold, used the Duplication spell to copy a few useful magic items out to the group, and then started in on more quest-like things:

- Discovering the secret of Portsmith.

- Clearing the Minotaur's Lair

- Finding some aliens (M&M is a magic-flavored-with-superscience game)

Now I'm chasing down clues since I'm strong enough that the monsters I was grinding off of have started to flee from me.

So, so much note-taking in this game. At least these days I can just take a screenshot or a picture of the screen with my phone. Fun stuff. If they only had Gems to (P)eer in Ultima style it would be save me time remembering how to get around.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

AD&D Rules: Weapon & Armor Class Adjustment

Another post about AD&D - which I mean as 1st edition AD&D, as I never played and won't be running 2nd edition.

Today: Armor Class Adjustment, aka Weapon vs. Armor Type.

This is one of the rules I wanted to try, but never really played with. I'd bust it out when I was trying to run combats just like the one in the AD&D DMG (p. 71), and the adjustments were written on the AD&D record sheets, but it didn't really see any play. That's despite some bits that would have make a munchkin smile - more on that, below.

Weapons getting a bonus or penalty versus a specific armor type is one "those rules" in AD&D. You know the ones - fiddly, very specific, based on some odd assumptions, and provide a lot of complexity for a relatively limited gain. And it's spread across two books, as usual - the adjustments are in the PLAYERS HANDBOOK, and how to apply them appears in the DUNGEONMASTERS GUIDE.


If you allow weapon type adjustments in your campaign please be certain to remember that these adjustments are for weapons versus specific types of armor, not necessarily against actual armor class. In most cases, monsters not wearing armor will not have any weapon type adjustment allowed, as monster armor class in such cases pertains to the size, shape, agility, speed, and/or magical nature of the creature. Not excluded from this, for example, would be an iron golem. However, monsters with horny or bony armor might be classed as plate mail if you so decide, but do so on a case-by-case basis. Naturally, monsters wearing armor will be subject to weapon type "to hit" adjustment.

It applies to armor, using weapons, and not against monsters unless you choose to use it. And it's explicitly optional, which is not always the case for AD&D rules. I think the best explanation of its use in play isn't in any of the books, it's in Dragon Magazine #74, in an article explaining how to use the Combat Calculator.*

Regardless of the actual armor class a piece of equipment provides its wearer, the apparent AC of that armor is the same as for all armor of that type. The armor class adjustments given in the Players Handbook, and reproduced on the Combat Computer, only apply to apparent armor classes ? those between 2 and 10 inclusive. For example, a man in +3 chain mail has an armor class of 2, for combat purposes. But the apparent AC of his armor is 5, just as for all types of chain mail. The armor class adjustments for weapons apply to all objects of a certain armor type, magical or not.
Laura and Tracy Hickman**, Dragon #74, p. 41 (June 1983)

This rule is easily misunderstood, too. It's weapon vs. Armor Type, not versus Armor Class. It's an easy mistake to make - such as here.

The problem of monsters, and armor type for unarmored monsters, is an issue. Most people deal with it by ignoring this whole rule. A gamer named Rob Paige mailed Dragon Magazine to find out, and received this answer:

Armor class dilemma

In regard to the Combat Computer in issue #74: I have found it a great help in running my campaign, and I think you did a great job in explaining how to use it. However, I have a problem with apparent and enhanced armor class.
Obviously, not all creatures wear armor with set AC values, but instead they depend on their natural armor and/or dexterity. The article states, "regardless of the actual AC a piece of equipment provides its wearer, the apparent AC of that armor is the same for all armor of that type." This presents problems.

Suppose I wish to handle melee between a group of adventurers and a xorn. The xorn wears no armor, is not too quick on its feet, and (to the best of my knowledge) doesn't improve its AC value through any magical means. Thus its AC value of -2 must be enhanced by its natural stone-like shell. What is the apparent AC of stone-mail?

The same goes for the apparent AC of, say, Asmodeus. To the best of my knowledge he does not wear any armor. Since his AC of -7 is obviously enhanced by some means, what would his apparent AC be - 10? That can't be right.
This is mostly a minor complaint (since I'm sure there are many DMs out there who disregard AC adjustments altogether) but if there is any reasonable answer to this dilemma, I would be happy to hear it.

Rob Paige
Cheney, Wash.

We checked out this question with Tracy Hickman, who is on the TSR design staff was the creator of the Combat Computer. He told us what we expected to hear - namely, that no provision exists in the AD&D(tm) rules for taking AC adjustments in to consideration in cases like the ones Rob describes, which is why the Combat Computer didn't address the question.

The problem can't really be solved (short of an official addition to the rules), but it can be handled in one of two ways:
(a) Don't use any armor class adjustment for weapon type against creatures with an AC of better than 2, when that armor class can't be equated to an "apparent" AC, or (b) Treat any "problem" AC as if the creature in question had an actual armor class of 2, which is as low as the armor class adjustment table in the Players Handbook goes. - KM

Dragon #82, p. 4 (February 1984)

"KM" is Kim Mohan, editor of Dragon Magazine at this time.

The logic in the answer makes sense - either use it where it applies, or apply the bottom modifier to everything below. With Unearthed Arcana, the existance of Field Plate (AC 2, 1 with shield) (which is also in the DMG, p. 27) and Full Plate (AC 1, 0 with shield) extends these rules to AC 0. In case B you could treat everything below AC 0 as AC 0.

Neither is really satisfying, though, is it? The first is more so, to me, but it's not that great. Once you're chucking the rule sometimes, why are you not chucking the rule the whole time and just making your life easier? It's really not as easy, as, say, armor divisors in GURPS that only work against worn DR - differentiating worn DR from natural DR is easy enough as it's defined seperately in the ruleset from the get-go. In D&D, what makes your AC your AC is really only clear for PCs and NPCs, and can be guessed to a degree with humanoid foes.

The second means that against anything with AC 2 (or AC 0) or better, certain weapons are just totally hosed . . . and others are great. Two-handed swords get a +2 to hit against everything in the game. Monks have enough trouble with open hand, but now they'll be at -7 to hit anything with negative AC (-9 if using UA and AC 0, and even worse with a bo or jo.) Geez, thanks. The only saving grace on that is that -7 is so damn much it just sets all below-zero ACs to -8 to -10***, which at a sufficiently high level a monk can hit with a 17-20. The 17th level Grandmaster of Flowers hits AC -10 on a 20. Meanwhile Joe Schmoe level 1 fighter with a two-handed sword (+2 vs. AC 0, or AC 2) hits AC -7 with a 22 (a natural 20, +2, if using the rules under Progression on the Combat Tables, DMG p. 82).

Like I said, unsatisfying. This starts with a good, basic idea - some weapons penetrate armor well, some are designed to fight less-armored folks and do better against them - ye old longsword vs. rapier comparison (one's for dealing with armored foes, by armored foes, and the other for killing other people in town). Then it turns it into a quick shopping trip for the best weapon vs. AC 2 (or AC 0) and just using those, and hosing people who chose poorly. I also makes for nonsense like ghosts (AC 0) and brownies (AC 3) being best dealt with by using armor-piercing weaponry, just like red dragons (AC -1) and bullete (AC -2 in spots) or umber hulks (AC 2).

There are some aspects to the rule, though, that make it attractive to bonus-hunting players:
- one magic item, the Staff of Striking, is always the best possible weapon versus an AC type. That's a +2 to +4 to hit every type of armor.
- two-handed swords are amazing. Weapon Speed 10 sucks if you're using those rules, they need a lot of room - 6' - but get a +1 to +3 against every armor type except AC 10. +2 or +3 against most armor types is huge - it takes 18/00 ST to get a +3 to hit, and this would stack.
- the footman's flail is an excellent one-handed weapon, especially if you use ruling b) from Kim Mohan's answer. Amusingly, it's -1 vs. AC 10 and +1 vs. AC 9, so picking up a shield gives you +1 to your AC and the flail comes and negates it.
- A morning star is a good second, although it doesn't get that sweet plus against everything that answer b) give the footman's flail.
- daggers and shortswords make great backstabbing weapons against magic-users, who are usually going to be AC 10 armor type, getting +3 and +2 to hit, respectively.
- long bows are amongst the best anti-armor ranged weapons. Not composite ones, though, just traditional ones. This is the "Crecy and Agincourt were won by bows shooting through plate" line of thought, which I think more modern history has discarded.

Some of those make the rule attractive to use - you get some real choice in weapons, and trading off a shield and a faster and lighter sword for a zweihander suddenly seems an awesome choice, and not just for 1d10/3d6 damage. I'd expect to see a lot of guys who take two-handed sword, footman's flail, and dagger for melee and a longbow for their missile weapon.

Of course, this requires: - another number to look up; - another number to apply to AC prior to a table lookup; - accepting the fishy numbers (and weirdness were armor type changes if you have a shield, and mysteriously matches the next better armor without a shield) - deciding how to deal with monsters, both for and against.
I've mentioned Anthony over at The Blue Bard a few times in this series. He uses these rules . . . but applies it to Armor Class, not Armor Type. He also only applies it for weapons, for PCs, so monsters don't use these rules. Like I said before, I'm not sure I could live with that.

This falls under one of those rules I'd like to try, just to see how they affect play - especially in scenarios where the PCs face a variety of armor types with a variety of weapons. But they're really a set of rules that don't completely cover the game system in front of you. The gaping hole of how to handle monsters and monster attacks - either ignore them or apply a patch - doesn't really add a lot of attraction to using it. But I might try, just to get the actual play experience of them. You really need to see a rule in actual play to see how it really plays . . . but you don't need to see how a rule will play to know if you're interested in trying it out or not. So we'll see.

* I had one of these, assembled and working . . . and I sold it years ago when I was clearing out old stuff, along with a bunch of character record sheets for AD&D. I kind-of regret selling the record sheets, but honestly I didn't need them and don't need them. I really regret selling the combat calculator, especially right now. I may need to make one using this post.

** The Dragonlance Hickmans, yes.

*** Really, really important rule in AD&D - Important Note Regarding "To Hit" Adjustments, DMG, p. 70. Modifiers that lower your "to hit" instead improve the AC of the target, so you're not making it impossible to roll a 20 and hit some of the ACs where only a 20 can hit (see Progression on the Combat Tables, DMG p. 82) if you're using that optional rule. Not that the example combat uses them this way, but it's worthy of its own post.

Monday, September 21, 2020

AD&D Rules: Weapon Speed Factor

I'm going to do a faily steady series of posts for a while about AD&D - the rules I use, the ones I don't, why I do things the way I do, etc. We've played some sessions of AD&D and I think I'd like to get a slightly more frequent use of the rules system in at some point.

Today: Weapon Speed.

First and foremost - I don't think I ever played with Weapon Speed Factors (hereafter, Weapon Speed or WSF.) I played in plenty of games where we wrote it down but not one where I recall playing it. If we did, it wasn't by the rules as written.

I do intend to play with Weapon Speed at some point - and maybe even Weapon Type vs. Armor - in one of the A-series of adventures, just to try it out in actual play. This post is meant to explain why I haven't done so yet and my feelings about the rules approach behind them.

It is worth noting that I co-authored GURPS Martial Arts, and it explicitly contains rules for weapon length and speed in it for those who seek extra detail. It's not that I think weapon speed is a bad concept, just that I think the execution in AD&D is needlessly complex.

Weapon Speed Factors

This material is based on the AD&D DUNGEONMASTERS GUIDE, pg. 66-67

According to Simultaneous Initiative, if both sides tie the initiative die, WSF determines who goes first. A fist isn't a great weapon but with a WSF of 1 it smokes a longsword (5) which beats a two-handed sword (10). As a base, it's a way to break ties.

The issues for me comes up in this next part: Weapon Speed Factor.

In the second paragraph, it says:

When weapon speed factor is the determinont of which opponent strikes first in a melee round, there is a chance that one opponent will be entitled to multiple attacks.

If WSF of the slower is twice that of the faster, or +5 higher, the faster weapon gets to strike twice before the slower weapon. If it's 10+, the faster weapon gets two attacks before, and then one after, the slower weapon. (That second case, by the way, only comes up for WSF 1-3 weapons vs. the Pike at WSF 13 - no other weapon has higher than a 10 or lower than a 1.)

Further, WSF does come up on non-tied initiative, for multi-segment spell-casting vs. fast weapons. You:

1) Subtract the losing initiative die from the winning, treating negative results as positive.
2) Compare the WSF of the combatants, applying #1 as a modifier.

And then, well, here is what the DMG says verbatim:

Example: A sword with a factor of 5 (broad or long) is being used by an opponent of a magic-user attempting to cast a fireball spell (3 segment casting time). If the sword-wielding attacker was represented by a losing initiative die roll of 1, the spell will be cast prior to the sword's blow. A 2 will indicate that the spell and the blow are completed simultaneously. A 3-5 will indicate that the blow has a chance of striking (if a successful "to hit" roll is made) before the spell is cast, arriving either as the spell is begun or during the first segment of its casting. Suppose instead that a dagger were being employed. It has a speed factor of only 2, so it will strike prior to spell completion if the initiative roll which lost was 1-4 (the adjusted segment indicator being 1, 0, 1, 2 respectively) and simultaneously if the die score was a 5. If the weapon being employed was a two-handed sword (or any other weapon with a speed factor of 10, or 9 for that matter) there would be no chance far the reacting side to strike the spell caster prior to completion of the fireball. Note that even though a spell takes but 1 segment to complete, this is 6 seconds, and during that period a reacting attacker might be able to attack the magic-user or other spell caster prior to actual completion of the spell! If combat is simultaneous, there is no modification of the weapon speed factor.

I find that difficult to parse. ADDICT spells it out better:

a. When the attacker wins initiative, the weapon will always strike prior to spell completion.
b. When initiative is tied, a straight comparison of weapon speed factor to spell casting time will determine which occurs first. Simultaneous results are possible.
c. When the attacker loses initiative, subtract the attacker’s losing initiative die from the weapon speed factor (treating negative numbers as positive), and compare the result to the spell casting time to determine which occurs first. Again, simultaneous results are possible.

The two spell casters have closed to melee range. Bigby starts casting power word, kill (one segment). Riggby attacks with his staff of the serpent. If Riggby wins initiative, he will strike first. If initiative is tied, the one-segment spell will beat the speed factor 4 staff. As it turns out, Bigby wins initiative 6-4. Riggby’s speed factor (4) minus his losing die roll (4) equals 0, so he actually beats the one-segment spell. (He still needs to score a hit, though.)

I find that pretty ugly. Take a look at that example. Riggby can beat a 1-segment spell if he wins initiative, or loses with a high die roll, but he loses on a tie. Bigby is better off with a tie than a victory, depending on the victory. If he wins 2-1, or 3-2, he's fine. If he wins 3-1 or 4-2, he's still okay. If he wins 5-3, it's a tie (1 segment spell, WSF 4 - 3 = 1) and if Riggby hits, he interrupts the spell. If he wins 6-5, he's in a tie again, but he's not with a 2-1 or 3-2. Margin of success doesn't matter quite as much as the losing die's number relative to its weapon speed. Since you treat a negative as a positive, a WSF of 2 and 6-4 loss means a 2, not a 0, and now you're slower than the spell again. And if that's not the case, the wording of the rule is not conducive to understanding what is the intended result there. The DMG example seems to support the idea that a lower WSF can sometimes be worse than a slower one for beating a spellcaster getting off a spell.

Does your head hurt yet? Mine does. Maybe I'm reading it wrong . . . but I don't think so.

(BTW, it's cute but annoying to chose similar-sounding names to explain a difficult concept.)

Conceptually, one of the big issues I have is how and when they matter. Most of the time, they do not matter at all. If your side wins the initiative roll, WSF doesn't matter at all. It's only on a tie that they matter. The weird Gary Gygax thing you see in, say, surprise, where 1 = surprised, 2 = completely surprised, 3-6 = not surprised rears its head here. Rolling a 4 on initiative when the other guys roll a 3 is not as good for you as if you rolled a 4 and the other guys rolled a 4, too, if you have a faster weapon. If you have a slower weapon, no matter how much slower, it doesn't matter if you win the initiative. If you have a faster weapon, no matter how much faster, it doesn't matter if you lose the initiative. Rather than just make the roll a determination of initiative and WSF affect that, or using WSF instead of initiative to determine strike order, it's this weird tiebreaker that can result in a vastly superior or inferior result that either winning or losing initiative.

But that's not true with spells. With them, you need to apply this second comparison where the initiative die matters.

Not only do people with much-faster weapons want a tie, people with much-slower ones are better off losing initiative than tying. Spell casts need clear victories on initiative, with a very low roll for the bad guys. For a monster, unarmed, WSF is presumably a 1 (Fist or Open Hand). But maybe not. I've seen how Anthony over at The Blue Bard writes this up, but he handles multiple attacks in a way that obviates the need to know most monster's WSF. Nothing in the AD&D DMG or MM discusses attack speed for monsters.

I'm not the only one who found this mind-bending. Way back in Dragon #71, Ronald Hall had an article* called "Attack Priority." That's the article that helped me understand what the heck the DMG was saying on p. 66-67. Cut me some slack - my reading comprehension isn't perfect, and I was probably 12 at the time when I got that as a back-issue ordered from TSR's Mail Order Hobby House. I didn't use that system in the article at all, but I did find it interesting. The idea of an initiative system that works like die roll + modifiers = when you go . . . it's workable, even with initaitive for a side and modifiers for weapon speed. It needs a full retool of the AD&D system, like in Ronald Hall's article, but it would use weapon speed and spell casting time well.

Like I said, I'll use WSF soon enough just to try them out. I'm not sure how I'll deal with the initiative and attacks vs. spells bit, especially when I fold in multiple attacks (a post on that coming soon.) But like I said, conceptually, I think WSF are a mishmash. The value of iniative dice mattering so thoroughly makes for a confusing system. I'll have to give that a think before I implement it. And it will play some hell with my way of using initiative dice rolls to place initiative. I don't want to make a WSF house rule to use it, so I'll need to test out the rules as written and see how it plays out. This quote attributed to Gary Gygax doesn't help, much:

"Forget weapon speed factors. I must have been under the influence of a hex when I included them in the bloody rules."

If you think I've got something wrong in the above, by all means, point it out . . . but I need some rules citations (not just "see DMG 66-67" either - I'm seeing them now) to back you. I'm interested in the rules as written, here, and thus I need to be able to read the source and confirm interpretations are backed by them.

* Discussed in a kind of backhanded manner here.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Felltower, AD&D, and Gamma Terra update

Our most recent gaming has been our AD&D session with A2, played a week ago.

Our next Felltower game is a bit off - we have a scheduled second session for A2, Part I. I'd like to go straight into A2, Part II, but that might not work for the group. The more AD&D we play clustered together, the better it plays and the faster it runs.

After that, we've been discussing playing Gamma Terra. Our original plans for the other game day was some GT, but our GM was cruelly ambushed by work and wasn't able to complete prep.
So in another week, AD&D, then possibly AD&D or Gamma Terra, and then Dungeon Fantasy: Felltower.

For that reason I don't have too much of a Felltower update. I've been focused on AD&D at the moment for the current game.

That said, here is a list of things I owe the players for Felltower, so they can peruse it and so any blog-watches can see what's going on.

- Galen is sitting on a lot of money, so I need to coordinate with his player about better gear. I'm not sure what's better than what he has, except likely armor as he's got an old suit of pre-DFRPG weight Thieves' Mail.

- The PCs hired a sage to research the Osirians. I have to provide the results of said research before the next session.

- I believe some PCs have goods on order, but I'm not really sure who does. Generally they track it themselves, but still.

That should be all of the admin I need to do before the next session, but we'll see if I'm incorrect.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

AD&D - Why Segments make 1-Minute Rounds Work for Me

I used to hate the 1-minute melee round length in AD&D. It felt way too long for what happens. It did match those swords and sorcery books, where Moorcock and Burroughs and the like routinely describe people fencing for 10, 20, 30 minutes - even an hour - before a telling blow is struck. Realistically ludicrous, given the speed at which you can execute a strike.

But now, having run AD&D several times in the past couple of years with 1-minute melee rounds but using segments . . . I don't dislike the 1 minute round anymore.

Segments make a big difference.

It's something I wish I understood back in the early 80s when I was running AD&D.

If you're not familiar with them, here is a brief description based on my understanding of the rules.

Segments are six-second increments of time in AD&D. 10 of them comprise a round. Actions taken in combat occur on a specific segment of a round.

How we run them - and I believe this is by the rules as written, is that you roll initiative. Higher die has the initiative. The other side takes its first action on the segment number indicated by your die, and vice-versa.

For example, the PCs have encountered some hostile ogres. Neither side is surprised, and both are hostile - the ogres because they're CE, the PCs because they're PCs.* They roll for initiative. The PCs roll a 3. The ogres roll a 1. The PCs act starting on segment one. The ogres, segment three. Thus the PCs get to go first, and have a bit of time to act before the ogres do. The ogres still have a lot of time to act, it's just they don't get priority like the PCs do.

You can roll a 5 for initiative and the monsters a 4, so you go on segment 4 . . . and move (1 segment), ready a weapon (1 segment), and attack (1 segment) and resolve that attack on segment 6. If all they need to do is attack (1 segment) or cast Magic Missile (1 segment casting time), they resolve that attack on segment 5 and beat you out.

If you roll tying numbers - say they roll 4 and 4 on the next round when it begins - you start your round simultaneously. Weapon Speed matters if you're using it** as does the amount of stuff you need to get done.

I find that establishing initiative and then having possibly interspersed, pre-declared actions makes for an easy to run but chaotic-in-effect melee, and it adds a lot of tension. It's not roll, tune out, listen for your damage, ask who's still up, and then make your rolls.

Other reasons I like segments:

- you can have abstract combat with non-abstract timing, which is something players eventually crave. They want to throw a flask of oil and then slam the door. They want to wait for someone to come melee them. They want to move, attack, and then move back. You can make all of those pieces of one shorter combat round, but given segments you can organize them into an overall whole and require the person doing more to take more time to do it. If you come up on segment 2 from initiative and have 3 things to do before you strike, and your foe is on segment 3 and only needs one . . . he's going to strike first. It feels organic and excellent.

- it builds in hesitation. Someone I always admired in 1st edition Twilight:2000 was the Coolness Under Fire mechanic and hesitations. You were required to take a few "dead" moments in a series of turns, based on your CUF rating. (Aside - I didn't like the 0-hestitation for a CUF of 0, which everyone tried to angle for and would mysteriously roll up if you turned your back. But anyway.) AD&D segments do this. There is a real difference between rolling a 2 for initiative and winning against a 1, and rolling a 6 and beating a 5. One gives you a lot of time to act; the other contains some dead time, wasted moments. Those can be critical in a situation with timed effects.

- it allows for actions that are too long for a round. You can always spill over to the next round. This combines well with the previous situation - if you start a spell on segment 6 that takes 6 segments (Disintegrate, say), it won't go off until segment 2 of the next round. If your foes go on segment 1, they can interrupt you. If they have a 2, it's tied, and it goes off simultaneously. If they go on 3, your spell beats them. It adds a lot of tension to a decision to move and cast, because your segment or two of movement can mean the difference between getting the spell off or not. Depending on initiative.

I don't think you need segments to make combat work, but if you dispose of them I think shorter combat rounds are the way to go.

I do also agree with the complaint that, if I can do XYZ and finally attack on segment 10 and get a normal attack, it's reasonable that I could attack multiple times. Start on segment 1 and get 10 segments worth of attacks if you're not moving and neither is your foe - shoot 10 arrows a round, say, or swing 10 blows. Yeah, that does make some logical sense. But I feel like you lose some of the above - the need to time things, the overlap of actions, etc. And you really end up with straight-up GURPS style overlapping turns, and really should dispose of per-round initiative as something of no value to the system. You lose out an the fiction-like approach of a few telling blows landing and lots of action going on in favor of maximized attacks and a lowered ability to non-combat things. "Hold them off while I pick this lock" is a one-round thing in AD&D; in GURPS it's a whole combat and you may as well just drop the picks and join in and pick the lock later if you win.

If you'd like to read more about segments, check out The Blue Bard's post on them. I found these after we started using segment-based combat in our run through of WPM. Or read ADDICT. Or both.

* Aren't PCs always hostile to things with treasure and/or worth XP? The whole idea of clearing a dungeon is centered around maximizing both.

** I don't, but it's a post worth of explanation why not.

Friday, September 18, 2020

GURPS, AD&D, Might & Magic I, and Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord

Two video games I've played a lot of remind me of two different tabletop role-playing games I run.

Might & Magic I is a lot like GURPS

In M&M1, Stats are very important. Your Might really does determine how hard you hit. A high Speed is critical to go first. Accuracy determines if you hit at all. And so on.

Each race has costs and benefits that more or less equal out. Some are better choices for certain classes, but all things being equal, it doesn't matter all that much.

M&M1 has a "fight economy." Each fight is very challenging. Generally, you can rest after each and every fight. Restore fully heals all HP, and restores all spell points (SP). It cures many conditions - sleeping, paralyzation, and blindness, to name a few. This costs you a unit of food for each character, and you can only carry 40 food each, maximum. A few conditions hinder rest - resting is bad while poisoned, and useless to help with being stone, dead, or eradicated (!).

Some places, it's too dangerous to rest. But if you can retreat to a safe spot, you can rest and recover.

Thus, each fight is a war of attrition between the PCs and foes. It's very easy for them to flee, and very hard for the PCs to flee. You have little incentive to do anything but just slug it out, and it's always worth deploying your best magic if there is any chance at resting after. Healing spells are just for keeping you going during a fight.

If a fight is tough, you usually have to slog it out because attempts to retreat waste actions and don't usually work.

If a fight is easy, you generally make it so by expending replenishable resources such as powerful spells.

You may have to use up some magic items to win a fight, but you can generally buy powerful consumables in town.

Only if a fight is trivial do you continue on - even a loss of a few spell points or a few hit points can spell the difference between victory and defeat in a later fight.

You drop at 0 HP, and only die if an mass-damage attack hits the whole party while you're unconscious.

That description matches my GURPS Dungeon Fantasy game in many respects.

The only real difference is that GURPS has a few more cumulative losses and conditions that you cannot just rest and recover from. If you're used to the pace of DF, you're used to the pace of M&M1.

Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord is like AD&D.

This isn't a big stretch, as Wizardry I is clearly modeled after D&D.

Stats are important for determining class and race. They seem to be helpful in play, but they're not really critical. They modify the class and the weapons and so on, they don't provide the basis for them.

Races and classes are different - some are just better than others. They're harder to qualify for. (Also, it has the first "prestige" classes every - classes you can't start as, but can eventually quality to switch to - Lord and Ninja.)

Wizardry has a fight economy, but not only do fights have an economy, so do delves. Given a fully-healed party, you never are any better off than you are the moment you step into the dungeon. Each fight costs. You benefit in an individual fight by deploying the biggest hammer you've got to smash your foes, but each time you do so you cost yourself the ability to do so later. You use up valuable spells you can't replace except by in-town rest, you use charges off of magic items you can't recharge (during a delve, sometimes ever), and you take damage you can't always heal.

You die at 0 HP.

This is very AD&D-like. AD&D delves are a race between expendibles and HP vs. your goals. Use up the former too fast, and you don't reach your goals. Use them unwisely, and the same happens. You need a combination of luck, skill, and appropriately powerful characters to win.

Just something that occured to me while I was playing M&M1. And it seems like CRPG Addict beat me to the punch on the comparison of games before, too! Oh well. At least I was able to tie it to GURPS and AD&D directly.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Rulings on GURPS rules - Fire & Large Area DR

This is a grab-bag of rules decisions I've made either in the past, or recently and will use going forward, for my current Dungeon Fantasy campaign. I'll use these two by default in other, non-DF games as well.

Fire & Breathing

One thing about DR in GURPS, and a one-second timescale, is that flame just isn't a big deal even with light low-tech armor. Against armor designed to deal with the threats PCs face, it's usually a non-issue unless it's a supernatural effect.

Even then, generally it only matters if you set someone on fire, and to do that you need a fair amount of damage (3+ or 10+, depending on the target.)

Being stuck in fire happens occasionally.

Mostly we get into discussions about how much air there is, how quickly the oxygen will be used up by the fire. But really, people tend to burn on the inside, as well, given a sufficiently hot or large fire or a long enough exposure.

I was reminded of a solution proposed my Mark Langsdorf a couple of years ago on the seemingly defunct blog No School Grognard:

Fire damage in GURPS should probably be reduced to 1d-2 or 1d-3, but being in or on fire should also be treated as an respiratory agent with an onset time of 5 seconds that does 1 bu, resisted by HT, with a symptom of -1 HT at 1/3 HP damage and -2 HT at 2/3 HP damage. Fire respiratory damage would also be cyclic for every 5 seconds as long as the victim is in or on fire.

- from It came from the GURPS forums: Low-Tech armor and fire damage

I think that would be a good way to handle it - I'll keep the fire damage the same as in the rules, just so I don't have to hunt down references, but adding the 1 burning injury respiratory effect is good. To put it in easier-to-read format:

Fire (Resisted by HT): 1 HP burning, -1 HT at over 1/3 HP injury and -2 HT at over 2/3 HP of injury; Respiratory agent; onset 5 seconds; cyclic, 5 seconds; Doesn't Breathe provides immunity, internal DR against fire protects normally.

Of course, Resist Fire helps normally, even against these kinds of burns. It doesn't help with smoke inhalation, however.

Overall: I think this probably favors the PCs a little bit, since they're the most likely to confine people in fires and use fire as a weapon routinely. It shouldn't be a big change, but it will matter for high-DR PCs and foes who are on fire and just ignore it.

(Morbidly, I was prompted to think about this by asking a kickboxing buddy, who I saw shirtless for the first time close up, about a scar. Turns out it - and others - were from being engulfed in flame when he was a young child.)

Large-Area Injury & Eyes

Recently we've had some issues where PCs were facing a cone effect that used Large-Area Injury (p. B400). The question is, what if eyes is your lowest DR?

A lot of PCs have exposed faces, because they don't want to deal with vision and hearing penalties. They're easy - face DR is usually low (generally 0). What about those guys head-to-toe in plate armor, but who have 0 DR eyes on their eyeslits?

And Shirtless savage barbarians, too, have "Tough Skin" that doesn't presumably include eyes. (Maybe it does, by a literal reading of the rules, but eyes aren't skin, so you can also ready it literally and call them DR 0, too.)

What to do for them?

My ruling is that in most cases, DR is the torso and the weakest exposed area, including the eyes. Flames, slivers of ice, negative energy waves, acid gouts, heat rays, etc. should affect the eyes.

However, in certain circumstances, the Large-Area Injury will not include eyes. This may be because of a specific type of effect that couldn't reasonably hit them, or because of the position and protection of the PCs (possibly having time to preemptively react by covering the eyes, say.)

But generally, face on vs. an area attack, expect to have DR 0 + torso = 1/2 of your torso DR (round up) against it. Facing away, you're much better off. But your backpack may not be . . .

Overall: I think this is a bit harsh, but it fits the wording of the rule . . . and eye protection shouldn't just be a high-tech way to avoid getting stabbed by a rapier. And it means that barbarians aren't taking DR 7 vs. everything and having it apply universally, large-area or not. Suddenly DR 7 is DR 4 and a high-end Fire Cloud hurts, and a 1d6 flaming explosion in their hex isn't totally ignorable. It just might turn up a 5 or 6 and light you on fire and injure you. I think this doesn't favor the PCs much but it does give another reason to throw explosions around.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Might & Magic I: Secret of the Inner Sanctum

Thanks to a deep-discount flash sale on GOG, I picked up another game I'd wanted to go back and complete: Might & Magic I.

I'm stalled on Ultima IV until I have a solid day open to spend on gaming straight through to the end. Lack of save in dungeons is a real issue when you're an adult with non-game responsibilities.

But I could use a game I could pop in to and play. This will do. It's like a more highly functional, much more forgiving Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord.

I'd had that back in the day, but I never completed it. Oh, I got obscenely powerful wandering around fighting monsters, so much so that it was rare even the Council of Dragons would stick around for a whole combat round without fleeing, but I never did get to the central quest. I'll do that now.

I have had a lot of fun with it so far, with two caveats:

- it's been cheap with monetary treasure. So much so that I only recently had my characters all leveled up, as most of the time I lacked the funds to train them up. I'm still almost broke - I spent a few times dead broke, almost out of food, and yet had magic items and piles of gems (used for spellcasting, mostly). I felt like my PCs in my Felltower game. I had to quit and restart in one session where I had 4 people who needed 200 gp each of healing, 200 gp each of training cost to level, and one of them picked up a "Large Shield +1" that turned out to be cursed. Removable in town to the tune of 1500. I had 27 gp at the time, and I was grateful for outdoor encounters that mauled me nearly dead but coughed up 30-40 gp per person sometimes. I just quit, unsaved . . . I was looking at 2300 gp just to restore my party to health, which would be 5 encounters with treasure-toting monsters if I got a reasonably good haul without getting further mauled. I mean come on, just give me a bit more cash.

- I forgot that spells are number codes. So I type "Cast" "1, 2" for Bless, "2, 5" for a Sorcerer's Levitate spell to avoid pits, and so on. I really need to find a good compressed table to print out, because I forget.

Aside from that PITA, it's easy enough of an interface.

By the way, is there a way to quit DOS BOX games other than Alt-Tab and then X-ing out the window? That seems to be how I have to do it. It's just weird. And it's either full screen, or a little box on my screen. It would be handy to resize it but have it windowed so I can do other stuff on my PC when I need to.

Oh, and M&M I might be a rare game in which the example characters are hard to beat. I spent a good 90 minutes rolling up PCs, and ended up keeping 2 of the 6 original characters and just renaming them.

I've heard II is good, as well, so I may follow with that. We'll see. I have I-VI now but no draw to play any so far but I.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

AD&D Rules Questions - stacking save bonuses, blindness

A few AD&D rules questions came up.

Consulting only the AD&D core books and Sage Advice from Dragon or similar sources, does anyone have a definite answer on these?*

Dexterity adjustments for Saving Throws

I don't recall ever using this, but a player pointed it out:

Defensive Adjustment refers to the penalty or bonus applicable to a character’s saving throws against certain forms of attack (such as fire ball, lightning bolts, etc.) due to dodging ability. It also applies to the character‘s parrying and/or dodging ability in missile or melee combat; in this case the penalty subtracts from the armor class (q.v.) of the character, making him or her easier to hit, while the bonus adds to the defensive value of the character’s armor class, making him or her harder to hit.

Like I said, I never recalled that coming up in play back in the day. I guess we never noticed it.

I can pretty easily make some judgment calls about when to apply it.

But does the bonus stack?

Halflings get a bonus to saves vs. Rods, Staves, and Wands, and Spells, at +1 per 3 1/2 points of CON. Dwarves get the same bonus.

Do these stack? If you attack a halfling or dwarf with a Fireball or Lightning Bolt spell, do they get both benefits?

It doesn't seem like a CON bonus should matter against a spell that is helped or hindered by DEX.

Blodgett the halfling - DEX 18, CON 16 - has a -4 AC adjustment and a +4 vs. rod, staves, wands, and spells. Dread Delgath uses his Wand of Fire to create a Fireball and catches Blodgett in the blast area. Does Blodgett save with a +4 (DX adjustment), +4 (halfling CON-based adjustment), or +8?

I can't seem to find anything in the PHB or DMG that makes this clear, and nothing useful turned up when I searched for it. My ruling on the spot was DEX only, since I can't see why a CON-based resistance to magic helps you duck the blast of a fireball or avoid the direct stroke of a lightning bolt.

Does the Wisdom bonus vs. Will-force spells stack with this? It might . . . it's much more plausible that they'd both affect magical spells that overlap in effect. But I'd likely rule as I would above - it's either/or, although in most cases it's likely you should get the better of them. Inconsistent, perhaps, but not terribly so - and if the inconsistently bothers my players I'll just go with Wisdom affecting will-based and CON affected all other spells.

I do think that the bonus from Wisdom should stack with the CON-based bonus. One is all spells, the other will-affecting spells - it's reasonable to me that a general resistance to magic changing or affecting magic should overlap with a willpower-specific one. DEX and CON, that seems iffy. But AD&D is really brutal, and a generous approach is probably warranted to help with that. I'd like to be rules-consistent, though.

Effects of Blindness

I can't seem to find any listing for the effects of being blind. We extrapolated from the penalty for an invisible foe (-4 to hit.) It seems like it should do more, but I can't see what the rules call out as an effect in combat. Looking at the Light spell, if you cast it on someone offensively, it causes a -4 to hit, -4 to saving throws, and -4 penalty to AC. I didn't remember that during play. That might have saved a few HP had the ape's AC been lowered from AC 6 to AC 10.

Is there a canonical rule besides that for blindness?

Aside: It's highly amusing that the 2nd level Illusionist spell Blindness cannot be undone by Cure Blindness, according to the Illusionist spell's description . . . yet Cure Blindness will counter the effects of Power Word, Blind, an 8th level magic-user spell. You need to be 16th level for that. The illusionist? 3rd level. It would seem more logical if it was the other way around. The Illusionist spell lasts until the illusionist ends it or you hit it with Dispel Magic.

* I say this because, yeah, I'll take a look at OSRIC, and I'm curious if AD&D 2nd edition makes this clear, and so on . . . but I want to know if AD&D 1st edition has a canonical answer.

Monday, September 14, 2020

AD&D Session 7: A2 Secret of the Slavers Stockade, Part 1

Today we played our 7th session of AD&D, where we run through old modules as-written just because it's fun. We use AD&D as much as possible as-written, except where the rules are nonsensical (Weapoon Speed, say) or impeded play (Initiative). But generally we revel in them. It's a nice vacation from GURPS.

Today we played some of the first part of A2 Secret of the Slavers Stockade, as part of a planned series of sessions that will eventually take us through the aerie (A3), and dungeons (A4) of the Slave Lords.

SPOILER ALERT! This will absolutely spoil chunks of the adventure for you.

Elwita, Dwarf F6 (J.D.)
"Ogre", Human F5 (J.M.)
Freda, Human R4 (M.L.)
Karraway, Human C6 (A.J.)
Blodgett, Halfling T5 (J.L.)
Dread Delgath, Human MU5 (M.D.)
Phanstern, Human I5 (V.L.)
Eljayess, Half-Ef C3/F3 (J.M. then J.L.)
Kayen Telva, Elf F4/MU4 (T.P.)

The adventure began with the nine PCs inside the curtain wall tower fortifications, having climbed up inside following the advice of a slave who'd escaped. It was empty, and dusty, but the two clerics felt a sourceless unease.

The PCs forced a nearby door and went into a guard structure. It was lit by moonlight from the arrow slits.There were stairs up and down and a door to the east. There was dust, and tracks in the dust coming from the stairs to the door they'd entered from. They debated checking the far door, but Karraway argued their mission was the slave lords, not clearing every room, so he wanted to avoid distraction.

Blodgett check the stairwell and saw the up section was bricked up, the down had tracks from a barefoot human leading toward a wooden door. Blodgett checked for traps, and failed badly, and proceeded down the stairs.

He set off a trap that dropped a globe that shattered with a bright flash, blinding everyone. He was also hit with something for a few points of damage, and then they heard rattling noises as some small things hit the floor. The guys in back pretty much all tried to back out of the room at once, blindly, and got jammed up in the doorway. Blodgett carefully turned around and crawled up the stairs, feeling round things everywhere - they'd turn out to be glass beads. After four minutes, the effect wore off. They could see the stairs covered with glass beads, all the way down to the door below. Blodgett swept them aside with his hands and they went down the stairs carefully, and unlatched the door.

(Per the module, the slave just got lucky and missed the traps. Odd, because the chance to set it off is 100%. Yay, unfair!)

From there they found themselves in a courtyard. As they stood in the shadows scanning for guards, a breeze kicked up and slammed the door behind them shut. They heard the latch fall. They hid as best they could, but after a moment the crickets started singing again and the guards just kept on patrolling in the darkness. They found this odd.

They sent Blodgett over to scout the gatehouse, which was blocked by a big patch of mud in front of the gate. The gate itself was jammed a few feet up, so you could crawl under. He got close, but not too close, and then waved the group over. They carefully moved over. Suddenly, the crickets stopped singing. They stood around and waited to see why. A round later, an ankheg burst out of the mud and attacked. It bit Elwita for 16 HP of damage (on 3d6). They fought back, as Karraway cast Silence, 15' radius on the mud near the ankheg. They meleed it for several rounds, wounding it, and then got a flurry of hits and killed it. In the melee Freda accidentally shot Elwita in the back for 1 HP of damage. After the battle "Ogre" slathered himself completely with mud. They were all caked with it from the waist down, at least, and anyone in melee got it everywhere.

Silently they crawled under the portcullis, and found the tunnel lined with boxes, barrels, and sacks of bits of twine, wood chips, dried rags, and like materials. Blodgett wanted a ball of twine and wasn't happy there wasn't one to take. They looked up but couldn't see if there were any murder holes. In any case, they moved through and out the other side, still undetected. They heard hobgoblin voices speaking, but couldn't make out too clearly what was said - but they hadn't detected the PCs.

On the other side was a parade ground. They sent Blodgett over to the other side to scout an archway leading to an internal courtyard. He did, and waved them over. They ran over and moved into the courtyard. It was lined with bushes on the sides, had a trellis around the sides, two trees, and a central fountain. The party sent someone over to scout the fountain - Blodgett. He reported it full of algae'd water with a trickle of water coming down. They sent half the group over to the fountain to wash the mud off, which was drying and slowing down their actions (-2 "to hit" rolls.)

Blodgett, Dread Delgath, Phanstern, and Eljayess took a position near, but not in, the bushes against a wall. Blodgett and Eljayess kept an eye on the roof of the keep in case guards came here.

(I had mentioned the mud caking into armor joints, on weapons, etc. and the magic-users assumed that didn't include them. Lesson - ask!)

As the others washed off, carefully, having taken the time to move to the fountain as quietly as possible, Eljayess and Blodgett spotted hobgoblins coming out onto the roof! (Their alertness reduced the change of surprise from 1-4 to 1-2, and I rolled a 3.)

The fighters declared they were getting out missile weapons, and we rolled initiative.

The hobgoblins won, and two of them tossed a fishing net over the four muddy PCs waiting by the entrance. They were caught and tangled up, unable to attack or cast spells. The other two hobgoblins loosed arrows and missed their targets.

The next round, as the PCs were ready to fight, more hobgoblins appeared - a total of 12 - and they started loosing their arrows at targets chosen at random. The PCs shot back. The netted PCs took out daggers (Eljayess her sword as she lacked a dagger) and started to cut the net. Despite needing only four hits vs. AC 9, and 2 attacks per round against it, it took them almost 6 rounds to get free.

The fight was basically that for most of the first six rounds - the PCs loosed arrows (and Elwita crossbow bolts) from by the fountain vs. the hobgoblins. They were behind the roof's protection so they had AC 2, not AC 6, thanks to cover. The PCs missed more than they hit. The hobgoblins just kept up random targeting, shooting at whoever seemed like the best target at the moment. After two rounds Karraway cast Hold Person on three of them; two failed their saving throws and one made it against a 17. The PCs eventually killed most of the hobgoblins, but also loosed almost every arrow - "Ogre" all 20 of his, Kayen Telva many of his, Freda all of hers plus one of her Arrows +2. Everybody took arrow hits in the fight, often multiples, including the magic-user and illusionist and thief. After a time Kayen and Karraway ran over to help free the netted PCs, and Karraway managed to shield Blodgett and cast Cure Light Wounds for (IIRC) 5 HP. They decided to run for the double doors into the keep. They did, and killed one of the held hobgoblins and the last non-held one on the way. At the trees, two carnivorous apes jumped down and attacked. Two more followed as the group caught up. Blodgett snuck around the back, having hung back the whole time and off to the side in cover. The other hobgoblin stopped being held by this point and started to shoot, pausing only after the apes attacked. He was killed shortly after by someone's archery. Dread Delgath threw a Magic Missile spell into the fray and put three missiles into one ape and wounded it.

As the melee went on Dread waded in with a staff, and missed a lot. Phanstern wanted to cast Paralyzation and just position it to catch the apes but not his friends, but it was a melee, not a ranked combat, so he could not do so. He cast Blindness on one ape, instead.

In a steady melee they killed the four apes, but not without loss. Blodgett moved up silently (Boots of Elvenkind) and tried a backstab on one, but missed despite the +4 to hit. The ape randomly chose one of the 5 guys who attacked it to attack back - the dice said Blodget. It got him for enough damage to put him to -2, dropping him (and taking him out of the adventure, per DMG p. 82, under Zero Hit Points:) They scooped him up and moved to the door.

They briefly discussed healing in the courtyard, despite the alarms and sounds of hobgoblins moving to reinforce the fallen one, "Ogre" couldn't force it and it was clear it needed multiple people. Kayen Telva used Knock to open it, and they headed inside. There they found a corridor, heavily trafficked (according to Freda) to the east which ended in a door, with very little ever going west, where it also ended in a door. The hallway was lit by torches in brackets on the south wall.

They used up a potion and their remaining Cure Light Wounds spells here, and then headed east, "Ogre" strapping Blodgett to his back, after they divided up his magic items. They checked the door for traps, but without Blodgett there wasn't much to see. "Ogre" opened the door, they heard shrieks, and a giant grizzly bear standing on its hind legs pounced on them!

It turned out to be a taxidermy'ed bear on a wheeled carried down a short ramp, and it fell on Elwita for minor damage. They pulled Elwita free. They checked the group, and found that their back ranks were gone - Dread, Phanstern, Kayen Telva, and Eljayess.

They'd fallen down a pit, the sound unheard under the metal shrieks of the wheels and the rumble of the bear down the ramp, and the L-shaped trap had slammed the "wall" down to the "floor" and trapped them.

They yelled, "pit!" and "help!" but couldn't hear anything. Dread cast Light and they formed a human pyramid, so Kayen could tap the ceiling with a javelin to get attention.

In the hallway, the PCs weren't sure - teleportation? Paralyzed and surprised? They felt around for them, called to them quietly, noted with interest that all of the dust on the floor near where the PCs had been was gone, now, and discussed using a Potion of Clairaudience to listen for them . . . but Karraway decided that was a waste and decided not to. They figured out the best thing to do was re-trigger the trap and see what happens. So they set the bear back up, closed the door, tied Blodgett's rope to it, and stood where the others stood . . . and set the trap off.

They fell down a pit. The "human pyramid" was hit by the spinning wall and knocked down, but it did keep the trap from fully sealing. They figured out what happened, and spiked the pit walls in place with two iron spikes, put Freda up with a human pyramid, and then climbed out. Everyone had taken some damage from the fall, the "human pyramid" guys all took 4 from getting hit with a wall, and they went into the room beyond. Blodgett was almost dead by this point - he's at -7 HP, and they stabilized him. He's not looking good to make it.

They found a rough "office" with a table, a barrel, a chest, a used but clean fireplace, some wood, and two doors - south and north. North was locked and barred from the other side, they determined. The south door was not. They spent some time checking the chest, and found it was empty. So they stacked up and forced the door. They saw 110' of corridor ending in a door, lit by torches.

The far door opened, and three mummies staggered out, moaning! Freda shot an arrow at one (Kayen had given her his arrows.) It spanged out of the air roughly 30' short of them. They halted. The mummies advanced slowly. The PCs waited, mostly ready for melee and debating how to use Wall of Fire - they realized a Fireball would fill up a huge space, and might include them. The mummies advanced maybe 10-20' and waved their arms, moaning loudly and angrily. The PCs wouldn't budge. Karraway tried Turning the mummies, but was unsuccessful. After a while, the PCs backed off a bit and the mummies back up a little, too. In the end, they both ended up going out the doors and the PCs closed theirs.

Deciding it was some kind of trap, they checked the north door again. They started to hack it down with Kayen Telva's hand axe (this takes 1 turn.) After a few rounds, the south door opened, revealing hobgoblins with swords. The PCs were surprised for 2 segments, -1 for being prepared, and -1 for Freda being a Ranger with solid DEX. One in the back shot a sling stone into the room and missed Freda. (Who normally wouldn't be included in a surprise round, but I'd ruled it a random shot into the crowd, not a melee vs. a foe, so she was fair game.) Freda shot an arrow the next round, then the hobgoblin shot her and wounded her, and then the hobgoblins slammed the door. The PCs rushed the door, but it took 3 rounds to kick it open (bad rolls.) No hobgoblins at all - just 110' of corridor. They closed the door.

They heard noises from outside, making it clear the fortress was really alert. They finished hacking down the door, and saw some corridor. From the sounds they heard - swords being drawn, armor being put on, boots, grunts and growls and oaths - it was clear they'd broken into a barracks area. "We can't leave this behind us!" someone opined (I think Phanstern.)

It was late, so we ended there - the PCs in a room with a stuck trap on one side, some mummies down a long hallway to the south, and a hacked-down door leading to a lot of hobgoblins to the north. Last time they were torn between going west from the double doors, or going north towards the hobgoblins to fight them. We'll see where it goes.


- rules-wise, one thing we did this time was split up multiple attacks - especially including the ROF 2 bows - into two phases of fire per Initiative for Creatures with Multiple Attack Routines from DMG p. 62-63. I thought it might be clunky, and we never did it back in the day. I was reminded of it reading a post about high-level AD&D play. It turned out to be really interesting, especially when both sides had split fire (so Initiative mattered) and when only one side did (so they got arrow shots off before initiative was determined.) I can't wait to see how it works in melee when we're playing with 7th level characters.

- we used the proficiencies and languages assigned last time, and the decision to make Blodgett a "mixed" halfling with 30' infravision. The player running him argued to be a full Stout halfling but honestly, I should have just gone with a normal no-Infravision halfling.

- almost immediately, the players decided the mission was "free the slaves." Er, no, it's defeat the slave lords. Freeing their slaves is great for the slaves they have no, but the mission is clearly to deal with the heads of the operation.

- immediately, my players dismissed the handout with the physical description of the fort as being useless, confusing, filled with jargon ("curtain wall"), and just proof that it needed an illustration and TSR was too cheap for one.

So it was with glee that I quoted from it at length to answer questions they asked as we played. "How tall is this wall?" "Is there a second courtyard?" "Is the keep one story or two?" Gee, maybe it's in the handout that I told you to read and you dismissed as useless?

Also, amusingly, I described the stairs on in the first room, saying "At the foot of the stairs, partially hidden in the darkness, is a barely discernible wooden door." And was promptly asked, "Where is the door?" and "We should check the bottom of the stairs to see what it is" and "I'll check the door by the stairs while Blodgett goes down to see what's there." I re-read the description - door at the bottom. At the bottom, I was asked, is it locked? "It's latched on the inside." "Is that on our side?" Yes. Geez, you simply cannot pick the perfect wording for descriptions to answer questions unless you get incredibly detailed. If you do, like the description of the fort, people stop listening or don't read it.

- Blodgett's player wanted a 6' staff to check for traps. I said, no, you have what you have on the sheet. We started inside the stockade, per the tournament start, and I wasn't going to allow for "and I have a ________" addition to the sheet. Use what's there, that's part of the challenge, even if you the player would have brought A, B, and C to do X, Y, and Z with. It was a nice thought, but one to save for during the session or for a game where the PCs get to equip themselves.

- my players wondered, and I checked - there doesn't seem to be any explanation of why there is an ankheg right in the entrance area. It's not mentioned as being charmed, so the explanation might be that it just burrowed up to that area to try and grab something to eat. It's clearly there as an obstacle for tournament play, but an explanation would have helped.

- the Silence, 15' radius spell use was critical to getting in without getting mauled by guards. Unfortunately, they took too long at the fountain being careful, and were spotted by alert guards. Had they gone right in, washed up quickly, and hurried ahead . . . they'd have avoided a lot of the difficulty. Sometimes "slow and cautious" costs you.

- one of my players live-blogged to his friends, who were baffled by the idea that apes and hobgoblins were on the same team. What the hell? I said, "Tell them to check the Monster Manual." It was a thing . . . later editions of D&D may have removed it, but that doesn't make it weird or nonsensical. If you played AD&D, you'd suspect carnivorous apes were around if you ran into hobgoblins.

- Never, never, never grind out an ambush. Never.

The PCs actually did better than I thought combat-wise against the hobgoblins, eventually wiping out 11 of 12 (and then killing the 12th) along with four carnivorous apes. However, the +4 AC the hobgoblins enjoyed made turned a large number of what would have been hits vs. AC 6 into misses vs. AC 2. So they expended most of their arrows - Freda had to resort to Arrows +2 just to hit. Ogre shot off all 20 arrows, Kayan 12, Elwita shot off 8-10 bolts, I think, and Freda shot off 12 arrows and at least one Arrow +2.

They won the fight, but ended it mauled:

Elwita at 32 out of 54 HP, "Ogre" at 22/45, Freda 23/40, Blodgett -2/25, Dread Delgath 15/25, Phanstern 4/25, Eljayess 14/25, Kayen Telva 9/25. They lost a few HP earlier and Elwita took a bite from the ankheg, but most of that was from the fight.

Had the hobgoblins been ruthless about shooting less-armored targets and the netted folks, it would have been a massacre of at least 1/3 of the party, possibly more. Their tactic of randomly shooting whatever target seemed opportune helped a lot.

Personally I think a GURPS mentality took over - hunker down, grind it out, you'll win the fight and heal up and it'll be fine. The wizards couldn't cast, but Dread could have used his wand . . . Pyrotechnics could have covered them with smoke. No one took cover, although me not marking it on the map probably didn't help. Not until people ran out of arrows did anyone try to go help the trapped PCs. Had the tournament provided for reinforcements, it would likely have just ended there. This is why I think A2 is unplayable as a "dungeon delve" for the levels allowed for . . . 3rd to 6th level PCs just can't assault a fortress and live, and the slave lords won't just sit there and absorb repeated attritional attacks. But anyway. The point is that this fight could have been a "oh crap let's all rush over, free the mages, take cover, and force our way inside!" and it became "let's kill everyone and then get out of here." It works in DF, it's disaster in AD&D. For all that people say HP are a resource, you just can't get them easily. If you play in a more generous campaign with lots of short delves, long times between combat, and higher frequency of healing potions (purchased in town, say, with your plentiful cash), you're really not in practice ready to assault a fortress with three Cure Light Wounds spells, one Potion of Extra-Healing, and one Potion of Healing. That's 59 HP of healing maximum, 8 HP minimum, and 34.5 HP on average back. They lost half of that with one blow from the ankheg.

- The briefly discussed idea of using Clairaudiance to listen for the missing PCs being dismissed was priceless. It would have worked. They checked a lot, but never did listen at the floor to hear anything.

I briefly considered using the saving throws for items table but decided it was just mean at that point.

I'm not certain the adventure pictures the trap the way I did, but my way was funnier. They reset a trap and set it off on themselves, and left no one in safety. The module is very clear - you cannot hear yells from below at all. You can hear tapping if you listen for it, but they checked the walls, the door, etc. but no one asked to listen at the floor . . . they all stood and talked and walked around.

- Early in the session, people were very good about declaring actions. By the last 1/3 of the session, people started to declare actions out of order, roll for actions as they declared them even before initiative, etc. It got messy. I think practice will improve that.

- My players were pretty good with gathering information. I've noticed the ones who've played with other GMs tend to ask the same question a few ways around, trying to feel for a different answer. Generally, I repeat what I said. I'm not that great with giving clues, I think, but I do my best to provide the best information your senses can give you. If you hear things and I don't specify what direction, it's because you aren't sure. If I say you see a vaguely human shape in the darkness, I'm not concealing that it has a second head, or a two-handed sword, or whatever. It's what I said. I do my best to not have trigger words. Sometimes you need to be specific about your actions, but I try to ensure senses give you everything they should without needing additional wordage.

- The "mummy fight" was interesting. Pretty much, the PCs refused to advance (or throw a fireball, since it would fill 33 squares with fire) and waited it out. When they didn't come, they decided to hack down the door. The hobgoblins came and attacked, but when the closed the door and the PCs finally forced it and found them gone, they closed it again and moved on. They're clearly done with the mummies, but managed to cut their way into the hobgoblin barracks. You'd think "barred and locked." So I'm not sure how next time will go. You have to love hacking a door down, then saying, hey, this doorway is insecure, we have to go through it and fight what's on the other side because there is no door to stop them!

Fun session overall, although I'm disappointed that so much time was spent on that big, possibly critically-costly battle in the courtyard such that we couldn't finish it. I'm genuinely enjoying running AD&D . . . I may have to give some thought to actually running it as a side thing. Yes, it would have been better to decide that in March when I had more free time coming to me, but when I offered doing a fantasy game as a side thing was shot down categorically. So here we are . . . I may have to run it, after all, for whoever wants in.
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