Saturday, October 31, 2020

Danial Dravot's Head

Sad day today, as Sean Connery passed away. Like Harold Ramis, I figure he needs an homage in my gaming.

Stats for Zed from Zardoz?

A rule for gangster games about knives vs. guns?

A review of the James Bond Roleplaying Game?

A magic sword based on The Highlander?

How about an enchanted head of a Man Who Would Be King?


The Man Who Would Be King is a great example of two things - a steller GURPS-friendly adventure, and a great way of showing how to take source material (the original short story) and turn it into a similar but noticeably different piece of entertainment.

I adore this movie. I've seen it so many times that when I got the DVD, I could point out the missing line oddly edited out from the original - "You just wait one jiffy" - Billy Fish (played by the incomparable, and also sadly deceased, Saeed Jaffrey.)

Two bits in it really scream out to fantasy gaming. The first is when Danny Dravot and Peachy Carnahan take possession of Alexander the Great's treasury. And that guy looted a hell of a lot of loot .

And the second . . . well, let's let Peachy talk about another time Sean Connery was deceased.

"And the mountains they tried to fall on old Peachy, but he was quite safe because Daniel walked before him. And Daniel never let go of Peachy's hand and Peachy never let go of Daniel's head."

Danny Dravot's Head

A decaying, decapitated head of a European man, wearing a crown of gold (worth $20,000). It's rotting (Bad Smell) but never finishes rotting. Carried openly in one hand, by the hair, the head gives the bearer the ability to cast Pathfinder at no cost, only to find the way out of a dungeon, country, or dangerous locale and back towards "home." Additionally, the bearer will never suffer death from any natural hazard - rockfalls, earthquakes, blizzards, etc. may cause harm but will not cause death - and if a death check is called for, the bearer will always succeed. If held continously, the head will not be dropped accidentally or from falls, knockout, critical failures, etc. If the bearer lets go of Danny Dravot's Head, all benefits are lost for 1d6 days. The head loses all power if the crown is removed from the head.

Rest in Peace.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Random Links for 10/30/2020

Over at Lich Van Winkle, the whole issue of sexual material in gaming comes up. When I was a kid, what I liked about Basic D&D was that it treated you like an adult . . . and what my mom probably appreciated that it didn't have a bunch of adult-aimed sexual material. The DMG, less so. As a teacher who used RPGs for ESL, being able to put something in your student's hands knowing there isn't a shred of anything off-color in the material was critical. It was simply a bar to usefulness in the classroom if it was there. So I get it - and it's helpful to have material that isn't "kiddie" without being "adult."

Are OSR authors against kids playing their games?

- You can't go wrong in Twilight: 2000 by shooting from a skyscraper, unless there is a taller one nearby:

Metropolis: Circling the Wagons

- Negotiations are fun in Gamma Terra. And yes, we go have a person with Diplomacy. It also helps to be dealing with generally more reasonably diplomacy targets in Gamma Terra - other intelligent beings who want to make a deal.

"So when he talks about Tomorrow Men “territory” he’s probably imagining an area of Midden controlled by thousands of pure-strain human soldiers with a functional bunker. Would his demeanor and negotiations been different if he’d known he was dealing with a small group of soldiers with a swindling ammo supply?"

Me, I suspect he might have driven a harder bargain, but otherwise? He's giving up a moderate amount to gain a lot, at best. And he only had to give up things he didn't have yet, in return for certainty in getting those things. It was a good deal all around. And staying out of territory he didn't even want to be in? He probably felt it was a gimme, like a snowman agreeing to stay out of the furnace room.

- Ah, yes, Dragonlance, where dragons are finally front-and-center but pretty much die constantly and easily: "The ensuing battle must have involved about 50 dragons--black, blue, white, red, and green--but as I've already covered, dragons are nothing to this party. I could kill eight at a time with "Delayed Blast Fireball" and at least another five or six with melee attacks. That's without even bothering to buff and "Haste." Plus, we had a bunch of gnome allies during the battle. Not only were we victorious, I'm not sure we even took any damage."

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Androids, Gamma Terra, and GURPS

Our Gamma Terra GM posted a few things about the Tomorrow Men over on his blog, Black Ray Gun.

General posts about our game is under the Tomorrow Men tag.

He put up a long post on Androids.

"Close up, they were still artificial: there was something not quite right. But from a distance – even across the room – you could easily mistake them for real people. Think Star Trek’s Data, or Gary Numan circa 1978."

Hah. Or circa 2020. I saw Gary Numan a few years back in NYC. He is pretty easy to mistake for a human!

I don't know if our GM ran point totals on his androids, but I think having point totals really does help when you're designing mass foes, wether human, android, orc, or whatever. It keeps you in check. The Gamma World androids are pretty over the top - Warrior has physical strength 18, constitution 18, dexterity 18, intelligence 18, charisma 18, and only mental strength is rolled randomly (3d6.) Thinkers have 18 and 18 in intelligence and mental strength and then 3d6 in the others. The warriors are all pretty much Roy Batty, which is an interesting parallel thought given the game predates the movie.

If you did the same with androids in GURPS, your Mark VII warriors would potentially be ST 20, DX 20, IQ 20, HT 20 . . . and just sell back some Will (but not too much.) Or you could say, no, 18s aren't really 18s . . . but we're talking human max (and in 2e, they could have 21s, as could humans.) But in GURPS this is way, way too effective. Going simply off of the idea of "perfect human maxima" comes up with a crazy-expensive foe that most PCs couldn't touch. You'd need to scale it down . . . but to what?

This is where point buy is useful for NPCs. Or at least having a budget. If you suddenly think, well, yeah, warrior androids should have ST 18 or so, DX 15 or so, IQ 13 (at least), HT 16+, plus Immunity to Metabolic Hazards, Combat Reflexes, maybe even Enhanced Time Sense due to their reflexes, some natural DR, Doesn't Eat or Drink, Doesn't Breathe, oh, maybe Pressure Support for underwater and space, etc. etc. you get a staggeringly expensive package. So much so that it's still hard to be a useful foe for PCs unless you use them sparingly, and what's the point of a whole Cryptic Alliance of human-hating androids if you use them sparingly?

I've found it is a little better to set your sights a bit lower, and have a rough budget in mind - or a least, an dea of when too much is too much.

We haven't fought any Mark VIII androids in Gamma Terra yet, but I bet when we do we'll be impressed by their abilities but not automatically run down quite like a literally translated android from Gamma World would would do to us. It's how it should be, and fit how androids were in GW in actual play.

Still, there are other things that GW androids make me wonder. Do they all know everything about pre-Apocalypse tech? Do they automatically know how to use any artifact? Seems reasonable. Are they all of The Created? Did they have a connection with the Apocalypse itself in some way? They don't seem to type to have help back . . . so they might have been (effective) slaves who became free as a result of the fall of civilization.

Do they have incept dates and lifespans? Are they immortal? If so, are all of them from before the war? Can they reproduce? So many questions are really left open by them. Back in the day we just had them show up and fight, because they hate humans and my cousin's mutant armadillo was human enough for them because, why not? But these days . . . I wonder about them. And feel for them, if they hate humans because humans made them self-aware but crippled them in a way the're painfully aware of. It's terrinble to live in fear, but it's also terrible to live without hope . . . and that might be what humans did by making self-aware androids all too human but still not equal to humans.

Hillbilly would sympathize with them. Barbie will just shoot them, though. Barbie is like that . . .

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Video Game Play - WitE and M&M2

I've been busy at work, but I've had a little time here and there to play two games - War in the East and Might & Magic II.

War in the East has been hard - I started a 1942-1945 campaign as the Soviets. Why 42 and not 41? Because there are just so many units, so many HQs to worry about, so many moving pieces in 1941. I just said, to heck with it, let's start just before the German Spring offensive in 1942 and see how it goes. It's going poorly for the Soviets, but I'm trying. Hopefully I can weather the storm and start to grind the fascists back to Berlin!

Still, it's tough to figure out what to do . . . and again, so, so, so many units. It's hard to know how to maximize their use. And I'm used to breaking down divisions into regiments, but not building divisions into corps and when/what support units to build.

Might & Magic II has been . . . interesting.

First off, magic weapons in the new town have been fairly plentiful, and better ones keep going on sale. Armor, not as much. Spells - also not as much. You don't get them all when you level up, you have to buy them. Even with the money I got from the other game - 1000 each - I rapidly ran dry.

Second, my 7th level guys from M&M I are able to sweep aside some opposition in the town pretty easily. But about half the time, they get waxed for a TPK or a near-TPK (with 4-5 dead) from other foes. Geez, 7th level and I can't safely explore and clear the first dungeon. I don't have the cash to recover from this.

I find I need to grind up a few levels, but it's hard to grind when a fight nearly kills you and delivers 1/96th of the experience you need to level up. I'll manage, but geez.

Traps are also a thing - they aren't one-time, they go off until you disarm them. My thief has a 51% of success, so given two tries, I usually fail two times. Yes, I know. Penalties on the traps, maybe?

It's been a little less fun for that reason. I feel like I imported characters but that I'm not really benefiting from doing so. I think I need to really sit down a put a couple hours into it and figure out how to effectively make my party more useuful and survivable. That time will not come at least until this weekend. Hopefully the game picks up, and isn't just fetch-it quests punctuating massacres.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Cut-Rate Resurrected Allies

We've had an issue with how to handle Allies and Cut-Rate Resurrection.

The issue with allies and Cut-Rate Resurrection (also a real rule, now, in DFRPG Exploits), is that Allies are set as a percentage of the PC's point total. So if you allow them to trade off 20 points of disadvantages or lost advantages or reduced stats, it's not a big deal. They'll reset over time to the appropriate percentage of the PC's point total.

That's not fair - PCs choosing Cut-Rate take a real hit. NPCs who choose it take a real hit. NPCs that a PC paid for with points may as well take it, because it's not really a disadvantage.

We had this issue when Brother Ike died, and I put in an extra disadvantage and we tried to make it so he only regained the lost points over time. That seemed wrong, though, eventually.

What will happen instead is this:

Any point debt incurred from cut-rate resurrection is permanent on Allies. The Ally's point level will be determined by percentage first, then any point debt will be applied after. For example, a 400 point PC has a 50% Ally. The Ally is 200 points; if the Ally had been slain and resurrected with only $5000 invested in the spell, the Ally will be 200 - 20 = 180 points. If the PC becomes 420 points, the Ally will be 420/2 = 210 points, -20 for resurrection, = 190 points.

It sounds harsh, but it does seem be the most fair way of dealing with it. PCs lose points permanently using this method, and NPCs who aren't Allies, so why not Allies? This rules both feels fair and seems to work mathematically, and is also simple enough to implement.

Monday, October 26, 2020

GURPS DF Session 140, Felltower 108 - Against the Giant

Date: October 25th, 2020
Weather: Cool, clear, eventually light rain.


Aldwyn Hale, human knight (313 points)
     Varmus the Hanged, human apprentice wizard (155 points)
Crogar, human barbarian (317 points)
Gerrald Tarrant, human wizard (408 points)
     3 skeletons (~35 points)
Heyden, human knight (307 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (306 points)
Wyatt Sorrel, human swashbuckler (321 points)

We started off in Sterickburg. The group purchased some potions, spell stones, and so on.

They decided on a plan of befriending the giant with the beer they bought for the same purpose last week. They wheeled the wheelbarrow up the mountain with the 5-gallon beer barrel on it and headed to the cave.

At the cave, it was clear the giant was in - there was a faint smell of smoke from a doused fire and the sounds of wolves. Standing a good 30 yards out, where the mountain begins to slope away a little more steeply, they lined up, weapons away, with Gerry Invisible. Ulf called out to the giant, asking him to come out, they had a gift for him.

The wolves came to the entrance, as did a 20' tall giant wearing furs and carrying a rock ready to throw and a giant greataxe. He told the "puny men" to go away. Ulf offered up beer in return for passage into the caves.

Long story short, they negotiated. Crogle, the giant called himself, wanted gold. Ulf said he had five gold. Crogle said, okay, a hand of gold and a barrel of beer for each person. (The reaction roll was a base 9, which is "Poor" at best - he wanted more than they'd offered.) Wyatt whispered that this was a terrible deal - it was the orcs all over again, with a toll they can't pay. Ulf said he could give him the barrel and a hand of gold, but then they'd give him "more" gold when they came back. Some of the loot, if they found any. Crogle wasn't convinced. He wanted more beer and more gold now, not later, not maybe. Or, they could leave some puny men for him to eat. They dickered a bit more but Crogle wasn't willing to let them into the cave in return for a little beer and a maybe, and wouldn't budge on either more beer, more gold, some people to eat, or some combination of all of them.

They told him they'd be back in 14 moons ("Moons?" said Heyden) with more beer and more gold. They left him the barrel of beer as a gift.

After backing off, they sat down for lunch out of sight of the cave. They decided they needed to go back and kill Crogle. The plan was, give him enough time to drink the beer. Then, they'd offer him all of their food and wineskins and claim it was more beer. Meanwhile, Wyatt would sneak up onto the top of the cave with Invisibility and No-Smell, and, when the giant came out for the "gift," he'd use a Walk on Air spellstone to move up in front of him and stab him in the eyes. The casters would have Missile Shield on everyone and use Walk on Air to avoid the dire wolves.

They returned and called out to Crogle. Crogle was much less receptive to talking this time. (They'd later find he drank the beer, and he's not a friendly type when drinking.) He angrily threw a rock at the wheelbarrow and knocked it over, demanding more beer and that the puny men go away. So Ulf started to scold him. Crodle laughed at some of his threats and threw a rock at him. He threw a few more as Ulf kept taunting him, and told him he wasn't good at throwing rocks. Finally, Crogle yelled "KILL!" and charged, along with his wolves. The PCs were a little off guard - they readied weapons, but Wyatt was stuck behind the wave of wolves and giant.

The giant was fast - he only got a few yards in the first second, but hit move 15 a second later thanks to his very long stride. The PCs were totally unprepared for that. Wyatt was left behind, and had to get up and use his Walk on Air spellstone. The wolves and giant reached the grop in a few seconds. Crogle swung his axe and Ulf dodged. The wolves swarmed the PCs, and quickly surrounded them.

In a messy melee, the wolves surrounded the group and started to bit and hold on to the fighers from front and back, after losing a few wolves to the waiting knights and barbarian. Varmus chucked a fireball at one, and Ulf readied a Sunbolt. But then Crodle rolled a 4 and critically hit Ulf . . . and hit for 39 cutting damage. Ulf flew back a few yards - unstunned, conscious, and not fatally injured - but in grave threat of the latter two. Varmus was neaby, and the fighters were mobbed by wolves . . . so Crogle swung at Varmus (I rolled a 50/50 tossup). Varmus failed to dodge, and took 37 cutting damage . . . and was cut nearly in half. He fell, dead.

A second later Ulf tried to stand, but fell unconscious.

Wyatt finally caught him around now, and took four swings at Crogle at a full fly but missed. Crogle turned and swung at him, but Wyatt dodged and stabbed him three times in the eyes. Crogle fell screaming, blinded. The wolves kept biting at the PCs but they couldn't inflict any real harm. Gerry tossed in Great Haste on Aldwyn and Heyden after putting it on himself. They broke free one by one, or killed the wolves despite being in close combat with long weapons while grappled, and eventually cut them down.

Wyatt stabbed Crogle twice more, and he fell still. The wolves eventually got chopped down, including one who lept at Wyatt, trying to kill him in revenge for the attack on Crogle - Aldwyn ran up and finished it off.

After that, they spent some time in place - Wyatt used Walk on Air to make sure nothing was sneaking up on them. Crogar began to skin wolves. Gerry used Steal Energy to get FP back from the unconscious wolves, before using Zombie on one of them. The others fed minor healing potions to Ulf - a total of 10 of them in the end. Along with First Aid Ulf was healed to positive HP. He woke up after 15 minutes and healed himself - first critically failing with Minor Healing and harming himself 3 injury, and then using Major Healing to heal his last injury and the new one from his previous failure. "Thanks, God" he said, somewhat petulantly sounding, but claimed it was sincere.

They bundled up the slain Varmus in the wheelbarrow after collecting their food from where it had been scattered, took the giant's axe and searched him for valuables (none), and then searched his cave. They found the remains of his cookfire, gnawed bones, and a bag full of mostly junk - an axehead turned into a handheld scraper, a collection of teeth, moldy cheese (Ulf ate some after cutting the moldy bits off), some horse-sized caltrops, and a few other things. Nothing of actual value. Turns out he hadn't gotten any more money since Galen had burgled him a while back - which is probably one reason he never left his bag behind again. He also had a club, but it wasn't valuable.

From there, they moved to the "High Sanctity Area" and rested, having a few mushrooms and water, and leaving Varmus there. Ulf baptized his corpse, basically, before they left.

They headed to the behir, but also wanted to figure out that weird "fuzzy" feeling they felt last time.

They had it happen again, with everyone getting a little fuzzy. They moved into a cave and Ulf spotted movement with Dark Vision - a cloak-like monster. He used Sunlight to light it up. It fled, and they gave chase, but couldn't keep up. They decided to stalk it, and did so, not willing to have it attack from behind while they were killing the "behir." Ulf cast Seeker and had a vision of it in the cave they'd just come from, it clearly having circled back.

Basically they sent Wyatt (Invisible) and Ulf (carrying a 6d Sunbolt) to find it, and then the others would rush up to help. The two ran into the cloak fiend in the room, and it immediately fuzzed them up further. Ulf hit it with a Sunbolt a second after it paralyzed Wyatt by reducing his muscles to limp unresponsiveness. It was scorched badly, and he smelled a burning chemical smell. It retreated, and Ulf cast Protection from Evil and critically failed, making himself susceptible to evil at -5. He cast again to cancel it out with a successful casting.
From there, the others caught up after ~20 seconds, with Crogar arriving in half that time.

They stalked it further, trying to track it by its smell, but only had any smell of burning a short distance away.

They kept after it, and carefully searched rooms and corridors as they went, carefully looking for it. They found a room with a (dead) beetle in it, but decided it might have been paralyzed by the cloak fiend (or was the cloak fiend, in disguise) so they sent Aldwyn to chop it up. He broke it into pieces. Ulf decided that maybe it had been killed by the cloak fiend and its insides sucked out somehow. Wyatt berated him for making up random powers to assign to monsters.

They used a scroll of Seeker to try to find it again - this time Gerry casting - but it failed. They decided to check on the gargoyles, also where the cloak fiend might have gone. Long story short, they arrived, used Levitate to check, and found no cloak fiend and no gargoyles. They heard flapping from the "behir" cave, but decided to avoid it, not wanting to fight either stirges (if that was what it was - sounded reasonably like that) or the "behir." So instead they decided to check on the sinkhole room.

They headed back to town then - it was quite late. (Out of game - it was my cutoff time, so I told them they had to stop searching and just leave.) They gathered up Varmus and went home. They managed to sell the wolf skins for a small amount and the axe for ~20% of its list value (they tried the usual "It's a great and special curio someone will pay top coin for!" but that wasn't true.) Having sold everything, they then gathered up Varmus's money from his room and spent almost all of it, plus donations from Ulf and Aldwyn, to bring him back.

Aldwyn's player made the roll, and it succeeded. He gifted Varmus with a "I Died in Felltower" T-Shirt and Ulf welcomed him to the club of people slain in Felltower. Varmus wasn't impressed.


It was a good attempt to negotiate with Crogle the Giant. It failed mostly because they don't have anyone with any really positive ways to improve reaction bonuses, and the reaction to Ulf was low - a 9. It's hard to dig out of poor with a relatively small bribe and a promise of things to come later, depending on such a poor reaction roll. It would have been arguably smarter for Crogle to let them go in, and then demand a reward on the way out - they'd be in much worse shape to argue back in that case. But Crogle wasn't a terribly smart giant.

Amusingly Ulf spent a lot of time complaining that Crogle didn't need gold anyway, he couldn't go spend it in town. If he wanted stuff, he should hire them to go buy it for him. With what? Not gold, clearly, he doesn't need any - back to the first complaint. Heh. Adventurers. They want to fight monsters with gold but don't understand why monsters want gold. Meanwhile, they want quests where monsters pay them. They really, really, really want people to pay them to do tasks. They've basically decided the giant dragon under Felltower is too big to reasonably fight, so they need to find a way to get it to hire them to do a quest for it. The orcs can't seem to accomplish their goal, so they should hire the PCs to do it. The hope the civilized apes will have a quest for them. Boy, video games have had a serious effect on the way people perceive PC-NPC interactions in games, haven't they? An economy based on buying loot and giving armed wanderers money to do errands.

The fight went much worse than anyone expected - on both sides. The plan was for Wyatt to "front stab" him in the eyes while he was getting food. He didn't want the food, and all the taunting (which was well done, for once!) just got him mad. I guess they didn't expect he'd come out quickly, but rather would stand just outside the cave. Nope, he ran right into melee. He couldn't seem to hit, and they angered him, so in he went. It was a costly fight - $5K and points for Varmus, ~10 healing potions, use of a bunch of spellstones (at least two Walk on Air stones), and earned an axe they sold for $225.

I'll explain how I rule on Allies using cut-rate resurrection works later this week.

I assumed 1d6 x $10 each for dire wolf hides; since DF calls out when something is even worth $10 as a special value body part, it stands to reason that things that aren't called out are worth less for the most part. I halved the value since these wolves were hacked apart with swords and axes, and often were decapitated. And one was turned into a zombie and then skinned later (presumably - they said they took 15 hides, and one zombie, out of 15 wolves.) So they ended up with ~$245 worth of hides salable at 40%.

As always, a fun game, but it was mostly the PCs having one big fight and doing some cleanup in the caves. That they still managed to get some XP just shows how generous my loot-based XP rules are on the low end. I did have to put my foot down during loot distribution when they talked about dividing the loot without Varmus. When a PC dies and is Resurrected, they still give that PC a full share. So when an NPC dies he forfits his share? They were also a little surprised that Varmus had "so little" - about $2500 in cash. Well, he bought new armor, new weapons, upgraded his power item, etc. and kept more than enough for upkeep. The latter part is very unlike a PC, actually - plenty of people have needed to borrow money for upkeep after a huge haul because they spent every penny maximally upgrading their gear. But then an NPC elicits groans for not having kept all of his loot to encure enough to fully pay for necessary magical healing in town?

Again, it's fairly typical - players, including mine, see a fundamental gulf between "us" - PCs - and "them" - NPCs of any kind - and expect the world to treat them differently. I do my best to make the world treat them all the same, and have NPCs resent the automatic assumption of superiority if it's displayed.

XP was 2 each for 20% of their loot threshold, and MVP was Ulf for all of his roleplaying of negotiations even though they turned out poorly.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Felltower pre-summary for 10/25

We played Felltower today.

It featured:

- negotiating with Crogle the Giant, who asked for more than they had on them

- a cunning plan to defeat Crogle the Giant

- an oops, that plan didn't go off as planned fight with Crogle the Giant and his dire wolves

- Ulf nearly dying, and Varmus actually dying

- a big wolf slaughter

- finding out that Crogle hadn't gained any more loot in the time between now and when they'd burgled him

- a series of encounters with a cloaker had thought they'd slain (or a new, second cloaker - who knows?)

- finding the gargoyles gone

- and abandoning a move to kill the "behir" a dozen yards short of the trip.

Fun session, but not a truly productive one . . . and expensive as all hell for the loot taken. Summary tomorrow.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Felltower Tomorrow!

Hurrah, Felltower is to The current plan seems to be one of raiding the orcs, killing the lightning wyrm because it may have loot, or finding a way to open the orichalcum doors. One of the players referred to them as the "obsidian doors" and justified that by saying everything obsidian wants to kill him. Thus are rumors and Delusions born.

Intrestingly, the players opined that there are very few options for things to do in Felltower at this point. From my side of the GM screen, there are so many things left undone . . . and my "undone" list doesn't fully encompass their "undone" list. Some things they see as unfinished I see as unimportant, and some things they see as unimportant I see as unfinished. This tells me a couple of things:

- my players are morons!

- I need to be better at conveying hints, details, and useful information. I often default to "tell once" when "tell three times" is better.

- what you see depends on where you stand.

I am curious what will come tomorrow. I'm ready for all they mentioned, which means they'll find option D instead of A, B, or C and we'll see if I'm ready.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Wandering Events

I've been giving a lot of thought to wandering monsters in recent months.

I always appreciated the Wandering Damage Table. It gets the fuss out of wandering monsters

And in a game like GURPS Dungeon Fantasy, where PCs are highly effective at their niche, they're not always much of a threat. This is doubly true in a game like DF Felltower, where I have 9-10 PCs at the table many times. If even half of them are front-line fighters (not unusual), any monster in a group small enough to "wander" generally is just a speedbump.

Don't get me wrong, monsters like puddings and oozes can really be an issue - and we've had a wandering monster utterly maul a PC or two and change the whole shape of a delve. But honestly, the PCs don't change their behavior based on this. They don't use Silence to avoid wandering monsters. They don't move quietly to avoid wandering monsters. They do it to avoid larger, more threatening dangers.

What I've started to incorporate is events. I managed to do so with good effect in the jungles and urban areas of The Lost City

I'm adapting that approach for Felltower, so it's not just "monster" or "fine."

A "Wandering Monster" roll becomes a periodic check for something unplanned by the GM to happen. This can be:

- a monster
- an obstacle (tree down, collapsed,
- a nuisance effect (smoke, bugs, water or other liquids on the path/floor, garbage)
- unexpected alertness on the behalf of nearby critters
- a new trap.
- Wandering Damage of some kind.

Or something of that sort.

We'll see how that effects adventures over the long term. It should spice up encounters and may cause the cost of noise, time wasting, and other time costs to effectively rise without always being a fight.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Tomorrow Men - Buy Our Playsets and Toys!

So our GURPS Gamma Terra GM put up this post about our characters:

Gammatober Day 22: Tomorrow Men

Here we are, in a very accurate depiction:

The sad part, or perhaps the awesome part, is that we look remarkably like an alternative LEGO version of The Cheat Commandos:

I'm pretty sure Hillbilly is Fightgar, and Barbie is Gunhaver. I think Oinker is Reinforcements. Princess is Silent Rip. Fatbox is Ripberger, Short Bus is Firebert. I'm really unsure on the rest. I'll need to re-watch them.

I personally can't wait for Sean Punch to break down and do Action Heroes 1: The Cheat Commandoes. Those guys need stats, dammit!

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Might & Magic I: Complete

I actually completed Might and Magic I on Monday. I should have taken screenshots, but instead, for some reason, I just used my phone and took two snaps of the end.

The secret of the inner sanctum is that, well, you don't live on a world, you live in a vehicle. The world "VARN" is actually a V.A.R.N., an artificial environment. You know, where you can cast Meteor Swarm even though you live in a contained environment. Anyway.

I love the bit about submitting my score to the company. I wonder what a good score is? I could have finished earlier, but I spent some time grinding because it was fun to do so once I got pretty strong. And I wanted to try and finish as much optional content as possible.

I can see why I never "figured out" the game when I played it in the past. You need to find lots of messages, many quest objects (easily sold or lost accidentally or stolen during encounters), what items are needed for quests aren't always specified . . . it's tough. I basically figured it out this time because I knew a lot going in, had spoilers from a guide or two, and I'm just more experienced at figuring out how to win games despite a lack of clues.

Still, it felt very random. I had to dig around and find the "diamond key" - you get it from the same place as a prior key, so I didn't think to check - and then find out you can just get to the final quest area with a spell anytime you want. Sigh.

Still, it was fun, and I have some high level dudes now . . . I just need to see if I can port them over to M&M II and give that a go. I've never played a moment of that . . . it should be fun!

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

How to be good at being evil

Yesterday, I made the point that evil isn't so great, really.

So let's say you and your fellow players in my game decide, yeah, let's be evil. Let's have a whole party of evil and not-evil-but-amoral types.

Some of this advice is generic, but it's largely predicated on being for GURPS Dungeon Fantasy in DF Felltower.

How to do it?


Let's handle some out of game issues that affect an evil party differently.

Trustworthy Evil

The first issue is, will you be loyal to one another despite evil being evil? Will it still be a cooperative game of magic items going to the one who can best use it or most needs it, loot divided by need, people buying each other potions and whatnot?

Or not?

It's a big decision, and it's one you need to make right way. This is first-principles evil campaign stuff. If you don't all agree on "all for one, one for all" then it's every man for himself. Know that when you throw your buddy the idol, he's not going to throw you the whip.

If it's all for one and one for all, dispense with the big issue of evil being untrustworthy by being loyal to each other with disadvantages. We're evil, yeah, but we're a tight fraternity/sorority/family/knitting circle/company of evil. You can take Sense of Duty and Code of Honor and all of that. Or lack them, but generally act as if you have them.

Squick Factor

The second issue, know other people's squick factor and trigger issues. Maybe someone doesn't have an issue with saying, "We torture the prisoner for a +6 to the roll" but really does have an issue articulating it. Maybe they'll play the bad guys well but really don't want to get into the issue of what selling kids into slavery really means for them. Stuff like that. Know these and respect these. It's a lot less of an issue with good parties. People might want to choke you when your holy warrior gives his +1 sword to the church when he finds a better one and doesn't give it someone else in the party, but they won't feel uncomfortable at the table.


What are in the in-game issues of being evil?

Heal Thyself

One big issue with an evil party is healing. Simply put, you don't get any in town from the Church. You don't get any in the dungeon from your Evil Cleric. Your neutral types may be able to get healing in town - and in DF Felltower, that's really iffy. Known association with evil types is quickly going to end with a reputation, and probably eventually Social Stigma (Excommunicated).

Evil Cleric: Get PI4 and take Steal Vitality pronto. Use it to drain foes and heal your injuries.

Unholy Warrior: You'll want Blood Healing immediately. Wild Talent will let you cast Steal Vitality once a session, or let you access any evil cleric spells as needed . . . once per session.

Everyone: Rapid Healing, high HP, and potions of healing are your friends. Learn First Aid, and make sure you have a good score in it.

The best way to avoid a need for healing is a good offense.

The Best Defense is a Good Offense

The evil templates in GURPS Dungeon Fantasy do offense well.

Unholy Warrior: Evil characters should be liberally using poisons - and Unholy Warriors have access to the Venomous Tongue perk, which is a great way to save cash for healing potions by getting free poison. Blood Harming is useful but will cost HP to do. Striking ST for surprise attacks are good - remember, killing by stealth and treachery is easier than killing in a straight-up fight.

Evil Clerics: Unlike good clerics, you have a lot more offensive magical power. Death Vision, Deathtouch, Wither Limb, Frostbite, Madness, and Terror are all useful ways to deal with foes. Zombie and Mass Zombie will make them your friends after you steal their FP and HP and kill them. Summon Demon is a good top-end spell to get, too, to get demonic aid. You get what you pay for - like elemental summoning, if you do bare bones and minimum you won't get a fight-winner. But you might be able to get something serious to aid you if you put some real effort and energy into it. Don't try to be a good cleric, only evil . . . comb the spell list for ways to be offensively-minded and end fights quickly and unfairly and use them.

Others: Basically any template can be evil, of course, not just the two above. Adding a lens for either Unholy Warrior or Evil Cleric can help make you more so, and access their own abilities to add to your offense and allow you to "heal" by theft of life. A special shout-out goes to the Assassin (DF12) as a template that fits thematically better with evil parties (and which does well with kill-by-treachery). And to wizards, who are actually harder to make good than to make not-good.

My Kind of Scum!

One last benefit to being evil - the evil creatures in the dungeon are potential allies. You can do all sorts of things to curry favor with them, too - bring them sapient beings to eat or enslave or sacrifice, bribe them, give them tools that harm civilization, whatever. You can take part in their dark rituals - and maybe teach them a thing or two about darkness that they don't know. And, of course, kill them when it benefits you. It's easier to side with whatever horrible creatures you find, or use the unholy and unspeakable knowledge you uncover, if you're evil, horrible, unholy, and unspeakable yourself. "We should destroy that, not use it or sell it as is" is not an issue . . . unless you find something Holy.

Closing Thoughts: This just a quick scratch at the surface of what evil characters could do in DF Felltower. I'm not saying it's a good idea, or that these are the only ways to go, or anything like that. But for all that evil is, ultimately, weaker than good, it's not helpless or hopeless. It has some tempations and some power that good does not have. The above might make you give it a second look beyond scanning the templates for healing spells and then moving on. They aren't Good + Cool = Better than Good, but they aren't Good - Utility = Worse than Good, either.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Can I run an Evil character? And the myths of Evil

In DF Felltower, PCs can be evil.

With the exception of one wizard, no one has really been evil - and he was evil to people outside of the PCs, only, which is generally a good call in a cooperative game.

I've been asked by some of my players about running evil characters. A few of them would really like to play evil characters, without the rest of the group running non-evil characters who basically stop them from acting as they'd like.

In most campaigns, I just say flat-out no. You can be good, or you can be neutral, but not evil. In a shades-of-grey world, you can be ruthless and harsh but you can't be a genuinely evil person.

I have my own thoughts on evil, too.

But if you do want to run an evil character with me as the GM . . .

DF Felltower is that game.

But in general, they haven't taken me up on the offer.

The group has mostly gone a different route - not necessarily good, but definitely religious. Players wanting to run Assassins, Unholy Warriors, and Evil Clerics are just out of luck with the rest of the group. People can still make them, but they'd really need a wholly seperate group of delvers to hang out with. There are a few characters who might travel with either group, but it'll be hard to explain why the Cleric of the Good God is totally fine with your amoral character borrowing the MacGuffin to bring along on a delve with an Unholy Warrior and an Evil Cleric to try to solve solve some condundrum in the dungeon.

Despite all of that, you can run an evil character in my game . . . and get the rest of the players to join in . . . and it hasn't really happened yet.

Why not?

I think it's a combination of factors:

Evil (Good + Cool)

I think the idea that Evil is Good plus Cool is a pervasive myth.* My games do not support that idea. In fact, my games categorically treat this as a false assumption.

A number of players have asked to be Unholy Warriors and Evil Clerics. They're on the allowed list. I'd let them go through with it.

They always drop it when they find out that Evil Clerics don't get healing spells, and Unholy Warriors can't expect to get bonuses to fight demons or get Resurrection in town. It's a symptom of this myth - that evil gets everything good does, plus cool stuff. It's the idea that good is restrictive, evil is freedom. Good limits your options, evil allows all options. Good has to be constructive only, but Evil can be constructive or destructive, depending on what works for evil at the moment.

Regardless of how you feel about the realism of this . . . the game doesn't support this idea. There is a tradeoff if you chose the powers of evil over the power of good. You lose out on the ability to be truly constructive and helpful for the improved ability to inflict harm.

Good wants something for you, Evil wants something from you.

Evil is essentially selfish. The "freedom" that evil gives you is the freedom to act in your interest even when it's not in the interest of society or your fellows. You might do that anyway, if you perceive it to be more beneficial. It's not from a moral compass or a sense of right or justice but of benefit.

If evil is helping you, it's because evil benefits.

Nothing evil does is "no strings attached." Why would it be? Attaching strings benefits the giver. Evil looks for self-benefits. Evil might help help you, but it's only because helping you is perceived to be the best way to help the evil person giving you the help.

Evil isn't trustworthy

Evil doesn't have friends, evil has co-conspirators. Good guys don't betray their allies. Bad guys do it all the time - you can't easily betray your enemies. You can't rat out your enemies unless they're also your co-conspirators . . . and those are likely other evil guys.

You and your fellow PCs may choose a Sense of Duty to each other, despite also being demon-worshipping evil types in the service of sin. But absolutely none of the "Truly Evil" powers on "your side" took it. They don't know the meaning of feeling that way, although they may recognize it and use it against you. Bad guys don't take your Dependents hostage because they value theirs, they do it because they know a weakness when they see it.
Evil types will, eventually, betray you. They'll choose their benefit over you somewhere between "sometimes" and "always." As soon as it's the good move, they'll take it.

(The answer is at the bottom**)

It is better to be feared, than loved.
The of-quoted maxim of Machiavelli fits evil to a "T." While it's best to be loved and feared, it's hard to pull that off. Evil goes right for fear. You're less likely to cross, betray, or otherwise work against someone you flat-out fear.

All of that makes it hard to have an "evil" party without there being a hierarchy of fear . . . where you stay loyal to those above you because it's been made clear you will pay for betrayal in spades. Don't expect this to be reciprocal - your fearsome leaders will spend you like bullets if it benefits them. And you'd do it, too, if you were where they are.

Squick, Squick, Squick

A personal squick factor helps keep people from running truly evil PCs, too. Most players who want to be "evil" just want to be scary badasses. They want to not take prisoners and shoot first and otherwise be dangerous, and be free from social repercussions for acting that way. But they don't want to act out really unpleasant things - torture, say, or abuse of children, or things like that. I'm discouraging of such actions anyway. True evil isn't going to shy away from those torture/abuse/mass murder/etc. actions if it's of benefit - especially the demon-and-devil worshipping kind in fantasy games.

* To a degree, Star Wars is guilty of perpetuating this - although it's otherwise a great example of how Good works together and Evil depends on fear to keep order. You see the Sith lords (cool name, right? Do good Jedi get a cool title? No) dressed in snappy outfits, using force lightning, force choking people, hurling items at their foes to knock them over, halting bolts of energy in flight. Good Jedi . . . mind tricks, mostly, and some jumping and leaping and parrying blaster fire. They win in the end but just don't look as cool doing it.

** "One chop with the sword should do it for the halfling; gnomes, however, are a little tougher and usually require an axe."

Sunday, October 18, 2020

A rough history of Orcs vs. Delvers in Felltower

I've been meaning to write this out somewhere. I may have, but I can't put a finger on it now.

Way back when we started in Felltower, a group of hobgoblins controlled the access to the dungeons. The PCs encountered them a few times, and killed them.

They also fought the orcs that held another portion of the dungeon. Both sides opened up with hostile actions.

In the end, they'd wiped out the hobgoblins and made a pact with the orcs, paying a toll to enter the dungeon in return for peace with the orcs and the orcs leaving them alone, plus occasionally providing them with a guide or help. The orcs took advantage by occupying more of the dungeon, including the surface, and fortifying the damaged castle above and making it an active, actual fortress again.

Predictably, though, the PCs immediately started to look for another way into the dungeon, a toll-free one . . . and made sure to kill any orcs they found to cover their tracks. They justified this by rationalizing that their agreement with the orcs only applied if they paid the toll, and that otherwise killing orcs was fine.

They often continued to pay a toll and work with the orcs. They even had a joint encounter with the Lord of Spite, which was going pretty well before the Lord of Spite backed off and left them to their casualties. There was also some grumbling that the orcs hadn't held up their end of the bargain by not fighting hard enough against the Lord of Spite.

The orcs, not being total fools - and the PCs doing a pretty sloppy job of concealing their actions - they understood the PCs were bypassing the tolls and were the ones who'd killed some orcs in the dungeons.

They raised the toll and got pretty hostile.

The PCs refused to pay the toll and got violent back.

The PCs pushed deeper in the the orc-held areas, and killed any orcs they found. "Let's go kill orcs" became a way to spend a session, prep the ground for future delves, and a backup plan to get some loot at the end of a session.

The orcs tried a few ambushes of their own - sealing off the PCs with the Lord of Spite, launching multi-pronged attacks with goblin shock troops, monsters, spellcasters, elite orc Slayers, and so on. The PCs fought back and generally shattered the orc's attempts.

The orcs tried to just block off sections of the dungeon with rubble, preventing the PCs from reaching them without delays to dig through. The PCs dug through, pretty routinely, and killed the orcs they found.

To be "fair," the PCs did offer to the orcs to take on whatever task has drawn the orcs to Felltower and complete it for them, in return for a reward. Then, the orcs could leave. The orcs refused, for reasons the PCs don't know. Of course, the delvers took this as proof that they couldn't work with the orcs. The orcs clearly have a goal they need to accomplish, but which they either don't think the delvers can - or don't want them to - complete on their behalf. So they won't go.

So to start with, the PCs really wanted the orcs to just stop harrassing them and let them delve deeper without any interference.

Once the orcs stopped harassing them, the PCs wanted to make sure they couldn't do so again.

They attacked them until the orcs simply did not mount any offensive action against the PCs, and abandoned the upper works and gave up shooting arrows at intruders to the dungeon.

Once they forced the orcs onto the total defensive, they tried to wipe them out. That failed, and their negotiations to get the orcs to agree to never fight them and, essentially, stay out of Felltower, failed.

Since the PC's big attack on the orcs, the orcs haven't mounted a serious challenge to them. Perhaps any challenge to them. They haven't harrassed them, attacked them, or otherwise did anything offensive against them. They did reinforce their passive defenses very strongly - going from rubble blockades with barricades to magically-solidified stone blockages.

It just so happens that the best places to block off the PCs from the orcs also block off the PCs from easy access to the "touch only once" altar and the lenses. Not that the PCs have anything remotely like a plan with the lenses, but they want to be able to go and fiddle with them. The orcs, by blocking the PCs off from them, have been deemed to have inflicted a great and unforgivable insult to the PCs.

The PCs have made plans to break those blockages, and spent a recent trip on finding a way to the orcs around the blockades so they can attack them. To what end?

Will the PCs ever be satisfied vis-a-vis the orcs?

I think no, not until the orcs have completed disintingrated. Not been reduced as a threat, not as a hassle, but completely gone. Every explanation has always been "+1" - we want X. They get X. Well, we really need X+1. They get X+1, Well, yeah, but X+2 is actually what we need here. And so on.

The PCs really seem to want total, unfettered access to everywhere in the dungeon, and the orcs - if they are there - to fulfill the role of keeping other delver-hostile beings from occupying any part of the dungeon. Perhaps that plus the orcs providing a source of treasure on top of it - either by handing it over or giving the PCs "quests" - a common ask - to earn money from the orcs. Naturally, if they found anything they perceived as more valuable than the offered quest reward, they'd expect to be able to keep that, instead of, or in addition to, the quest reward. Pretty harsh, but I don't think my players could claim any of this isn't true.

It's tough being a monster in the face of greedy delvers. The demands of delvers are not unlike that of an empire - they just want a little more, and then come back again for a little more on top of it.

With this in mind, I expect that the orcs vs. the PCs will be ongoing for as long as we keep playing Felltower. It's not something I expected from day one, although I did make it clear that the orcs have a fundamental conncection to Felltower. It's just amusing to watch the delvers explain why, really, their demands are reasonable and the orcs are being unreasonable as they change their demands every time they achieve them.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

How do I do on Saying Yes?

I read this excellent article over at The Blue Bard while I had a free moment today:

Say Yes to the Players

It is full of excellent GMing advice, most of which I'd summarize as "let the players do cool stuff with their cool powers, and have it lead to more adventure" plus "don't nerf them to maintain a feeling of control."


How generous am I with "Yes?" I'd say not very.

Some of it is my personality. Maybe a lot of it, is. I'm a "let's try it and see!" person in real life, but I tend to build somewhat restrictive game rules. I find, personally, that constraints force creativity in a way that blank slate of freedom often does not.

Also, I tend to look out for ways something can be abused. I may put the tool into your hands anyway and tell you, hey, it's abusive, don't blame me if you allow it to be so abused . . . but if possible I make things work in a way that give you X without leaving a gap for Y and Z.

I will put in rules-based "nerfs" on things I feel like are too powerful for the game we're shooting for, although I try to make the "nerfed" version feel better for the game in the process - Turning, for example, chasing off the weak undead but weakening the strong instead of just flee or fine.

But I will also clean up rules full of issues or just weakness and make them more powerful, if that makes sense - Animate Shadow, say, or why I allow multi-turn free energy on missile spell buildups and combinining spells that the system keeps separate (Flesh to Stone/Stone to Flesh, or Missile/Explosive Missile spells.)

In play, though, I'm usually going to make a restrictive but not an expansive ruling. As we play AD&D, I'm trying to be more expansive there. Everything there is much less easily replaceable. In GURPS, everything is too easy to get.

Let's take an example of "give them power with yes" versus "nerf things" - Wishes.

Wishes: I know what, or what kind of, power grants Wishes in my games, so I don't use the 60/40 roll mentioned here. I make them quite powerful and quite broad. Still, players will try to simultaneously expand them and constrain them with a carefully-worded wish. It's worked about as well as you would expect, even given an actual lawyer, an author, and a rules-and-fine-print-expert manager in the group. In other words, not well. The ones they made that were broad but clear worked fine. In general, though, I prefer to make wishes powerful.

I can do so because they're rare. If it was a common, spam-able spell, no.

The example of Stone Tell in the article is a good one - the players used it in a perfect circumstance. It's a 6th level cleric spell. It should be pretty effective - and it can be. Change it to Seek Earth - a cheap, easy, high-percentage success rate spell that you can cast over, and over, and over, and over again . . . and I'm more inclined to a restrictive, not expansive, reading of it. Why? Because it's effectively unlimited. Finding ways to keep challenging that - the Find Traps example - is a good one . . . but it's possible given my game system of choice that it's not really "challenge that spell" as it is "the game has changed fundamentally from this yes."

When a player comes up with a clever use for a one-shot potion that can't be purchased in town and is rarely found, that causes some outstanding and exceptional effect, I'm for it. When the same player comes up with a clever use for a one-shot potion easily purchased in town, readily found, and routinely used already in my game, that causes some kind of outstanding and exceptional effect, I tend to put restrictions on it. Again, it's effectively unlimited. Once a player finds some way of turning a Potion of Healing into free unlimited healing in some way or finds a way to make it heal or kill, depending on how it is used . . . the game has fundamentally changed. Not just for "high level" play, but for all play. GURPS Dungeon Fantasy doesn't restrict much by "level." You're restricted by points and cash, and in a game played around finding cash and earning points, that's more of a speedbump than a true restriction.

Some spells and powers just make some problems go away - Create Servant is a game changer that I allow. So is Levitation (and one I made cheaper, easier, and better for the most part). So is Seek Earth. I am fine with that. I'm just going to be much more careful than I would in a limited-use game system, And ultimately, I think that's okay. Your GMing has to match the baseline reality your rules put forth.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Random Links for Friday 10/15

Random stuff for Friday, hurrah!

- Ooh, reading through Traveller.

- Runequest Classic Sale

I'm tempted to get a print and PDF copy of Runequest. James Mal suggests 2nd edition is the way to go. I'm not really going to play, I think, but I do want to read it. I've had lots of people suggest Griffin Mountain is amazing, but is it sit on my shelf after I read it amazing? Given the cost?

I should get 1st edition so I can see it from a historical perspective, but, maybe not. I'm not a historian of gaming. That said, I'd really like to read early editions of Pendragon and Chivalry & Sorcery at some point, too. I could get these in PDF only but I know from Tunnels & Trolls that it takes me longer to read a PDF, and I'm much less likely to just play a new game from a PDF. Use material for an existing game? Sure. New game? Nope.
I was shocked when I attempted to get the $20 hardback that shipping was $27 . . . because it's from the UK. Nevermind, softcover POD will do.

And yes, I know it's basically the CoC system . . . I played it when we ran Elfquest, but I'd like to see it as a more generic game system.

War in the East

So I did win War in the East. After my big offensive east, I finished the job on Turn 65. The game pretty much ended once I did - I grabbed a major city (Kazan), moved some units to consolidate my grab, and then as I was fiddling around moving up reinforcements I found many of the commands weren't working. I saved, when to exit the game, and the victory screen came up - ominious music, and scenes of flaming T-34s and German troops poking through wreckage. Decisive Victory. I'm glad I didn't choose one of the "Bitter End" scenarios, but had I done so I think I could have swept the Soviets completely from the map by, oh, turn 75-80 or so. Mostly because it would be hard to run them all down and to seize mountainous southern terrain.

In the end I controlled everything from Chelopets in the north to Kazan in the center, to Stalingrad, Saratov, Engels, Astrakhan, and I was a bit short of Baku (thank to stiff resistance, and ironically, lack of fuel.) I'd taken a bit under 2 million casualties and inflicted around 9 million on the Soviets. That's military . . . civilian losses must have been an appalling multiple of that, nevermind the inevitable sweep of folks meant for slave labor or death camps. Cheery victory, eh?

I was disappointed in the AI. I know I'd gutted the Soviet forces with a big encirclement or two, so offering resistance wasn't going to be easy, but suddenly it just kept pulling back from threatened strongpoints. I was able to just take city after city - often major ones - without any resistance. They'd be dug in, fort level 2 or 3, and very hard to flank . . . and pull out. Instead of spending 2-3 turns, maybe twice that, trying to leverage them out of some city or strongpoint, I was just handed them. That only happned on the last 10 turns, really, but it turned a race to win before winter into a bloody and quick rout.

I guess those Tiger Is can be used in North Africa? I literally had them used in one battle, and they did little except shoot some ammo off, burn some fuel, and have 2 break down in combat. The Soviet unit I struck fled quickly, routing, but only lost a handful of their tanks in the process. It never mattered.

Next time, I'll crank up the difficulty. I learned a lot. And yeah, if/when War in the East II comes out, I'm on it. Maybe I should fire up War in the West and give it a go next.

I've been re-reading AD&D spells recently, and I just want to say, I used to think Magic Jar was in incomprehensible spell. Now, I just think it's potentially comprehensible but a hot mess of explanation. I need to give it another go and see if I can wrap my ahead around how to play it out. No one ever took it, and no dungeon ever seemed to feature it. I'm glad for that.

- I love Morale systems. GURPS has one that's not as easy as, say, B/X D&D, but not as hard to use quickly as, say, AD&D's system. I tried to re-write the GURPS morale rules but ended up just deciding that maybe the original system is better than what I could generate. It works, if I remember to roll it. The PCs just try to shoot down and run down everyone who flees to ensure 100% casualties, so it's almost like save or die in my game when I do roll.

- Weird magic items are where it is at.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Some thoughts on Defense Rolls First in GURPS

This is not a new idea, but Doug just blogged about it because Roleplayrescue did first. So, here I am, too.

You can see the concept explained here:

The Defence Roll Reversal

Short version - roll Active Defense rolls first. This makes the defender commit, and means any attack you choose to defend against has a cost (in cumulative defense penalties as applicable, or use of Retreat, or cost in FP for defensive spells.)

Will it work? I think so. From the post, it clearly works for this group.

I don't ever plan on using it, myself.

In general, I don't like increasing the number of rolls. Defense first adds to the number of rolls - because a critical hit can bypass even a successful defense. So you always need to roll for a defense, unless you choose to just take the hit. If you use the usual process, the number of rolls needed for defenses is limited by the number of hits - you don't roll if the attacker critical hits, misses, or critically misses.

Also, I'm not fond of the idea of a critical defense causing a critical miss before we even know if the attacker would have hit an undefending opponent. I find that really messes with how I picture combat flowing.

Pretty much, that's it. We have so much going on in terms of dice rolls with a large group, and a large number of foes. Adding more die rolls, even in the name of tension, means significantly longer combats. I spend a lot of time minimizing die rolls, and cutting down die rolls which don't really need to be there.

Still, read the post. It's clear this is working. As you can see from the post, the players like it. It works in Actual Play. Just for me, it comes with baggage (extra rolls!) I'd rather do without, and a change of perception about how combat flows that I'd rather not have to get everyone onto the same page with. Remember, just because you don't like a rule it doesn't mean it doesn't work, and just because it works it doesn't mean you have to like it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Gold Coin sizes

How big is my gold coin?

It's a question that dates back pretty far in gaming, not the least of which is because D&D came along with 10 gold coins to the pound. A nice, heft, 1.6 oz hunk of gold that you expected to find, and dispose of, in the thousands.

But how big are they?

There was an article in Dragon Magazine, issue #80, which took a look at it.

"How Many Coins in My Coffer?" by David F. Godwin

In that article, the author came up with this for AD&D gold coins:

Weight: 0.1 lb. = 1.6 ounces = 45.36 grams
Diameter: 1 1/2" = 3.81 cm
Thickness: 0.1" = 0.254 cm = 2.54 mm
Volume: 0.177 cubic inch = 2.9 cc
Specific gravity: 15.66

I also recently stumbled across this chart:

Gold Coin Size Chart

I'm not sure how accurate it is for real-world use, but it could be useful for gaming. There are a lot of coin sizes each with gold purity, weight in ounces and grams, diameter, and thickness. It's probably not too hard to find a coin of the same size, and something of the same weight, for a chance to see and feel the size of the coins in your game.

Felltower's gold coins are 250/pound, which makes them fairly small - 0.064 ounces, and probably ~14mm diameter and 1.4mm thick. See, I probably should have gone for 50/pound like I've thought in retrospect.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

War in the East - Tigers

I basically have the game won at this point except for mopping up (okay, there is hellacious resistance around Maikop and Krasnodar and I'm getting beaten away from Voroshilovsk), but I was very pleased to see these guys pop up:

502nd Heavy Tank Battalion.

2 squads of pioneers, 2 squads of motorcycle troops, 5 AA guns, 22 Panzer IIIn (the ones with the short barrelled 75mm/L24 gun originally used on the Panzer IV) . . . and 11 Tigers! The TOE calls for 20 of them but the factories rolled out 11 total as of last turn, so that's enough to deploy the unit. Putting 20 tigers on the field, along with supporting guns and AFVs calls for 799 men total. Logistics is a bitch.

These guys will go right to the 11th Army fighting to keep Maikop and Krasnodar and take Voroshilovsk . . .

And yes, it does say they "Upgrade" to Tiger IIs. The factory changes over, and then units with Tiger Is should replace them with Tigers IIs. It's not a literal upgrade.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Session 139, Felltower 107 - Green Gemstone Zombies again

Date: October 12th, 2020
Weather: Cool, clear.


Aldwyn Hale, human knight (313 points)
     Varmus the Hanged, human apprentice wizard (155 points)
     Orcish Bob, "orc" squire (125 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (461 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (306 points)
Wyatt Sorrel, human swashbuckler (321 points)

We started off in Sterickburg. The PCs spent a long, long time planning out the goals for the session. Lacking a large group, they eventually settled on a "scouting" expedition.

They gathered rumors, which mostly didn't affect their plans, and purchased a barrel of ale, a wheelbarrow to carry it in, and headed out to the old "dragon cave." Their intention was to meet the giant that's there, and either befriend him with a gift of ale, or kill him if that didn't work.

They reached the cave and sent Galen in to scout. The giant wasn't home, and hadn't left a lootable bag of stuff around this time. The PCs went in and stashed the wheelbarrow and ale nearby, but "out of reach" of the giant (based on their estimation of his size, which is based on very little evidence.)

From there they headed to the "High Sanctity Area" and partook of some mushrooms (Wyatt) and water (Wyatt, Aldwyn) and rested.

They went up the stairs and reached the white-tiled room. Next, they made their way toward the green gemstone zombie room, checked a door or two along the way. They hurried past a room with double doors beyond which was marked "child statue" and in front of which was a "Hiroshima shadow" from a blast-burned crouching person.

They noted a "new" corridor - at least one that wasn't on their map. It dead-ended out after 15'.

Once they reached the weird truncated J-shaped sloping corridor, they spiked in a rope and used that to reach the metal door at the end. Wyatt picked the lock, taking extra time to be sure of success.

They moved inside the room and found 11 zombies along the walls - a mix of orcs and hobgoblins, mostly, but also two humans - each a green gemstone in its forehead. In the middle of the room was a green glow centered, seemingly, on a point about 8' off of the ground.

The zombies attacked with clubs and saw-toothed curved blades. They died quickly - the melee fighters waited for them to close and decapitated them (although Orcish Bob lopped off one's leg and then chopped his torso before Aldwyn decapitated it), while Galen shot three arrows in their vitals. They dodged a few blows but only ever landed a single one - a grab of Orcish Bob's ankle before they killed it. The casters helped with Sunbolt and Fireball.

The killing done, they extracted the gems with Cleansing, and took them as loot. Wyatt snapped all of the blades and clubs by placing them against the wall and stomping them. Then he took one of the clubs and touched the glowing light.

He was immediately paralyzed, and took 6 injury, then 4 more a second later. So Ulf healed him 10 with Faith Healing, then realized he was still taking damage as Wyatt took another 1 injury. They dragged him off of the glow.

They then tried to destroy the glow - Dismissive Wave failed, as did shooting it with a Sunbolt (which just caused a green glow in the room and 1 injury to everyone), throwing a club at it (passed through, hitting nothing), and casting Sunlight, too. The last one failed spectacularly as Ulf took 7 injury as he tried to run away, only to find the green glow "beat" or "absorbed" the Sunlight.

They rested a bit and healed up, and then explored the "hydra room" - nothing but old bones and acid corrision marks on the floor.

After that, they found the stairs up and headed up. They made it up to "level 2" and into the orc area. There was a lot of old wood and tools inthe first room, but no orcs. And no barricades. They headed around toward the "orc hole" and reached a room. No orcs. They noted a stone button on the floor in an alcove, and their map claimed there was a trap door either in the floor or the ceiling, they weren't sure which or where it goes (actually, the map says so clearly.)

So, naturally, they checked for trap doors and found the one in the ceiling. They set guards and used See Secrets to search for a button to release it, but found none. Next they decided to check the floor button. They backed off and set up guard position, then Wyatt pressed the button.

The floor dropped away from underneath him, 20' down to spikes below. He grabbed the edge and kept from falling in. The floor banged against the sides as it released beneath him, as did Wyatt's Mythic Corselet and epic plate leg protection.

As Wyatt pulled himself back up, with some help, they heard voices and booted feet - orcs!

Their sneaky recon was about to be compromised. So they ran, lights mostly covered.

The fled down the stairs to the next level. At the landing, Wyatt suggested they split into two groups. One to keep "fleeing" to draw pursuit, and the others to wait in ambush in the dark. Ulf, Aldwyn, and Wyatt briefly argued about if they should kill all pursuers so the orcs wouldn't know who'd come, or just running, but ambush won out . . .

. . . until Galen said, "You know they can see in the dark, right?"

They decided to just keep running. They did so, but then carefully took the winding stairs down. They saw and heard no immediate pursuit.

At the bottom of the stairs, headed toward the "behir" and the gargoyles, hoping to kill them and take their stuff.

Instead, they ran into a big batch of beetles - horshoe-crab-sized beetles - about four to six dozen of them. Acting quickly, Varmus put down a 3-area Create Fire to block them off. The beetles were too big to climb the walls, so they were stuck. Wyatt tossed three Alchemist Fire flasks behind them to pen them in. Varmus added an Explosive Fireball at 1d but it killed on and harmed one or two others. Sunbolt didn't do much. (They were clearly low-HP but had a solid bit of DR.) Galen started shooting them, as they discussed ways to roast or destroy them all to get rid of this parade of beetles.

As that happened, though, some of them felt a bit . . . fuzzy. They lost some Will, IQ, and DX. They couldn't figure out what it was, so they retreated back to the "High Sanctity Room." Galen heard leathery wings flap, briefly, but then nothing. They made it to the room safely.

They waited there for a bit, but then decided it was gone. They checked out Sterick's Tomb on the way, and the "nest." It was clearly a man-sized creature, maybe a bit smaller, making a big nest of sticks held together by mud. They found nothing of value, so they left. The didn't encounter the giant on the way out, ether

They made it back to town, and despite the late hour all but Ulf headed to the tower of Jans the Black . . . but it wasn't there. The alley that should lead to it dead-ended, instead, and there wasn't any way to get to the plaza . . . and there was no tower there, anyway. So they ended up just selling their green gems on the open market for 250 each.


One rumor they heard was that the cone-hatted cultists have a real church in the capital city, now, so be careful killing them in Felltower.

Equipment notes for my players: Always check DF1 and DF8 before Low-Tech. They are authoritative. Low-Tech just provides coverage for items not in those boos, and what's listed there may or may not be available. The PCs looked up prices for barrels in LT, ale in LT, etc. but those aren't the prices for this game.

So it's much faster making decisions with a "small" group. It didn't take long to sort through any in-dungeon decisions about actions. One decisive yes, or 2-3 "that sounds worth trying" reponses, was all that was needed.

And yes, four is a very small group these days. We'd expected seven but had two last-minute situations, and one was a family function for one pair of gamers. So a "smallish" seven became a small four. They had less capabilities and overlap of such. It's funny but they see one scout, one wizard, one cleric, and two front-line fighters with heavy armor as lacking in appropriate firepower and magical support. Usually they have so many front line fighters that they can sort out a "front rank" with shields and a "second rank" of shield-less fighters and put NPC hired support in the back to keep the casters safe from flank or rear attack.

They wanted Raggi but he's basically retired. Finding him will take an actual search, not a random "Is Raggi around?" roll. He hasn't delved with the group since sometime around 2018.

I was actually looking forward to them talking to Jans the Black, aka Black Jans - well, at least to (his?) servant(s), the Kio. But the dice said no. It happens.

Overall, a fun session. The PCs had a few goals - try to parlay with (or barring that, kill) the giant and its wolves, find an alternate path up to the orcs, kill the "behir," kill the gargoyles in the caves, and investigate the green gemstone zombies. They managed two of those, which isn't that bad - two of them got nixed by the odd encounter at the end, and one by the giant just not being there when they were there. Not bad, really. They managed a bit of loot, too, although I'm not sure if they have a clear idea of what to do next.

XP was 4 each for loot (only 2 xp for Galen). MVP was Galen for "You know they can see in the dark, right?" That spared them a failed ambush attempt as they used darkness for concealment. Infravision is a difficult thing to counter sometimes.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Felltower pre-summary

Small group today for Felltower - "only" four players.


- went into the "dragon cave" with a bribe for the giant

- didn't find said giant

- found a "new" hallway (maybe - or marked up their map correctly, either way)

- fought the green gemstone zombies

- discovered a back way to the orcs behind the obstacles and barriers of rubble

- fought some beetles

- had something weird happen

- investigated the nest in Sterick's Tomb

- and made it home, still without meeting the giant.

Summary tomorrow if I have time to write it!

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Gamma Beholder

Our GM put this up:

And said this:

If you scan my Beholder tag you’ll find a bunch of fun things, such as playing off AD&D Beholder abilities and recasting them in Gamma World terms, or complaining that my GURPS Dungeon Fantasy cleric died at the hands of a Beholder on his very first adventure. (I spent four times as much time Photoshopping his character portrait as I did playing him.)

The players in my Tomorrow Men game probably suspect there’s a Beholder somewhere in their corner of Gamma Terra, given how I go on about them. But Midden is a big place; he could be anywhere.


Yeah, we'll need to stock up on Beholder-killing rounds. Or just torc grenade it.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Random Links for 10/9/2020

Random Links from the past week for a Friday!

- How do you treasure?

Here was my response, copied from the comments:

I expect we handle it like a lot of people do:

- magic items go to those who benefit from them the most.
- monetary loot is divided evenly *or* according to need, if the XP system rewards an uneven split.
- magic items that could go to anyone go to the characters who don't get anything.
- if the above makes the split really lopsided, the players find some way to compensate the ones who got the shaft.

- I can't remember who posted this link, but I love these Foundry subject primers - this one on the Ancient Greeks!

- Bill Sinkiewicz draws a wizard. That's awesome.

- Want to see the GURPS disadvantage Bad Temper in action, without murdering people? Go and watch Seasons 1 and 2 of Doctor Who. As in, William Hartnell. He's a good example of Bad Temper (9). A good chunk of the time he speaks up when keeping quiet would be better, be berates his companions, he argues with his granddaughter, he mouths off to Daleks, and otherwise says stuff that gets him in trouble. His inability to keep quiet when his intellect has temporarily gotten him the advantage and not to press his advantage is a whole 'nother problem.

All in all, though, it's a great example of the disadvantage. Mostly people read it as "I'm fine or I kill people." But sometimes it's just you do something ultimately self-destructive because someone upsets you, or treat someone unfairly for the same reason. It limits your options but unless you throw in -10 points in Bloodlust, which the Doctor has not, you're going to be more like him than like some murder hobo.

You can find the whole first season on Vimeo, if you look them up by episode name.

- Totally off-topic for gaming, maybe, except as game inspiration, is Mark Felton Productions on Youtube. He's a British historian who puts out utterly amazing videos on WW2 that cover topics you didn't even know you were interested in, or even existed. Here are four great examples:

The 11,000 or so German diehards who kept fighting in Stalingrad months after the official surrender of the 6th Army.

That famous tank duel of a Pershing vs. a Panther in Cologne, Germany.
(Koln is future home of Hawkmoon, Duke of Koln, for you Eternal Champion fans.)

Or Americans & German troops fighting SS troops in a Castle.

How about one of my favorite pieces of trivia - the last major WW2-era Panzer action was . . . 1967 during the Six Day War

It's really amazing stuff. It's fun WW2 mini battles scenario material, great history, and game inspiration. He can knock off 10-15 minutes on something you didn't even know happened. Meanwhile, The History Channel talks about how aliens may have caused all of history. These can be brutal to watch - in the Cologne duel, a tank crewman bails from his tank with his leg blown off below the knee, and it was caught on film. It's all fun and games until you realize it's real people, suffering real injuries that will follow them for their rest of their lives. One mistake, one meter closer to Berlin, and their lives changed. But it's all the history you'd wished for when you read very brief but imaginatively evocative descriptions of the battles of WW2.

Speaking of war, Part II of an interview with Douglas Niles is up on Grognardia. Yay, Battlesystem!

Doug put up a post with a rule idea for Fantastic Dungeon Grappling. My actual play with a similarly simplified system hasn't really born it out as a problem needing solving, for my game at least.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

How are my GURPS books doing? Last month, well indeed.

I received my royalties report today from SJG. I won't say what it was, but I will say it was unusually high.

This tells me the add-on PDFs people purchased from the SJG 2020 PDF Kickstarter hit my accounting statement.

Long story short: Wow, thank you. It's a nice bit of change.

Long story a bit longer: Some of my books are in the hands of a lot more people.

A good example is DFT3: Artifacts of Felltower. 71 copies of that went out this month, which is an usually high amount for a book after its first months.

DF15 added a few copies, too.

As did Martial Arts and DFM3, as well.

The book that did the least - out of ones I receive royalties for - was GURPS Martial Arts: Gladiators. Only 7 of those sold. Aww. We put in a lot of work on that one, and I think it's a good book. It doesn't get a lot of love or attention, honestly, especially given the work put in for it. Still, at least 7 more people are taking a look at it.

Overall, a good day. It's nice that my hobby income gets a nice spike here and there. And it's even nicer that the way that happens is that gamers have more of my work in their hands to help them run the games the way the want to. I work in the service sector in my main job, but in a way, the same thread runs through my writing. I enjoy it greatly, but it's people on the other end using what I was able to impart to them that makes it a source of satisfaction.

So, therefore, thank you to everyone who purchased and purchases my books; I sincerely hope they improve your games.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

War in the East - Turn 55

This is going well.
After a slogging winter fight, I was been able to use turns of clear weather to attack the Soviets and turns of mud to wait and let encirled units starve a bit. Now it's clear weather, and I'm on the attack. I'm aggressively using my panzer and motorized divisions to encircle Soviet units, then let my infantry crush them (with extra air support if they're tough.)

I'm trying to bite off as many units as I can, even if it's only 1-2 here or 6-7 there.

Overall . . . I think I have this won. Surviving the winter was the key for me. Digging in, counterattacking where I could, and giving ground where neither of those were good moves helped win the winter. Now it's campaign season and I'm crushing the Soviets.

My best weapons at this stage are Panzer IVG with a long-barreled 75mm gun (in tiny amounts), some Marder II panzerjaegers, Panzer IIIJ and IIIM, and BF-109s and the mid-end JU-87, JU-88, and HE-111 bombers. Nothing exciting. The first Tigers aren't due for another month or so (4-5 turns before they hit production.)

Casualties are nasty:

The Soviets have lost almost 7 million men - 1.8 million dead, 3.2 million captured (and let's face it - they're dead). That's 5 million permanent losses, to Axis losses of 1.6 million men, out of which 530,000 are dead and just under 22,000 are captured. That's .55 million permanent losses. I've managed a 10:1 loss inflicted ratio even after a harsh winter where combats were I lost 1:2 or 1:3 were common. I've wiped out over 300 division-or-larger units. It's just staggering. I barely have enough men on the entire field to suffer their losses (5.5 million total Axis) and they are still fielding armies. Sadly for them, they're going to die. I'm gobbling up all of those encircled units this turn, planning to punch a hole to Stalingrad, expand my ring arount Rostov, and keep pushing to cut the rail lines that keep their northern forces grinding away at the Finns.

Fun game, but it's just beginning to fell endgame-like.
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