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.


  1. You make the comment about video games somewhat tongue in cheek I think, but 3 of my last 4 campaigns ended because the players really weren't interested in putting any more effort into it than looking for someone with an exclamation over their head to tell them to get 6 bear claws. Had one group come right out and ask why I even give NPC's names and not just call them "quest giver" since nobody cares what their name is anyways. It's just about made me swear off gaming altogether.

    1. Oh, I wasn't being tongue in cheek at all. I mentioned this a week back - one black mark against the orcs in the PC's book is that they have a goal but won't hire the PCs to accomplish it. After all, that's how things work - PCs get hired or the stars of the TV show solve the problem in the town-of-the-week.

      The PCs are the center of the attention in my game, and they may even be truly unusual and exceptional, but they aren't the center of the world . . . and the world isn't there to simply provide them with quests, foes, and chances to spend loot taken from both of those.

    2. There’s something to be said about prepping/running a TTRPG a little like a CPRG: you can prepare your world one chunk at a time, adding “locations” to the map as the PCs go and have adventures. For the Gamma World (“Tomorrow Men”) game I run for Peter and the others, I gave them a world map (after a few introductory sessions) with three locations on it. Since they hadn’t been playing long enough to formulate their own plan, they had three “locations” to explore. As they did those “quests”, they uncovered more locations. As the game progressed, they began to form their own objectives so now they ignore some locations (potentially interesting, but not relevant, they decide) and focus on others. They have plans/goals, and explore accordingly. The result is almost a sandbox; they can do what they want, provided they give me time to prepare the location and make up some stuff to do there. Some locations I have ideas for in advance, and some I ignore until the players announce they want to go there. As for getting “quests” from NPCs, there’s been some of that: an NPC needs something done, and it aligns with the PCs’ interests, so they choose to do it. But that’s rare so far; there are a ton of NPCs they could go to looking for work, but they’re happy to focus on their pursuits. I’d like to think we’ve struck a good balance between an open TTRPG sandbox and a guided CPRG sandbox.

    3. It's been a good way to run a game. Felltower is a lot like this, but with fewer opportunities for "jobs." Also, the PCs have exterminated a good number of the people who have offered quests of any kind, and mostly complained about the rewards from others (up to and including the Church), and still further ignored job offers for various reasons (such as the one about the draugr, the prize for recovering Gram, the one about capturing a live Ravening Eye), so that hasn't helped any.

      In Gamma Terra, it doesn't hurt that I take a strong interest in our aims as a group, and I mostly regard NPC-offered jobs as annoying distractions from our goals.

  2. I would have ruled Varmus is Aldwyn buddy, he needs to pony up

    1. It's their money, it's up to them how they spend it.

  3. "Crogle wasn't convinced."

    That came this >< close to having a spittake.

    It still surprises me that no one has invested even "one point a week" towards Diplomacy as often as it would have been a boon to the group as a whole. I mean I get it, I have Characters I'd never waste the points with, Ogress Barbarian with a 7 IQ? Nope. But even with a slightly suboptimal Character, Shadow Elf MA/Swashbuckler with a 10 IQ and a few soc disads? It's doable. After say 24 sessions with a point every other session (I'm looking 12 points)? That's a decently "solid" Diplomacy (IQ+2) if no one else in the group was rocking the "and we talk them out of our bad first impression" skills (on any one who isn't IQ below 10 + Social Disads).

    I don't know, it's just odd to me as despite DFRPG being very much a "everyone in their niche" game, I still see value in overlapping coverage and working towards building that overlap (and there is easement in the Templates for mild overlap), and as often as a little Social lubrication would help them, no one has invested towards it.

    Of course you also have a bunch of social misfit Characters who have a tendency to strongly dislike the groups they often need to talk with... so I can also see why your group keeps running into these problems.

    1. I could not imagine a 10 IQ character spending a point in Diplomacy any more than a 10 DX one in Acrobatics

    2. The logic of "I can't be great at it, so there is no point in being good at it" is at least partly to blame for the consistent poor results of negotiations.

    3. More 'I can't be not bad at it so there is no point in being not horrendous'

      Someone like a Wizard or Cleric who can at least spell IQ might have a really good case for dropping a point into it, they could get a 12 or so, that is worth rolling

      IQ 10 guy getting an 8? Not sure it's worth the bother

    4. 'could not imagine a 10 IQ character spending a point in Diplomacy any more than a 10 DX one in Acrobatics"

      Inversely, I do that exact thing all the time. Especially a low risk skill like Diplomacy. I mean... 'Oh no, I have a 50/50 shot of making the situation better and absolutely zero chance of making it worse with a roll in a skill I have 1-4 points in? Okay.'

      like, especially Diplomacy. Now skills like Intimidation, Sex Appeal, Acrobatics, where a failure can make the situation worse? Yeah, okay, I can see definitely 'staying in your comfort zone/niche'.

      And in my example of 1 point every other session across 24 sessions? That get's an IQ 10 person to Diplomacy 12.

      I mean a 12 is far better than 50/50 and can make you the MVP for having the one skill all your antisocial murder-hobo buddies don't have. You ain't no Bard by a far cry, but you're better than the Barbarian drooling on his shield as he chews it in preparation for a berserkergang......

    5. 12pts could get you 3 better at something your actually supposed to be good at

      Surely somebody in the party actually has an IQ score? If anyone should be buying diplomacy it should be that person

    6. "More 'I can't be not bad at it so there is no point in being not horrendous'" - Maybe, but you might be conflating my argument with evileeyore's argument. There are PCs that can usefully improve social skills, run my players who might actually use them, but they do not. Part of the logic behind that is that a few points isn't good enough, and a lot of points costs a lot of points, so hey, let's just roleplay really well and hope that's enough to bypass the skills needed for the job. After all, you don't want to waste points on something sub-optimal when you're always short on points for maximizing what you're good at.

    7. That is a really good reason not to do something if it is true. My argument is only valid if a skill of say 12 is going to be useful. If a skill of 12 is useful, a IQ 14 guy dropping a point into Diplomacy is a possibly good idea. If you need say 20 to be useful, best to wait until your a Wizard with IQ 22 later down the road.

      Of course a point spent on something fringe like Diplomacy can be a hard sell since it is not core to the character. But it might still be a good idea since well maybe it will work and 1pt is kinda sorta cheap in the grand scheme of things

    8. I get the "not wanting to 'waste' points" arguments (we can argue endlessly about if it's actually a waste or not, but I get the argument). However...

      Let's look at Dilandua's group: The party leader human Thief who has iffy decision making capacities (the Character has made bad calls), a drunken human Knight (the 'drunken' part I suspect is an OPH as it doesn't affect his combat capacity) with iffy ideas about what constitutes as necessary, a weirdo human (?) Wizard who thinks he's a birdman (we haven't seen him with his Plague Dr mask off), and Dilandua, a shadow elf 'assassin' (MA/SB).

      Dilandua's 'only'* social disad is a Callous and of course, Dilandua always makes good decisions and has good taste (Posh Quirk - susceptible to Savoir Faire High Soc), but looks slightly weird (Androgynous Fae, -1 RR with people who dislike Fae or Androgyny).

      So while the Wizard and Thief could have a higher Diplo for 1 point, Dilandua //doesn't trust them// to deescalate the situation (they've both actually shown a preference to just murder people we could talk our way past), so... I will be buying up Diplomacy as the game goes and shifting Dilandua more and more into the role of "Party Leader", so we take mission that fits Dilandua's sensibilities instead of a group of murder hobos (aside from Dilandua, this group so fits the stereotype of murder hobos it isn't funny).

      .* Dilandua has the full 50 points in Disads, but Callous is the only one that will always have an impact on Social situations, the other ones are either niche (Fae Androgyny, Posh), or so rare it's not likely to ever come up in Social situations (Bloodlust, Code of Bushido, Disciplines of Faith (Chi Rituals), Obsession (Become the best spear fighter in the world!), Skinny, Quirks: Audacious in battle (Overconfident), Disciplined (Won't Start Fights), Observant Worshiper of the Builder).

      So... while I get the argument, it just doesn't (and never will) have emotional weight for me. I'll always disagree that it's the best choice to stick to your niche, it's a good choice, but the best choice is to broaden slightly so in an emergency you have people rolling at 10-12s instead of 6-8s. I get that there will always be rare situations where no one can fill in†, but there is no reason to deliberately broaden that list of situations. And again, especially Diplomacy where there is no downside to making the roll.

      .† "Cleric down!" is a classic for a reason. And why I expanded Power Investiture and Holy Might to aiding Exorcism and Esoteric Medicine, it really helps broaden the Holy Warrior into being a 'back-up Cleric'.

    9. "I get that there will always be rare situations where no one can fill in†, but there is no reason to deliberately broaden that list of situations."

      Yeah, this.

    10. I should also say, if no one has skills the party demonstrably uses and needs, anyone taking them is an improvement. If you need social skills, Survival skills, Boating, whatever, it's better to have someone not-good at it instead of terrible or just unable to do it.

    11. If say Boating seems useful I'll totally take Boating, since my IQ 10 character presumably is good at Boating as it is DX based.

      But I have never been motivated in 4e take a DX or IQ based skill up much on an opposite statted character

      Really there are only two main 'skills off these' stats, so I don't think I've seen a party that lacked at least 1 DX guy and 1 IQ guy except once. That party was only 2 PCs and ended up shoring up with hirelings

      I will at times take a skill to only use half of it though. Like a character with good Perception and lousy DX buying Traps in order to spot them buy relying on others to disarm

  4. Not a GURPS player. Can you explain the reaction mechanic. I know GURPS in general is 3d6 roll under attribute/skill. A result of 9 by that mechanic sounds good. And of course in D&D with 2d6, roll high, it is a positive reaction.

    The avoidance of social skills in your group is most peculiar to me. I usually play high charisma negotiators - bards and priests - in systems that allow assigning or buying stats. It's so beneficial (and it also gives me the floor almost any time I want, plus with your XP mechanic it would probably net the MVP about once a month). There are usually one or two players who want to build the "face" character in every group I've sat with...rarely everyone is trying to get that role at a one-shot among strangers. So to have nobody willing to even get to average in negotiation is befuddling!

    1. So reactions in GURPS are either a skill roll - roll-under - or a roll on the Reaction Roll Table. The table is an effect roll, much like damage - roll 3d, higher is better. So a 3 is very bad and an 18 is extremely good. A 9 is the bottom end of a so-so reaction. You really want 10+ to get a non-hostile reaction and a 13+ to potentially resolve things in a positive way. Modifiers go from there - you an end up with a 0 or less (Disastrous) or 19+ (Excellent).

    2. Also you can look at page 3 of GURPS Lite if you want more details without the full system:

      GURPS Lite

      It's free.


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