Monday, December 7, 2020

GURPS DF Session 143, Felltower 110 - The Lord of Spite (Part II)

Today was session II of a multi-session attempt to destroy the Lord of Spite, the demon lord the PCs have repeatedly encountered throughout the campaign. The report isn't really going to be a blow-by-blow - even less so than usual.

Date: December 6th, 2020
Game Date: November 22nd, 2020
Weather: Cool, cloudy, dark.

Ahenobarbus Barca, human swashbuckler (286 points)
Aldwyn Hale, human knight (313 points)
     Varmus the Hanged, human apprentice wizard (145 points)
Crogar, human barbarian (326 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (430 points)
Gerrald Tarrant, human wizard (408 points)
     3 skeletons (~35 points)
Heyden, human knight (307 points)
"Mild" Bruce, human barbarian (315 points)
Sir Bunny Wigglesworth, human holy warrior (286 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (306 points)
Wyatt Sorrel, human swashbuckler (321 points)

We picked up where we left off last time - with the Lord of Spite about to take his next turn.

Durak attacked Sir Bunny, who blocked his club as the axe swing missed. He was knocked back a couple of yards into one of the boars by the hit. The devil maw on Bruce kept gnawing on him and holding him up. (Ahenobarbus's player said he was ergonomic, and that quickly turned into an Ikea name for them - Mawbörg.) The other one attacked Ulf - and managed to grapple him again. Another attacked Wyatt but wasn't able to land a blow.

The doomchildren attacked Galen and Sir Bunny but they managed to fend off the attacks.

Wyatt managed to kill one of the three devil maws - the one badly bashed up by Ahenobarus - and then with his second turn of Great Haste he killed another.

The doomchildren continued to be a problem - one had cornered Galen, who tried to Evade past it and failed badly. It kept slashing at him. Ulf rushed over and put Resist Fire on him to keep him safe from its explosion, then eventually healed him with Faith Healing. Galen in the meantime lopped off the arms of the doomchild in front of him, so it was stuck trying to bite him.
Gerry eventually moved over to Crogar, put Invisibility on him, and then used an Awaken spellstone to wake him up despite his coma (-8 to the roll.) He woke up, and got him axe ready and readied his shield and stepped into the fray.

Bruce got tossed down to the floor by the remaining devil maw, which moved to engage the PCs attacking the Lord of Spite. It didn't last - Wyatt turned on it and chopped it down after a big Feint.

Meanwhile, Heyden steadily bashed at the skull of one of the boars, eventually killing it. He re-readied his shield and marched towards the battle as he did so.

The second boar was slain next, by Gerry's skeleton hacking at it from behind. Ahenobarbus chopped it repeatedly but it was the skeleton that put it over the edge to -5xHP and automatic death.

Crogar, Wyatt, and Ahenobarbus all moved to attack the Lord of Spite. He parried both attacks easily, despite his Invisibility spell. Galen dropped his swordsword, readied his bow, and shot at the Lord of Spite. That was harmless - he had Missile Shield up.

Sir Bunny kept fighting the doomchild over him, and lopped off its arms. It bit him in the face. Then Sir Bunny lopped off a leg and, unfortunately, it died - it was very badly wounded. It exploded, scorching Sir Bunny. Its shrapnel flew in all directions - and bad luck, it caught Varmus in the blast, and inflicted just enough injury for a death check. He missed the roll badly and died. Galen shot the one in front of him and killed it, and the sharpnel didn't hurt anyone.

Durak cast Dispel Magic about now, taking out some of Wyatt and Bruce's spells but Gerry's largely resisted.

Meanwhile Wyatt managed to attack one of the skulls around Durak's neck and destroy it. Despite a very successful feint, it took a critical hit to manage that - Durak was too skilled to really fall for the feint. Durak responded with a critical of his own and lopped of one of Wyatt's legs. Only his net DR 13 kept him from losing both legs to the cut. He fell back and down. Durak backed into the darkness.

Sir Bunny crawled up to the edge of the darkness on all fours. Durak forsook an easy chance to just kill him outright, and instead swung randomly - and crippled both of Sir Bunny's arms - smashing one to a pulp with the club and cutting the other off with his axe. Sir Bunny taunted him as a coward, and stepped on Sir Bunny's back and ground him into the stone floor, crushing a few of his potions and holy water vials. Sir Bunny was elated - the water would touch Durak! Sadly, no - it was all of 8 oz of water under a full-grown man. It never came close.

Ahenobarbus and Heyden closed with Durak. Ahenobarbus managed to destroy the two remaining skulls while avoiding the Lord of Spite's attacks. They started to attack him, but neither Heyden's sword (taken from a draugr guard of Sterick's) nor Magebane could do much besides crease his skin a bit. Heyden attacked Durak's axe at this point, roughly, and managed to hit it - and snap it in half! Durak stepped off of Sir Bunny, who rolled over and hooked his one working leg around Durak's leg! The Lord of Spite pretty casually smashed it to a pulp with his club and stunned Sir Bunny.

They pressed him, though, so he stepped back into the impenetrable darkness that appeared just before he did. Ulf tried Sunlight to counter it but failed. Gerry tried Shape Darkness but failed.

They'd try that repeatedly, and eventually - much later - Ulf would finally take out the darkness with his spell.

Crogar waited as Wyatt moved up, now under the effects of a Levitate spellstone. Durak swiped at him, and Crogar interrupted and cut his arm for a serious-looking gash.

Crogar moved into the darkness and attacked Durak's hex - and rolled a 3! Too bad, Durak had stepped back last turn. A 3 against an empty hex is still a miss.
Sir Bunny kept taunting Durak loudly, to no seeming effect. Bruce managed to heal himself up - Ulf used Major Healing and then Bruce drank potion after potion to get back to positive HP and then eventually to full - from -116 to 33 took a while even with x3 for his 33 HP.

They tried to engage, slowly, and moved up, at each step trying to dispel the darkness - with spells, with a held-out glow vial, with Magebane - but nothing worked. Sir Bunny listened, but couldn't hear anything. Ulf eventually rolled a 3 (or 4?) on a Sunlight spell and dispelled it all. Those with Dark Vision saw just a cave ahead, with some scattered coins and other tiny objects. They didn't see the big heaps of coins they'd heard about.

They started to stalk into the cave. Most of them worked their way to the right, seeing a larger cave opening to that side. Ulf went ahead by himself. They eventually heard some drag-stomp noises, echoing around such they couldn't localize the sound. Ulf moving up by himself saw what he think is a pentagram on the floor off to one side of the cave . . . and looked the other direction and saw Durak.

Walking with with two clubs - his regular one, and a stalactite - and a new necklace of skulls.

Ulf started to run away, and the others turned to run up as he shouted for help.
We left it there - Heyden, exhausted, gatherig body parts. Sir Bunny crippled. Varmus dead. Aldwyn in a coma. And a split group rushing the Lord of Spite.


Great Haste on all of the fighters drained a lot of FP - I'll personally calculate it next time, because I think a few more people than just Heyden are down a lot of FP. The group should be down 1+Enc for the march up to the fight, 1+Enc for the fight, and down 5 more for Great Haste. Even the guys at Light should be down 9 FP, with STs in the 11-13 range for a number of them. Strength potions don't give FP, and Paut can't be used to help.

Lots of ease avoiding the Lord of Spite's attacks, mostly by Dodging. I think most of the fighters have used spellstones of Haste. For simplicity, we allow Haste to add to final Move and Dodge. I don't know if that's the intent - it raises "Move and Dodge scores," so that's what it does.

It's amusing as people try to taunt enemies. It's pretty much one thematic whole - "Come out here and fight on my terms, you coward!" Heh. Does it anger Durak? He's not the most even tempered of types, but he's called "the Uncaring" for a reason. It doesn't seem to be making a difference in his actions. Not a lot does - if he wanted to, he could have easily killed a number of PCs this session. Clearly, he doesn't care to. But back to taunting - my players use it a lot but lack any skills to back it up, so it's just that much noise. I'll give a bonus for a good taunt, but it's rare the taunt is more than just the above - you're a coward, come and fight me, don't use your advantages against me but come fight me in this ambush I clearly laid, etc.

NO HELPING! - I actually had to say this a lot. Not because deaf characters were getting tactical coordination advice from other players or something like that. It was more of players "helping" with questions and suggestions that are inaccurate and cost time explaining why they can't be done. Typically these revolve around spells that don't work that way, buffs they don't have on, doesn't Higher Purpose give +2 DR versus demons, and Extra Attack really meaning "extra action." Sigh. It's right up there with people who "helpfully" call out total damage inflicted by a 2-3 hit combo on a foe while I'm busy subtracting DR from each blow and then applying injury modifiers. It doesn't help. We get confused enough - Galen later drew his magical shortsword, despite having dropped it seconds earlier on the far side of the battlefield.

I'm link to my post on meteoric, because Ahenobarbus tried to dispel the darkness by touching it with Magebane, and someone suggested last time that "meteoric" might count as "magic" for injuring certain creatures. No, quite the opposite, it never counts as "magic" for anything. The sole property of meteoric weapons - the sole property - that they can't be directly affected by magic. That's it.

Also, we've had people try to "speed up" play by resolving part of their actions after they go, if those actions will affect no one else. Instead what happens is everyone gets confused, people want to know what they did, did someone get skipped, hey we forgot you last time around, etc., etc.

I allowed Crogar to interrupt the Lord of Spite with his Wait and attack his arm as he attacked Wyatt. In retrospect, Crogar should have be required to make a Per roll to spot it in time to react. I don't think you should be able to effectively cover an entire arc in front of you against attacks coming from total, impenetrable darkness. We'll have to assume he made the roll, but in the future I'm not going to allow a Wait to automatically interrupt an attacker that can't be seen in this fashion. You should get rewarded for, or punished by, your Per in situations that require spotting something before you act.

Related but not solely related to today's session - I may need to put a cap on weapon skills - it's not that I'm opposed to high skills, it's just that it's getting a bit silly. People do up them in response to problems, too, so if they encounter -15 to -20 in stacked situational penalties, the response generally is to start eying skill 30+ so that's still a 10-15 to hit. I don't think that's healthy for the game. Really tough circumstances should come up without the response being higher weapon skills + Dexterity potions so it's not actually hard after all. Something I need to consider. The counters by the GM are either much higher skills on opponents - perpetuating the arms race - or monsters that take ridiculous grinding to kill. Or both.

So Luck renews, again. Should the Lord of Spite's once-per-session powers renew? It's not an unfair ruling.

MVP was Sir Bunny for his Black Knight-like attempts to fight on.


  1. "Even the guys at Light should be down 9 FP, with STs in the 11-13 range for a number of them."

    Do they have Very Fit? That'll affect this calculation.

    "Related but not solely related to today's session - I may need to put a cap on weapon skills - it's not that I'm opposed to high skills, it's just that it's getting a bit silly. People do up them in response to problems, too, so if they encounter -15 to -20 in stacked situational penalties, the response generally is to start eying skill 30+ so that's still a 10-15 to hit."

    Instead of locking skills down, my suggestion is to do something you already mentioned: Start making calls to roll other things you might be forgetting or overlooking. Frex, the Per roll to be able to use a Wait to interrupt a previously unseen foe.

    Every time they raise a weapon skill, that's something else not being raised. Now, in this case I don't know how much that would help, as you've got a group with most of them above 300 points, so they've started to cover their weaknesses and once all the weaknesses they care about are "adequately" covered, it's on to maxing strengths. And your group really doesn't care about ever being able to do the things they 'can't' do, like Thief and Social skills, so they have zero reason to bother 'wasting' points on those things.

    Maybe skill capping is necessary for you.

  2. Related to the high weapon skill dilemma, I've been trying to figure out how to incentivize investing in multiple weapon skills. As it stands, there's really no point in making a Master of Defense style character who can pick up and use any weapon.

    1. The only way to really incentivize being a Multi-Weapon Type Master is to incentivize //needing// different weapon types and deincentivize single weapon reliance.

      For instance, if the 'magic' of magic weapons is inherent to the Character rather than the weapon, that deescalates "single weapon" reliance. It's not the special sword anymore, it's the special Character (or magic bracelet, or amulet, whateves), and so they can pick up anything and dish out that magical damage goodness.

      Increase the need for disparate damage types. Frex, if skeles take more injury from crushing damage, and skeles are a prominent creature feature, then everyone will favor crushing damage.

      It's why Squishypoklers carry pokey weapons, impaling does more damage to most vital targets (eyes, brain, vitals, etc), so Swashbucklers prefer to carry and use impaling weapons (also most Fencing weapons are impaling types and Squishypoklers prefer Fencing, so it's a doubly incentivized build). But, again for instance, I run a Spear Fencer in a game, this gives me all three damage types (albeit the cutting damage is a bit light for typical cutting damage). I know this example flies in the face of "how do I get more Multi-Weapon Masters?", but it highlights one problem with trying to do so, The Workaround.

      Thirdly, you can remove or reduce deincentivizing rules that currently limit multi-weapon use. For starters, the cost of having many different weapon Skills. There are a couple of choices for this, either make weapon group skills and require everyone to buy into them (instead of single" weapon type skills). You could have groups like 'One-Handed Weapons', 'Two-Handed Weapons', 'Ranged Weapons', and 'Exotic Weapons'. Suddenly everyone is a multi-weapon 'master' even if they only ever carry "their favorite sword".

      If you want the solo weapon masters and multi-weapon masters in the same group, then simply make your Multi-Weapon skill groups only cost double what 'single' skills cost.

      Just quick thought I banged out over lunch. Hope it helps.

    2. I have a very similar idea in a mostly-written Pyramid article that's clearly never going to be in Pyramid at this point. I should polish it up for the blog, perhaps.

    3. I'd actually argue that having "inherent magic" would encourage single weapon specialization; I think the best way to encourage multiple weapon skills is to reduce the availability of magic weapons, so if you want that armor divisor, you better know how to use a halberd, or whatever.

      And yeah, you could broaden weapon skills, but while that gives characters more options in play, it doesn't actually encourage players to invest more broadly. They can still pour all their points into one skill, it just works with more things now. (That said, I did once make a character with the wildcard skill Master of Defence! He was awesome.)

    4. "I'd actually argue that having "inherent magic" would encourage single weapon specialization..."

      The only time I've ever seen "Single Weapon Specialization" in games where the PCs don't have discrete weapon skills, so for instance D&D and it's ilk, is when the Characters get that 'one good magic weapon' and then refuse to use a different weapon, that might actually work better in different circumstances because "but my magic weapon does X and these other weapons don't do X". Otherwise I've seen Characters in D&D re-equip mid battle because their weapon was destroyed, disarmed, or that orc over their just dropped wicked locking two-hander...

      In games where the system itself incentivizes Single Weapon Specialization, for instance GURPS, you can roll in a No Magic setting and you'll still get Single Weapon Specialization, //because the system encourages it//.

    5. I agree - the cost structure of GURPS encourages single and narrow weapon specialization very much. People generally only switch around in a type of melee weapon. Why spend 4 points to get Axe/Mace to from default to DX+1 if you can spend 4 points to get Broadsword from DX+5 to DX+6? You've only got the two arms . . . you'll note we have two multiple weapon users, Aldwyn and Wyatt, and both use a pair of identical weapon types - two longswords. It's much more cost effective, and even in places where there are massive penalties for using them (like close combat) they'd rather spend more points to eat those penalties and be better in all other circumstances than to learn a weapon that's better in those circumstances. Unlike real life, in GURPS it doesn't get harder and harder to improve a skill. Progression is linear, and benefits are linear for a long time (at least until Parry exceeds 16, even then in a high-skill game), so you're incentivized to do so.

  3. Maybe Varmus will catch Hjalmarr yet!

  4. Thanks for posting the write-up; makes me want to bludgeon my group into playing more GURPS.

    1. Thanks! I hope you bludgeon them firmly and effectively!

  5. Bunny with no functioning arms nor legs, other characters who have lost limbs (broken or severed), comas... If it wasn't so tragic it could be comedic. What respectable adventuring team has so many cripples? And they still have to take on a demon lord that appears to be at or near full strength again. I'm not sure they'll make it based on their current status, but even if they do (and take more losses in the process), they aren't going to have the funds to instantly regenerate all the lost limbs and resurrect the dead. Will it be worth it to be rid of Durak? Only time will tell.

    1. There has been loot spotted in the past, and some in these two sessions, so it's likely he has some.

  6. Addendum: I've played some long combats (2 * 3-4 hour sessions), but this is the first time I've read one going on for THREE whole day sessions! (And because this is GURPS less than a minute has elapsed since the start of the fight!)

    1. I've played in one before in DoA

    2. This is going to be one of our longest fights. We had one that ran many sessions back in the day - I want to say it was 3-4 Fridays, each around 4-5 hours, in a big brawl. That one went so long that some minis in the fight started out unpainted and ended it fully painted and based.


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