Friday, December 31, 2021

Year in Gaming 2021

Here we are at the end of 2021. How was it for gaming for me?

Running Dungeon Fantasy

We had only 18 sessions of DF this past year, from session 145 - session 162. That's down from 20 the previous year. We weren't as dilligent about getting sessions in, clearly.

Session 145, Felltower 111 - Yeth Hounds
Session 146, Felltower 112 - Yeth Hounds & Moonbeams
Session 147, Felltower 113 - Orichalcum and Moon Doors
Session 148, Felltower 114, Lost City 13 - Ampitheatre
Session 149, Felltower 115 - Staring at Doors
Session 150, Cold Fens 9
Session 151, Cold Fens 10
Session 152, Cold Fens 11 - Deadfalls & Defeat
Session 153, Cold Fens 12 - Scouting Sakatha's Island
Session 154, Cold Fens 13 - Hexcrawling the Cold Fens (Part I)
Session 155, Cold Fens 13 - Hexcrawling the Cold Fens (Part II)
Session 156, Cold Fens 14 - Sakatha's Lair Do-or-Die (Part I)
Session 157, Cold Fens 14 - Sakatha's Lair Do-or-Die (Part II)
Session 158, Cold Fens 14 - Sakatha's Lair Do-or-Die (Part III)
Session 159, Cold Fens 14 - Sakatha's Lair Do-or-Die (Part IV)
Session 160, Felltower 116 - Level 7? (Part I)
Session 161, Felltower 116 - Level 7? (Part II)
Session 162, Felltower 117 - Level 6?

I think we had 10 different players this year. Playing virtually kept us consistent but oddly didn't help some of the occasionals stay in the game.

In game, it was largely the Cold Fens this year, with 10 delves there, plus 1 in the Lost City, and thus only 7 in Felltower. They made a few delves down deeper but, once again, avoided some of the big things they discovered along the way - the beholder, the draugr, the dragons, the gates. It was a year of Cold Fens delves and lots and lots of nibbling on the margins of things. That's part of why I bit the bullet and went with the firmer requirements for loot for XP. I had enough of nearly 400 point guys picking up XP for loot by cashing in a few dropped weapons and some scrap bits found here and there.

Roll20 hasn't been a lot of fun to deal with, though, so we're moving to Foundry VTT as soon as reasonably possible.

Playing Dungeon Fantasy

I was able to play in a one-shot with evil characters, GMed by Marshall, who runs Aldwyn (and Varmus) and previously ran Gwenneth the Dirt Mage.

DF Suicide Squad 1: Cave of the Dark Elves

I enjoyed getting to play, as much as I complained about how overpriced Terror was for what I'd gotten.

Playing Gamma Terra

Zero sessions of Gamma Terra this year. I'm officially putting this one in the "dormant" campaign category. Our GM still plays DF when he can, so it's possible we'll get back to this, but he's a bit too busy to GM right now. Too bad.


We went the whole year without playing AD&D. I'm bummmed. We were ready to go but had to cancel last-minute, and then the next time it came along everyone wanted to play DF Felltower. I still intend to run more.

Other Games & Gaming

I played some video games:

- a bit more of Darkest Dungeon, but stalled when one guy I need was killed off and I can't seem to find a replacement to level up to where I need him. Tiresome. Enjoyable while I've got a good party going but it's annoying to finish a quest and the next week the coach still hasn't brought the one class I need. Feh.

- I finished X-Com: Apocalypse, despite not being able to finish all of the tech trees.

- I played a lot of Battletech, finishing the core missions and getting deep into the Flashpoints before stalling out due to a mission I'm not enjoying.

- I stalled out on Ultima V, but I'm not really far from victory if I'm right about my progress. I just need to get my notes out and get to work.

- I played a bit of other games but nothing really worth mentioning. Well, maybe Borderlands 2, which I'm still playing. I finished it with another guy.

I didn't get in any board games that I can recall. Maybe Fire in the Lake will arrive in 2022 and I'll be able to play that.


I got in some mini painting right under the wire this year, finishing a few figures and speed-painting a pair.

I'm still going to sell my Bones V collection, I just need to get up and list it on eBay.


GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 22: Gates came out in 2021. I'm quite pleased with it.

The Crypt of Krysuvik came out, as well. It was a hard thing to write, as it was my first adventure, Marshall LaPira's first writing for hire in the gaming field, and our first collaboration with each other and for Doug. I've written with Doug before, but not for Doug. I'm done with adventure writing as of the moment, but Marshall has more on tap I believe.

I did a little more writing. Truth be told, I've slacked off because I want to write for royalties, not flat payments. The royalties, over time, make more sense for me. SJG isn't currently doing Royalties. I threw in for another SJG project, and we'll see where that goes.

Overall, not a bad year in gaming - but not a great one, either. I'd like to get in some additional games - running AD&D, playing GT or something else - and some additional "other" gaming - writing, painting, video games . . .

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Foundry VTT GURPS Test

Spent a few hours with Vic today trying this out:

I ended up spending my holiday money on the Foundry VTT and a year's subscription to Forge hosting. It might be a rough go being ready for Foundry for Sunday's game, but it'll be the way to go for the games following.

So expect a lot of Foundry goofiness as I try to figure out how to play properly using it.

DF Felltower will run Sunday, either way . . . but not for long without Foundry I hope!

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

X-Com: Apocalypse - stuck because of Transtellar

I've had some free time, so besides painting I've been playing X-Com: Apocalypse.

I wanted to finish off the alien dimension and win the game.

It was a hard slog for a bit - alien raids often, usually with two motherships (it's called the "mothership ex nilio" situation - they have one, but deploy two.) I raided the alien dimension and barely made it out alive thanks to swarming ships. But persistance and additional escorts allowed me to actually clear the alien ships from their own dimension, and I haven't seen any since I wiped out their manufacturing facilities.

But I do have a bit of an enjoyment problem.

Somewhere during an alien incursion into the city, I must have done a lot of damage to Transtellar's properties. They went hostile. I kept pausing combat and bribing them, but it was no use - they went hostile.

They demanded a bribe to go neutral, and did, but still showed as unwilling to negotiate. They promptly snapped back to hostile.

This has actually crippled my game - I can't transfer people or goods between my bases. So my X-Com craft returned from the alien dimension with a critically important captured alien . . . but we need a large-sized lab to analyze it. Okay. But I can only that one of two ways:

- transfer the alien to my other base, which is designed as a research center


- demolish a section of my base and build a new lab, then hire new scientists

Neither is good.

I know if Transteller and I have it out in a big enough battle, and I paste them, they'll likely offer an armistice. Most online sources recommend attacking one of their buildings. I saved the game and tried that - it ended up with most organizations going hostile to me, and Transteller still didn't budge. Sigh. I tried raiding their locations with troops, and killed a bunch of their guards and blew up parts of the building. But still nothing. It's annoying.

I found a save game from a week or two back, and I think I'll redo things from there. I can win the game without further research. I want to win the game with all of the research. I won this game back when it came out - twice, even. I want to win it again, but get to use anti-alien gas, Toxigun C ammo, etc. I can't do that without Transteller letting me ship people around.

I might just restart from that earlier save and re-do a lot of stuff. It'll be less fun but at least then I can end up with all the widgets.

Or I'll finish this sucker out, and mark the earlier save as a point for my next play-through to begin. Not sure yet which, but neither is really exciting at the moment.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Assorted painting

Today was a day of painting cleanup, mostly.

I did the following:

- dull-coated six figures.

- glued together three minis - two that need painting, and one that was painted but broke.

- sorted through some minis to find others I'm in the mood to paint.

I haven't really started painting anything new yet. I may get in some base-coating of a couple of Bones minis tonight.

Overall, it's been fun getting back to painting.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Speed-Painted Orc

This guy went from a bare Bones mini today to this in a few hours:

- I did a basecoat of Apple Barrel Colors Grey Flannel

- I did a base coat of all of the colors you see on the mini

- I did a brown Magic Wash

- coated the base in glue and dipped it in my basing materials


I like this guy. It was a lot of fun.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

DF Felltower 's Time/Rest Conundrum II - Issues with Solutions

This is a followup to this post. Some solutions were discussed in the comments, and I want to address them here.

All of this assumes we don't change the central rules of the campaign:

- time passes in the game as it does in the real world when we're between sessions, and "catches up" if we have to split a session within the dungeon.

- XP is per delve, not per session.

- PCs don't participate unless the player participates, unless the game ended in the dungeon at the previous session. Those are ended ASAP so the missing player's PC can be returned to town.

So now what?

Warping in/out of PCs

Just warp in characters from players who return to the game, and warp out characters of those players who can't make it. Simple!

I want a credible, in-game-logical solution for the problem. The forces of chaos warping out one PC and warping in two is not that. The PCs would want to investigate. We'd want an explanation of why they gathered rumors, girded on their weapons, and otherwise got ready for a delve. They'll want to know if the guys warping out can leave some of their stuff behind - and if not, is it critical to pass important gear to a PC of a player who definitely will be there (or put it on the floor of a Sactuary, or drop it in combat, or whatever)?

That solution is also rife with abuse if it can happen in combat. Your PC is heavily wounded? Fine, warp him back to town and safety by not showing up next session. You could rescue a whole party from a TPK by having everyone who can't easily escape from the fight just not play that session. It might suck to do, but you saved your 400 point guy from death!

This might seem like reductio ab absurdem, and it might be, but it's not just done for argumenative purposes. These are things that is possible a group - including my group - might do.

Plus, we have the issue of giving XP per delve, not per session. So if someone is warped in and another warped out, then what? Who gets what XP? We solve one problem and create a new one.

Safe Space in the Dungeon

I could have a group of NPCs create a safe space in town.

The big problem I see with this is that it is not town.

If all it provides is a safe, monster-free space to rest in the dungeon, that's the same as using the Sanctuary spell. That's fine, but it doesn't allow for swapping of characters.

If it is town, and people can come and go, then all I did was move "town" down a few levels in the dungeon. The PCs have every reason to base out of that from then on - why not? If you can get everything you could in Stericksburg, then it's basically Stericksburg except in name.

I'd need to do some real explaining about the group that created this base, and what they can provide.

My players are likely to want to choose the best of both worlds - yeah, I stay in the dungeon in the "safe area," but I go back to town real quick in the four weeks between game and learn some spells, get some rumors from there ("Unless my guy knows there are better ones in the dungeon safe area"), and so on. I could say if you leave, you leave, but that makes no in-game sense.

Gates are a potentially good solution. The PCs would need one that leads to a safe base they can easily return from.

The problem is still, as always, getting PCs in and out. If PCs can be swappped, then, logically, PCs have access to the gate without going through the dungeon. Therefore there isn't a need to go into and out of the dungeon. Plus, the PCs will want to take advantage of the special traits of that gate area - special gear, trade opportunities (some of players will say they don't want to play DF Far Trader, but they'll do this), special skills to learn, rumors from a new place, potential adventure avenues. All of this makes perfect sense. I wouldn't shut all of that down just to provide a "safe base" or a town substitute without needing to create a seperate area from Stericksburg that otherwise acts as one.

Just speed up getting to the dangerous areas

This we do already. It's helpful. It still takes some time, but much less than you might suspect. The PCs have done a good job steamrolling everything that might bother them on the way down. I often handwave returns to town once the PCs get to the GFS, since it's rare anything is really an issue. Even so, it's not uncommon for the players to take a good 30-45 minutes to really get down to gaming. Then you get rumors, spending points even though that's supposed to be done by email between sessions, changing plans based on rumors, etc. We break for lunch at 2 pm, so, in theory, almost half of the session is before break (11-2 = 3 hours) and the rest (3-7 = 4 hours) is after. It's extremely common for the PCs to just really be getting going by 2 pm . . . just reaching the first area to be investigated, just reaching the bottom of the stairs, etc.

So I think we have a big potential gain here, if the players will decide what to do, definitively, before the session starts.

And then there is combat time - that's a whole other post about simplifying combat. I'll see if I can get that up later in the week!

Also, related:

How Adventurers Become Dungeon Dwellers

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Felltower Christmas Gift - New Magic Item

Merry Christmas. Is there anything better than presents? No. There is not. Delvers are willing to risk death for presents from the GM. Here is a new one.

Ulf's player said that if there is Mage Scale, there must be Priest's Plate. I wrote this up on the spot, and slightly modified it below.

Priest's Plate: A pewter plate that gives +1 to Panhandling, and doubles the earnings made on a successful roll. Also provides DR 2 against a beating on a critical failure!

Merry Christmas, and may you rolls 3s on your Panhandling rolls.

Friday, December 24, 2021

Friday Random Stuff 12/24/2021

Three quick links for today:

- New game from the Dungeon Robber guy, Imperium.

- Chacuterie Bard. Sigh. You win again, curse you Tetsujin No Llama!

- Another fun "top" list from James - top 9 non-D&D adventures. I have some on the same list. I should do my own clickbaity lists - "Top 10 D&D Adventures - You Won't Believe #4" and "Billionaire Doctor Says Don't Take these Two GURPS skills!"

Mostly unrelated to gaming, but I just finished watching all of the First Doctor's adventures. Amusingly, contrary to everything I was told, there is at least once he's refered to as "Doctor Who" in the actual serials. I'd been told he "never" was called Doctor Who. Well, WOTAN does call him so. Anyway, on to Patrick Throughton and the Second Doctor . . . where the biggest chunk of missing episodes is. Thankfully people have reconstructed them from stills and the existing audio.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

DF Felltower & Weapon Talents & Master at Arms

The excellent Delvers to Grow has a talent called Master at Arms.

It's a very, very good idea. I won't sum it up here, because you should buy the book if you want the details. Suffice it to say that it is a combat talent.

I'm tempted to use it for DF Felltower, but I do think it is potentialy a little broad for DF Felltower. You get just a bit too much for the price, perhaps.

Here are two alternatives I put in front of my players to consider:

Melee Weapon Mastery (10/level)
Prereq: 3+ Melee Weapon skills at 4 points or more each.

+1/level to all Melee Weapon skills, limit 4 levels

(Possibly open to all templates, probably open only to Barbarians, Knights, Holy Warriors, Martial Artists, Ninja)

Melee Mastery (10/level)
10/level for +1 to all Melee Weapon & unarmed combat skills
Prereq: 4+ Melee or Unarmed skills at 4 points each.

(Limited to Knight, Barbarian, Holy Warrior)

- Might we just use Master at Arms as written? Yeah, maybe. But Master at Arms gives a bit too much - anyone with Brawling, Wrestling, Shield or a ranged weapon, any one Fast-Draw, and one melee weapon is better off investing in MaA than upping those seperately pretty quickly. That bothers me a bit. Also, it bothers me that Martial Artists and Ninja, who most benefit from it and are most thematically "anything is lethal in my hands," are blocked from it.

- I'm open to a modified MaA with a more limited pool of benefits - maybe not on Fast-Draw, for example, which seems like a too-useful throw-in, or something like that.

- This opens up a larger talent - perhaps 15/level for all combat skills (great for Martial Artists and Ninja) and 5/level for all ranged combat skills (potentially useful for any fighter type, although likely to see little use.)

- Why not Swashbucklers? Because they're a one-note template. They should be specializing in swords, and taking A Sword's A Sword if they want to broaden out their sword coverage. They don't need to be buying a broad talent for non-sword weapons.

- The prereqs for #2, above, might just as easily be the same as those for MaA.

- I'm not sure what I'll go with, but I do like the idea of things that encourage broader skill development.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Ogre WIP

I did a little work on this nice, big ogre Reaper Bones mini.

Underneath that yellow caking is "medium flesh" paint. I decided I liked the idea of an ogre who'd self-colored with some kind of pigment. We'll see if that survives the finishing touches of paint and then a quick "magic wash" of brown and Pledge floor care finish mix.

The goal is quick, tabletop presentability here. I went for main colors where I could, and I'll put in some extra finishing touches next time - the spikes, edging where one paint bled into another, the straps on the barrel and the necklace, the fingernails, teeth, and eyes.

But I feel like I made solid progress on this guy.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Rules & Rulings

As always, rules & game world questions came up.

Game World Questions

Hey, someone wanted to pay for six-fingered vampire information! Can we find him?

That rumor came up years ago, so no.

Can we use the oracular pool more than once?

Clearly, yes, but it isn't clear if you can do so at the same "level." Coin of the realm twice? That didn't work. Coin of the realm and coin of the soul? That worked. Is it time dependent, character dependent, etc.? You don't know.

Can we taxidermy the six-fingered hands?

You can try. Gerry will try, as a matter of fact, and he purchased the IQ/Easy Hobby Skill (Taxidermy.) He (joked?) that he will now want to sell stuffed versions of everything. They can try, but almost everything will sell as junk. There isn't a huge market for stuffed monsters that someone else killed. There might be a market, but not a big one, and margins are likely to be tight, and you may not be able to find a buyer quickly. In other words, you can try, but costs are up front and profits are later, if at all. Cost is likely a random roll, modified heavily by damage.

Rules Questions

Fine sticks

Someone asked about "Fine" sticks. Presumably, fine wooden swords. Of course, this leads to "can I buy a stick, get it fine, sharpen the tip, and get a +1 to damage?" I'm not sure. I lean towards no. I'm not sure if that's correct, though. I do know that GCA won't let me make sticks fine, though, but nothing in DF1 or Low Tech says you can't. I'm inclined to say that only metal can gain a damage bonus here.

How does Mage Sight interact with Dark Vision?

Dark Vision is black and white, so Magic Sight will work but you won't be able to tell one aura color from another.

Can I fit someone else's armor?

Yes, within reason. I allowed 6'2" and 200 lb. Wyatt to lend his spare armor to 6'4" and 215 lb. Aldwyn his armor. It won't fit very well but Alwdyn has Armor Mastery so that's not a big issue.

Meta-Game Rulings

We've had a lot of recent cases of the following:

- Hearing a rumor which prompts an idea for a delve goal

- deciding to do it, "if" they have certain equipment, spells, etc.

- deciding if they want to, or can, get said equipment, spells, etc.

- possibly accepting or rejecting the plan.

For example, we've had, basically, "Oh yeah, Air Gate! Can Gerry learn Walk on Air and Varmus learn Levitate? Okay, learn those and we'll do it!" We also had "Oooh, ghost noises from Felltower? We need Affect Spirits, Command Spirits, we need to know if Exorcism will work here, we need Materialize, and maybe some other spells. Let's get those."

Both no, because it's the same day. It's the same exact day. You have downtime to do downtime things, but you can't decide on Sunday morning - pre-dawn, even - to have learned a skill/spell/etc. and purchased a bunch of items and then decided to act on a plan requiring them.

That serves two purposes:

- it keeps me sane. Otherwise I have to be prepped for everything the PCs can do, everything rumor might prompt them to do, and everything they could do if they spend points/buy equipment/etc.

- it keeps the players sane, because they get overwhelmed by choice.

And that's about all of it, I think.

Monday, December 20, 2021

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Session 164, Felltower 117 - Level 6?

Game Date: 12/19/21

Aldwyn, human knight (360 points)
     Varmus the Hanged, human apprentice (180 points)
Crogar, human barbarian (350 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (513 points)
Gerrald Tarrant, human wizard (420 points)
     3 skeletons (~25 points)
Wyatt Sorrel, human swashbuckler (378 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (366 points)

We started off in town, with the PCs gathering rumors and purchasing consumables. They heard a number of rumors, including one about weird ghost noises being heard rom the towers of Felltower. So, they naturally slotted that into the number one slot of things to do for the day, and spent a fair bit of time discussing spells they need to take to deal with ghosts, discussing if Excorcism will force a ghost out of someone's body, etc.

They headed out to the ruins of Felltower.

They spent some time investigating the towers of the gatehouse and the one fully intact tower of the curtain wall, but found no sign of ghosts (and Sense Evil found nothing, either.)

They headed into the dungeon proper and then down to the GFS. There, they checked the second landing, with the door that wouldn't open. They used one of the six-fingered hands to check the door (they had it preserved with Preserve Food) but found that, just like with their own hands, it would shift very slightly and then stop, as if jammed up from behind. Swallowing a -16 to cast past the door (magic resistance, range, unseen target) is too much to deal with that, so they headed down.

At the bottom of the stairwell, they found the air to be close and tight. Ulf and Varmus felt the effects.

They made their way to the pit down to the next level, where they'd once spotted a sleeping dragon. Wyatt tried to guide them to the Jester Gate, but no takers.

They reached the pit, and sent down a Wizard Eye after putting Dark Vision on Gerry. He saw a dragon asleep in the middle of a huge cavern (a few hundred feet in length, maybe half that wide). The dragon's head was nestled into its wings so he could see little else. Gerry moved the eye around and found a side cavern full of bats with a deep chasm, and then headed back and to a side cavern connecting to the dragon's cavern. There, a giant man-like shape swiped his eye out of existence. They decided to leave the dragon alone.

As they decided to leave, Aldwyn suddenly was tapped from behind and his corselet disintigrated into dust! He turned to see a purple ooze (he fears purple, actually). It attacked him again, as they rushed up to attack it with wooden swords. They managed to beat on it badly as it rusted away Aldwyn's leg armor. Varmus hit nearly with am Explosive Fireball and then Gerry blew it apart with a 8d Explosive Skull Missile. Booooooom. It flew into non-salvageable bits.

Next, they headed to the second GFS. On the way, they passed an intersection. Galen spotted three orc scouts just as they saw him! He shot all three, killing two outright with vitals hits and wounding the second badly. He fell, stunned, but screaming. A second later three more arrows came in. As he fell one missed him, but the other two killed him. They moved up, Gerry used Mass Zombie to take them over, and then popped into a Sanctuary made by Ulf. In the Sanctuary, they rested for four hours to clear up the wooziness from the poor air on this level.

They left the Sanctuary and headed to the second GFS. They reached and pushed through the Will Wall. Once through (which took Luck from Wyatt to pass), they made it to the second landing on the second GFS. There, the right-handed hand held by Aldwyn . . . opened the door!

They moved through, and the door closed after them. They moved forward, and found a level very much like the one above (and below) in layout. So they headed right, seeing if they'd come out on the cavern they could see from the level above. They made a clockwise circle of rooms, all of which failed to give them any egress out. They found a single passage out of the circuit, plus another blocked off entirely by rubble. As they made their way back to the stairs, they heard a fluttering, squicking and squidging noise. They backed off, leaving Galen and Wyatt as their rear guard. Aldwyn and Varmus opened the door.

A weird ooze came down the hallway ceiling and plopped in from of Wyatt and Galen. It was bluish with white highlights. Galen shot it three times, but his arrows all disappeared on contact with it. Wyatt drew his wooden sword and whacked at it. Galen shot more arrows to no avail.

Gerry turned back and put Shield on Wyatt, but the ooze drained it away with a pseudopod even as Galen shot more arrows uselessly at it before drawing his magic sword.

They tried meleeing it - Crogar ran up and whacked it with his axe, cutting it - but the ooze drained the Puissance out of his axe! Galen saw this (no in-game reason how) and put his sword away.

Crogar kept after it, as did Wyatt. Ulf tried to Sunbolt it but it did nothing, ending on contact with the slime. Gerry had generated an Explosive Skull Missile but didn't get to throw it - Wyatt and Aldwyn (with a wooden sword) and Crogar (with his now non-magical axe) finished it off.

They heard a slower, louder fluttering, squishing, squidging noise. They opened the door - actually, it was still open, and fled. They moved 3/4 of a turn around the staircase and waiting until the door closed. Nothing came out, and the door had closed after about a minute since it was opened.

They moved back to the level above swiftly. They headed to the oracular pool, taking a "shortcut" through where they'd fought the Lord of Spite, pausing to put Resist Poison on everyone in case the giant centipede came out. Then, they moved out the other end of the caves. Crogar forced the door there, and was zapped by a paralyzing ray from a purple disk on the ceiling of the room beyond. Galen spotted the disk and shot it to pieces. Ulf used Sense Evil beyond the doors, and found nothing. They moved thorugh the elliptical hallways to the oracular pool room.

Ulf called out that he would pay in coin of the soul, and asked how to get past the doors by the crystal lenses/mirrors. He was given an answer that he related as "the doors know what you want" and that they'd need to hide that to enter. Or something like that. (He paid 1 xp for this.)

After that, they made their way back to town. There, they sold the equipment from the orc zombies, netting $35 each.


- The results of failing the "bad air" roll is -1 to all stats (and thus all skills and secondary stats that fall off of those.) It takes 2 hours per -1 to recover, all o which needs to be proper rest.

- Gerry's player said that they should save the Jester Gate for a planned session, since it'll be fun. So they should let everyone know ahead of time, and pick a session everyone who wants to make it can make, and then just go right to the gate. I concur - it's going to be a) dangerous as f***, b) even more rewarding than the danger warrants, and c) a story you want to be part of. We told stories for at least a decade of Harada Takashi having a karate fight on the table of the Mad Hatter's tea party with the White Rabbit from our first GURPS game where they went to Dungeonland . . . no fair just rushing off to the Tavern Level (or whatever it may be) without everyone who'd like to be part of that.

- Wyatt's player has played since junior high school but hasn't fought a dragon. He almost did today. I got a token made for the dragon - I have minis for each and every one of the dragons in Felltower - but I didn't end up needing it. Too bad. The PCs really want to be able to take monsters one by one with no interference by anything around them - either as reinforcements or a second, dog-piling battle. It's getting harder and harder. Part of the challenge of Felltower is that fights aren't always room-by-room, monster-by-monster. It never has been. A few levels are very fiercely and actively defended and those are are not are still actively full of combatants packed in closely. Defending a "kill" might be an expected standard.

- no mapping today, as no one is equipped to map. They'll have to depend on memory.

- that rust ooze was mean, for sure. But HT-6 rolls to resist instant destruction are nice compared to rust monsters. They don't give a roll. The rust ooze is a more dangerous critter by speed and resistance. It probably would have done better to snipe the armor, then flee, then come back to feed. But IQ 0 is a disadvantage.

- the PCs really do get more use out of wooden swords than real ones, in a way. Musashi was right. (Also, off topic, this piece of artwork is amazing in person.)

- Felltower is a tough place, but I do give a lot of thought to how things are operating there. The PCs do, too, actually. Wyatt argued for not killing off the mana-draining oozes as it clearly is why the six-fingered guys (which Ulf voted they call "Gith," as it is "easiest") don't go there. At least according to Wyatt. Killing them off would open the space up to them. I won't say he's right but I won's say he's wrong.

- Does the oracular pool work multiple times per person? They're still not sure. The pool worked multiple times for different methods - Ulf tried a coin last time, then a coin again last time (no effect), and then 1 xp this time. That worked.

- the session ended with Crogar sending his axe off to be enchanted again and Aldwyn ordering replacement plate (Epic plate, this time). I'm not allowing plate to be ordered off the shelf - it's still sufficiently expensive that I can't see it being just laying around. Not for nothing, but I love that my changes to purchases of permanent magic items has meant that the PCs have money to spend. There was a time that the ooze attacks would have hamstrung the PCs for multiple sessions because of lack of funds to replace and fix items.

- Wyatts player made a ditty, "I'm just an oozing ooze" to the tune of Just a Giggolo. That should have been MVP right there.

- Loot was a few bucks as they sold all of the orcs' gear. XP was 1 each for exploration. MVP was tough as no one did anything truly outstanding, but in the end MVP was Wyatt for fighting the mana-eating ooze to a standstill even at the risk of his stuff. It was almost Crogar because he lost a $5K enchantment, so it would be a consolation prize. I can't veto it, but I did express my opinion that that seems like a poor explanation for MVP.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Felltower pre-summary

The delvers delved today.


- investigated a rumor about ghosts in the towers;

- checked the doors with a six-fingered guy's hand;

- checked on the dragon;

- fought a new kind of ooze;

- killed some orcs;

- delved to the between-levels level on the second GFS;

- fought a mana-eating ooze;

and Ulf asked the oracular pool a question.

Summary tomorrow.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

DF Felltower: Six-fingered research

The PCs hired a sage to dissect and research the six-fingered fellow's corpse they dragged home last time. I sent them this based on the money spent and the roll made.

Here is what your researchers are able to determine by dissection and research:


- it had six-fingered hands with four joints including the knuckle, pale yellow-gold skin. Its face was powdered white with makeup. It has vaguely elvish features but fanged like an orc, with a slightly pointed head and lobeless ears. Its pointy helmet left a lot of empty room above the top of the skull. Its hair is black and straight.

- the eyes were destroyed in combat so it is unclear what they were like

- the skin is very tough (enough to give DR)

- it has a "heart" but no blood

- it has a well-developed human-similar brain

- its stomach and digestive system is very small and underdeveloped and very fine, delicate teeth. It probably can't eat anything solid.

- its age, etc. were unclear

- the body decomposed rapidly, and its bones fell apart equally rapidly, almost as fast as the flesh

- it is very sturdy and well-muscled, especially for its short stature.


-  based on its equipment and appearance, it might be from a race variously called a "Bale" or "Bane," "Dark Elf," "Gith" or "Goth," simply a "Vampire," or supposedly self-described as "the Masters."

- Elven scholars deny any connection, and say that "Dark Elf" is a term for a fallen, evil elf, not a separate race of any kind.

- there are many, many rumors about six-fingered "elven" vampires with great knowledge of demonology, mastery of the demons of the Pale and Beyond the Pale, and capable of depraved magical experimentation. However, the truth of such isn't known, and Divination hasn't been able to prove anything.

- there is a whole cult of humans centered around the aping and worship of these beings, but the cult itself is very secretive, and describes itself as the "Black Brotherhood." This is also the name of the demon-worshipping evildoers (so they say) who used to live in the dungeons underneath Felltower. But it is possible they ape without understanding.

I'll let the PCs connect this with the information they already have . . . which is quite a lot, as I see it from my side of the screen.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Random Post Links 12/17/2021

Not a lot this week.

- The comments section on my last post has kinda exploded with thoughts. It's worth a look:

Melee Academy: Expanded Melee Weapon Defaults

- I don't play intrigue-heavy games, but this seems like a good way to begin the thought process if you'd like to run one sometime:
Some Thoughts on Intrigue

- D&D sure lends itself to math, as Delta proves over and over again:

Wilderness Simulator Stats

- Lich Van Winkle is posting again. It's interesting but not surprising how far back diverging ideas about game lethality go.

- I've had a few people I don't know "buy" me Pay What You Want items on DriveThruRPG for $0. No thanks. I won't ever download or read any of them.

See you all next post.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Melee Academy: Expanded Melee Weapon Defaults for GURPS

I don't think it's actually possible to learn to fight in one way, without learning enough to help you fight in others.* The fact is many concepts, principles, and abilities overlap.

Fechtbuchen and Japanese martial arts schools are a good example of this - you don't spend X years working on unarmed, then X years working on swords, then X years working on spears, then X years on knives - taking 4X years. You spend X years on swords, then fraction-of-X on spears, then even-smaller-fraction-of-X on knives, etc. - and you learn much of it concurrently. Or you learn unarmed for X years, then when you add weapons you find the odd choices of the unarmed moves are actually perfectly sensible if you expect to be armed, instead or in addition. The footwork overlaps (if it's not actually identical, which it often is). The fight awareness overlaps. The principles are exactly the same. You don't re-learn it all from scratch. There may be differences between culturally different styles, but within a culture, or a broader system, it's rare that you aren't better off with some basis of combat training when you learn another.

GURPS goes a ways towards this with defaults - but really, all weapons should default to all weapons in some fashion.

A quick-and-easy fix for this is to give every melee weapon a default to every other melee weapon at -5 if they don't have one already.

This effectively makes a weapon skill a substitute for DX for most weapon skills.

For example: Conrad is DX 13, with Broadsword+6, for Broadsword-19.

That gives Conrad Broadsword-19, Shortsword-17, Rapier-15, and all other melee weapon skills-14.

Any holes in this I'm seeing?

I think this may go a short distance toward addressing a larger issue. In my opinion unfortunately, GURPS also assumes skill development is linear. A guy with 8 points to spend can learn Broadsword at DX+2, or Broadsword at DX+1 and Spear at DX+1. But that same guy with 48 points to spend on weapons who puts it all in Broadsword gets Broadsword @ DX+11. If the guy wants two weapons, say, Broadsword and Spear, those 48 points split evenly get DX+5 in each skill. Nice, but he's substantially better off in actual play if he does the former, and needs to put in real work to make the latter approach make any sense at all.

But in real life, it's much easier to get from "beginner" to "very good" in a series of weapons, even 2-3-4 of them, than it is to get extremely advanced in just one. It should be easier to get multiple skills to DX+5 than one skill to DX+11. Learning more takes more and more time, it is harder and harder to find practice that is challenging enough to improve you, and even those improvements are marginal and mostly show only against other masters . . . sometimes. The longer you spend on something, the longer the time you need to spend for each increment of improvement. High-level practicitioners of styles are often the ones who most benefit from cross-training in another style, which, in GURPS, is merely taking points from the style you want to actually improve unless the core skills are all identical. All that does is make "cross-training" taking Broadsword from someone who calls it the blade something different.

I don't have an easy solution for this. It's something that is more systemic.

* I realize that there are differences between styles, stances, etc. I could go on forever about them, but for all of the differences in footwork, fist positioning, stick usage by style and length, etc., etc., there are fundamental similarities. It can be hard to teach another, different stylist not to use what they know from another style in this one, but it's not like it's harder to teach an expert than a newbie . . . it's just different. I reject the idea that knowing too much of X messes up related skill Y. You wouldn't take someone who speaks a couple languages and say they should struggle more to add a third than it is for a new learner to learn a second.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Mini: Weird Tentacle Beast

Here is a mini from Felltower for a monster the PCs haven't encountered yet. It's from a set of weird rubbery monsters one of my players has. I took a few of them and painted them up.

It's hard to get the paint to stay on, the toys lack useful details, and the paint reveals the flaws instead of hides them.

This slimy white-eyed critter probably is a relative of the Caustigus (from Orcslayer, originally) or other tentacle beasts, like the Ubiquipus, or a relative of the mysterious Spheres of Madness.

Also, it's pretty much unique, so I couldn't get another without some real work. That doesn't mean I won't tokenize it and deploy them by hoards.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Crown Royal Dice Bag

This post over at Old School FRP on Tumblr brought this up.

Here is my CR dice bag:

If my memory serves me correctly, I got mine from a coworker of mine at a little internet startup I worked at - our Director of Operations, I think. I don't know how we got on the subject but I said something about how Crown Royal bags were coveted dice bags. Shortly thereafter she showed up with a Crown Royal bag full of Crown Royal bags. I can't remember the story of why she had them all - it wasn't like she drank a lot of blended Scotch whisky or something - but there you go. I ended up picking out one and handing the rest out. Eventually I handed them all out except this one.

It's better than the little black dice bag I had - and lost - and the pencil case full of dice someone swiped from me in 6th grade. I don't know that I ever drank any Crown Royal, but I do partake of the bag.

Monday, December 13, 2021

DF Felltower's time & rest conundrum

DF Felltower has a time & rest (and resources) conundrum.

Getting to deeper levels takes time.

Deeper level combats are harder.

Harder combat demand more time.

Players naturally take longer to resolve combats where the risk and stakes are higher.

Therefore, the deeper in the dungeon a fight takes place, the longer the time spent getting to the fray, and then the longer the fray takes to resolve.

On top of that, the PCs have a high-FP cost combat style - they rely heavily on Great Haste, Shield, and various Resist spells to win fights.

How do we play out the inevitable?

Somehow, the PCs need to square the circle and win fights with less HP loss and less FP expenditure - especially the latter. The players need to do so at a reduced cost in time. Although extra real-world time expended may result in less HP loss and FP expenditure - grinding out a victory - spending a lot of FP means they need to stop and rest.

That means less ability to press the advantage in a fight - if the party needs to in-game rest and recover, but they can't do so without winning a series of battles to ensure they have the place to do so, and the time to resolve those battles means we can't do multiples in a session . . . then what?

It doesn't help that anything I can do to dial back the time costs of a fight has unequal perceived costs. The players don't like to go mapless - in theory they do, but then they basically act as if there is a map anyway and try to leverage all of the benefits you can eke out when combat is fully tactical. Removing combat options - no Retreat, fixed Deceptive Attack or Feint - is perceived by the players as limiting their ability to survive - and have one PC die because they couldn't do X or Y and no one will agree to go without those options again. Making the NPCs use the Mook Rule more often just means fights got easier. I'd need to add more NPCs to make the fight have the risk-weight that justifies the reward, which makes using a fight-speeding Mook Rule less useful or perhaps effectively useless.

That's really where we are "stuck:"

- Exploration takes time, and when it comes with risk the players are much slower about their exploration.

- This leads to combats starting later in a session.

- Fights are tough in the depths, so fights are longer because of size (8-10+ PCs and NPCs vs. similar sized or larger group OR small numbers of very tough foes).

- The PCs need to rest after such fights because the PCs expend a lot of recoverable resources doing them.

- It's not safe to rest in the depths, generally, and making it so pushes the PCs towards using more FP to win because it's more likely they'll get them back.

- And ideally we can end in town so the next session isn't the same delve, blocking out players who missed last session but who can come this session.

As such, the PCs can't really win a battle and then exploit the benefits unless they win a decisive victory and have tens of minutes to hang out without being bothered. Otherwise, fights are one-and-done. And if they are, there isn't any point in minimizing the cost to earn them. The 15-minute workday, basically, much like the Black Company in The White Rose, becomes the default.

I'm not really sure where this will go. Ideally, we'd use streamlined rules - heck, the PCs are powerful enough - against foes equally using streamlined rules - to resolve fights quickly. But again, the players perceive the cost of losing out on the benefits they work very hard to maximize as too high, so we don't do this (although we used to, to an extent.)

It's not clear what the answer is, except maybe we've hit the effective limit of what our approach will let us do without making some considerable changes.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Random Old Stuff for 12/10/2021

Random old stuff for 12/10/2021

- Hurrah! I got this email from GMT Games:

We are pleased to announce that the game Fire in the Lake, 3rd Printing in your order number XXXXXXX (quantity 1 at price $59.00) has changed status to: Made the Cut We have numerous games in the pre-production queue and generally assign an exact charge date for each P500 game as they near 700 orders. Please keep an eye on the P500 section of the GMT website, which we will update regularly with exact dates for P500 charging and shipping.


Now I get to watch a different web page for updates, this one:


- Acoup has finally posted the next part of his "Fortifications" post series.

- I'm busily finishing the game of X-Com: Apocalypse I started a few years ago. I accidentally blew up most of a Marsec building and now they're my sworn enemies. Oh well. But I'm wiping out the Alien Dimension one building at a time. I'm enjoying the process.

- I'm away this weekend (intensive instructor training) - so you may see a post on Sunday for Felltower, but it depends heavily on my Sunday.

- I need to do a Top 10 myself, but here you go:

My Top 10 D&D Adventures of the Golden Age (Part I)
My Top 10 D&D Adventures of the Golden Age (Part II)

See you guys Monday, probably!

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Why a cap of Stat+10?

I've written before about setting caps on defenses, skills, etc. in GURPS.

A cap of Stat+10 as a limit dates back to 3rd edition. But why 10? Why not more, like 12 or 15, or less, like 4 or 6 like Talents?

On my drive home from a skill-training event*, I was thinking about the way GURPS has centered around +10:

-The TDM chart ranges from -10 to +10.

- the highest non-range penalties tend to cap at -10 (eyeslits of helms, chinks of armor over vitals, cannot see)

- stats tend to cap at +10 over base (humans range up to 20 in ST, DX, IQ, HT in most genres)

- Trying to do a long task "instantly" is -10.

There are few examples of very high penalties that aren't range, stacked penalties, or some combination of both.

So having a skill cap at Stat+10 is well in line with that. It has a symmetry - a true prodigy (DX or IQ 20) or a true master (Skill 20) can absorb the worst penalty and still have a 50/50 shot of success. A prodigy with mastery (DX or IQ 20 and stat+10 skill) still has mastery even faced with that penalty. That's not unreasonable as the true maximum.

I think that means Stat+10 makes sense as a potential cap.

* Aka, martial arts class.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Gates, Scaling, and Power Levels

Just a quick thought as I let a few Felltower ideas stew around in my brain before I fit them in where they'll belong on the map(s.)

Felltower dungeon has a large number of gates - more than the PCs have found, and they've found a number of them.

Some of the gates are, basically, like dungeon levels. I made them, stocked them, and leave them to be found. The PCs might hit them "too early," and suffer a very high risk. They might hit them at just the right time, and have a risk and reward that matches their level. Or they might hit them "too late," and find a low risk but a reward that isn't really worth the effort.*

However, some gates are unabashedly gamey. I'll adjust their difficulty based on the power level of the group. You simply cannot overmatch the challenge behind it. You can undershoot it and get massacred, of course, but if you're more powerful than I expected I'll just ratchet up the difficulty level.

Is that fair?

Is that "old school?"

Is it "new school?"

Does that fit with the idea of putting down a sitation and letting the dice decide how it all goes?

I don't actually care.

I have an expected minimum level of toughness and reward for those places. I don't want to spend an exciting location, hand-picked foes, and an area of interest on the PCs going through them like a buzzsaw and sucking up some loot in the process.

I won't say which are which ahead of time. After, I might. The PCs have hit one of these "scaling" gates already, possibly more, and one that doesn't, possibly more.

Not a lot of real depth to this post, just a thought that might spark some thought or discussion. My game's only consistent aim is to be entertaining to everyone within a set of parameters.

* Some aren't like dungeon levels at all, and require something different than killing and looting.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Last 6 hours for Nordlond Bestiary!

Doug's latest Kickstarter is only 6 hours from completion:

It's not looking great for a jump to the next batch of pages, but it's at 176 pages. Get in while there is still time.

Monday, December 6, 2021

A Day to Go for Nordlond Bestiary

We're closing in on the last day for Doug's latest Kickstarter:

It is at 160 pages for the PDF and print book so far, and it looks good for 176 pages - Demons & Slimes. I'm looking forward to it.

I'm in for the PDF and the print book. I've waffled on the VTT pack . . . but I probably don't need it enough to justify $15 on it, and I tend to make my own quick reference notes. So $65 plus shipping for me. Want more GURPS-compatible monsters and another DFRPG book? Join us!

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Disadvantage review for Felltower PCs

It was time this week for a good look at the PCs in the campaign to see who needs adjustment.

Looking at every else's disadvantages, they largely play them.

Gerry is a clueless, zombie-friendly team player.

Crogar is a cautious and methodical swamp-hater.

Galen is a bloodthirsty loner who hates city folk, doesn't own much, and doesn't care much except to stick by his teammates.

Wyatt is company-loving, arrogant, overconfident guy who won't turn down a fight, even when it's a bad idea.

Bruce is a hair-trigger tempered fist-happy savage with no regard for things like "common decency" or "clothing."

Aldwyn needed a little tweaking, though. His disadvantages had him as having Code of Honor (Chivalry) and being an upright, honorable guy. His actual play has him being an upright teammate but a ruthless executioner who'll take your head while using whatever unfair advantages he can get.

So Code of Honor (Chivalry) had to go. After a short discussion, Code of Honor (Soldier's) plus Bloodlust (15) seemed to way to go, instead. He's actually a little more bloodthirsty than that, but that's fine - he can control it when he chooses to pretty easily. He, like Galen, just probably won't choose to control it very often at all.

Periodically I like to look at the characters like this. Their disadvantages should reflect how they're played . . . and I generally prefer to modify the disads instead of modify play, within reason. You should read someone's sheet, quirks and all, and say, "Oh my, yes" not "I didn't know you had . . . "

I also need to spend some points on Varmus - he had 10 to spend. I'm currently reveiwing what he has vs. what his full-on Wizard template needs . . . and I'm aiming to bring him in line with that. A pure gamist perspective would be to get Magery 6 before anything else and then up Energy Reserve. That would make him the most useful to the other PCs. But would it make Varmus-as-Varmus the best wizard he could be, long term? Maybe not . . . and when Aldwyn hits 500 would it be nice if Varmus looked a lot like a 250-point wizard? I think yes. So I'm still deciding the best route to getting close to there.

And look for a post later this week - possibly Thursday or Sunday - with a Felltower-specific discussion of what the Code of Honor (Soldier's) means in play.

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Saturday VTT thoughts

I looked at some of this video of Doug's, showing Foundry VTT support for his new monsters. Pretty neat:

But I keep thinking . . . I play a number of things not by the book. I play a lot of monsters off of variants. I have rules that aren't in any books at all.

The more computer support I get, the more I need to fight with the computer to make it do what I want it to do.

What I really need for a VTT isn't really tight integrated rules support.

I need:

- easy dynamic lighting and Fog of War

- easy range managment

- easy movement of icons

- easy addition and scaling of maps

- a solid random rolling system that doesn't give Roll20 bullshit like these rolls from Aldwyn last session:

(Seriously, look at that. Three rolls with three dice all the same - just column shifted.)

. . . and maybe a few little things.

I don't really want a computer game where I'm the GM, so much as a set of tools that just let me execute what I'm doing.

More than anything, I miss playing on the tabletop. The tools that would let me do that while taking advantage of cut-and-past monster replication, map uploads, and fog of war would be awesome. And yet the things I see that do the job better than Roll20 also integrate the rules "better," which isn't really a big help.

I might be asking for too much by asking for less. But I'm not really sure. It's why I hate Roll20 at this point but I don't seem to be in a big hurry to spend time digging into a new VTT. I will look closer at Foundry . . . but my desires are for something that is probably not around to be found.

Friday, December 3, 2021

Assorted Links for Friday 12/3/21

Quick Friday posts!

- For all my talk, I didn't paint this week. I plead busy-ness. I'll attempt to get back to it this weekend or the next week.

- You can buy the Blog of Holding Random Dungeon Poster (again.) I do need to talk to Vic about Felltower stuff.

- The Nordlond Bestiary and Enemies Book funded. I'm hopeful it can get much, much bigger.

- Delta looks at "sweep" attacks. I like the multiple attacks vs. weak foes approach, but I think it works better in abstract systems like D&D and AD&D. On a tactical map - such as AD&D video games (Pool of Radiance, say) - it's harder to explain. But a 6th level fighting trashing six weak opponents in a one-minute round? Easily visualized. Hard to do it in a 5-second round where facing and tactical position matters.

- I did some character work for Felltower this week - more details on Sunday!

- Thanks to Acoup for linking to this - I wouldn't have seen it otherwise. I'm really interested in the logistical underpinnings of conflict. Too much Eastern Front wargaming, I guess.


Sometimes you can't easily accomplish what seems like you could due to logistical issues. And the enemy's problems always seem smaller and the enemy's advantages always seem larger from the other side.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Close Combat Defenses - Basic Set vs. Martial Arts

The Long Weapons in Close Combat rules in GURPS Martial Arts are a gamechanger.

In the Basic Set rules (and as far as I can tell, in DFRPG), your close combat defenses pretty much run as follows:

- Parry with a "C" reach weapon or bare-handed
- Dodge

You can Retreat to aid those, if possible.

That's it, per B391-392.

Nothing in Basic Set says you get your normal defenses on the second someone steps into Close Combat with you. Nor does it say that if you Retreat you get your full, normal defenses.

If you add in the rules in GURPS Martial Arts, things change for the defender a lot.

With those rules in play, the defender, per GURPS Martial Arts. p. 117:

- defends normally against attacks when the attacker initially steps into close combat;

- can start a turn in close combat with a foe, Retreat against that same foe's attack, and claim full Parry as if neither was ever in close combat;

- can Parry with a Reach 1+ weapon with a penalty depending on the maximum reach of the weapon used;

- can Parry with a "C" reach weapon or bare-handed with no additional penalty;

- can Dodge.

This is a dramatic increase in ability. Now, your two-handed sword wielding Knight is only at a -4 to Parry in close combat, not unable to, and is at a net +1 to Parry if they can retreat (ignore the -4 and take the +1). That's not nothing to a starting Knight, but it's still not bad - Two-Handed Sword-20 and Combat Reflexes is Parry 14, so a 10 . . . where in Basic Set (and DFRPG) you'd have no parry and be forced to Dodge. Against unarmed foes, too, instead of just getting out of their way if you can, you also get a very solid chance to stop their attack and wound them in the process.

Jumped by a Demon From Between the Stars? Parry on a 14 or less turn 1, 10 or less turn 2+, assuming you can't Retreat. Maybe hack its arm off on each one of those.

Without the rules from GURPS Martial Arts? Dodge and Retreat if you can . . . and just Dodge if not. If you pull that off, your foe just misses and isn't carved up on an armed parry.

Big difference.

Don't think I'm saying the rules in GURPS Martial Arts aren't good, logical, sensible, and defensible. I think they are all of those. But they do really tilt the playing field heavily to the defender. The attacker gives up a lot to get to close combat, and to attack in close combat. Unless the defender chooses to stay there or is completely unable to move away with a Retreat, the attacker gains little in return except the ability to attack with a "C" reach weapon.

In a game like DF, where PCs skills are very high - a low fighter weapon skill is an 18, and 20 is entry-level for a lot of templates - the penalties involved just aren't a big deal.

I've, anecdotally, seen PCs stay in close combat and melee with Reach 1 and Reach 1,2 weapons because they wanted to be in that hex no matter what . . . shrugging off a -2 or -4 to Parry as the cost of doing business. This is especially common when the damage penalty for using a weapon in close combat is forgotten . . . which happens often. It rarely is self-enforced. So generally, a Reach 1,2 weapon is -8 to hit, -4 to parry, no penalty to damage in practice.

Keep in mind, therefore, that implementing these rules makes for a very big change. Know it when you choose to do so!

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

More bits and rulings from Session 161

Here are a few things that came up in play on Sunday.

Concentration in close combat

Can you take the Concentrate maneuver while in close combat?

We've long ruled no, not with a hostile foe. You can step out as the Step portion of your Step and Concentrate maneuver, and then Concentrate, but you can't while you are there in close combat.

I'm not sure this is an actual rule.

One of my players said he can't find it in DFRPG, and wanted to know if, therefore, we should allow you to Concentrate in our DF/DFRPG hybrid game. I said no - our standard ruling applies here. We do use the rules in DFRPG as the basis to operate from, and then expand out from there. But just because a rule isn't operational in DFRPG doesn't therefore mean it isn't operational in DF Felltower.

This might be a bit strict, but we already expand what is - and is not - allowed in close combat in our game. We use the expanded close combat rules in GURPS Martial Arts, which isn't even standard for GURPS DF, nevermind DFRPG. We use Telegraphic Attack, trading attacks for Feints, Defensive Feints, multiple Blocks, spells like Zombie and Create Servant - all not in DFRPG. So, "It's not in DFRPG" isn't really a good argument that something shouldn't be so.

I'd be curious if someone can find a page reference about Concentration in close combat - I'm certain we play it how we play it, but I can't find an actual mention of this in Basic Set or otherwise from a casual search.

I'm not blaming my player for asking, I'm just faulting the logic here.

Shields in Close Combat

I know we got this wrong last session, and applied the penalty too broadly. I have zero sympathy, because I also know it happened to someone who didn't reduce his damage swinging in close combat with a Reach 1+ weapon, so I guess it evens out in a way. Also, it didn't even matter to any significant degree - if at all.

The actual rule? See Basic Set p. 392, or DFRPG Exploits p. 51.

I know I should know all of the rules . . . but I've said it before. I don't always remember them all at the time. I have a lot on my plate. I'm expected to run all of the foes, judge the results of all of their actions and all of the players' actions, and then also remember every little rule that affects each player and NPC. You want to make sure things go right for you based on those rules? Know them, and have a page reference handy - not a quote, I don't trust people's quotes:

"I think it's a -2" is less than "I have a -2 for that according to my cheat sheet" which is less than "I have a -2 to for that according to Basic Set, page 391."

Why? Because people write things down wrong, remember wrong, forget bits, and misunderstand the whole - and sometimes all of them. Convince me by quoting me the number.

Opportunity Fire

This is mostly a note for my players - if you want to Wait and then shoot, you need to use Opportunity Fire - Exploits p. 43 is the relevant rule here.

Minimum spell casting penalty for range

I enforce a minimum -1 to cast a spell at range, unless you are touching the subject. This requires a "to hit" roll in combat - even to touch an ally, who doesn't have to defend. If you cannot touch the target, you suffer at least a -1.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

DF Felltower, Bracers of Force, Ironskin Amulets, and Shirtless Savage Barbarians

I mentioned some of this in my post yesterday, but I wanted to expand further.

I said the following:

- the Bracers of Force aren't exactly the same as the ones in DF6. I'll post them sometime soon. They specifically do not layer with Shirtless Savage DR, and they replace it if you wear both. No if, ands, or buts about it. If not, you'll end up with a very munchkinny approach of claiming or arguing for force field DR for the eyes (excluded from Shirtless Savage DR), DR 9 on the arms on 1-3 and shirtless savage DR on a 4-6, and the force field DR whenever the force field is a better choice. No. either wear it and get DR 3 (9 on the arms on a 1-3 in 6) or don't wear it at all.

That does appear to contradict Dungeon Fantasy Denizens: Barbarians, p. 14, doesn't it?

I will say that the rules on p. 14 apply in my game - but not to these variant Bracers of Force (from Dungeon Fantasy 6: 40 Artifacts). Here are their stats . . . as the players know them:

* Bracers of Force. DR 3, force field, doesn’t stack with armor, only while conscious, only on living, sapient beings. Protects arms on 1-3 on 6 with DR 9 (total), $10,000, 6.75 lbs.

The players also know that Armor spells stack with barbarian DR, so these aren't providing the Armor spell exactly. They don't know if these stack with the Armor spell or not - likely not, but "similar effect" often doesn't stack.

There hasn't been an appearance by the Ironskin Amulet in DF Felltower, either, and I've firmly rebuffed attempts by players to order one or ask about one. The Invulnerability elixir exists, but isn't commonly for sale. At $2,100, it's a bit expensive for a casual purchase.

When it comes down to it, though, this is about play balance and color and interest.

As a GM, I need to make some decisions when I equip foes. I felt like the golden swordsmen were way cooler if they didn't have a lot of native DR from "tough skin" or "magical innate forcefields" or something, but instead the big bracers on the minis were actually a variant of Bracers of Force. That's pretty cool. It also means the PCs can take and use them, if they choose, or sell them - so they act as a form of loot. That's fine. But that doesn't mean I have to accept that choosing this approach means barbarians with Shirtless Savage DR thus get +3 DR force fields stacked onto the already-maxed DR (they all always max their DR). I can - and did - come up with a ruling that makes that not so.

The alternative as a GM was to say, okay, if I give these guys a cool, stylish, and interesting spin - their only armor are magical bracers others can use - I'm giving +3 DR to every barbarian in the game, and that's too much, so nevermind. I'll just say the bracers allow them to generate a forcefield but they only act for golden swordsmen. Or they have an innate Armor spell ability. Or something else. It's foolish to take the negative consequences you can see instantly or get rid of the whole idea, good and bad, to stay "consistent." And if the players are going to arm-twist the rules into making this work for their PCs in some fashion, I'd be better off just saying "these guys have Shirtless Savage DR, too, and no one gets any loot for that." That's not as fun or as cool as the bracers, even if it is easier to do and means the rules stay utterly consistent. See what I mean?

I chose to have cool magic items that some players can use on their PCs - or not use, as they decide. Cool magic items they could cash in as loot, too, making the risk of fighting the six-fingered ones and the golden swordsman a worthwhile risk, as their gear is quite valuable. But I don't have to also feed into the escalation of DR and damage in the game by letting it all stack together. I'm happy to give out the Bracers of Force above, but not ones that will turn Bruce, Crogar, and any and all future shirtless barbarians into DR 10 (12 vs. crushing) guys with DR 11 (13 vs. crushing) on their arms on a 1-3 and DR 3 on the eyes. That's pushing them firmly into the "ignore all threats not inflicting at least 2d+4 / 3d" territory, and makes them invulnerable to far too many effects. I still wanted the bracers out there and useful. I solved that problem by making it clear they don't stack with armor and the barbarian Shirtless Savage DR doesn't stack with it, either.

And that's why the ruling, and different bracers, and the lack of Ironskin Amulets laying around.

Monday, November 29, 2021

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Session 163, Felltower 116 - Level 7? (Part II)

We picked up mid-fight from last time.

Game Date: 11/7/21

Aldwyn, human knight (345 points)
     Varmus the Hanged, human apprentice (170 points)
Bruce McTavish, human barbarian (340 points)
Crogar, human barbarian (350 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (498 points)
Gerrald Tarrant, human wizard (420 points)
     2 skeletons (~25 points)
Wyatt Sorrel, human swashbuckler (378 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (366 points)

We restarted in combat.

The six-fingered foes continued to back off in the line they'd formed, as did the golden swordsmen, skirmishing with the PCs as they backed off. The goldcat backed away as well. The sword-armed six-fingered types threw more smoke nageteppo. Gerry countered with Purify Air to keep line of sight open.

The PCs kept to their line, with Wyatt spending a few seconds re-readying his sword off his lanyard. The next seconds basically consisted of the enemy backing off, repeatedly throwing nageteppo, and the PCs backing off. Galen shot the golden cat a few times but only managed to wound it a little further.

At this point, reinforcements showed up. Goblin-sized bipedal rats streamed out of the hallway next to where the axemen stood. Three kinds appeared - ratmen studded with chunks of crystal, ratmen crackling with bluish electricity carrying crude kukri-like blades, and shifty, crackling ratmen who didn't really seem all there or all the way in the same phase as the rest of them. They ran out at full tilt, reaching just short of the PCs.
Phase Ratman

Electric Ratman

Crystal Ratman

Aldwyn sprang into action, stepping up and stabbing a "blue one" three times. ZAAAAAAP. He killed it, but also shocked himself badly. He attacked a crystal one and wounded that one, and no shock. Galen shot three each with one arrow in the body, but that wasn't sufficient to kill any (I think he intended to shoot them in the vitals, but said body initially, and didn't take a -3 for vitals, so it was body.)

Gerry immediately cast an 8-area (15 yard diameter) Stench spell over the entire room, carving out the hexes his friends were in plus the corridor they defended. Ulf put Resist Lightning on Aldwyn.

The six-fingered foes kept to their side formation, throwing another smoke nageteppo to block the vision of the PCs. Gerry couldn't clear that without clearing the stench, too. Aldwyn was in the middle, surrounded by ratmen. He took some blind shots but immediately critically failed and dropped his sword. He'd drop the other, too, on another critical failure. Galen critically missed while in the smoke, too, while trying to sword a rat to death in close combat. The PCs decided the smoke was cursed.

The ratmen were in trouble - they didn't have time to hold their breath, and so were suffocating. So they charged the PCs at a full run, flowing through the open formation the PCs were in and filling the corridor. The PCs killed a few as they came, but otherwise they managed to overrun the PCs. The electric ones shocked a few people but most of the PCs were resistant (although one skeleton was nearly trashed fighting one ratman one-on-one in close combat for the whole fight.) The crystal ones scratched up a few PCs, and their crystals gave them enough DR to hold on. The phase ratmen were exactly that - they shifted in and out of phase, their hisses and sounds muffling to silence each time they moved out, giving them an irregular sound. They easily dodged most attacks but eventually got taken down by flank shots, critical hits, and massed attacks.

Wyatt and Bruce engaged the golden swordsmen as they backed off. Bruce broke one's sword when it tried to parry his giant greatsword, but it managed to back off. The goldcat roared and hurt Wyatt and one of the ratmen, but the swordsmen backed out of the stench.

The casters in the back got mobbed - Gerry managed to stay out of it, floating above and with his skeletons (and later Varmus) providing a screen. He threw a Flash spell behind Ulf to blind the mob of incoming ratmen. The smoke blocked most of them, but he got the lead ones, largely giving them a -3 to DX for a minute.

Varmus managed to fend off a ratman briefly, Ulf was mobbed up against the door and got a bit mauled, as Crogar and the skeletons were tied up with ratmen. Bruce, meanwhile, had long since rushed out to the fight and ended up brawling with ratmen in close. He punched one in the skull and knocked it cold, while another poked Bruce's right eye out with a crystal-clawed fingertip. He managed to eventually kill that ratman.

Wyatt faced off with the swordsmen - three of them now, down the hallway, blocking the cat - and threw a demon's brew, then a cloud of fire, and then missed a fast-draw for a second demon's brew. The swordsman came forward from the cloud, with sparks coming off of the one hit, but then ran through it while Wyatt finished readying his grenade (a muffed multi-fast-draw costs you not only the rest of that turn, but turns the next to a ready . . . be careful with those.)

Wyatt ran back to deal with rats.

The six-fingered foes backed out of the room, seemingly the way the rats came. They dragged away one fallen axeman, but not another one much closer to the PCs.

The PCs kept brawling with the rats. Varmus catch Itch as often as he could, Gerry Strike Blind, to disrupt the ratmen's attacks. They managed to keep a few of the ratmen from fighting effectively.

With the retreat of the swordsmen and axemen, the PCs converged on their casters and cleared out the ratmen, hacking them down.

They had little time to rest - they had maybe 4 1/2 minutes with the Stench up, and those with hearing heard whistles and a groaning, grinding noise. They didn't want to take their chances. Over Wyatt's strenuous objections, they gestured to each other to grab stuff and leave. They grabbed their dropped weapons and shields, Adlwyn grabbed the axeman, Crogar and Bruce each a golden swordsman, and they fled.

They made it up the stairs, fronted by Galen. This took a few minutes. They heard the clomp of obsidian on stone and scraping of ratman claws on stone, too - they'd managed to get past the upper level doors without an issue. They forced the Will Wall - it took a few tries for some of them - but eventually made it through. Luckily, they made it through the "gate level" without encounters (I rolled, nothing came), and eventually made it out of the dungeon.

They made it back to town with three corpses, the gear they wore - Magescale, some magical boots and a magic cloak, two pairs of Bracers of Force, and two ratman blades (which proved valueless - cheap steel, poorly done, with the Crude prefix.)

- to clarify, quick-readying off of a lanyard requires a flat DX roll; doing so quickly requires a Fast-Draw roll - which is penalized at -3 to -5 (default -4) for the size of the dangling weapon. A failure on a Fast-Draw in this fashion is a normal Ready. A failure on the DX roll means a failed attempt to draw at all. If the other hand is free to grasp the dangling weapon, this takes one Ready maneuver but doesn't require a roll - and can't be done with Fast-Draw. "Fast draw" techniques assume a sheath, not just the weapon.

- Alaric fumbled around the the dark for his swords, and found them over a couple of turns. Then he parried with them right away. I didn't notice this until right after - the player clearly assumed he found them and grasped them by the handle, at ready. I was assuming he'd just found the weapon, and didn't assume it was grabbed by the handle in a ready to fight position. So he was able to defend without any issue even though he should have had one.

- Blame Matt Riggsby for the ratmen. They were perfect, and made a good swap-in for something else I'd vaguely intended to use that didn't make as much sense. All I did was make them SM-1, because I like them smaller. But still, I basically look at monsters that Sean Punch and Matt write, say to myself, "That seems a bit excessive, who would write a monster that does that?" and then I use them as written or slightly upgunned. So I think I'm about 1% to blame, here. But it's mostly Matt's fault.

- For a long time, the PCs heard about the "six fingered vampires." Eventually, they fought one . . . and sold the body to the orcs. Since then, though, they mostly have referred to them incorrectly as the "cone-hatted cultists." This is despite a lot of clues - different descriptions, different heights, different numbers of fingers, different equipment (cone-helmed magescale, ornate axes, very slim swords and maces vs. cone hoods over normal headgear, red and black mail and cloth, normal human weapons done up to look more attractive) . . . I even used different minis entirely, and made it clear that what you saw was accurate. They had the same colors and same-shaped headgear, but clearly some of the earlier ones (and the ones in town) are humans apeing some others, and the others themselves.

Now that they have a body I took pains to tell them they are different. The PCs should know, even if the players keep getting them mixed up. They are clearly not human - six fingered hands with an extra joint on their long fingers, slender builds, extra-long incisors and fine teeth, very palid skin, no blood, jet black hair . . . and this one had its eyes poked out so they don't know how those differ. They're looking at getting it examined, and also want to preserve the hands to open doors. We'll see how that works. They preserved Alaric's hands to do that, and we'll see how this works.

- Now that the PCs realize on a deeper level that magescale doesn't includes hands and feet, I think we can safely assume they'll want to target the hands and feet of their cone-helmed foes. A -4 for a marginal target isn't a showstopped for 20+ skill guys, although most of them either have Slayer Training or Ultimate Slayer Training for much better locations. Still, I'd bet money on increased targeting of feet.

- the Bracers of Force aren't exactly the same as the ones in DF6. I'll post them sometime soon. They specifically do not layer with Shirtless Savage DR, and they replace it if you wear both. No if, ands, or buts about it. If not, you'll end up with a very munchkinny approach of claiming or arguing for force field DR for the eyes (excluded from Shirtless Savage DR), DR 9 on the arms on 1-3 and shirtless savage DR on a 4-6, and the force field DR whenever the force field is a better choice. No. either wear it and get DR 3 (9 on the arms on a 1-3 in 6) or don't wear it at all.

- the PCs probably had the ability to move on - but were very low on FP, the casters had largely drained their power items, and were running low on paut. Big combats - and they're all big when a "small" group has 10 PCs/NPCs - take a while. Huge combats - like this one, with about 50 combatants - take at least a full session. Fights won't get smaller.

The PCs had to leave basically because of FP. The FP issue is tough - the PCs need to win quickly, because they can't fight everything at once - and PCs need to conserve FP, which means they can't use as many FP-costing spells and abilities to speed up the fight. They can't safely rest for 15-30 minutes after each fight to heal up. If they can't move to the next fight without a break, they can't really do anything but try to win the dungen by attrition.

- My players did well on the deafness thing. Credit where credit is due. I'm still not sure about the whole "how many HP do you need me to heal?" question in combat, though. Do clerics have the ability to instantly diagnose damage levels at a glance at a friend? "He looks to be down 11 HP." I think this is all part of that "maximize every second in combat" approach - everyone wants every action to be the best, most efficient, and most correct use of resources for everyone, every turn . . . so assuming you can identify the exact level of wounds is just a way to make that happen.

- Roll20 isn't made for close combat. It slowed us down a lot as I clicked and dragged and clicked and dragged trying to get to see who is in what hex.

- Loot was around $3K each. They sold the Magescale (estimated value is $55,000) and one pair of Bracers of Force. Varmus took the other pair. They wanted to give the new magescale to Gerry and then pass the damaged set to Varmus, but Varmus wasn't keen on that . . . he preferred the bracers as they're lighter and unobtrusive. So he'll be blamed for any damage he takes that would have been stopped by the damaged armor.

- MVP was Gerry for the Stench spell followed up by an effective Flash and Strike Blind spends. He clearly broke the attack. XP was 5 each (3 for Galen). Gerry made his loot threshold and Galen 20% of his by Ulf giving up a portion of his loot. Poor Wyatt's player does the bookkeeping, and it took him many iterations to make this work. He'll be my firmest ally if we ever change to XP not being based on unequal distributions.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Felltower pre-summary

We played Felltower today and:

- Gerry layed down some large-area magic

- Ulf hid in the back

- reinforcements arrived - and not more of the "six fingered cultists" or golden swordsmen

- Bruce got into a bare-handed fight

- and the party got overrun but pulled out a win

- a few bodies were hauled off as the group scrambled to the surface after the bloody fray

- and a mysterious about the "cultists" was put to rest but another was revealed.

Details tomorrow.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Felltower tomorrow & a megadungeon best practice

So I'm sitting here on a Saturday night, listening to a hockey game, and getting ready for a game of Felltower tomorrow.

One helpful bit I've learned as I stock deeper levels of Felltower is to stock directly onto the maps. I've long done that for what's a room - a trap, a treasure, a puzzle, a monster, etc.

But it's helpful for a "new" level - one I haven't really detailed thoroughly - to then do a pass writing what's in a room. "Two golems." "Orc guards." "Beholder platoon." It's easier to see the relationship between rooms once those details are scribbled down in a visible fashion.

Why not play using the details on the map?

- It's hard to write all the details you need. I know, blah blah blah old school games only need you to list numbers and names and HP . . . but that's only true if you have the other details elsewhee. I prefer to have them all in a block assigned to the room.

- it's easier to add details to a document, and expand them as needed. This is especially true if the room contents keep changing.

- it's easier to search a document than to search a map. And I mean CRTL+F, grep, etc. - hey, is there another lich in this dungeon? Did they take that Potion of Human Control? Where the hell did I place Malice in this dungeon?

Perhaps in a small dungeon it's easy to play off the map, but I find it much easier to play off the document . . . but to take advantage of the map when doing the second-pass stocking.

So yeah, as I stock away, I find it easier to figure out what is in room 5-23 or 7-03 or 11-55 by looking at the map, writing it there, then writing it in the key, and then using the keyed map to play off of.
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