Sunday, January 31, 2021

GURPS DF Session 147, Felltower 113 - Orichalcum and Moon Doors

Sunday was the latest game in our DF Felltower game. For more notes and summaries, check the DF Felltower campaign page.

Date: January 31st, 2021
Weather: Cold, then very snowy.

Aldwyn Hale, human knight (313 points)
     Varmus the Hanged, human apprentice wizard (145 points)
"Mild" Bruce MacTavish, human barbarian (320 points)
Crogar, human barbarian (326 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (490 points)
Gerrald Tarrant, human wizard (420 points)
     3 skeletons (~35 points)
Heyden, human knight (307 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (306 points)
Wyatt Sorrel, human swashbuckler (326 points)

We started in Stericksburg, with the PCs gathering rumors. They got some about the yeth - they cannot be killed, only banished, and they're always the hounds of some greater being. Also, the hero Atrugex used to hunt them for their pelts.

They headed out soon after. Their original plan was to go to the Ape Gate, and talk to the apes. They realized after a while that they didn't have sufficient things to do there, so they decided to make that a backup plan. Instead, they headed to the orichalcum doors.

They made it to the castle, then down to the levels below and the doors without encountering anything. They heard some scratching and squeaking, though, on level 2, but never saw what made it.

Once down on the level they wanted to be on, they set up around the doors and began to puzzle them out.

They spent a few hours of game and real time on the doors, even in the close, stale air of the level.

They tried the following:

- pressing on symbols.
- tracing symbols.
- pushing and pulling on the doors.
- checking the hinges and gaps.
- knocking on the door (Wyatt).
- trying to sit back and find patterns.
- repeated uses of Gift of Tongues to speak possible passphrases.
- repeated uses of Gift of Letters to read combinations and seek patterns and so on.
- trying all sorts of things around the white triangle some folks had painted onto the doors in the past.
- trying to search the walls in the room for a different keyhole or trigger.
- Levitating Ulf up to the level of folks sized for 18' x 9' doors to look for a keyhole.
- drawing an ankh on with crayon (wax pencil; Heyden).
- scanning for specific pictographs associated with heaven, and combinations with birds, dust, and other symbols also on the key.

Eventually, after hours of this, they gave up. Lucky for them, they mostly made their HT rolls and nothing wandered up to bother them.

They headed next to the "moon gate" area. They checked that gate, and found it unchanged. Wyatt marked inside the door with chalk dust ask a giveaway for anything that comes along.

Next, they confirmed that a nearby door was to the Lord of Spite's cave area. Galen went in to scout, and picked up a few loose coins and came back. That turned out to be 3 sp once he was under actual light instead of Dark Vision.

After that, they checked the yeth hound corridor. Ulf's Sense Evil showed nothing, and they confirmed that with sight. From there, Galen scouted the rooms ahead before the group joined them.

The silvery doors were the next stop. Wyatt tried to push on the doors - nothing. He tried to grip the narrow raised band and pull - no effect. He knocked - no effect. They decided the way to pass the silvery doors was to touch the current moon phase. It was waning gibbous, so Wyatt touched that - nothing. He touched the "thumb print" (a small depression) and the doors swung inward.

Beyond was another elliptical corridor, ending in another pair of identical silvery doors. Wyatt touched the moon, and then the depression . . . and disappeared. Unbeknownst to the players, I started a stopwatch. 11 seconds later, Bruce touched the depression . . . and disappeared. Then at 16 seconds, Aldwyn, then Varmus, then a second or so later Ulf, then Galen right after that. At 24 seconds, Heyden. Crogar and Gerry waited. Gerry decided to buff up. He took his time figuring out what to do, then put a couple spells on and they went . . . at 2 minutes for Gerry and at 2:02 for Crogar.

Then we resolved what happened.

Wyatt found himself in a room facing a semi-circular wall - he was in a circular room around 35' in diameter. A humanoid shape of darkness and shadow with glowing star-like eyes faced him. He passed his Body Sense roll and Dodged the attack of the being . . . and retreated into two Waiting beings. They touched him and drained some life - they were Demons from Between the Stars, although he didn't know this.

He backed off at another angle, trying to ready a potion - his Fast-Draw was blown, so he spent a second readying it. They kept attacking, and he wasn't ready to stop them all. They quickly got him to negative HP . . . and he blew his roll and fell unconscious. (Later on, his player realized he forgot he had Luck. Oops.)

Bruce found himself in the same room, and in the same ambush, but only from two beings that attacked him from behind. He was hurt, but not badly (I rolled a lot of 1s, doing 2 injury.) He spun and readied his sword and fought back. He saw four of them around Wyatt - three touching Wyatt and one just trying to get in on him. Bruce started to back off as the DFBTS pressed him in close combat. He sliced them a couple times but inflicted poor damage right back. They eventually got him to the wall and he punched one . . . hurting himself and the DFBTS as well. He'd tried to retreat and walked into one Waiting, who struck him.

As this happened, Aldwyn appeared. He was attacked from behind by waiting DFBTS and turned to fight them. Varmus appeared behind them, and cast Itch on a couple. Ulf was next, and he tried to Rebuke Evil but failed, as the room was Low Sanctity.

Bruce eventually slammed his way free and then readied his sword. Alwdyn killed one, and Bruce another, in short order. The DFBTS healed themselves a bit from strikes on Bruce and then Varmus, who was hit twice but only took a total of 5 injury. Galen appeared, and since he has Acrobatics-16 and Absolute Direction he was fine despite the teleport. He showed up and immediately put several arrows into a DFBTS approaching him. It was wounded, and it attacked him viciously. He killed it a second or so later. He then turned and killed the one bothering Varmus. Bruce and then Aldwyn cut their remaining foes down, too.

They checked on Wyatt. (I rolled all of the damage he'd suffered right them . . . a totla of 21d+21 for 98 damage. He used luck and dropped it to 95 . . . still enough to be at -5xHP but well short of -10xHP. He was badly dessicated but still able to be brought back from the dead. After a minute more, Gerry showed up along with Crogar. The skeletons did not, despite having been ordered to do as Gerry and Crogar did.

In the room they found a moonsword, five moonstones, and some other salvagable gear from some other victim of the DFBTS.

They searched the room and found a "secret door," but no way to open it. They found some writing, which turned out to be in common, directly in the line of sight of those teleported in. It said, backwards, in block letters, "You must touch the right moon phase to get through the doors." Gift of Letters helped, kind of, but it was really just a simple writing trick.

So they tried to set up as if they were in the shadow of the waning gibbous moon. No effect. Same with the light part of it. So Ulf suggested they cover all of their lights. Bingo. The "door" was gone, according to Galen (who was under Dark Vision). They exposed a light, and the door was back. So they covered their lights and exited. In short order, they found they were in the hallway to the oracular pool.

They went back and opened the silvery doors. They saw the skeletons still pushing the door, to no avail. Gerry called them over and they headed back up to level 1. They stopped on the way to stick the key into Wyatt's "mummy-like" hand to touch to the orichalcum doors. No, that didn't work.

Ulf took them to a high sanctity area to rest and pray, and then to the temple he's been trying to Exorcise. He did his run, wave . . . and it worked! He removed the curse of the temple. But he was still taking injury. He ran back.

They puzzled over it a bit but then eventually just left. They trekked home in the snow and back to Stericksburg. They had Wyatt Resurrected, successfully, and then sold everything they found to just manage to make loot thresholds for most of the group (and Galen partially.)


- Fun session, but mostly trying to figure out the puzzle of the doors. Lots of good ideas, but then we had a lunch break . . . and people just weren't able to generate a good idea after that. They tried, though. They know there must be a keyhole somewhere, according to the oracular pool, but can't find one. And tried non-keyhole solutions, too.

- I expected the Demons from Between the Stars would possibly mess someone up, but I didn't expect them to kill Wyatt. I thought he might get beaten a bit, but probably to kill them all before the others arrived. Nope. Dead. His player really struggles to remember to use Luck. He'd sell it back if I'd let him. (I won't.) The massive amounts of light the PCs bring with them really does help out. The DFBTS just had nowhere to hide and couldn't manage to keep their momentum up as more PCs arrived. Having 9-10 people is a problem but also means you can overwhelm with numbers.

- MVP was Wyatt for taking the big risk. So he traded $15K for 1 xp, I guess.

Interesting session.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Felltower Moon Research results

Ulf paid for "two weeks of research ($800) for a sage to see if there are any legends about the "moon doors," giving the description of the phases of the moon on the doors, as well as any info for any "little people" who might come from the moon."

Here are the results of that research. I'll blog these as well for easier retrieval later.

- the moon is somehow impenetrable to magic. It's quite far away, making direct casting impossible, and indirect spells such as Divination fail completely. What little information is gathered from such spells is verifiably wrong, implying only critical failures and no successful divination.

- a very old rumor that went around was that delvers had found a way to the moon - one claimed to have spat or urinated (accounts vary) down on Stericksburg from above and either caused a huge rainstorm or filled a pond when his spittle reached the ground, depending on the account. This account is widely discredited.

- those delvers claimed the moon was populated by tiny green goblins with vast supplies of moonstones.

- the same delvers claimed the moon was edible, or that the green goblins ate moon rocks.

- those delvers and their names seem lost to legend, and it's not clear if they ever really existed. It's considered most likely that, if they even existed, they merely encountered some moon dwellers in Felltower and either learned of the moon or made up stories to explain their encounter with the green goblins.

- the shape seen on the moon with the naked eye is said to be the outline of a giant moon rabbit wielding a forge hammer.

- keen-eyed observers have occasionally seen lights on the moon, which is variously ascribed to some flash of the rabbit's forge or as being the twinkle of the gemstone eye of the moon rabbit.

- the doors described clearly have the moon phases scribed on them. The moon phases are left-to-right, in order that they travel. This implies a left-right writing system, if such exists.

- lycanthropes, especially wolfmen, are associated with the moon and may come from the moon or dwell there.

- beyond the sphere of earth is the realm of the elder things, or at least of some of them.

- even the immortal elves know little of the moon, except that evil beings dwell there. It's not clear how they know, and they are not inclined to share. Little is really known about the moon, thanks to the impossibility of magic reaching it and the total lack of credible, verifiable travel to it.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Random Links for 1/29/2021

It's Friday, time for my usual list of things I think people might want to take a look at. Or things I want to say things about.

- GURPS Furries came out. I received a complimentary copy. I couldn't imagine why until I checked the credits - Additional Material. Aha, re-use from GURPS Martial Arts. I'm not sure I'll read it . . . I don't generally like "Furry" stuff. There is some anthropomorphic animal stuff I enjoyed, but in general, it's not in my area of interest. Still, if you like furries, odds are Bill did a good job of covering them.

- I'm not sure why I don't have Wargaming Girl on my Blogroll, but I'll fix that after this post:

Dredd vs. Death

- James Mal didn't like Artifact of Evil. Basically, not a hero-centric pulp novel. Me, I liked it a lot. Here is what i said:

"I'll have to agree with some of the other comments on Artifact of Evil - it really reads like our "high" level (8-10th level or so) AD&D play. Powerful characters, magic items all over the place being used to get out of bad situations, some big battles, and dungeons few and far between. I got something out of all of the Gygax Gord books . . . maybe they're not really "pulp" but they were very fantasy game-like when you compare them to how we played."

It's very AD&D, really. I found "Saga of Old City" reminds me more of Rolemaster. The sequel, though, yeah . . . it read like our games and it certainly influenced them subsequently. I think the desire for a more low-magic pulpy game is why people find D&D has a "sweet spot" of 5-7th level (or a little lower.) But coming into it natively, we really got going around 5-7th level and then just kept rolling. Had high school social issues not split the game up I bet we'd have gotten people well past the 9th-12th level they mostly ended up at.

- I like this Guide to the Bodak. I always thought the one in S3 was an excellent placed encounter.

- Does my sort-of by-the-book Segments system for AD&D count as "phased?" I'd say yes. I used to like Rolemaster's point-based system in Rolemaster Companion, and Champions speed-based phased system, too.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Review: Dungeon Fantasy Treasures 4: Mixed Blessings

Periodically I like to review game materials that I find useful and interesting. Or otherwise inspire me to write about them, for good or bad. Generally I review things I like. I'm biased with books like this becuase I play and write for GURPS Dungeon Fantasy, I'm friends with the author, and I like magic items that give you a bit of a concern when you find them.

For more reviews, see my reviews page.

Written by Sean M. Punch
Published by Steve Jackson Games 2021
11 pages

This is the 5th book in the DF line dedicated to magical treasure - DFT1, 2, 3, and DF6 preceded this one. This one is focsed on "mixed blessings" - magic items that combine an upside that make you want to keep them with downsides that make them a bit less than pure upside.
The idea of magic items with a downside isn't new - it wasn't even new when Tolkein and Moorcock used them, and probably wasn't new when Aladdin found that lamp, for that matter. It isn't new to GURPS DF, either - for example, weapons like Grimslaughter, Frenzy, and Malice in Dungeon Fantasy Treasures: 3 are great toys to have if you don't mind being a threat to friend and foe alike. But DFT4 does a few of things:

- it gives a solid number of items - 13 of them.
- it gives a lot of options for those items.
- it gives a lot of examples of, and direct text describing how to make, items with both strong upsides and strong downsides.

As always, with a Sean Punch book, the rules are rock-solid, even "unbalanced" seeming items are balanced upon further reflection, and it has both humor and style in plenty.

The magic items are a good mix. A magic sword that deals more damage but costs you damage as well. A magical healing tool that hurts before it helps. A ring that'll keep you alive but costs you HT, with a fairly gruesome side effect. A cheap way to come back from the dead, if paying in stats is cheap. And so on. They're fun and cool, and none of them fail to live up to the title.

Overall: Good book. Well worth $3 if you even get 1-2 usable magic items for your campaign and get a good handle on how to properly mix blessings and curses. Good stuff.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

How to be a Bad Player - Combat Edition

I've written a bit of advice about being a good player, mostly for GURPS.

Trying to be a good player is hard. So let's be bad players! It's way easier. Or is it? Here is some advice to get the job done really poorly.

Help everyone!

Nothing is harder for everyone else than running their characters. So, help out.

Remember to make sure to do the math for everyone else. Especially if they've done it for themselves. Re-calculate it. Check to make sure, with them and with the table in general, about what modifiers apply.

Tactically, they're probably a mess. Make sure you take time to give them advice on every aspect of their play - where to step, where to look, what weapons to use, everything. Oh, and don't neglect your guy - point out where they should go to help you do your thing. Not that you're not going to decide that later, anyway - but don't let them cut off your options.

Right after you give this advice, you want to make sure the person doesn't feel too pressured. A hearty, "nevermind, you go ahead, I was just going to say you could (fill in whatever Maneuver or action here), but you just do what you're going to do" is a good way to go. It's simple, clear, concise, and above all makes sure you put plenty of doubt in the person's head. That way, they're likely to listen to your help. Remember, it's their characters you need to mind.

Don't remember what you did last turn.

Or the one before, frankly. Stunned last turn? Forget it. Dropped your weapon? Swing with it anyway. Concentrate on the battlefield as a whole, and who should go where, and all the people you're helping out. The GM will probably remember for you. If not, how important could it be?

And don't bother looking up the effects of any spells on you, hostile or negative conditions, or debiliating effects of terrain you're on between when it happens and when you next go. Pleny of time to do that on your turn itself. Once the game can't proceed without your input, then find out what effects that all has on your paper man.

No need to know the rules.

"Rules mastery" is a new school concept for people who play wrong. Mastery of the rules shows you are a new-school noob who doesn't understand how it was done back in the day when Gygax and Arneson strode the earth, reffing dungeons from behind towering screens and rolling the dice for you. Or an old-school fool who doesn't get that you are Role-playing here, not Roll-playing. The GM will handle all of the rules. If you learn any of them, don't bother learning the ones that apply to your character and your situation.

Don't visualize your situation, either.

Also, only the rules matter. Unless they say X or Y specifically, then X or Y doesn't happen. The rules don't say you can't open a door with your shield hand while taking a Wait action with your sword ready while backing up to make space and stepping into the room if that's better . . . so clearly you can do it. Seeing the situation with your mind's eye and playing it out like a real person in that situation is very limiting. Don't limit yourself!

"Just make sure" of every single modifier.

For want of a nail, a kingdom was lost - remember that! For want of a -1 or a +1 on any given turn, an entire campaign can collapse. Better check on all of them. Check every time. Make sure if you have a conditional modifier to "just make sure" if it counts or not. Have a +1 versus demons? That orc has a pretty demonic-looking shield, so that's probably worth a +1. Is that a +1 to your skill and your roll against that skill? Probably. Better check. Have a +3 against poison? If you get poisoned, you better check and make sure it counts. It might or might not, so ask every time!

Alternatively, don't make sure of any of them, ever. You know your rolls. Just roll them. Circumstances may change, but negative modifiers probably even out in the wash. So just skip them all. You probably are missing some bonuses - make sure of them. Negative modifiers are the GM's job, anyway. The GM will tell you them, and if you've been told them before but not recently, like, on this turn, they're almost certainly gone. This is especially true of Disadvantages - they probably don't apply here, so don't fret them. The GM will let you know when they should apply. Playing out your disads in combat limits your choices . . . and that's the GM's job, not yours!

Don't plan ahead.

Figure out what to do on your turn. Knowing ahead of time is a sucker's game. Wait until you go, and then fully assess the circumstances. Make sure to get everyone's opinion on what you should do, and give yours on what they should do on their turn. Once they've established their plan, you can start on yours. After all, this turn's action has to be the most efficient, most tactically effective thing possible to do. Anything less is bad play, at best, and leads to a TPK just like all roads lead to Rome.

If you're using an unusual attack or spell, use it first, then figure out what it does. Not right away - wait until you absoutely need to know. If the enemy defends, no point figuring out how much damage you do with a headbutt, or the defense penalty against your attack, or the default roll for your technique. Oh sure, you probably need to know the last before you roll to hit, but that's not critical. GMs know this stuff of the top of their head. Besides, if you decide ahead of time and figure it out, the modifiers might have changed. This is especially true if you've been planning this move for a while! Pre-calculation, like rules mastery, takes away from the game. Don't do it.

Coming sometime - Part II - How to be a Bad Player - Non-Combat Edition.

Am I kidding? What do you think, am I? Don't decide now, wait until it's your turn and then start to think about it. We'll wait.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Last Day - $6 for 3 issues of Pyramid, 44+ pages each

This is the last day for this Kickstarter:

I hope we unlock those last articles - Sean Punch's "Tactical Looting" covers a lot of ground I'd like to see done up officially in GURPS - rolls and times and penalties for navigating around in a dungeon. I've got my own, of course, and I plan to use them to fill in what Sean hasn't covered . . . but only after his article is published!

Monday, January 25, 2021

Fire in the Lake - Ordered

I've been looking for a copy of Fire in the Lake, 2nd printing. My best shot at it was on, but I waited too long and the price shot up, and then the game largely became unavailable.

eBay has lots of copies, all of 1st printing . . . and the update kit costs a substantial amount.

But GMT games launched a "P500" for a reprint. When they get 500 pre-orders, they'll do a 3rd edition print run. So I went ahead and ordered it:

I ordered #86 out of 500. We'll see how long it takes to get 414 extras.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Even More DF Felltower languages

Here are a few more known languages of DF Felltower.

For additional ones, see these posts:

DF Felltower Languages
More DF Felltower Languages

D'Aboan - a now obscure language spoken in the now-fallen D'Aboan Empire. It was the language of priests and scholars in the end, have been superceded by the common language for most uses.

Cashamashish - Sometimes jokingly call "Magician" for its association with the wizard-plagued city of Cashamash. Spoken almost exclusively in Cashamash; residents usually also know the common language for communication with non-natives.

Osirian - the language of the long-dead Osirians. Its written form is pictographic, and the arrangements are more symbolic than precise in decorative use, and modified pictographs are used with connecting shapes and lines to create more precise writing for record keeping, scholarly work, etc. Its writers are very fond of wordplay and puzzles and riddles. Its spoken form is lost to modern knowledge.

Trollic - Trolls speak their own language. It's eerie and soft and quiet, much like trolls. It's said to have a dozen words for "bridge" and scores of words for "swamp."

Notable non-languages:

- The folk from Cornwood speak in an accent they call "Cornish" but everyone else calls a "Cornwoodian" or "Wooden" accent.

- Ogric or Ogrish or Ogerian are the scholarly terms for the simplified Orcish spoken by Ogres. It's considerably dumbed down, with simplified grammar and speech patterns, and cannot convey more than basic, direct concepts. Ogre stupidity is frustrating even to orcs, who don't much value linguistic scholarship. (In game terms, anyone who can speak orcish can understand Ogric, but may not necessarily be able to mimic its speech back.)

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Lich van Winkle asks - How did you start?

This post asks how you started gaming.

I've posted about this before, but for posterity on my own blog, here are my answers:

1. The year you began, and with which role-playing game

1. 1981, Basic D&D and AD&D. See #2.

2. Did you figure it out alone, or were you introduced by a lone but experienced GM, or by joining a preexisting group?

2. Two teens, sons of my mom's friend, taught me to play. They ran me with a mix of my D&D set and AD&D, which they played. I subsequently went right to AD&D but played with a weird mix of partially understood rules.

3. What was your first group like? Was it private among friends, in a game store, or in a club? Were they older, younger than you? Did their style of play shape the way you played later?

3. I assembled a lot of like-minded 4th graders and we played. We frequently fragmented into other groups. No one outside our immediate grade played with us. My first mixed-age group was in Junior High when a kid one year older played with us.

4. Your favorite role-playing game. (Was it the game you started with?)

4. GURPS. Not what I started with.

5. Anything else you want to share reflecting the impact of how you started on how you play(ed).

5. I think the weird mix of rules, and frequent rules arguments by kids who half-remembered the rules, heavily influenced my Rule Zero-heavy play style and rules writing style. Also, my general wariness playing with other gamers, as opposed to playing with friends who like to game. Later experience didn't cure me of that.

What about you guys? Submit your answers over at his blog, but you can copy them into my comments if you want my opinion on your experience. Heh.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Random Links for Friday 1/22/2021

- Who came up with Rule Zero?

The Origins of Rule Zero

- This is a well-thought out campaign by a guy who does that:

The Lifebane Campaign

- Miscellanea: Insurrections, Ancient and Modern (And Also Meet the Academicats)

"Moreover, One thing about coup attempts like this in the ancient world: they all look farcical, unless they work."

I was just talking about this with a friend about coups in general - the successful ones seem surprisingly lucky and often successful despite themselves; the unsuccessful ones seem foolish and stupid. It's a detail worth putting into games, really - all too often in fiction, coups are extremely well-organized and are pulled off with great skill. The victims of the coup are usually deluded, foolish, and mistakenly self-assured. For failed coups, reverse the situation entirely. Reality is much messier, at best. It adds versimilitude to a world if you include mistakes and luck, and it makes it seem reasonable to the PCs to try something of the kind if you don't need to be the Mission: Impossible crew to succeed.

Not to take away from the ugliness and real, lethal threat of the recent events in the U.S., but here we are. On Dungeon Fantastic, it's about gaming or it's not blogged.

- Rob programmed out the The Central Mechanic of Tabletop RPGs.

- I revised our grappling rules a little bit. Mostly, for clarity - the document I had was written to explain the rules to another GURPS GM, not to my players. But also to reflect a small but significant change to how we run things. Overally, the changes made it easier to read and easier to run. I have another revision in mind - another clarity issue, not a rules change. Ultimately, it's the core of Technical Grappling but with no frills, and lots of opportunities for GM judgement calls. I'm not sure if I could ever post them - they contain way too much SJG-owned material. I'm not sure I could ever sell them - Doug has his won, and SJG uses Doug's own. But at least we can play with them more easily now.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

DF Felltower - Selling Weapons & then Using their Materials

One of my players asked about using the metal from the green meteoric iron sword they sold in town to get a knife made.

In other words, could the swordsmith they presumably sold it to (his supposition - likely it was some trader) use the metal from it to craft a knife?

Yes, and no.

Yes, having a weapon they found melted down, and the metal used for a specific new purpose, is fine. It's not necessarily cheaper - it probably is not, once you factor in all the costs of a custom job where you specify both additional work (melt a weapon down, and use only that material for a new one.) You'd have to sell the remaining metal as scrap metal, or just pay to have it melted down and used. Some players will balk at the extra, but remember you're dealing with guild experts, and telling them how you want their job done is likely to cost extra.

No, you can't sell a weapon for its value as a complete, useable item, and then use the material from it for a custom job. The sale price assumes someone bought it intended it for resale (merchant buys at 40%, sell at 100% to a final buyer). You cannot realize the value of the item for its resale value, and get access to the components of that item as scrap.

Basically you can't realize the value of something as loot and get utility out of it as well. You can decide to keep something, not realize its value as loot, and then get some use out of it as another thing. You either decide to keep it and/or get it changed/modified/used/etc. in town, or you sell it on the spot and get it counted as loot. No double-dipping!

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Rules, rulings, bits, and notes from Session 146

More notes and such from Session 146 - Yeth Hounds & Moonbeams.

- The weapon Bruce was asking after was Death's Reaper from DF6: 40 Artifacts. I subsequently emailed the group with this:

"I don't recall ever saying it existed in the game. It may or may not.

Remember what I said about DF8, DF6, etc. not being shopping lists? Don't spend money or character points asking about those items specifically. Pressed for a yes or no, I'll always pick no . . . which means I won't make it available ever when I'm stocking the deeper depths.

In other words . . . if you push me on a truthful yes or no for the campaign world, I'm going with no. But also, don't look in GURPS books, find stuff you might like, and then ask for it in-game. I may or may not be using it. It's not like I placed a rumor about Death's Reaper or a similar-sounding weapon.

- We're trying to think of a better name than "Common" for the lingua franca of the game world. It's not the only human language - there is D'Aboan, Orisian, and Molotovian, at least, plus whatever they speak in Cashamash, so "Human" or "Humanish" is out. The Kingdom isn't named yet, not even here. Stericksburg isn't a big enough town to lend a name to a language, and the language predates the town. So we're thinking. I'll take suggestions but I'm likely to shoot them down - it's got to strike me as right.

- I need to get a re-edited version of my stripped-down TG-based grappling rules. Yes, for me, even "Fantastic Dungeon Grappling" is too long and complex. I found players who relied on grappling didn't actual have any real inkling of the rules, and I made a mistake because I forgot something I'd done and had zero people to notice. So I did that last night.

- The yeth caused a -5 to all rolls if you fell victim to their howl. I let someone halve it on defenses. Actually, it's -5 if you choose not to run away, and like Curse, those kind of penalties are flat and across the board. Someone said it was really nasty, but hey, this replaces being forced to flee. Everyone despises that, so I'm not really open to complaints about how being able to stand and fight with a penalty needs to be coupled with a lower penalty that treats defenses favorably.

- I'm seriously considering fixed Deceptive Attack levels. Not that they saw a lot of use in this fight, but those that did varied from -1 to -3, and just a flat number would be easier for me, the GM. Maybe I'd make an exception for a Trademark Move, but probably not - if only because I need to remember all of those, too, and giving a +1 to hit for an exception that complicates things doesn't seem like the best move.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Pyramid Scheme is On

This Kickstarter launched:

My article is already unlocked, but there are more to go!

Monday, January 18, 2021

GURPS DF Session 146, Felltower 112 - Yeth Hounds & Moonbeams

Sunday was the latest game in our DF Felltower game. For more notes and summaries, check the DF Felltower campaign page.

Date: January 17th, 2021
Weather: Cold, clear.

Aldwyn Hale, human knight (313 points)
     Varmus the Hanged, human apprentice wizard (145 points)
Mild Bruce MacTavish, human barbarian (320 points)
Crogar, human barbarian (326 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (430 points)
Gerrald Tarrant, human wizard (408 points)
     3 skeletons (~35 points)
Sir Bunny Wigglesworth, human holy warrior (291 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (306 points)
Wyatt Sorrel, human swashbuckler (326 points)

The PCs wanted to defeat the yeth they'd fought the previous time.

In lieu of rumors, Ulf asked around about the giant centipede they saw a few sessions back. Its venom is highly lethal, and can last in your system for days. So he decided Resist Poison wasn't going to cut it. They gathered rumors, gathered the group - adding Mild Bruce but leaving behind Heyden, who wasn't feeling well - and headed out.

The group headed right down to the gate level, pausing only for Ulf to cast Aura on the door they can't open in the GFS. It had no aura.

At the bottom, Crogar fell victim to the close air and suffered a -1 on top of his -3 for his Curse.

They headed past the room with the Force Dome, but it didn't trigger. Wyatt's theory is the broken wand they found is causing that to happen.

One past the room, they formed up and forced the door to the yeth. Bruce quickly stepped into the doorway, blocking anyone from entering.

The yeth howled and charged.

Bruce was quickly attacked by a couple of yeth. No one could usefully help him, because he was filling the relatively narrow doorway. They couldn't hurt him, as they do 1d+1 cutting and he has 7 natural DR from Shirtless Savage and natural barbarian toughness. They managed to get grips on him, though, and tried to evade past as he tried to grapple them. The others managed to get a stab in here and there with silvered weapons . . . which did nothing.

Ulf used Rebuke Evil a couple of times and hurt them. One was destroyed by a combination of that spell, kicks and punches, and Aldwyn's Shocking Touch bracers. The other fled. Bruce gave chase.

The PCs behind him had been using Wait, wanting to step in to the gap he opened as soon as possible. So they did. Naturally, this meant they bottlenecked the doorway.

Bruce ran forward, backed by Aldwyn, into a pack of yeth. They swarmed Bruce and pulled him down. They still couldn't harm him, but he was forced to AOA to escape and then was quickly grabbed again.

Aldwyn attacked the yeth, too, but was also forced back and around by their relentless attacks. The yeth periodically howled, eventually getting Crogar, Aldwyn, and Bruce, and then Varmus to quail before their fearsome soul-shaking baying. Still, the PCs fought on.

Meanwhile Ulf got into the doorway, and then was attacked by two yeth. One bore him down to the ground; the other - the Alpha - got past and engaged Sir Bunny and Galen. Crogar stood by, and didn't act (he never would, actually - he was especially passive this fight.) Varmus contributed with Spasm spells to get the yeth to release grapples and Itch spells to pile penalties onto those not grappling. Meanwhile, Galen grappled or punched, Sir Bunny grappled and kicked, and Wyatt mostly tried to grapple. Sir Bunny managed to grab the alpha but it bit his arm in retaliation and crippled it. Galen managed to punch another one out with a lucky shot.
Meanwhile Bruce kept trying to escape, Aldwyn kept fighing and managed to shock two more, and Ulf managed to stay free once freed by Varmus - as Wyatt grappled the hound on him.

From there, the alpha snapped around and bit, almost hitting Gerry and Varmus, but mostly it was occupied by Galen, who either Dodged or used his bracer of Iron Arm to stop it. Once Ulf was free, he used Rebuke Evil over and over, aided by Lend Energy from Gerry. It failed to help fairly often, but he managed to rack up a lot of damage. Few were prompted to flee (good rolling by me, or something different?). The knocked out one got back up, but was quickly destroyed.

In the end, the ground down the hounds. The ones on Bruce broke off and attacked Aldwyn, and then Wyatt as he ran up. But they managed to keep them busy (sometimes by being bit) until Ulf could destroy them all with Rebuke Evil. Aldwyn ended up knocked out, as did Sir Bunny, but otherwise they were fine. Sir Bunny and Ulf managed to fail some post-fight health rolls, with consequences they'd discover later.

The yeth down, they quickly healed up people with the Staff of Healing, and Faith Healing for Sir Bunny's arm.

They checked the "room" and found it was more like an elliptical hallway, unlike the others in the dungeon level, and more white. The ceiling and floor were remarkably flat.

Recovered, they forced the next door open, and found an oval room - a flattened circle.

The ceiling had eight symbols on it - the eight main phases of the moon. There was another door opposite the one they came through, and a pair of silvery-white double doors with a band depicting the eight moon phases across the pair.

Each of the symbols on the ceiling, in moon phase order, would shine a soft light down to a spot seemining at random on the floor (they used Observation and 5 minutes but no pattern or "safe spot" was revealed.) Their daylight-brightness lightstones made it hard to see the soft light in some places and obscured it entirely close to them.

Eventually, Wyatt stepped in. A beam of light played over him, but that was all. He moved to the silvery doors. The left one had the first four phases (from new-waxing gibbous) and the right the others (full-waning crescent). Between them, on the remarkably close-fitting doors, was a depression much like the thumbspot on the wand they found. (They asked specifically.)

Eventually all but Galen came in. Their light was too bright to see any beams from the ceiling. They forced the other, "normal" door, and found a corridor much like any other in the dungeon. Except . . . it was bent. It turned right-ish, then straight, then right again they'd find. But it seemed warped and twisted, almost as if a straight corridor was pulled and snaked to the left and right.

Down the corridor they all went, now joined by Galen and the skeletons, after Galen spiked the first door open.

At the end of the snakey corridor, they found a squarish cave with a more-or-less circular pool of shimmering liquid in it. In front was a stone. In a very old version of common, it was written, "Pool of the Oracle. Render Into the Water Your Payment, and Receive Your Knowledge. Coin of the Realm gives Information, Coin of the Soul gives Truth.”

Aldwyn was pretty sure he knew what it meant, so he pulled out a gold coin and tossed it in. He felt a prompting or pull in his head like he should think of something. He thought, "How do I kill a beholder?"

He suddenly felt some knowledge, albeit couched in a riddle-like form. Basically, even damage will kill anything, no matter how many eyes. He related that to the group.

Ulf tossed in a coin, and asked "What is coin of the soul?" He felt the answer was something that could be sacrificed to the gods. (Before he did so, Aldwyn's player said he knew what it was. I knew he had figured it out.) They decided this was unspent character points. Yep.
A few more people tossed in coins. Ulf tried again, but got no answer for the coin, and felt no prompting. Gerry asked how to get past the black library door without being evil. The answer was, basically, you have to find a way in that doesn't pass the door. (I'll post the whole thing here, as it is illustrative of the answers: If one can pass without the door, then one can pass within without evil. But can one pass back out without a stain on the soul?)

Crogar asked about the orichalcum doors, and for his gold coin he felt the answer was that if you've found a key, you next need to find a keyhole. He wasn't pleased with the return on his investment.

Finally, Bruce decided to sacrifice a character point for knowledge. He asked how to pass the Black Reaver to get the treasure it guards. His answer, in his words as he told the group, was "The black reaver can only be destroyed by the strongest beings. To acquire its treasure you must allowed to pass by it. The dark brotherhood set it on guard only they can pass."

After this, they decided to go back to town. They may return in the future with more questions . . .


The yeth fight was long. It was basically the entire session - the really interesting bits at the end where a bonus hour of delving that took us to, oh, about 30 minutes past my normal bedtime (as I get up before 5 am on Mondays).

Fights have also been a little slow with my group in GURPS. Roll20 doesn't help. Neither does Zoom (like when people take a break mid-turn and the turn order comes around to them.). Neither does the usual "decide what to do after I assess the situation based on this exact situation." The sheer size of the group makes for a longer fight, as most PC's turns take as long to resolve as all of the NPCs, plus extra - 10 people takes more than twice as long as 5 people. But it also was the tactics of the PCs.

Pretty much my players are willing to grind out a fight if they think it'll lead to victory. So they went after the yeth without any idea of what would kill them besides Rebuke Evil and bare hands. Since none of them particularly do a lot of damage barehanded, and Ulf managed to get himself grappled, it just slogged on and on. If it wasn't for the natural DR of Bruce, it would have been terrifically bloody fight. Instead, it took many hours. The inability to focus on a foe until it was slain meant most of the yeth were up for most of the fight, also extending it. Instead of leaving them for, say, a time after they'd figured out what works, they went in ready to slog. It worked, but it came with a cost in real-world time. That costs exploration, which costs treasure, which costs XP.

For the umpteenth time, I regret not putting in a "minimum damage 1" clause on Shirtless Savage DR. Or using Injury Reduction instead. Too often it's seen as perfect armor against everything, and when low-but-steady damage attackers come along the barbarians are just invulnerable. Instead of using tactics, skill, or thought, it comes down to "get as many of them to uselessly engage me as possible." Instead of Bruce having gotten himself in trouble, getting hauled down by 4 yeth was rightly seen as occupying 4 attackers that could have harmed others. With a minimum damage of 1, you can't just blithely ignore rending claws and teeth because they mostly can't do any damage. There is cinematically cool and then cinematically uncool . . . a minimum would keep it on the cool side for me.

The questions for the pool were interesting. They used gold, but don't know what copper, silver, or a full-out gold eagle (5x weight, 5x value gold coin) would get them. Same, different? I used "whisper" to write an answer to each PC that asked. The first couple gave a summary of their answer. The others started to cut-and-paste. I stopped that at the end. It was way more interesting to read back what someone thought they learned than what they heard eaxctly so others could parse it over and over for a different meaning. Next time, I may just use a breakout room in Zoom and tell the person directly, verbally, no repeats to aid writing it down.

Bruce's first question, initially related by text as he had to leave the session for a bit, was going to be, "How do I get taller?" - he wants to be SM+2, I think. He was talked out of that. He then wanted to ask where in Felltower he could find some magical executioner's axe. I had no idea what he was talking about. I checked the rumors but nothing. Maybe he meant something in some GURPS DF book? I'll find out. I gave him a do-over on that because I had no answer and I wasn't sure I wanted people asking about random magic items they're hoping are in the game. His final one was a good one, I think - practical knowledge, although they may or may not apply it properly.

Sir Bunny and Ulf needed to have their auras cleansed in town, as the hounds put a shadowy aura on them . . . which would make them more vulnerable to the yeth next time. The church was able to remove it for 100 sp each.

XP was 1 each for exploration, 1 each for finding and using the pool (it's one of a few major locations in the dungeons), and 0 xp for loot. Had the PCs just found the pool and backed off . . . I wouldn't have awarded any points for it at all, ever. MVP was Aldwyn - strictly, Aldwyn's player, who played Aldwyn well and used Varmus's Itch and Spasm spells expertly. He also accurately predicted the pool's function. Being a GM of your own game helps; he's a GM and he can spot things sometimes because he's spent time thinking of challenges for his own players. Those who both play and GM tend to do better at both, in my experience.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Felltower pre-summary

Fun game today:

- the PCs defeated the yeth hounds . . . slowly.

- a moon-related room and door was discovered.

- and an oracular pool was discovered.

Full summary tomorrow.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Pyramid Scheme Monday

In case you missed Sean Punch's update on this.

The Pyramid Kickstarter launches Monday:

Pyramid Scheme

And here is an update with more details:

Pyramid Scheme Update

Friday, January 15, 2021

Random Links for 1/15/21

It's Friday, let's look at stuff I bookmarked during the week.

- Want to play some D&D at UK lunchtime? I can't, I'm at work those hours. But Noisms is running a game.

Wednesday Lunchtime D&D Call to Arms

- Tenkar pointed this out - Planescape is available on demand:

Planescape Boxed Set

I strongly dislike the whole White Wolf-like vibe of "berks" and Planescape cant . . . but the setting is really cool.

- Stalingrad Phase 2 Commences

This quote jumped out at me:

"One concern I have is that given the size of the table at 10 x 6 can players easily reach units in the center? Yes, I am fearful of the dreaded gamer "belly smash" were players with ample "provision storage" accidently crush figures and terrain features along the table edge as they lean over."

This brought to mind this picture of Gary Gygax:

That dreaded "provision storage" is one of the reasons I am a personal trainer*, nutrition coach**, Pilates instructor***, and Behavior Change Specialist.**** I admire your exemplary pre-storage of calories, but it's also unhealthy at best. For the health of yourself and the health of the hobby, maybe a little more movement and a little less ration consumption would be a positive. I list those qualifications not to advertise my services, but to show why this jumps out at me and that I've got some kind of knowledge about the subject. I can and will refer out if you want assistance on ration storage reduction but don't want the Dungeon Fantastic Guy as your help.

- Knowing your players is key.

Knowing Your Players and Their Kicks

* NSCA-CPT (National Strength & Conditioning Association, Certified Personal Trainer)
** Precision Nutrition level 1
*** Balanced Body
**** National Academy of Sports Medicine
I also teach martial arts, but there isn't a certification for that, just an amateur fighting record.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Bad Footing bonus?

One of my pet peeves is players forgetting their penalties. They may know them but not remember to apply them. They're at -2 for bad footing, but forget to apply it. They suffer a -3 for vision penalties, but figure out 5-6 turns later they critically hit something based on full skull, not modified. Ugh. It drives me nuts.

As the GM, it's much easier for me to remember penalties foes inflict, or flat bonuses that figure into NPC's "to hit rolls."

What might work, more or less, is this:

- Apply penalties that hurt PCs but not NPCs as a bonus to NPCs. Instead of -2 for the PCs to hit, it's a +1 for NPCs to defend against attackers on Bad Footing. Instead of a -1 to defend, it's a +2 to hit (which can convert back to Deceptive Attack -1, which is something players do not forget to factor in.)

- If the penalty applies both ways, either ignore it (simple) or apply the bonus and penalty to the NPCs. Bad Footing at -2/+1 would be +1 to defend, but -2 to hit for the NPCs. Broadsword-16 would be Parry 13, but 14 or less to hit. Weird, but it moves the penalty to the NPC only.

It's not an entirely fair swap. +1 to defend is nice, but -2 to the attacker's "to hit" can mean a foe not being able to target a given location and still max out skill. It can mean a +1 to defend against a Move and Attack (skill cap 9) or Wild Swing (also skill cap 9), which might otherwise absorb the penalty for a sufficiently high-skill attacker.

It's a tempting to try this out, as it moves to onus from the players ("Oh yeah, it was bad footing . . . ) to the GM (who can pencil in a new score and just use that, instead.)

Any holes in this I'm not seeing?

I don't believe it's optimal, but it could be a solution to the issue of forgotten penalties.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Delusion in Martial Arts example: Ripping off Funakoshi's flesh

Here is a good example of a Delusion (GURPS Martial Arts, p 53-54) in action. This would probably be a Minor Delusion in a low-combat campaign, and a Major Delusion in a higher-combat campaign.

"In karate," they say, "a strong grip is essential [. . . ] The man who has strengthened his grip to the maximum in this way is easily capable of ripping the flesh of his adversary into strips."

What Nonsense! One day such a man came into my dōjō and offered and offered to teach me the secret of ripping flesh into strips. I begged him to demonstrate on me but burst into laughter when, at last, he succeeded in pinching my skin a bit without even causing a single black-and-blue.

- Gichin Funakoshi, "Karate-dō: My Way of Life"

At least he tried it on the generally pacifistic Funakoshi Gichin. Still, it struck me as a good example of how a Delusion can get you in trouble. Perhaps the practitioner didn't really believe his own b.s., but if he was willing to give it a go on a master instructor, he probably did.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

DF Felltower Rulings to Remember III

Here are two more rulings from DF Felltower I'd like to have in writing to refer back to.

Staff types are specific to caster type.

Clerical, Druidic, and Wizardly "staff" enchantments are available. They only work for the specific type. Multi-type staves (for those wizards with a cleric lens, or druids with a wizard lens, etc.) do not exist.
Restrictions on these items are very strict - I won't go into them all now, but suffice to say that most multi-purpose versions - "staff" on axe-handles, "staff" on bows, etc. are not allowed.

Power Items Are Not Shareable

Not a ruling, just a reiteration of a rule. You cannot borrow a power item, nor from the church's apparantly multi-user cathedral power item. Power items are not magical items, nor power reservoirs, for anyone other than the owner (DFRPG Adventurers, p. 115, makes this clear at the bottom of the box.)

Monday, January 11, 2021

The Hobbit: Dead Gandalf

I'm playing The Hobbit, as I mentioned a few posts back.

It's fun, but also can be a little frustrating. It has its own timing, so NPCs wander around and do things, and time passes.

Sometimes this means a Horrible Goblin captures you the second you walk into a room.

Sometimes this means a Horrible Goblin kills you the second you walk into a room.

Sometimes Thorin gets seperated from you and just doesn't turn back up, resulting in a dead man walking scenario. Or Gandalf grabs the ring from you and leaves and doesn't turn back up when you need to use the ring, so bad stuff happens and the game is effectively over.

Sometimes this happens:


I can win the game anyway, so I will try, but it's sad to know Gandalf the Grey can get solo-killed by some random goblin.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Felltower updates

I just did some housecleaning updated for Felltower today:

- Gates list is updated with the new gate.

- Updated the monsters encounter list with the yeth.

Links to all three are on my DF Campaign page.

- I'm still waiting, more than a year later, for equipment lists of the PCs lost to the beholder. If I don't have them . . . the lost stuff stays lost. It's not there. So hopefully people send them out. I should have taken character sheets like trophies so I had them to crib off of, but I did not.

- Wrote some rumors. We still go through most of the ones I write. Even at 1 each, a party of 10 gets almost every single rumor on my d12 chart each session. I could write more, but it's hard to keep coming up with them.

Otherwise, I did put a little more work into some deeper areas of Felltower. I'm assuming the PCs will take another run at the yeth next time. They managed to kill 3-4 of them, so it should be an easier fight next time. Right?

Saturday, January 9, 2021

The Good Olde Days: Pick your Religion and Patron Deity

In gaming, how often have you had to pick a "patron deity" for your PC? All of my AD&D gaming had that.

My first character, Goldleaf, was of the Celtic religion and had Nuada (of the Silver Hand) as a Patron.

Why, of course, is a long story. I researched the various religions, and understood the Celtic mythos to be that which best suited my elf's outlook on the world, and the campaign background. Out of them all Nuada stood clearly above them all. He was exactly the kind of deity my elf would worship, emulate, and feel bound to.

No, just kidding.

The teenaged DM who taught me how to play my D&D set hauled out Deities & Demigods and read off the names of the religions. I picked the first one I could remember out of the list - Celtic. As he read off the gods, I said, "Nuada!" after he did. I wrote them down. Later I eventually had a friend* with the same book so I could finally look him up.

That's not dissimilar to how most people picked deities and religions. They all seemed to exist in a big mishmash. A cleric of Odin fighting mummies alongside a fighter who worshipped O-Kuni-Nushi and a Paladin who picked Donblas the Justic Maker because our book had the Melnibonean mythos in it. And everyone wanted to worship Loviatar, because her dress didn't cover her, uhm, Bells of D'Abo, but we weren't allowed to because she was evil.

Yet looking at mythology, having a patron deity is a real complex relationship. It has upsides and downsides if, say, Athena considers you hers or Thor favors you. You might get blessings but also expectations, you might get hosed by some other deity who wants to annoy your patron. Your patron might step in for you, or expect you to step in for them. And your life won't be normal, if the myths are any guide. But in our old AD&D games? They just sat on your sheet and every once in a while you'd remember to pray to them or tell people your god's name or cry out "Blood and souls for my lord (fill-in-the-blank)" because that worked for Elric.

No one ever tried to convert anyone, be atheistic, or deny someone's god was real. In that way, we may have been more on target than ones I've played with as adults. You know, the guys who have a cleric who argues that Odin worshippers should convert to worshipping Tyr, or who claim their god is the only god. Our open-minded acceptance of all religions because we knew nothing was more accurate than the religious infighting of people with a little bit of misplaced knowledge.

No wonder I went simple monotheism without automatic rejection of the other beliefs as my base religion in my current game. The oldest lessons die the hardest.

* I'm 99% sure it was Joel, a Filipino kid from my school. He was in my grade and his younger brother used to play with us, also. He also had the original Greyhawk gazeteer and we used to pore over the miniatures list for it. And great, great, great food at his birthday party. I wish I could remember his last name, but I was young, and I may never have really known it.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Random Links for 1/8/21

- I enjoyed this look back on The Hobbit. I actually was reminded of The Hobbit text game on Sunday, and my friend found a playable web version. So I'll be playing that through. Now I know to hustle a bit so I don't get stuck in a "walking dead" scenario. That was very frustrating when I was 10 or 11.

The Forgotten Hobbit

- Remember, you were the new guys the old guys despised, once.

When Grognards Were Munchkins

- I bought Runequest 2nd edition but basically wanted this:

Retrospective: Basic Role-Playing

- Here is the series on Polytheism I was hoping was out there when I wrote this post.

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

It skewers some ideas I long disliked in gaming polytheism - automatic assumption of professional priesthoods, big powerful gods only (no "small" gods), all gods being automatically immortal and immaterial (even in belief systems that had mortal, very physically present gods), and the folly of atheism (you don't believe in gods that are actual as real as breathable air?)

Great stuff.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

GURPS 101: Item/Spell Effects or Creature Weaknesses?

In some game systems, spells and items will have special effects against certain creatures - more damage against evil beings, or undead, or living things, or golems and robots, or . . . whatever.

In GURPS, the standard is that creatures are all equally affected by the effect, unless they have a special Weakness or Vulnerability. In other words, fire doesn't do extra damage to "dry" beings, but requires that the "dry" creatures have a disadvantage that makes them more vulnerable. Holy water is just water to everyone - even unholy creatures - unless they're specifically written up to be weak to holy water or holy objects.

For example, the Sunlight spell does exactly what the name implies - it creates sunlight. That sunlight is perfectly ordinary - it doesn't do special damage to undead, or evil creatures, or creatures of shadow, or anything like that. But creatues such as vampires, or demons, or shadow creatures may have a Weakness that causes them to take damage from sunlight. Against them, the spell has an effect - but really, it's an effect of the Weakness, not the spell.

This is a small point, but it's a critical one to note. Don't expect your spell, item, or power to do anything special, unless your target is especially vulnerable or weak against it!

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Another ruling from 1/4/21

Here are one more ruling from last session:

Very Fine, Meteoric Weapons

I allow Very Fine and Meteoric on the same weapon in DF. What the heck.

Magebane is a Very Fine Meteoric sword.

One of the PCs just ordered a Very Fine Meteoric knife.

I let him do it, of course.

But it's just odd. It's clearly iron, not steel, because it says so, which makes sen. But Very Fine craftsmanship means the weapon is as good as the best possible steel . . . but it's iron, which we know makes inferior weapons to steel. It can't be alloyed, because then it's not purely magic-dead metal.

Still, it's DF, and exceptionally well-made weapons of non-standard materials should just be a thing. So therefore, it is.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Rules & Rulings from 1/3/21: Meteoric, Knife & Swashbucklers, and Silvering Meteoric

Some more rulings from recent Felltower games:

- For DF Felltower, Knife and Main-Gauche (not that we use Main-Gauche, but for the sake of completeness) count as Swashbuckler weapons for purposes of calculating points for purchasing perks (see DFD:S, p. 21). I understand why you might leave them off (they're not swords, and you don't want to encourage knife-masters) but leaving them off was leaving one of our players trying to find a better way to distribute points just to make them all count for perks while letting him be better with knife. He ended up doing so, but still . . . I think Knife should count in our games.*

- My ruling is that Silvering on a Meteoric weapon is possible . . . but effectively negates the value of meteoric. Defensive spells cannot stop a meteoric weapon, but they can stop that silver coating (even if it's "just on the edge"), so don't waste money making your weapon less effective. You're just making it so you can't enchant your own weapon, or put temporary spells on it (you can't affect only part of an item, for either). It's like putting a meteoric arrowhead on a wooden shaft - magic can affect the shaft and thus move the head, but the head doesn't create a "bow wave" or "hole" in the magical defenses for the wood to pass.

- I'm not sure why, but my players still think meteoric is anti-magic. They want mages to be able to sense meteoric, meteoric to dispel things, etc. No, it's just mana-dead. So it's non-magical (and thus looks like any other non-magical item) and won't respond to Detect Magic (it's not magical.) It's not magical anti-matter or a "hole" in the mana-space in the universe. It's just unaffected by it. I get why people want to expand it, and make it more effective, but it's just a simple thing at heart.

These posts seem to be still accurate:

Meteoric in my DF Game

What Good is Meteoric Armor?

DF Felltower Gear: Meteoric Iron Bullets

* For reference, see this post. We did end up splitting Armoury and Connoisseur (Weapons) again, though, and split out Phys/Psych because people do actually use them in play in differentiated ways. Things changed in the 6+ years since I posted that.

Monday, January 4, 2021

GURPS DF Session 145, Felltower 111 - Yeth Hounds

Sunday was the latest game in our DF Felltower game. For more notes and summaries, check the DF Felltower campaign page.

Date: January 3rd, 2021
Weather: Cold, snowy.

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)
Sir Bunny Wigglesworth, human holy warrior (291 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (306 points)
Wyatt Sorrel, human swashbuckler (326 points)

We started in Stericksburg, with the PCs gathering rumors and replacing some of the consumables they used up fighting the Lord of Spite. They gathered some rumors. Amusingly, one told them there was a "holy well" in Felltower you could drink from to remove curses, but another said nothing in Felltower is safe to drink. Crogar (coincidentally) heard that someone wants to buy the "axe that banished the Lord of Spite" for 750 gold (15,000). He didn't take it.

The PCs headed into the dungeon through the trap down, and right down to the Orichalcum doors. Varmus (and one other?) suffered from the bad air on the "gate level." They puzzled at the doors, and the key they believe matches it, for a few minutes before they moved on.

A little further down they hustled into a rooom that seals with a Force Dome; they were all trapped when it formed up. Gerry cast Dispel Magic on part of it, and they continued on. They tried to force the door at the end of the hallway but Heyden failed - but Crogar was able to step up and pry it open. Beyond it was a rectangular room with a broken 8" or so purple hemisphere on the ceiling. They couldn't determine what it was but surmised it's the same as the (larger) black hemispheres they've found and broken elsewhere. The room had three other doors. They decided one must go to the Lord of Spite's caves, but didn't check for sure.

They chose the one opposite that and Ulf cast Sense Life (his newest spell) beyond it. He sensed life beyond it - but something not-quite-living but not undead . . . maybe some kind of elder thing.

So they yanked the door open. Beyond it was a long, elliptical room, with nine shadowy, translucent black dogs. They loosed a terrifying series of howls as they instantly leaped forward and through the door, attacking the front rank.

(Oddly, none of the PCs were Waiting, or really ready for anything. Someone asked after combat started, but you can't retroactively declare prep in my games. I know my lack of "Standard Operating Procedure" bugs some people - although seemingly not my players, but it's that kind of game - you aren't assumed to be taking actions you don't say you're taking. I guess the delvers had a momentary lapse - it happens to everyone. Besides, they're used to gaining the initiative and going first.)

The howl was a bowel-churning mix of cold fear and dispiriting inability - Crogar and Aldwyn both failed their Will rolls and were at -5 to all rolls for the fight.

The hounds were upon them, biting as they closed into close combat. They landed a couple of blows - and their teeth (and bodies) ignored parrying blades and bit right through armor like it wasn't there, slashing open throats and holding on for a grapple.

The PCs swung back - but Crogar couldn't land a hit (grappled, -5, -3 for curse, in close combat) and Aldwyn and Heyden weren't able to harm them with their blades. They tried a few swings but while they could ward them off with shields, they couldn't hit them otherwise - everything passed right through. Gerry used Evaluate and identified them (with Hidden Lore (Spirit Lore) and a very good roll) as Yeth Hounds - dog-shaped elder things said to come from the moon on moonless nights to hunt in the darkest woods. He'd heard there were only slayable with magic, so Varmus created a Fireball.

Ulf quickly sprung into action, and cast Sunlight, hoping to weaken or destroy the shadowy things. But it didn't harm them at all. So he switched to Rebuke Evil on the ones in combat with his friends and those just beyond. That worked - it harmed them and drove them all back. (He made his roll by only 1, but they literally each failed both of their rolls outright.) The PCs quickly slammed the door shut, just after Varmus threw his Fireball ineffectively through one of them.

The door safetly shut, the PCs took a "quick" break - which turned into ~35 minutes of deciding them needed to open the door because Wyatt was unwilling to leave active foes behind them as they explored the other doors.

Theorizing that woooden weapons would work (shield blocks did, after all), or holy water, or magic weapons, they put Wyatt (magic sword), Heyden (magic sword and backup wooden sword), and Aldwyn (wooden swords) in the front rank. Sir Bunny was ready with holy water.

They opened the door, and the dogs rushed in to the waiting PCs. None of their attacks worked - wooden swords went right through, as did magic weapons. Sir Bunny never managed to land any holy water on the dogs, trying to splash it out (I ruled that's still Throwing) onto one. The PCs got fairly mauled - Heyden especially. Wyatt managed to hold off one . . . but another ran onto the air in front of him and into close combat, biting him! A second piled onto Heyden, too. Gale shot an arrow into the fray but it didn't harm them, either.

Ulf kept them alive with repeated castings of Rebuke Evil, some small and some large, alternating 2d and 3d castings. Gerry used Lend Energy to keep him going, and Gerry used Great Haste on himself to speed up casting. Aldwyn, meanwhile, charged up his Bracers of Shock and punched one, hitting it. His fist made contact, but did little (if any damage) - and his shock fizzled, doing nearly minimum damage (4; it have been 7 but he forgot it's 3d+3, not 3d). "Fists work!" he yelled. So they tried punching and kicking them. Sir Bunny amusingly kicked Heyden once, as Heyden and Wyatt kept trying to break free. Meanwhile Varmus had created an Explosive Fireball and tossed that into the mass of them, but missed just by a little - a yard short. It lit the front two ranks (including himself) on fire, and burned everyone at least a little bit. The flames didn't harm the yeth at all, passing right through them. Many of the PCs ended up patting out flames as Varmus cast Resist Fire on people one after another to put out the flames.

The Rebuke Evil spells harmed them greatly, and often forced them to break off attacks and run away, preventing them from really ganging up on the PCs. Eventually, Aldwyn landed a few more shots (and two more Shocking Touch attacks) and finally destroyed (or banished?) one. Rebuke Evil accounted for another two. The PCs managed to close the door again, with leaving on yeth hound on their side.

That was had been tackled by still-flaming Sir Bunny as it tried to grapple Heyden. He got a good grip on it - 11 CP in two consecutive turns during which it tried to bite him once - but then it quickly knocked that back down to 2 CP. It was stronger than Sir Bunny (ST 13) so Galen dove in and grappled it, too. A final Rebuke Evil destroyed it just as Aldwyn was ready to stab it with his silvered long knife, hoping to test silver against it.

The PCs decided that leaving the five remaining yeth in their rear while they explored elsewhere was, clearly, the correct and proper move.

They headed to the "north door" next, after healing up. Sense Life revealed nothing. They forced it open, and revealed a long room with a gate.

The gate sparked and flickered now and then, but didn't show anything like an "open" gate.

Inside the room were a pair of tiny humanoid corpses in two corners far from one another. One with a bent wand-like item near it, and another near a sword. Galen promptly shot both twice, to ensure they were really corpses.

They were. They also disintegrated into dust.

The group searched the room thoroughly, with Sense Evil, Mage Sight, Sense Life (before entering), See Secrets, and simple sight. They tried Summon Spirit on the two corpses, but both castings failed to summon a spirit (failure? resistance? Gerry couldn't know.)

The sword turned out to be a halfling-sized greatsword made of green, probably meteoric iron. Useable as a broadsword by a human-sized weilder, for sure, but sized for a halfling-sized being's grip. The wand was bent, as if struck and bent. It was of an oddly light silvery metal, with a ribbed "grip" with a tiny thumb-depression and a knobbed end. The far end taped just a little. Sir Bunny took that and poked the gate with it . . . and the gate dissolved the end into dust without a sound. He held up his hand to stop the others - "Bad gates."

Scry Gate failed to get any useful information on the gate - it was clearly dead, or dying (or one-way, someone noted, which might be true, too.)

Taking their sword, they headed up to the surface. The Force Dome didn't enclose them this time, which was contrary to their notes about the area. But they moved on.

Before leaving, the went to the temple area on the first level so Ulf could try his dash-and-Dismissive Wave. It failed - he took 7 injury, but his Exorcism didn't do anything. Next time, he vowed, he'll use Strengthen Will first.


- Crogar was tempted by that 750 gold ($15,000) but in the end just kept his axe. He could have bought a new identical axe and had change, but lost 1 xp spent on Weapon Bond. Basically, trade his weapon and 1 xp for a replacement weapon plus about 7000. Like I said, though, he was tempted. He also refused to spend any of the $22K or so he has on a better shield. Maybe he needs Miserliness instead of Easy to Read, although he's clearly that, too.

- I was impressed how effective Crogar was with a global -3. It hampered him in a lot of situations (especially combat), but it didn't cripple him overall. DF guys have very high basic rolls. It did make it impossible for him to resist the baying of the yeth, which did keep him from the combat.

- the PCs tried the kitchen sink on the yeth - magic weapons, non-magic weapons, wooden weapons (good guess, because block was warding them off), etc. What ended up working was flesh - and spells conducted by such - and Rebuke Evil. They wanted to try silver, but didn't get a chance. They tried Affect Spirits but it failed; clearly, they're insubstantial towards some things but aren't actually ghostly. I'm not sure why Aldwyn's player (running Varmus) decided that if Fireball was useless, Explosive Fireball would work - I suspect it's conflating insubstantial with Diffuse. Odd, because he's a GM of his own game . . . or maybe he just thought that they worked differently from one another in my game? I'm not sure. Suffice it to say they haven't found an easy way to kill the yeth, and for all that flesh seemed to work, they only "killed" four with Rebuke Evil and Shocking Touch.

- the sword was sold to make some loot. Someone asked about keeping it, but then tossing in the 1800 to the loot pile to divide up so people can reach their loot threshold. I shot it down. I found multiple loopholes that could be exploited easily to reach "loot threshold" for everyone while keeping 100% of the found saleable loot even when that's the only loot. So no. Kept means kept, and already-held cash can't be swapped for it to make up for it being taken out. Gerry kept the wand, broken as it is, but can't Repair it (with what material?)

- XP was 5 for most - just enough loot and exploring two new areas. Gerry received 3 (not enough loot) and Galen 1 (barely any loot.) MVP for the session was Sir Bunny for grappling a yeth hound, and for his player making a few choice funny comments - "Bad Gates." Lots of contenders this session.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Felltower pre-summary

We started the year off right with Felltower.

The PCs explored into area that the Lord of Spite effectively blocked from exploration. They:

- checked out the orichalcum doors again

- opened a new door

- encountered a pack of yeth

- fought two big battles with the yeth

- found another gate

- killed some dead people

- and found an interesting sword. And sold it.

Summary tomorrow!

Saturday, January 2, 2021

2020 in Gaming

Out with the old year, in with the new. 2020 is over. How was it for gaming?

Running Dungeon Fantasy

We had 20 sessions of DF this past year, from session 125 - session 144. That's up from 12 the previous year, and it's one of the best.

Honestly, COVID-19 is what gave us the Felltower-20. It was easier to ensure we had enough people to play with a Zoom and Roll20 based game. Roll20 made it possible, but not easy, and we've had issues with that VTT the whole time. But it did make it possible to play.

We had 10 or 11 different people play this year . . . and we've had multiple sessions with 10 people. Oddly Roll20 allowed for our more casual players to make a commitment to continous play, which is why Wyatt went from "drop in" to "mainstay," for example.

The PCs fought the draugr, again, and lost, again. They had a few empty delves. But they also found the second Bell of D'Abo, and rang its luscious, globular form and penetrated the dark . . . secret of Princess Olivia . . . and had an excellent fight made worse by common delver thoroughness. They also engaged and banished the Lord of Spite in another epic battle featuring things like a "plan" and "tactics" and "staying on target." Varmus, like Porkins, was a casualty, but the job was done.

Playing Gamma Terra

One reason we had so much DF is that we had only one session of Gamma Terra. Our GM is too busy to prep for game, so no game. That sucks, because I really enjoy getting to play.


We kept up what's now a tradition of playing some old AD&D modules, too.

We had two sessions of AD&D - two sessions finishing Part I of A2 Secret of the Slavers Stockade. This was fun, although the PCs really killed themselves with two moves - standing and fighting in bad circumstances, which might work for superior fighters vs. inferior ones in GURPS DF, but costs resources you can't afford to lose in AD&D, and trying to avoid an "obvious trap" by wasting a lot of time and resources. Still fun, but it was tough to GM at times.

I hope to get in part II of A2 very soon.

Other Games & Gaming

Not a lot. I played some video games - I started and finished Conan: The Cimmerian. I made significant progress on Ultima IV but stalled out because the final dungeon is like a day's worth of work. I finished Might & Magic I and started Might & Magic II but quickly stalled.

I didn't get any books published but I did write an article that'll see publication in the latest iteration of Pyramid. Ironically I had plenty of time to write, but SJG's change in writing policies made it less lucrative for me to do so . . . and then I started working full time and part time again, simultaneously, and that put paid to doing more writing.

I painted pretty close to 0 minis this year. I just couldn't get up the enthusiasm, and some issues with my glasses and hands meant paiting was difficult. Plus, Roll20 made painting a mini and then uploading a picture of it harder still.

I did try to get a short, weekly game going, too. But half the group seemed interested, all had different ideas of what to play, and everyone shot down the ones I could run. Someone else volunteered to run something, got busy . . . and it didn't happen. Oh well.

My goal from 2019 was more gaming and more painting. I got in a lot more gaming, but less painting. So it goes. I hope to keep up the pace of gaming in 2021! It's been enjoyable getting to spend more time gaming with my friends.

Friday, January 1, 2021

GURPS Combat Skill/Defense Caps - Part IV - Dungeon Fantasy Templates

This is Part IV of a 4-part series on combat skill caps, defense caps, and fixed feint/deceptive attack rules. Since I play a lot of DF, I thought it would be interesting to integrate these rules into DF templates.

Part I
Part II
Part III and Part III Adendum
Part IV

Here are some ways to integrate skill limits - and required generalization - by template.

Why by template? Becuase templates come with a fair number of 0-point features centered around them. For example:

- Stat maxima
- Advantage maxima
- Advantage access
- Secondary Stats maxima (ST x 1.3 for HP, or ST x 1.5?)

So why not skill limits?

Limits By Template

It makes sense that certain templates are more specialized, and others more generalized.

Swashbucklers - limited to DX+15 in their main sword skill, or skill 30, whichever is lower.
Scouts - limited to DX+15 in Bow, or skill 30, whichever is lower.

Barbarians (all types), Barbarians, Martial Artists - limited to DX+10, or skill 25, whichever is lower.

Alternately, the cap can be identical for both, with an extra Unusual Background cost for purchasing additional levels: 4/level surcharge for non-Scouts and non-Swashbucklers, 2/level for Scouts and Swashbuckers. Those two templates, after all, are centered on mastery of a single weapon or like cluster of weapons. Point costs can be adjusted - tiers at 2, 5, 10, 15, and 20 points for levels 1-5 of Increased Skill Maximum, say, or 5/level . . . and just double it for non-swashbucklers. Or halve it, if you want a fairly mild discouragement for utter mastery.

Point Investment Cap

This approach requires a combatant to expand out his, her, or its combat skills beyond dumping a lot of points into one skill. This applies to PC templates and NPCs built off of templates, but not to anyone or anything else. This applies after character generation - you can violate this rule during character generation, but cannot then increase the violating skill until you've appropriately broadened out your base of training!

Swashbucklers, Scouts - points in any sword or knife or main-gauche skill cannot exceed more than 60% of all points in combat skills. Points in any other non-sword, non-Main Gauche/Knife combat skill cannot exceed 40% of all points in combat skills.

Knights, Barbarians, Martial Artists, Ninja, Assassin, Holy Warrior, Unholy Warrior, others - points in any combat skill cannot exceed more than 50% of points in all combat skills.


Round down - 55 points in skills means no more than 27 points in one skill at 50% (effectively 24), 33 points at 60% (which effectively means 32).

Combat skills are melee weapon skills, ranged weapon skills, and unarmed combat skills, as well as Strategy, Tactics, Fast-Draw, and Shield.

Skills are skills. For the love of all that is Dungeon Fantasy, please don't ask me if quirk points or advantages count, or argue that Weapon Master "should" could.

What happens if you have DX+X in a skill, and then raise DX from Y to Z and thus exceed the cap? One of a few things can happen - you get the points back towards DX. You simply lose the points. You keep the points in the skill, but the effective cap kicks in - useful if you ever lose the stat increase. You can retrieve the points either wholly or in part for some other use. You can roll them into a related skill that defaults from the one you bought. Pick one and stay consistent.

Should limits be different for different skills? I'd say no, with one caveat - you could put a cap on Primary skills of a template that is different from other skills. So the skills in your choosable packages have a cap of, say, DX+10, or cap at 50% of your combat skill points, but ones outside of it - Secondary or off-template skills - are limited to DX+5 or cap at 25% of your combat skill points. Otherwise . . . no. Skills have their own inherent upsides and downsides - flails are DX/H, for example, and clumsy and use crushing damage, but are hard to parry and block. Fencing skills get a +3 to parry on retreat, and with Weapon Master have a -1 per consecutive parry . . . but can't parry flails at all and are light and flimsy. Broadsword gives you nice weapons like the broadsword, bastard sword, and longsword, but have the standard +1 parry for Retreat and additional parries are at -4 (-2 with Weapon Master) instead of the sweet +3 and -1 for fencing weapons. And so on. All have tradeoffs already - they don't need preferential or limiting caps, except if you want to make them by template and around what the template allows.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...