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.


  1. Replies
    1. We get on Zoom at 11, play until 8, with 45-60 minutes for lunch. Last night was 11-9:30, which isn't ideal when you usually hit the sack at 9 to get up at 430.

      And yeah, pretty much 9 hours, minus 60 minutes for lunch, was one 35-second battle with 9 yeth hounds.

    2. That battle sounded highly repetitive. Players should have been ready with their action, know their rolls and modifiers from the last round, and get it done quickly. This was almost 14 minutes per round. That seems long for 35 rounds of mostly the same actions over and over. I recall you talked about your combats before and it was about a minute per player (five for you running monsters?) and if they aren't ready on their initiative you count them out. That should have kept the fight briskly paced and with the repetition it should go even faster.

      We recently had an all-session combat in D&D 5E and one of the players was secretly timing. We were 5 players, no allies, against two dozen foes of 6 different types. One player always dithers and asks lots of irrelevant questions and thinks abiities/spells work differently than they do so has to be corrected, and ultimately always chooses the least helpful option. It consistently takes him 15 minutes per round. The DM also consistently takes 15 minutes per round but is running many creatures. The remaining 4 players take a total of 10 minutes (we are 8th level so have a sizeable number of powers to choose from and no round sees the same choices as the previous). At 40 minutes per round we complete 6-7 rounds in a session (4-5 hours) and except for the dithering player everyone laments how slow combat in 5E goes. It is not too much slower on Roll20 than it was on a tabletop.

      When I run OD&D or BECMI the system doesn't have as many powers and options with mechanical effects so an equivalent combat would be over in 10 minutes. Some people do not like the tradeoff of fewer crunchy options for speed, though.

    3. It's hard to count them out, really, because people start to act right away . . . but take a long time to resolve everything. It gets longer as others chime in and try to "help" with math, and calculations are done, and then rolls typed in, then rolled, then announced, then defenses, then etc. etc. etc. It takes a while.

      And frankly, I haven't been counting people out, and I probably should. But it's much tougher to do so when the group is so damn large, and I have so much on my plate, and we're using Zoom + some people calling in + issues with accidental muting + phone call drops + lag + Roll20 lag, too. Roll20 lag might not be an issue with 6 players but it seems to be with 10-11 people logged into the system. People's helpful macros that take lots of typing to make sure they are correct are more of a hinderance than a help, too.

      It also seems more repetitive when I give the condensed version to avoid spelling out the fight round by round, which I don't remember nevermind have interest in typing out.

      I think one potential solution is going to be giving up some of the detail people really like, and depend on, which is going to be an issue. We'll have to see what we can do. If everyone is fine with this, I'll live with it, but it means a session with a fight is going to be a session without loot, unless the monsters slain carry loot on hand. Maybe. We'll have to see.

  2. Damn, I thought my sessions were slow.

    There needs to be some thought to speeding up GURPS combat, especially online.

    1. It would be great if more of it could be automated. But that would take more than what a VTT offers at this point.

    2. It is difficult at times. FoundryVTT is pretty good based upon YouTube videos but I haven't actually used it in actual play yet. Chris Normand (among others) is developing the "GURPS Game Aid" for Foundry. It does automate a lot from what I have seen. The "modifier bucket" is really helpful. But it's *another* bunch of things to learn ...

    3. It's a big investment in time and money for something that we haven't been able to try in actual play.

    4. I agree...especially the time investment. If I ever end up using it as a GM and it seems like it works well, it's something to explore.

  3. "Are you sure you want to fight these things with only the most basic idea of how to hurt them?"



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