Sunday, February 28, 2021

Reflections on Loot Thresholds in DF Felltower

XP in DF Felltower is run off of a "loot threshold" method that I detailed in DF21. I allow unequal splits of loot to allow people to meet that threshold.

The tier we use is "Method 3" - 100 points, then 50 point tiers, like so:

Required Profit (Tiered, 100, then 50 point spread)
Up to 249 Points: $100 each (1/5 Struggling)
250-349 Points: $200 each (1/5 Average)
350-399 Points: $400 each (1/5 Comfortable)
400-449 Points: $1000 each (1/5 Wealthy)
450-499 Points: $4000 (1/5 Very Wealthy)
500+ Points: $20,000 each (1/5 of Filthy Rich)
Every Additional 100 Points: x10

I may at some point switch to a full "Method 2" loot threshold, which cuts the first tier from 250-349 to 250-299 and moves the rest down appropriately.


One reason is because 300-349 point guys taking $200 for 4 xp is feeling lame, especially after having made two full passes through my dungeons revising treasure up substantially (the system in DF21 reflects this revision.) A 300 point character is substantially more powerful than a 250 point character. It's also 10 successful delves worth of trips, yet to still only need $200 (when $150 pays for upkeep) seems weak. You could potentially go from 250 to 350 points in 20 delves taking in a grand total of $4000. You're better off bottom feeding on the lower-return treasures for your first 20 delves, just trying to make enough to get by, than to take any real risks.

Plus, the 349 to 350 jump is a big deal, as it doubles your required return. Players can and do save up for something big so that jump is not just "1 more spell" or "Learn Survival (Woodlands)" or something, but rather "+1 DX" or "Extra Attack" or "buy Weapon Master." (Admittedly, dropping this to 299 to 300 jump might do the same earlier . . . but the stakes are necessarily smaller.) This isn't a problem, but it is a thing.

Also I think it makes people with less than 350 point character think of themselves as newbies. I've heard a lot of "we're delving pretty deep for our point level" type of comments - although not in so many words - as people delve on levels and in areas originally set up with 250-300 point guys in mind with 350-450 point characters. I've seen decisions made based on trying to get XP from minimized risk. It's appropriate behavior given the incentives, but it does mean we've played DF Felltower for over 9 years and I can count sessions spent below "level 4" of the dungeon on one hand. The number of gates really, truely braved is limited, too - and the vast majority of gate travel has been to one gate, leading to an area of known, moderate risk - the Lost City. Any gate with some actual danger has only been visited ones (Olympus, Icy Gate, Forest Gate, Air Gate) or zero times (all the rest except the Ape Gate.) Why? It doesn't really take that much loot . . . and if you feel fragile, you'll act fragile.

Another reason are uneven splits.

Unequal Splits:

In DF Felltower the split get handled in a very game-y, self-aware fashion. Galen doesn't get 3 shares, or 4 shares, or something, he gets $4000 on the nose if it's possible to get him $4000, or he gets $800 + extra if there is extra after the others get $200 or 400, etc. It's very meticulously plotted out. I don't really care, but as a flavor thing, it's a downside of my approach to keep in mind if you allow unequal splits!

The main issue I see is that this encourages the powerful gusy to "bottom feed." You don't really need that much money to get 2 xp or 4 xp. You can basically take a 450 point guy (4K or 8K) and a 400 point guy (1000 or 200) along with 8 250-349 point guys (200 or 40) on a delve and only need $6,600 for max XP for everyone or $1320 for 2 xp for everyone. $1320 is 5 opponents with thrusting broadswords sold at 40%. It's not a lot. It's not even enough for upkeep for the whole group ($1500).

You get the oddity of guys with Greed arguing to unevenly split the loot away from them so the skilled guys get more XP, because it's the smart move and allows them to make more and more in the future. It's a bizarre artifact of the system. The players get put in a bind where staying in character is pushed against by the needs of a better, more gamist positive result.

Unequal splits of money in a gold-for-xp system like older D&D systems encouraged given the big loot to the lower level guys so they'd learn faster. At least this approach encourages paying the high-end talent more in order to get everyone the win. That's a very serious upside to allowing this! It doesn't always work that way, though. If the whole group is falling short, the loot split tends to reverse - the big guys get 0, and take 0, and give all of the rest to the others to get as many people as possible as much XP as possible.

Although it hasn't happened so far due to the personalities and needs of the top-point guys in DF Felltower, soon enough a generous type will be the rich, high-point delver. They'll happily take the $4000+ for full points (450-499) or 2 xp (500+) and then spend it on gear for their buddies. So it's pass the money up for xp, then pass it back down for gear. Double-dipping at its finest. You get the XP from the money split unequally - and everyone benefits - and then you use the money euqally - and everyone benefits.

The only way to solve that, I think, is allowing unequal splits of loot but assigning XP by the total loot taken divided evenly.

That might also be an interesting way to deal with the "bottom feeding" issue. If you really need $20,000 x number of PCs to get the 500+ point guys 4 xp for treasure, it doesn't matter how many orcs you whack skulking around level 2 and "pruning the orc tree." With 8 players you'd need $160,000 to make it worth the big guy's while, and $32,000 to earn any XP at all.

Putting in both of the rules would be a very abrupt change in how things are done. Putting in one or the other might not deal with the behaviors. I have in the distant past put in fairly parsimonious treasure. I went back through Felltower in multiple sweeps raising the loot to higher levels (which are reflected in DF21 and the random treasure system there.) So more money is there, and has been for a while. Even a single-fight delve against a mid-level boss monster and a handful of minions (such as our most recent session) generated enough for everyone to get max XP. The high-point characters weren't in any real danger, and the lower-point characters were threatened (hey, it's a boss encounter) but not especially so. It's not terribly hard to pull down a fair amount of loot anymore, if you go where it is instead of exploring where it used to be. But the XP system encourages hunting orcs for swords and skimming off loot and piling it on higher-point delvers as needed.

I'm undecided if I'll do one (change to Method 2, the only one seen in DF21 or banning unequal splits for XP purposes) or both. They might need to be done together, to encourage the risk/reward drive to push actually quite powerful delvers to take something more than minimal risks!

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Ultima V update

I didn't get much of a chance to play Ultima V for a few days, but I did get in a little.

- I managed to finish all 8 of the shrine quests. A good map helped, so I didn't have to wander around looking for shrines and then guess which one was which. Some of them are in the same places as in Ultima IV, anyway, so it was easy enough to just remember.

- I grabbed Lord British's crown from the evil Lord Blackthorn. Amusingly the guards instantly capture you if you get next to them. You can't even fight. I reloaded once I figured that out and then easily avoided them. Weirdly, you have to wear the crown to benefit from having it. I'm sure Lord British won't mind that I'm wearing his crown. Heh. Fantasy vs. Reality, eh? I'm not sure what it does, but it's been helpful - I had to fight some Daemons and they didn't possess any of my characters.

- I have 6 out of 8 moonstones. I assume I was supposed to learn about them from . . . someone. Having played other Ultima games, I just waited until moongates disappeared and took the stones. I can put them where I need them, but I'm not certain where I need them just yet.

- I got a sextant from someone after hearing rumors about it. But you can only use it at night. Like hoisting sails, this is less helpful than you'd think.

- I'm kind of unsure what to do next. I know I need to get to the underworld to get some stuff, but I'm not sure how to get to the Underworld. I need to go through all of the screenshots I took of hints from people.

- And just for grins I fought some guards who demanded a bribe. They kicked my butt so fast half the party was dead before I got to even move. Damn. No wonder the bad guy doesn't feel so upset about me running around.

We'll see what I decide to do next. I feel stalled out, unsure of what to do next. Get to the underworld somehow? Explore some dungeons? Gather more reagents for spells before I do anything of the sort? Get more gold so I can get everyone magic shields? Combat doesn't seem that important, really. So what now? I'm sure I'll think of something.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Run & Hit clarifications

Here I'm answering some questions about the Run and Hit power-up from DF11, p. 12.

So I get +2 to damage?

Not exactly. You get +2 to Striking ST, which is usually +2 to cut and +1 to thrust. Important note: For the sake of simplicity I'll be running this as +2 swing and +1 thrust.* You also only get this if your previous turn was a Move. If you attacked during that move, you took Move and Attack and not Move. So no, you can't basically keep running around full-speed claiming a Run and Hit damage bonus every turn. If you want +2 Striking ST, you must do the following:

Turn 1: Move.
Turn 2: Move and Attack.

Can I Hit & Run?

Yes. It's a Move and Attack, and you can attack at any point along the move.

Do I still get the +2 to Striking ST if I Hit & Run?

Yes, if the previous turn was spent doing a Move.

Can I defend normally with my off-hand weapon?

Yes, but you cannot Retreat and you're at -2 to any DX-based roll, so Acrobatic Dodge might not work so well.

Did I miss any FAQs not answered by the wording of DF11, p. 12 or in DFD: Swashbucklers, p. 22.

* You will not get to "choose" to raise ST instead if you're at some breakpoint. Game is slow enough.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

"Double Jeopardy" from Penalties in GURPS

In GURPS, double-counting penalties is generally unfair. You can't, say, give someone a -2 to DX and a -1 to defenses, and then apply the -2 to DX to skill to get a -1 to defenses and then give the basic -1 on top of that . . . it's clearly included already.

But I generally feel that broadly applied penalties and bonuses are a good thing. As long as a penalty doesn't penalize the same score twice, it's probably okay.

My reasoning for this is that bonuses work the same way.

Take for example the spell Grace (GURPS Magic, p. 37). Give any random delver a +4 to DX, and said delver gets +1 to Speed, and therefore +1 to Dodge . . . and a +4 to Acrobatics rolls for an Acrobatic Dodge for a +2 to defend. No one would argue that a +4 to DX shouldn't give you, say, a +4 to skill rolls based on DX. Nor does it make much sense to say that +4 DX doesn't increase your Speed, and thus your Dodge. Nevermind the actually wording of the spell says specifically it does this stuff.

Equally, a penalty of -4 to your DX from Clumsiness (p. 36) would give a -1 to Speed, and thus a -1 to defend, and make your chances of pulling off that Acrobatic Dodge go down as you take a -4 to that, too. You'd still get your +2 if you made the roll, but you aren't nearly as likely to succeed.

I'm hard pressed to think of a penalty in GURPS that violates this rule - I couldn't find one flipping around. There are penalties which only affect one thing (Stunning gives a -4 to defenses, but not much else . . . not that you can do other things while stunned), or have specific penalties that don't match the usual calculations (posture penalties, say) . . . but otherwise, if you modify the stat you modify the effects.

This is all a long-winded way of explaining why I don't really think it's double-jeopardy to suffer an Encumbrance-based penalty to a skill that might be used to defend, and which also might need another roll on its own - Acrobatics and Acrobatic Dodge. I'm willing to entertain contrary examples, but ones such as Grace and Clumsiness argue strongly that the way I do it is the way to do things.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

PC Mistakes: That's not how I want to solve that problem.

I read this article the other day, about the difficulty of seeing "Star Wars" as it was originally released (or close to it.)

Why Finding the Original 1977 Star Wars Verges on the Impossible

Basically the author explains how important it is to see the original movie, how he hasn't been able to, and how hard it is to do so. And then says:

"I couldn’t do laserdiscs because no sane person has a laserdisc player these days."

I read that and laughed. One of my friends of the past 15+ years or so buys and sells laserdiscs. Enough that it went from a side thing he did to a full-time job.

Getting a laserdisc player won't be trivial, but it's far from impossible - eBay has a selection for $100 or so. And then getting a laserdisc copy of "Star Wars" is possible. I know, I've seen one, and watched it.

This is not an impossible problem nor one that requires a crazy amount of resources to solve.

The thing is, I read this as, "I see a solution, but that's not how I want to solve it."

I think this is a trap you can fall into as a player.

It's easy to get tunnel vision and only see a few - or one - way to get past an obstacle:

"We can't get through that door without the key."

"We can't get past those guys without killing them."


But it can also be easy to reject a solution out of hand not because it's impossible, but because you reject an obvious solution.

"We can't defeat those guys without cold-based attacks and we don't want to invest in cold-based attack spells or liquid ice grenades."

"We can't bribe our way through without a lot of money and we don't want to pay a lot of money."


Once you've rejected a solution, you can fall into a weird form of self-defeating thought. Instead of saying, "We'll do X unless we can think of a better solution" or "We can just do X and solve this problem," you end up with "Not X, so no solution." You wrack your brains and sit around noodling around on it and eating snacks and going off on tangents. All the solutions reject the obvious one, and eventually it's likely the answer is, "We can't do it" and not "Let's just do X."

In Felltower, we had this for a long time - there wasn't a way off of levels 2 and 3 down deeper. The silvery door was to a staircase but "the Lord of Spite's apartment" was how it was referred to. It was always rejected because, well, open that door and the Lord of Spite comes out. Eventually new players knew it was "the Lord of Spite's apartment" and not a staircase . . . and were shocked when they found it there were stairs down there. Similarly, we had an issue with opening a puzzle door using rotating statues because getting to all of the statues was hard . . . so people tried a lot of other ways to get through before they tried, you know, getting to all of the statues. We've seen the same in a lot of situations. We're probably doing it with something in Gamma Terra without realizing it.

I've found that a good solution is to keep reminding yourself of the obvious way out. "We could try Y, instead, or just do X." "Or Z, or X." It's not foolproof. Having an awareness of this thought-trap is a good way to avoid it at least some of the time.

As a quick note, as a GM, you can fall into the trap of "I don't want the problem solved this way." That's a very different issue, as the GM can secretly change or re-frame almost anything. The post above really concerns what you do as a player to get stuck trying to solve a problem a given way.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Rules & Rulings from DF Session 148

More rules and rulings from DF Session 148.

- Can we ask the local Druidic Drum Circle? No, they're not in town . . . you have to find them out in the wilderness. Consider than an off-week whole-week activity (so, Survival plus an appropriate other skill to find them - likely IQ or Naturalist.

- Are we using Part of the Solution or Part of the Problem (Exploits, p. 6)? Yes, in all cases where it should matter. So generally you can get away with 1 point in some critical skill . . . unless the PC with 8 points in it doesn't make that session.

- Does Acrobatics suffer an Encumbrance penalty? In the rules as written, I don't think so. We've always enforced one. Yes, I know the story about the guy in plate doing gymnastics or this video. People swim in armor, too, but that doesn't mean it doesn't inflict a penalty. It especially should on Acrobatic Dodge, if only for gamist reasons of making "lightly armored" a valid choice.

- Can you get Precognitive Parry in Felltower? No, it's totally unavailable in DF in general, Felltower in specific, and doesn't fit in either.

- Why does the Apprentice have a Per 13 and the Wizard a Per 12? Apprentices haven't learned to stop paying attention to things.

- Yes, you can hammer a spike in and then pull it out to re-use . . . but that should really take tongs or a very strong person . . . otherwise you hammered it in poorly, right? We don't a rule on this, but I have one in mind - basically, "Getting Stuck" - if it's ever a time crunch issue.

- Can you boot-sheath a long knife? If so, that's not a long knife, or you're wearing really high boots.

Monday, February 22, 2021

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy - Session 148, Felltower 114, Lost City 13 - Amphitheatre

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

Date: February 21st, 2021
Weather: Cold, ground still very snowy.

Aldwyn Hale, human knight (340 points)
     Varmus the Hanged, human apprentice wizard (155 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (490 points)
Gerrald Tarrant, human wizard (418 points)
     3 skeletons (~35 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (343 points)
Wyatt Sorrel, human swashbuckler (354 points)

The PCs gathered in Stericksburg, gathered rumors, and then headed out. Their plan was to go to the Lost City, so generally the PCs armored up a little lighter and carried a little less overall gear. The only rumor that really interested them was one that the front doors of Felltower lead deep into Felltower and bypass the upper levels . . . and that mostly interested Gerry.

They headed in the trapdoor extrance, having the skeletons dig them down to it through the snow. They opened it and proceeded down. They worked their way to the "gate level" unmolested, with only Ulf suffering from the stale air on that level.

They made to the "Lost City" gate after a minor navigation error that got them lost briefly. They passed through the gate and found excellent weather on the far side. "Because it's winter," said Galen, demonstrating that Absolute Direction and his high Weather Sense didn't help him realize they're in the southern hemisphere.

They spent some time checking the map outline on the wall, and the images on the wall, which for some reason several characters (and their players) didn't realize were there. They climbed down from the building and moved along Cliffview Terrace (as they've named the streets along the western cliff). They bypassed various buildings, choosing to climb over rubble that blocked the streets instead of choosing a different route. Eventually they decided to check out one building that was a "ziggurat" or "step pyramid." The door was hard to open, and it took Might on Aldwyn to get it open.

Inside it was pretty much empty, but at the very top level was a red-mosaic floored room lined with windows and faded frescoes. In the center was a mosaic oval of circular stones with a red mortar holding them together. Gerry and Varmus, thanks to being wizards, could see a six fingered hand (wrist east, fingers west) made of slightly-magical stones. It was slightly slick with accumulated slime from element exposure, but yes, it was there and visible only to the magically sensitive. The oval was illuminated slightly from above - the ceiling was a dome of greenish translucent stone or glass. It let in a greenish light, but with all of the sunlight-bright lightstones of the group it was hard to see until they covered them up.

They had each one of the non-undead members of the group stand on a finger tip, but nothing happened. So they climbed down, exploring the building as they went, but finding nothing. They decided the hand must point to a nearby building. So they forced their way in and explored much of the building, but found nothing but empty 6' x 6' rooms and some other rooms mostly empty. One had a stone bed that had been moved. So they moved it back, since it clearly had been moved to cover some loot. Nope, no such luck.

They finally headed to the "ampitheatre." They proceeded down an overgrown path and found a small building on a path leading off of the main path. Although it had windows, they headed straight to the door and Aldwyn knocked. No answer. So they forced the door open. Inside was totally empty; unlike the other floors it was dirt, not stone. They searched it - which by this point means See Secrets, Mage Sight, and other spells occasionally - but found nothing.

Beyond it was a natural amphitheatre that had clearly been finished out with proper stonework, with rows of benches to sit on. At the "stage" end was a tunnel mouth.

They moved carefully toward the tunnel mouth. Soon, they were within about 10 yards of it.

Suddenly, out charged a gigantic deadly black tarantula, with a 10' body and 30' width by legspan, immediately biting at Galen. Galen was able to get three arrows off at what he was sure were its vitals before it chomped down hard on him - but he used his Iron Arm bracer and blocked it. The rest of the fighters closed in and attacked. Wyatt sheared off a leg at the end of a Run and Hit. The spider bit at him, instead, and critically hit but Luck averted it.

Varmus charged up a Fireball as Gerry started in on Great Haste and Ulf backed off to make some room. Meanwhile, 12 "baby" spiders - each 3' across including the legs - charged out to feed! Wyatt shifted to them and killed one and wounded another. Varmus narrowly avoided getting bit and hit one with his Fireball and wounded it and ignited its hairs.

The big spider eventually landed a bite on Wyatt, and the fangs did 5d+2 impaling . . . and I rolled 14 damage. (sigh). That was enough to pierce his light armor, and he was poisoned. (I had him roll a die after he was poisoned, and he rolled a 1. Unbeknownst to any of them, he was going to drop dead in 2 seconds.)

Ulf saw him bit and ran up 4 yards to get closer to try Instant Neutralize Poison on him. Meanwhile, Galen backed off a bit and started shooting the baby spiders three at a time. They dodged here and there, but mostly he killed 2-3 per second.

Ulf got off his spell, and made the roll - Wyatt was cured.

The fight ended almost immediately after - Aldwyn hacked off four legs from the spider, leaving it with three. Wyatt stabbed it in the eyes about 5-6 times over two seconds, and Galen finished shooting the baby spiders. One was climbing up Wyatt in the end, and Aldwyn wouldn't swing, worried he would hit Wyatt. Galen shot it off, since he never worries about hitting his friends at all.

The spiders dead, they healed up the wounded.

Despite the total lack of any webs, and the tarantula-like appearance of the spiders, the group was disappointed at the lack of giant spider silk to loot. They did manage to drain out four vial's worth of its venom - Gerry did the work, defaulting from Alchemy, protected by Resist Poison.

Inside the tunnel mouth was a cave area - the spider nest. They found two egg "shells" and some loot - a weird suit of vines, an ornate broadsword, two potions, a D'Aboan leather helm, and a pouch. The pouch had a dozen gems (they turned out to be worth ~300 each) and a folded square of vellum. They very carefully opened the vellum, to make sure it didn't spill anything out. It did not. It was a map, showing this area of the Lost City with an X marking the tunnel mouth of the ampitheatre. They looked around with See Secrets and Mage Sight and Search but didn't find anything extra.

They proceeded to explore the tunnels. Long story short, it was a way out . . . but to get there, they had to cross a 90' or so chasm (a few hundred feet deep) with stairs to an overlook on the city side of the chasm, climb down into a cave from an outlet 30' up, force some doors in a worked section, through a room with a smashed, empty chest in the middle, and a beach along an underground water system. Ulf feed some white-ish fish with some elven rations. They checked for tracks but only thought to do so after tramping around for a while.

They sent a Wizard Eye out to scout and found there was another beach out of side around some intervening floor-to-ceiling rock formations. That beach had five 3-man canoes, all hacked up and with multiple holes, in front of a statue. The statue was a snake-bodied six-armed female - a peshkali, clearly. It was a relatively crude statue, with its arms folded along the body and shoulders so the "swords" lay flush with the body. In front of it were two braziers, empty, on metal tripods. See Secrets, Mage Sight, and so on didn't help spot anything. Gerry sent the wizard eye along a wide, worked area of tunnel that eventually led to a vine-choked exit to a jungle. It was clearly outside because the sunlight from the mid-summer evening was still bright.

After a long discussion about going over to fight the peshkali, and to search it for treasure, and to activate its braziers so they could find out what evil powers it had and defeat them . . . they gave up and headed back.

They made their way back, climbing up to the cave mouth they'd climbed down from (which took Wyatt three tries before he could re-hammer in spikes and lower the rope ladder,) again crossing the chasm with Levitate, and worked their way back to the gate. It was open, and they returned to Felltower. There, Aldwyn got really ill from the poor air (-3 on all rolls, after a critical failure on his HT check.) Otherwise, they weren't molested.

On the way out, of course, they stopped at the temple that Ulf has been trying to "cleanse" every delve for months now. He managed to excorcise it last time, but still took damage. This time, he cast Sense Evil on the area. He sensed evil, but not a particular kind of evil. He stepped in, and took damage for 4 seconds, trying to discern the type of pain and injury he felt. He didn't accomplish much other than to feel the pain is within his skull and his body . . . in general. But he plans to ask the church about this.

They checked the two front doors as best they could from the wrong side of the portcullis, but couldn't see anything special, just a pair of double doors with big locks, with concealed hinges (I said they swing out, but they'd swing in, actually), decorated with evil motifs and the occasional cone-hatted type. After that, they left by crossing the pit.


- the group pretty decisively headed to the Lost City. Sadly, they found nothing as a tag end to start next time, although I'm sure at some point they'll make a trip to the "peshkali statue" to try and light the braziers and make it do whatever it'll do when that happens . . . and then try to fight it. It's this thoroughness, by the way, that every group I've GMed for has shown on some level. It's even parodied in Another Day, Another Dungeon by Greg Costikyan, so it's not just my group. What's amusing is how mystifying it is to the players when they find, say, doors spiked for no reason, perfectly useful things destroyed so no one else can use them, traps reset after the loot is gone, and furniture moved and broken for no discenable reason. What's amusing to me is that it's not always me simulating some other group looting. Sometimes, it's this group, who have long forgotten as players (and may not know as characters) that they did this.

- Ulf really bailed out Wyatt, here. He was literally going to die the next second . . . but a timely Instant Neutralize Poison spell saved him. I can't help but think the spider might have been a bigger threat if the PCs had kept going to the ampitheatre back in Lost City 1.

- As usual, I was very disappointed with my high-damage monsters. I don't think I've rolled more than average damage, and usually considerably less, most of the rolls for should-be scary monsters. 14 HP of damage on 5d+2? That's an average of 2 points per die, instead of 3.5, which would have been more like 19.5 damage (so, 19 or 20). It's like when the giant guardian statue did 13d+7 and never rolled even close to average damage in three hits. I'm not saying random damage is bad, but if a monster has a high-damage attack, needs a critical hit to actually land one - and maybe multiple critical hits, because of Luck or magically perfect defenses, and then rolls pitiful damage . . . then it's not really doing any of the stuff it's actually threatening to do. The spider got off one effective attack and may as well have been doing 2d+2. I totally get why D&D 5e has a flat damage option.

- They sold the sword and the gems, along with the poison (out of concern for an inabilty to keep it useable) - which got them $500 per dose - but kept the vine-suit and the two potions. Those turned out to be Cloud of Fire bottles (now published in DFRPG Magic Items, p. 19)

- I've noticed an extra-detail-seeking tendency amongst my players recently. "You sense evil" "Is it a particular kind, do I get any sense of the type?" - no, or I would have said so. "It's magical." "Do I know anything about the kind of magic it is?" No, I would have said so if you could sense such. "You see a standard door, wooden with iron banding, that opens away from you." "Is there anything special about the construction of the door?" No, it's a standard door made of wood with iron banding that opens away from you . . . not sure what else to add there. "Is the floor level?" "Yes." "Do we see any bones, maybe a fire pit, or anything like that?" No, I'd absolutely mention that the floor is covered with bones surrounding a firepit if there was one. Those are all just from this session. I'm not sure why, but "just making sure" and "just clarifying" questions - that are digging for additional information - are coming up very regularly now. I have to figure out if it's a reaction to something I'm not doing - that is, not providing the full explanation unless prompted. I don't think so. I won't provide detail on something no one examines at all (if you don't look in the chest, or at the ceiling, or whatever, you're probably not noticing fine details), but I do provide information in general that I thought was complete. At least I think so. I'm not sure I've ever provided additional information when asked for clarification that I didn't already provide. I get that sometimes people don't hear what I said because of Zoom issues or mic issues, but it's beyond that - people are deliberately digging. So either it's them, or it's me, and I'm not sure which. I joked that I felt like Inspector Clouseau. "Do you know what kind of bomb it was?" "The exploding kind."

- Ulf wants to ask the Church about the damage he suffered. I treat all of this as hiring a Sage, or spending your week doing Research (but possibly with a different check.) It's just another way to get information, and that's not free, usually, and it's takes time. Besides, "the church" isn't a bunch of elder researchers hanging around waiting for questions. Ulf will need to talk this priest, who recommends talking to this monk, who says the nuns over someplace else know stuff . . . while he drops coins in the poorboxes so they think well of him next time, and so on. Or he can just donate a signficant chunk to one person to do that for him. So either he's doing it himself instead of other in-town activities, and paying money for better (or any) results, or hiring a "sage" by another name. Players say, "Ask the Church" or "Ask the Wizard's Guild" and I game that out as "talk to members of that group and use my contacts and knowledge to find things out." I think Ulf's player understands that, but the shorthand sometimes becames the actual thing if not detailed out in this way. "While they're casting Remove Curse for me, I ask about demons, and how to kill liches, and if yeth hounds hate Holy Water, and if silver helps with exorcism." Er, no, not that.

- XP was 4 each for loot because they gave $4K to Galen and then divvied up the rest, then 1 xp for exploration. MVP was Ulf for saving Wyatt's life. Funniest vote was when Galen's player voted for "Galen, for all of the Levitate spells." Heh, it was pretty late. Still funny.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Felltower pre-summary

Six delved into Felltower today.


- headed to the Lost City through the gate

- Found an interesting building or two

- Fight a big spider and some little spiders

- Were a split second from losing a PC

- explored some tunnels

- found some loot

- and found a way out of the Lost City into the surrounding jungle.

They also detected something evil it the temple that Ulf can't seem to let go of "dealing with."

Full summary tommorrow.

Felltower today - "small" crew

We're playing Felltower today. It's looking like we'll have five players today. So, roughly half of our usual pool of delvers and only about 2/3rds of the regulars.

Maybe we'll get lucky and a 6th or a 7th will pop up from the maybes.

I don't really miss gaming with only 2-3 people. I am amused that five now seems like an under-crewed expedition when it used to be nearly a full crew.

I have no idea what they plan to do, and I think that makes six of us . . .

Saturday, February 20, 2021

"She walks like an orc."

Nothing exciting to post today, because I worked almost the whole day and what little time I have tonight is spent on things I won't have time for tomorrow because it's a Felltower day.


Today, I was training a married couple. I had them doing a warmup that involves walking while in a half-squat with a hip circle on. One said of her spouse that, and I quote, "She walks like an orc."

You read that correctly.

The "orc" made no attempt to deny it. And they almost certainly have no idea that they're talking to someone who has a rather large collection of orc minis and runs games involving orcs.

That was sufficiently Dungeon-y and Fantastic for me, today. Felltower tomorrow.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Random Links for Friday - 2/19/21

A few links from the past week I wanted to share:

- This is outstanding:

Stalingrad Project: Third and Final

- Hirelings. Always a topic I enjoy. I didn't weigh in here as it's really too original D&D specific for my experience, but I did enjoy reading it.

I have my own approach to hirelings, some of which you can see in DF 15, and some which I have out on this blog.

When Are Henchmen Appropriate?

Also this: How Much Info on Henchmen?

It's GURPS-specific, but I give people full character sheets for Allies, and enough info to run the character otherwise. I reserve the right to be lying on the record sheets.

- Spoke too soon on Dragonsraid:

Dragonraid Closer Look Part One

- I don't play The Fantasy Trip, but I do try to get the word about when Doug is doing a project. So here we are!

TFT Character Collections Kickstarter

- I'm reading this series on Universal Soldiers over at ACOUP. "The Face of Battle" was a really formative book for me, so this is a particularly interesting series for me.

- Hurting Wrong Fun anyone?

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Pyramid 4/3 - Sci-Fi/Tech I

This is a quick look at Pyramid 4/3 - Sci-Fi/Tech I.

I won't go through this article by article like I did for fantasy. Instead, I'm going to highlight a few articles I really enjoyed.

Putting the Science in Your Fiction

Sean Punch's article is a useful one. It's a mechnical setup for using science skills in game. Want your scientists to gather data, formulate an hypothesis, test it, and save the day (or assist in the mission) and have it come with rules for doing so? This is the article for that. It's a good set of rules - easy to understand, very straightforward, and they look versatile. I like having the ability to break down an in-game ask (or an in-game challenge) into some die rolls that aren't just a simple "Roll Biology -5 to solve this" handwave or GM decision.

The Divine Pacific Republic of Datastan

Matt Riggsby wrote up a data haven as an adventuring location. I could see using this - even if only the maps and room descriptions - in a sci-fi game or maybe in a James Bond style game. Good, solid, immediately ready for use stuff.

Space Zombies!

Do I even have to explain why? Spoiler alert - It has space zombies!

Reign of Action

As cool as Reign of Steel sounds, I don't think I'd run a game of it or play in it. But then if you Action! it up, well, I'm probably in. Roger Burton West wrote this one.

Play Stupid Games, Win Stupid Prizes

Because Deathball was only the beginning. Sean has helpful rules-specific ways to get more death sports into your future!

Overall, the issue is good - and those articles above really stood out to me.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Ultima V - Making progress

A short update on Ultima V.

I'm still grinding a little bit.

I got a few rings of regeneration, which takes care of mixing and casting healing spells endlessly. At least for now - rings like that randomly disappear when you take them on or off, or over time. Fun limitation on a magic ring, I think.

I also found that my mages can also use throwing axes, so I got them magic throwing axes. Throw-and-return, and high damage. Turn order seems dexterity based, so Otto (DEX 26) goes a lot more often than Jaana (DX 17) and hits more often, too. XP is solely for dealing a killing blow, so the experienced get more experienced.

Fighting in Ultima V, though, is generally not a big thing for plot development. That involves a lot of talking to people, then talking to others, then coming back . . . etc. People have annoyingly specific keywords. I was told someone had a mantra I needed to learn, and would tell me if asked. So I asked. "I can't help you with that." Okay, it's for the shrine of, say, Honesty. "Honesty" triggers "I can't help you with that." "Shrine," however, gets, "I know the mantra for the shrine of (whatever), do you want to know it?" Yes, what have I been asking about? Aaargh!

Anyway, you fight to get resources to solve some problems. Most bad monsters can be one-shot kills with glass swords, so getting better is only a matter of building up HP and ability to cast spells to get past specific obstacles. Killing as a means, not an end. Also, because there are endess nuisance monsters to harass you as you move around . . . even when you're on a flying carpet.

I have found that my quest - go find Lord British in the Underworld - also involves me recovering his regalia from various evil folks that hold them or from the underworld and then using them to defeat the Shadowlords and their catspaw Blackthorn. Okay, fine, go find things.

I have some words of power to unseal the dungeons, but it's not clear why I need to go into them yet. I'll find out. I figure I'll get all of the shrines visited so I can solve their quests, then start in on the underworld. I'm grabbing moonstones as I can, as well. We'll see how that all goes!

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Pyramid 4/1 - Fantasy/Magic I

This is a quick look at Pyramid 4/1 - Fantasy/Magic I

Here are the articles you get:

Toxic Grimoire - a college of spells in a poison-focused college using GURPS Magic. I'm responsible for a few of the spells - you can see the list in the About the Author section. Alexei had a lot of spells, and I had a handful of ones from my Felltower game, and we collaborated on adding mine to his. And that let me connect them up to my article.

Utatsumi - Japanese poem-based magic.* It's an in-depth look at the in-game and in-game-world necessaries for using such. I like David Chart's stuff.

The Demonic Temple of Felltower - also known as the Epic Player's Handbook Fight. Mostly. I ret-conned in the poisons pells my later long-jawed lizardmen used, and I revised how I ran the Bless effects to be more rules compliant. Well, more rules standard.

Healing and Purification Ritual Path Magic - I don't use ritual path magic, but Chris Rice does an excellent job creating a solid "college" of healing spells.

Fraxinetum - Matt Riggsby found a really good historical setting for a fantasy (or even historical) game. It's a good setting for a "borderlands" adventure, and is a setting that could make a good place for dungeons, a plausible reason for a winner-take-all situation, and a limit on time . . . you know eventually it's going to end, and you can either establish yourself as part of the establishment or get while the getting is good.

Tactical Looting - Answers the question, "How long does that take?" Sadly, it demolishes a good chunk of an article I was writing (and rules I use in my own game), so I'm a little chagrined at this one. But Sean Punch does put a good spin on time things take and how to do adventurers where time matters . . . where you can't just, oh, systematically demolish a dungeon one monster at a time while you rest in between (cough, cough, spoiler alert for the Black Company book series.)

Stilpnotita, The City of Lamps - a high-fantasy city within the Elemental Plane of Earth.

Supernatural Energy - Advantages-based spells and a breakdown of Magery. Interesting stuff and useful for a variation of magic for a fantasy game.

Pandemonium - So, what if demons rampaged over and around everything on Earth? This happens.

Fusion Alchemy - A Chris Rice article on variant alchemy. I'll admit I need to go through this one again to see what to do with it . . . it's both external alchemy (make an elixir!) or internal (mix up an elixir inside someone!)

The Cube - A puzzle encounter for GURPS DF.

Random Thought Table: (Lack of) Speed Kills - An editorial by Steven Marsh. Basically, GM advice for running a game a bit quicker, with the tradeoffs necessary to get some speed into the game.

Overall: Good stuff. A steal at $2. Still worth it at $5-6. Hopefully it'll be up for regular sale soon!

I'll post about what's valid in Felltower another day. Short version: If my players start making Toxi-Mages, they'll be wasting some time.

* The illustrations for this one are nice, but don't Japanese women have hands and faces? It's weirdly all very long hair and long flowing kimono from behind.

Pyramid 4/1, 4/2, and 4/3 - Arrived!

So Pyramid 4/1, 4/2, and 4/3 arrived yesterday. "Arrived" in a Backerkit download. They're not yet in my Warehouse23 account.

They look good so far. I'll have a review and comments on each as I can - maybe the first later today, when I'm done with work.

I did take a quick peek at my article to make sure it was okay . . . and checked the bios. Actually, I realized that since I wrote that article . . . and my bio . . . it's not been more than 5 years and 80 sessions of Felltower but just shy of 10 years and a few sessions short of 150 in Felltower.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Which Artifacts of Felltower are actually in Felltower?

Yesterday I mentioned my book, Dungeon Fantasy Treasures 3: Artifacts of Felltower. Long-time observers will have noticed things in the book that have not made an appearance in Felltower.

What gives?

Two things.

One, all of those things exist in Felltower. They just haven't all been recovered yet.

Second, many of the things that haven't appeared in Felltower had previously appeared in GURPS games of mine. Felltower isn't necessarily part of some "multiverse" in an AD&D or Marvel sense, but I do like to think that it could easily fit into my previous gameworld somewhere, or connect to my old game world by a gate if necessary.

So which is which?

Previous Game

The following items featured in my previous 3rd-turned-4th game that I ran from 1999-2010.

Agar's Wand, Atrugex's weaponry, Malice, Grimslaughter, Frenzy, Buckler of Warding, Graceful Gloves, Potion Ring, Statuette of the Death Goddess.

Names in Italics were known of but not owned.


The following items have been found and at least briefly owned:

Shieldslayer, the Razor (found and sold!*), Sigurd's Sword, Undead Bane amulet (p. 8 bonus item!), Universal Sword (used as a longsword), Magescale (two suits), Giant's Strength (potion), Heroism (potion), Mana Gout (potion), Antimagical Bracelet (as Laccodel's Rune), Wand of Electricity, Protective Ring, and the very influential Statuette of the Death Goddess.

Did I miss any that you guys have noticed? Otherwise, I think that's the list. The rest exist . . . somewhere.

* Because no one's primary weapon was a shortsword. Yep. GURPS min-maxing sometimes cuts both ways.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Felltower - Improved Magic Resistance in DF Felltower

In DF Felltower, we run Improved Magic Resistance differently than by the book.

Magic Resistance works as written.

Improved Magic Resistance provides a +1 per level to resist hostile spells and a -1 to hostile, resisted spells cast on the character. IMR doesn't "know" a spell is hostile. If a spell normally allows for a resistance roll, it provides the -1 / +1. If not, it does not. It has no effect on elixirs - hostile or otherwise - and no effect on spells or magic items used by the character with IMR.

Some of this springs from a misunderstanding we had from back in the day about how Improved Magic Resistance was intended to run. For DF Felltower, I just kept up that ruling as I feel it makes for a better tool for wizards.

This should cost a bit more. You lose the ability to shrug off hostile elixirs, but most of the time it's pure upside unlike the mixed upside/downside of Magic Resistance and by-the-book Improved Magic Resistance. Still, 5 points for a +1 Will or HT for spell resistance only seems fairly priced by the eyeball pricing approach. You could probably bump it to 6 or 7 points a level with the -1 to hostile spells, but I figured I'd leave well enough alone. The lack of a -1 per level to spells you don't want on you but which aren't resisted seems a solid tradeoff for that.

GMs using the Antimagical Bracelet from DFT3 (p. 13) may wish to use the above version of Improved Magic Resistance for that item only, to get a true feel for how it operates in DF Felltower.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Ultima V: Making progress

I restarted Ultima V the other day. My first attempt was fine, but I'd messed up a few things.

The good? I'd captured a pirate frigate, found a magic axe by investigating everything in Jhelom, and earned a good bit of money and a level for Shamino (the blonde guy with the evil magic arrow in him on the cover).

The bad? I'd recruited two companions I didn't need and had to pay money to house them in an inn (you can't kick them out like in Ultima VI). I was running out of food and had trouble finding places to get rations (since solved.) I was completely out of some important spell components and couldn't afford replacements. And I needed some keys to get into a locked room, yet couldn't get to a place that had them without running out of food and money.

I could have made it work, but it was very frustrating.

I restarted, instead, and just did things in a proper way. I didn't recruit anyone I wasn't sure I needed. I missed one I do need, but I can get back to her. I had a better idea of how to equip my party. And I had a better idea of how to build up funds.

This time, I've got 2 of my 3 companion spots filled up - I never kick out Iolo the bard or Shamino the fighter. So I had space for Gwenno, Iolo's wife, our second bard, and Mariah, the wizard and my former companion in Ultima IV. I have space for another wizard, and I know where she is, too. I didn't take anyone on until I had built up a buffer of gold and food.

This time the game is going swimmingly. I'm enjoying it and not gritting my teeth at starvation as I try to get anything done, or dragging my butt across the world to get things I'd bypassed by accident earlier.

I am gritting my teeth at having to row my damn frigate around because hoisting the sails gets me shipwrecked PDQ at the emulator speed. I really need to go and tune it down a bit like I did for Fantasy General (where it scrolled so fast I couldn't usefully navigate the screen.) But otherwise, it's good so far. Fun game. It's really priming me for Ultima VI again, and yet it's such an interesting game in and of itself. I'm sorry I missed it back in the day!

Hanging near Jhelom with the frigate I bought, and the one I took off pirates who wanted to fight me.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Random Stuff for Friday - 2/12/21

- I'm amused when punk rockers become generic bad guys. And I love Judge Dredd. So I really was amused by this:

Mega City Blues Prog 1

I like that the punks are a stock footage punk guy, stock footage punk girl . . . and Fat Mike from NOFX (and Fat Wreck Chords, and Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, sometimes bandmate to Ken Yokoyama from Hi*Standard, and more), and John Simon Ritchie aka Sid Vicious. Of course you know that someone wrote up Sid Vicious for GURPS, right?

Okay, so it was me.

Also, that my current gamer andi jones did that picture of Sid Vicious? Of course you knew that.

- This might be the only look at Dragonraid I've ever seen.

Character Creation Challenge: Dragonraid

I still have no interest in playing it or owning it, but it was interesting to read about it.

- I'm not sure why, but has a $23.83 off coupon on the Art & Arcana special edition:

Might be a good time to get it, if you've wanted it.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Pyramid Scheme Kickstarter - BackerKit Survey Done

I came home today to a BackerKit survey request. I filled it out . . . now we play the waiting game.

I have no idea when the PDFs actually come, but I was 691st of the surveyed backers to say what I wanted (just the 3 core PDFs). Hopefully it is soon. I'd like to see how my article looks laid out and with a much better map than the one Vic did and then I scribbled on with "Paint."

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Tabletop Characters Being Foolish (Screen Rant article reaction)

Every once in a while, the clickbait headlines of Screen Rant get me to click. I mostly try to avoid it, but sometimes there is something that really looks like it has some potential value.*

Why Tabletop RPG Player Characters Sometimes Lack Common Sense

I gave this one a think after I read it.

There are three categories:

#1: Tabletop RPG Players Are Often Unfamiliar With The Game World & Its Rules

#2: Tabletop RPG Gamers Develop "Tunnel Vision" When Under Pressure

#3: Tabletop RPG Gamers Use Roleplaying To Do Things They Can't Do In Real Life

I don't see a lot of #1 in my games. People do mess up the rules - at least once a session, someone makes a mistake. But it's a tactical issue 9 times out of 10. People don't make big, game-changing, "I attack the guardsman" or "I insult the king" kinds of errors because of rules misunderstandings. Unless they misunderstand the campaign rules about what can get your paper man killed. If you haven't made it clear that insulting the king means you can die, players might assume it's a valid campaign choice. Those don't happen much in games I run. In games I've played in, though, I've seen this. Mostly it's willfull, and those players aren't lacking common sense but lacking a desire to fit in with the game. That's choice #3, really.

I think #2 carries a lot of weight. I've seen players myopically focus on some tiny detail while ignoring a larger issue. I've seen players make very odd decisions simply because they can't see another way around it. This happens a lot, even when the solution is at hand. I had a player argue very strenuously that I should bend or change the rules on Resurrection to allow the dead to come back with no penalty despite weeks between the death and the ritual . . . while sitting on a Wish that could bend solve the problem without changing the campaign. I've had players spend hours of game time trying to figure out a five-piece puzzle only to realize there are only four pieces and their map was wrong. Or ignoring stairs down because they were misnamed in discussion. Or trying spells they know won't work because they can't see that there is an easy non-spell solution because they're hypnotised by the list of spells. Add this onto the telephone game of mis-remembered details and one person's description of a situation and you get a total inability to see the forest for the trees.

The point about people getting focused on their record sheet over seeing the situation as a person in it is well taken, too.

A sub-point to #2 is sunk cost, I think. Sometimes players get invested in what they've done so far, and evaluate future choices based on past choices. Let's say you are badly battered party of adventurers, and you face a badly battered potential foe . . . who has something you'd like and you have something they'd like to trade for. They might not have traded if they weren't in desperate straights, and you the same. Do you trade? It's an easy yes . . . until I say, "you're badly battered because of a previous fight with these guys." Now it's personal, and they all need to die die die die die for fighting your characters and daring to not immediately surrender everything they own. That's a sunk cost fallacy. I think it's related to the tunnel vision of #2.

Point #3 has a lot of merit, too. A good chunk of RPGing is the lack of consequences to your real self for doing foolish stuff. It's a chance to act out that fantasy of being a total badass, or a reckless warrior, or whatever. So you get a lot of avoiding taxes, pulling knives in bar brawls, attacking the king (which happened in a high school AD&D game). I think that leads to some of the decisions in #2, actually. You get focused on being X or Y and having ability Z and not backing off the think about what you're trying to accomplish. "I'm a badass who doesn't take any guff," you might think, forgetting, "but taking a little guff here actually gets me what I want pretty easily." So you don't say, "Yes, sir" to the Baron and instead cut his head off, and bad stuff happens from there. And so on. I think #2 and #3 feed into one another in a way that #1 doesn't.

Overall, though, I think it's a worthwhile read.

* There are some poorly-researched articles on D&D on the site, though. This one, for example, misreads the AD&D Unearthed Arcana badly - cavaliers ignoring enemy troops isn't stated in UA, just ignoring friendlies, and it mentions provoking "attacks of opportunity" which isn't an AD&D rule. So I read anything on the site with more caution than usual because they've failed my "look it up before you write" rule. I'd mention that there but hey, Facebook login required and I'm not on Facebook.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Getting started with a GURPS Megadungeon - Starting Points

A reader of this blog emailed me and asked, basically, how to start with a GURPS megadungeon.

Here is basically what I wrote:

I think the best advice I can give you is mostly on the blog already, and in one GURPS book.

Mapping and size is dealt with in this series of posts:

Megadungeon Design

Rule-wise, take a look here and the two posts linked within in:

Felltower Reflections: 5 Years Later

Also, spend $3 on this:

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 21: Megadungeons
I did my best to make that a primer on the idea of megadungeons and the rules and ramifications of them in GURPS.

Did I miss anything?

Obviously, if the above reading - it's a lot, admittedly - doesn't cover something that someone a starting GURPS-based megadungeon campaign - let me know in the comments and I'll see if I can't get writing it.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Ultima V, first thoughts

I never played, or even saw, Ultima V back in the day. I went from IV to VI. So playing it now is an interesting thing.

- That cover art accurately depicts the opening of the game.

- not being able to get free healing from Lord British is an issue. My characters get hit a lot in combat, mixing "MANI" spells is a pain, and they don't always heal very much at all. I end up paying 65 gold per person at Empath Abby to get healed after doing a few fights.

- Speaking of spells, I hate learning the spells by Ultima language. (And translating signs is a pain.) It's just a pain. "C" for "Cure" and "H" for "Heal" beats AN NOX for Cure and MANI for "Heal." We went from weird spell names to prosaic descriptive ones after Wizardry and then Ultima V goes right back.

- I'm grinding bridge trolls. It's the only way I can keep from going broke. I kill them, sell their clubs and so on, pick up their food, and just hope I get ahead at the end of the day. It sucks when we sneak by them . . . waste of a fight I am actually looking for.

- I have a pocket watch, but it would be easier if the time was just displayed. I don't like having to check the time manually.

- FOR THE LOVE OF LORD BRITISH PLEASE MOVE! I actually got boxed into a corner next to a table by two NPCs and after 5 minutes of holding down "PASS" I gave up and re-started the game. And yes, I tried using "Push." They "Won't Budge!"

- Attacking foes on the diagonal? Amazing.

- Can't move on the diagonal? Sigh.

- Chests block movement? Sigh. Why I need to loot them on the combat screen is also beyond me.

- I still remember, roughly, where everything is in Britannia. But the graphics make it really hard for me to see impassable mountains vs. passable rough, and where secret doors are, and so on. I wonder if there is a patch or color swap out there?

- Overall, so far so good. I picked up Jaana, so it's me, Shamino, Iolo, and Jaana the wizard. Iolo's spouse is probably out there somewhere, she was in VI if I recall correctly.

- I like that there is an loyal opposition fighting to bring Lord British back. And that I don't really need to convince them I'm on their side with silly quests. At least so far. Being the Avatar (even if I need to re-up my karma) and having loyal companions helps.

- Good game based on what I see so far. I guess once I've done enough grinding to not feel broke and about to die I'll head out and see what's waiting for me in the bigger cities.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Felltower - Shirtless Savage DR

More than a few times, I have had cause to regret giving Shirtless Savage barbarians DR in the way that I did.

When it comes to large blows, it's fine as is.

When it comes to small ones, it's not.

Part of it is simple aesthetics:

Players very often gloat about how "harmless" foes are when they get hit. "It bites you with its diseased fangs for 7 cutting damage!" "I take 0 and laugh it off." Amusing once, not as amusing 15-20 times in a combat, say, as someone drops nearly nude into a mass of giant rats, snakes, spiders, etc. confident that their high HT and Fit will shrug off any lingering effects and knowing they'll take 0 HP of injury.

So it's clear it's optically and descriptively "injured, but it doesn't affect you" it's seen as "uninjured completely." People say things like "It just bounces off!" and forget to do things like roll against poison, or disease, and don't think they're bleeding.

Another part is mechanics:

It's actually very hard to kill a barbarian without corrosion or high-damage attacks. They ignore fire, as it really can't hurt them even if they're engulfed in flames. And although they should be taking damage from spells like Fire Cloud or Rain of Stones and just not being seriously hurt, instead they're totally unharmed. (And yes, will gripe about how their clothes burned off but won't suffer injury.) The slow effect of corrosion - it's less effective on a barbarian dipped in acid than on a stone golem dipped in the same - is odd.

Here is one way I might fix it in the future in Felltower:

- minimum damage of 1. For any damage type that has a minimum damage of 1 from a die roll (corrosion, cutting, impaling, etc. - basically not crushing), a barbarian with Savage Warrior DR will still take 1 injury from the attack if other DR is not sufficient to completely absorb the attack.

For example, Mild Bruce has 7 DR - DR 2 with Tough Skin, DR 5 with Savage Warrior DR. He walked into a Fire Cloud cast at 3 HP of damage per turn. He takes 7 - 3 = 0, but he only has 2 completely protective DR. He takes 3-2=1 injury. A cloud at 5 HP would inflict 5 - 7 - 0, but 5 - 2 = 3 so he'd take his minimum of 1 HP of injury. Against a 1-2 point cloud, he'd be unharmed.

- cost would drop. Right now, the DR has -60% in limitations. One that allows damage to bleed through automatically with a maximum of 1 HP, against most damage types, is probably -10% or -20%. I'll have to see what Sean "Dr. Kromm" Punch says about it, but I'm leaning to -10%. It's a big limitation on DR, as it can take you from "invulnerable" to "takes harm" even when you have sufficient DR. It does feel generous if it's -20%. A -70% total it's 1.5 points per, so 2, 3, 5, 7, 8 for 1-5 points. If I made it -20%, it would be -80% total and 1-5 points for 1-5 DR. Even with this limitation that feels very cheap. I think people would still max it out right away for 8 points, and not blink an eye. Perhaps such a limition on its own would be -20%, but only -10% when combined with Tough Skin (-20%), which covers some similar limitations.

In a retro-active case like this, I would just refund the points and allow them to be spent right away without any in-game justication or cost. So 2 points back on each barbarian to do . . . something . . . or just save, would work.

I'm not yet 100% commmitted to this, but I'm getting close. We'll see how my players feel about this implementation. It's a "nerfing" of barbarian DR, to be sure, because they got a lot for those extra 2 character points . . . but it'll better reflect an appropriate feel of what's happening. They'll be tough as nails, and barely hurt after a nasty scrape, but won't be swimming with the pirhannas and standing in alchemist's fire totally unharmed. They'll stop ignoring attacks entirely just because they know they can't really get hurt. It'll still hurt, 1 HP of injury at a time.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Battlesystem playtest quote

I've bbeen meaning to put this up for a while - it's a quote about the playtesting for Battlesystem 1st edition.

Finally, we held the ultimate playtest - eight people each designed their own armies, using the recently developed "Creating Armies" rules. The TSR designers are a sneaky, underhanded bunch, and they all pored through the manuals trying to create the nastiest, most powerful, most outrageous armies they could find. The final battle took place on three planes (Ethereal, Astral, and Prime Material) with about 40% of the total forces invisible when the game began. There were devas, planetars, mezzodaemons, galeb duhr, and 10,000 gibberlings - each with a sword and a girdle of storm giant strength. There were catapults firing mirrors of life trapping that contained powerful monsters. There was a force of 220 invisible shadow dragons. There were three hundred-handed giants (see the Legends and Lore volume for details). There were drow cavalry on nightmares (they didn't last long). It took 8 hours of playing time (and 4 large deep-dish pizzas) to get through two turns . . . but it was an incredible amount of fun, and a lot was learned.

That led to the sixth draft . . . and eventually to the seventh.

Michael Dobson, Dragon #100

It's just a very evocative quote. And the loot from 10,000 gibberlings wearing girdles of storm giant strength is pretty impressive. Fun stuff. Also, how many drafts a game can go through.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Random Links and Thoughts for 2/5/2021

Only a few thoughts for today.

- Thanks to Marcus, who told Richard Garriot, aka Lord British, of my deeds!

No thanks to Google, which didn't even put his comment into moderation. I get offers to learn spells and become a vampire and get scammed on anti-virus and you don't let LORD F-ING BRITISH comment on my blog! What the hell?

- Grognardia on level drain.

I never loved level drain, but it's amusing to see people ran it even more brutally than by-the-book. Yeah, you lose only half the xp required to regain the level.

- Also Grognardia, on Revolt on Antares, the TSR minigame.

This was a really fun game. I have the counters . . . maybe . . . and the map . . . possibly. I would buy it again if I could. It was a lot of fun to play.

- So you died in Felltower, eh?

Now you can prove it.

Felltower Zazzle Store

Courtesy of Vic "Oh no, I failed my HT check" LaPira.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Thoughts on Swashbucklers with Serendipity instead of Luck

Would I allow a Luck-to-Serendipity swap on a Swashbuckler?

Bottom line: Maybe. Not in Felltower.

One of my players brought up the idea while we were discussing the accidental non-use of Luck in my last game session - and forgotten Luck doomed a PC to death.

The Luck-based Swashbuckler is the standard. Every hour, the swashbuckler gets two re-rolls to deploy onto a roll. Net/net, this means less failures when it matters on rolls the player deems worth spending the effect.

Serendipity, though, has nothing to do with personal luck. It's all coincidence that goes in your favor.

In a larger DF game, it might make an interesting approach. You can just have situations play in your favor - a rope to swing from is just there, you happen to know a swordsmith in town, one of the foes with the drop of you sneezes or turns out to be your cousin's friend or whatever.

I think a megadungeon-centric game like DF Felltower, though, Serendipity is potentially a problem. Using Serendipity to, say, claim a door is open, a key is found, a trap is non-functional, a gate is open, etc. can impose a degree of meta-control on the dungeon that's not acceptable in the kind of play in that game. Saying no in those circumstances devalues the advantage compared to its cost. It seems better in situations where the player can use it as wished without making effectively permanent changes to an environment where the environment is a deeply-seated part of the challenge.

So those are my brief thoughts on it. It's an interesting idea . . . and gives up a lot to get a more finite benefit . . . but it's not one that fits DF Felltower.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

And on to Ultima V

I was able to get Ultima V going yesterday, porting over my maxed-out avatar Otto. He lost some XP and his stats were halved from 50 to 25, but since they cap at 30 I'm not really concerned.

I know Lord British is in the Underworld, thanks to a) the game intro and b) the talking horse in Ultima VI told me back in the day.

Back in the day? Yes. I played and won Ultima III on my Leading Edge "M," with its CGA graphics adapter, dual floppy drives, and 256kb of RAM!

Then I helped my cousin play Ultima IV.

Then on my Pentium 90 I played and won Ultima VI.

I started Ultima VII and hated the interface so much that I quit.

The next Ultima I played was IV . . . on a series of laptops using DOSBox.

My plan is V, then VI, then I and II. I may do them out of order, but I really enjoyed VI so I'm looking forward to playing again. I won that one twice, actually.

I may through in Savage Empire at some point, because I have it. VII, VIII, IX, etc. - no thanks, I think. I hated VII and reading blog reports of playthroughs didn't impress me. The later ones, the same . . . but never say never.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Ultima IV: Won!

It took me a lot more turns that it probably should have, but the game is complete. I finally finished Ultima IV.

I was snowed in yesterday, and unfortunately snowed home again today. So I took advantage. It basically took me all day, a couple of levels at a time, to get through the 8-level Abyss. Luckily you can save in the Abyss, in the "regular dungeon corridor" sections. In the battlemap-like areas, you can't. Some fights and issues were very annoying - narrow angled passages that ended in 9 or 10 critters that can cast "Sleep" and did so over and over, keeping the party bottled up and extending combats that should be 2 minutes to more like 20-30, trick rooms with trigger spots + secret doors + other secret doors, totally bizarre wandering monsters (I got jumped by flying insects on level 8 of the Abyss, and orcs on level 6) that didn't fit with the otherwise thematically appropriate monsters . . .

But I completed it. Thank goodness for the Ultima IV Codex wiki, because I needed to know the "Word of Passage" and I couldn't find my paper notes this morning. I'm sure they'll turned up next time I'm cleaning. The other stuff was obvious to a long-time Ultima players. I managed to spell humility incorrectly at the end but I was given a second crack at the quiz of ultimate wisdom.

If I had Twitter, I'd report my deeds to Lord British as asked. Hopefully he'll stumble across my blog at some point and I'll get the recognition I deserve!

Thanks to Marcus Orealis for this:

Monday, February 1, 2021

More notes from Session 147

More notes from last session:


Last time someone, I don't remember who, refered to the green meteoric sword found by a gate as a "moon sword" or "moon gate sword." They'd found the sword next to a gate they referred to as a "moon gate." Are they right? Maybe. Anyway, I put them down in my notes as "moonsword."

Hail Our Metal Masters!

Aldwyn revealed that the king of Cornwood, King Titanius Anglesmith, is in fact a construct of some kind. "You have to be a construct to be King of Cornwood." Good to know! That's the first Constructocracy I'd heard of. I had just added his picture to the Gazeteer earlier the same day. That prompted this whole discussion.

Wizard Court?

We had a post-game discussion about magic rules and ways to change them. During it, Wyatt's player suggested that in Barcidia some wizards get forced to specialize in ways that make military sense for the city . . . just told outright to do thus-and-so. I said that wasn't likely, as we've seen that most wizards and every Barca is a self-centered self-important individualist. He claimed that would really change Wizard Court. I cut off the discussion, though - the way our game works, what's defined is usually true. Since the Barcas and Barcidia are largely defined by the highly amusing comments of the player who plays all of them (Hannibal, Hasdrubel, Ahenobarbus, maybe others I'm forgetting), we don't want to wall off his explanation. I'm sure he has a great explanation for the seeming contradictions inherent in Wizard Court.

Fight Faster!

We had a fight last session between a half-dozen Demons from Between the Stars and the party. Unlike the yeth fights - which took almost an entire session twice - or the Lord of Spite fight (two complete sessions), this one took maybe 20 minutes, tops.

I think there were several reasons for this:

- I didn't use a map. Every single time I use a map, the fight slows down. It always slows down fights. It can make it easier on the GM and the players, but once someone has tactical decisions to make and hex facing to worry about, they make those decisions and worry about those facings. That takes time. Even a fast player is slower when you multiply the amount of decisions to make.

- Lack of combatants. This is the big one. When only 2-3 players, and eventually only 5 players, had any input, the fight went more quickly.

- Lack of complicated foes. The DFBTS are pretty straightforward if they're stuck in a place with no darkness or shadow. The room was ideal for them against a small group or solitary explorers with limited light, but not versus the current PCs (who also man-for-man are superior to DFBTS). So it was a straight-up fight versus humanoid-shaped foes without special invulnerabities.


Bruce tried punching a DFBTS to see if he'd be hurt by doing so. Technically, the writeup doesn't say so, but the description is quite clear - they're surrounded by (or made up of) a life-draining energy. So naturally I applied that. He claimed punching one was "science" - he was testing a theory.

Varmus tested it with Iron Arm. That didn't go well either.

Galen tested the theory they'd been teleported to the moon by jumping to see if gravity was the same. It was. Wyatt's player pointed out this was real-world thinking based on real-world understanding of the moon. He's right, too. If they reach the moon, will it have lower gravity? Will Galen Longtread fight like John Carter on Mars? We'll find out if they figure out how to get to the moon.

Money Matters.

Wyatt was killed. He had $15,000 to get Resurrection. So this tells me my plan of making consumables available but permanent magic items mostly unavailable has been a good move. People have in fact saved cash, bought better mundane gear, and don't have to go broke en masse and sell gear to bring back the slain. Thats good because when they did, even a single loss was seen as a major plan-wrecking event that must be avoided. It's hard to delve deep and take risks in a game like Felltower if you are trying to avoid any chance of people getting killed.

Amusingly Ulf gave some money toward Wyatt's revival. So did Crogar. His share of the loot was 220. He spent 150 on upkeep and was too lazy to mark that down and then add 220 on top of it . . . so he tossed in 70 to Wyatt's revival just to avoid having to note anything on his record sheet.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...