Wednesday, March 31, 2021


Did Marshall say Michelangelorc?



That's him on the left:

Named by my cousin for his stylish Renaissance painter hat.

Noted enemy of Raphaelf.

My goodness, this new book is writing itself.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

My next writing project - REVEALED!


It's official!

Matt has revealed our top-secret (well, it's a dungeon, so bottom-secret) writing project outline!

It's not 100% accurate, but hey, rough outlines never are. At least he fit in the turkeys, ninjas, and crossover potential.

I'm not sure why the label says (lies). Maybe because the dungeon lies beneath Venice? Who can tell?

Next Project

* Warning: Above post may also not be 100% accurate. Or even 1% accurate. Again, who can tell?

Monday, March 29, 2021

X-Com: Apocalypse

Oh, where did the time go?

It went to playing X-Com: Apocalypse.

I finally broke down and put Steam on my best computer, just so I could play this game. I started this playthrough back in 2014 or 2015, but never finished it. I can't recall what difficulty level it is at. I'm not even sure how to tell.

But I have been having fun. My squad is already pretty good, and has some backups that are also good and some high-quality rookies to round us out. I'm a little behind on manufacturing and quantum physics but tapped out on biochemisty. Not my best planned approach, I can see that now, but it works, and I don't need to run around with machine guns and laser sniper rifles and pistols as I have disruptors and personal defense shields and toxiguns.

My first return I played out some combats to get a feel for the commands again. I won those combats but with casualties. I restarted and have done better since - no KIAs, a fair number of WIAs, and generally a better feel for positioning. Little things like how to change facing, change shot types, do player-directed fire - I knew to do them, but had forgotten how to do them quickly.

Anyway, that sucked the free hours out of my one free afternoon this weekend. I don't regret it.

Here are two screenshots, of part of the city and of a combat during an investigation into suspected alien activity. Okay, known activity - I won a battle in a nearby building, and some aliens fled combat. I went next door and found some hyperworms!

Sunday, March 28, 2021

DF Felltower: Field trip!

Galen and Wyatt headed about a bit under a week ago, seeking the local Drum Circle of Druids.

They're brining the vine suit they found to find out what it is and does.

Wyatt took care to carefully wrap it up in cloth, to protect it from the weather and wear, although he did note it was intact even as it was found with a skeleton. And, to be noted, it does seem to be extremely fresh plant material.

This is tough because no one knows who they are, or what they are doin'.*

They need the council of Warlock, head druid**, and his fellow druids.

Warlock, the Head Druid and Drum Circle Leader

Amusingly, Galen wants Wyatt to "do the talking." Galen has something like a net +4 reaction roll from druids - +5 from Outdoorsman, his Ring of Animal Friendship, and his +1 reputation as a Cleanser of the Garden of Trent Oakheart. Wyatt has a +1 from the same reputation. Even with Galen's -1 for his callous nature, and his -1 for roleplaying (heh, mostly joking), he's the best

They didn't bring anything but the vine suit. I think they're hoping for information in return for information, or the usual PC offer of exchange - "completing a quest." Yes, video games have permanently altered how gamers think of negotiation and personal value. "Are you sure you don't need something killed, or something brought from point A to point B, and way, way, way too much money to give for that?" We'll see how that works - it's a reaction roll at +4, so a 7-22, average 14.5.

We'll resolve their rolls to find the druids (Naturalist), living along the way (Survival), talking to the druids (reaction roll), and getting there and back (Orienteering). It should be routine, given the skill level of Galen.

And we'll quickly, pre-game, sort out the results next Sunday.

* This is official Felltower canon.

** So is this.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Writing Update

I can't dicuss the details, but I did end up agreeing to two writing projects in the past week.

- One, the outline is submitted and waiting for approval.

- Another, the general concept is approved and we (I have a co-author) are waiting for some materials before we submit the outline.

They're due relatively soon - one in a month or so, another in two months or so. Quick stuff.

Neither are royalties, which makes me sad. I like royalties. I like my work now turning into a continuous stream of money over the months and years. I still get paid for GURPS Martial Arts and for DF12, my first two books, all these years later. Without being able to turn work now into income later, it's tougher to justify the time away from my main sources of income. Still, I like writing and I dislike saying "No" when someone specifically requests a thing from me that I'm well suited for.

Time to write!

Friday, March 26, 2021

Random Links for Friday 3/26/2021

- This looks so fun. I love the colorful minis of this era of warfare.

A little bit of DBA
More Medieval HOTT

Honestly, though, I clicked on it because a) I didn't know what DBA stood for, and b) DBA was the short-hand for a band I like - one I saw live a lot right before I moved to Japan - Dirt Bike Annie.

- Can you backstab a shark? Heh, no. Or double yes, according to someone who commented on my comment!

I Need a Ruling

Fun stuff. Don't try this in my DF game, you'll regret it. And I will really, really laugh.

- A short look at initiative in D&D versions:

Initiative in D&D from Original to 3e

Das Schwarze Auge is another game that I'm interested in knowing more about. Sounds like they had fun playing it:

Playing Das Schwarze Auge after 28 years

- I really liked the Elric story that took place in Nadsokor. I assume that story is where ward-pact demons - a tough monster in Wizard's Crown - came from.

I wish I knew who borrowed my copy of "Stealer of Souls," though. It's been gone for a couple years and I don't want to replace it. Or replace my copy of Shadow Blizzard, either, not that we're talking about Pehov books. But yeah, guys, give me my books back.

- Not gaming, but if you're interested in warfare theory you might like this:


- The weather is getting nice, and we've been getting vaccinated (some of us) - a mix of pre-existing conditions and jobs that are prioritized for distribution. So maybe we're looking at an outdoor, in-person game sometime soon. If not DF, then something else. I think playing online by default might be the new thing, though - it's just so much easier for our guys who live 1-2 hour one-way drives away from game.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Otto the Assassin

Here is the half-orc assassin I was considering running in DF Suicide Squad.

I never finished him because I found the unholy warrior more interesting.


Name: Half-Orc Assassin

Race: Half-Orc


Attributes [160]

ST 11 [10]

DX 15 [100]

IQ 11 [20]

HT 13 [20] (HT includes +1 from 'Half-Orc (Dungeon Fantasy)')


HP 12 (Hit Points includes +1 from 'Half-Orc (Dungeon Fantasy)')

Will 11

Per 13 [10]

FP 13


Basic Lift 24

Damage 1d/2d-1


Basic Speed 7

Basic Move 7


Ground Move 7

Water Move 1


Social Background

TL: 3 [0]

Cultural Familiarities:

Languages: Common (Native) [0].


Advantages [64]

Acute Hearing (1) [2*]

Combat Reflexes [15]

Luck [15]

Night Vision (5) [5*]

Rapid Healing [5*]

Resistant to Metabolic Hazards (+3 to resist) [10*]

Striking ST (2) [10]

Surprise Striking ST (2) (Accessibility (Only on surprise attack); Doesn't give general damage bonus) [4]

* = item is owned by another, point value is included in the other item.


Disadvantages [-45]

Appearance (Unattractive) [-4*]

Bad Temper (12 or less) [-10]

Bloodlust (12 or less) [-10]

Callous [-5]

Greed (12 or less) [-15]

Social Stigma (Criminal Record) [-5]

Social Stigma (Savage) [-10*]

* = item is owned by another, point value is included in the other item.


Quirks [-5]

_Unused Quirk 1 [-1]

_Unused Quirk 2 [-1]

_Unused Quirk 3 [-1]

_Unused Quirk 4 [-1]

_Unused Quirk 5 [-1]


Packages [0]

Assassin (Dungeon Fantasy) [0]

Half-Orc (Dungeon Fantasy) [20]


Skills [76]

Brawling DX/E - DX+0 15 [1]

Broadsword DX/A - DX+1 16 [4]

Crossbow DX/E - DX+3 18 [8]

Disguise/TL3 (Human) IQ/A - IQ-1 10 [1]

Fast-Draw (Knife) DX/E - DX+1 16 [1]

includes: +1 from 'Combat Reflexes'

First Aid/TL3 (Human) IQ/E - IQ+0 11 [1]

Forced Entry DX/E - DX+0 15 [1]

Garrote DX/E - DX+2 17 [4]

Gesture IQ/E - IQ+0 11 [1]

Holdout IQ/A - IQ+1 12 [4]

Knife DX/E - DX+3 18 [8]

Merchant IQ/A - IQ-1 10 [1]

Observation Per/A - Per-1 12 [1]

Poisons/TL3 IQ/H - IQ+1 12 [8]

Search Per/A - Per+0 13 [2]

Shadowing IQ/A - IQ+1 12 [4]

Smuggling IQ/A - IQ+1 12 [4]

Stealth DX/A - DX+2 17 [8]

Streetwise IQ/A - IQ+1 12 [4]

Traps/TL3 IQ/A - IQ+1 12 [4]

Urban Survival Per/A - Per+0 13 [2]

Wrestling DX/A - DX+1 16 [4]


Stats [160] Ads [64] Disads [-45] Quirks [-5] Skills [76] = Total [250]  


Hand Weapons

1  Long Knife  LC:4|4|4|4  $120  Wgt:1.5 

    Knife Swing  Dam:2d-2 cut  Reach:C, 1  Parry:13  ST:7  Skill:SK:Sword!, SK:Knife, ST:DX-4, SK:Force Sword-3, SK:Main-Gauche-3, SK:Shortsword-3 

    Knife Thrust  Dam:1d imp  Reach:C, 1  Parry:13  ST:7  Skill:SK:Sword!, SK:Knife, ST:DX-4, SK:Force Sword-3, SK:Main-Gauche-3, SK:Shortsword-3 

    Shortsword Swing  Dam:2d-2 cut  Reach:1  Parry:11  ST:7  Skill:SK:Sword!, SK:Shortsword, ST:DX-5, SK:Broadsword-2, SK:Force Sword-4, SK:Jitte/Sai-3, SK:Knife-4, SK:Saber-4, SK:Smallsword-4, SK:Tonfa-3 

    Shortsword Thrust  Dam:1d imp  Reach:C, 1  Parry:11  ST:7  Skill:SK:Sword!, SK:Shortsword, ST:DX-5, SK:Broadsword-2, SK:Force Sword-4, SK:Jitte/Sai-3, SK:Knife-4, SK:Saber-4, SK:Smallsword-4, SK:Tonfa-3 


Ranged Weapons


Armor & Possessions



- My approach was going to be a crossbow and a long knife. I meant him to be a sneak-and-stab type, hence the improved Per and emphasis on Surprise Striking ST.

- I planned to get some poison, and try to four-dose Monster Drool on the knife as a fight-starter. HT-4 and 8 HP of toxic injury is the way to go.

- Given the scenario we played in, I think Otto the Assassin might have done okay, but Otto the Terrible seemed more fun.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

DF Suicide Squad: Alternate Otto

The alternate version of Otto I was considering for "DF Suicide Squad" was a little more straightforward of a combatant:

As Otto the Terrible, but:

- remove Dastardly Deeds
- remove Terror

- raise ST to 15
- raise Trading Character Points for Money to 2 ($1,000)
- add Combat Reflexes
- add Striking ST 2

. . . giving him a solid ST 17 with his sword for 3d cutting and 1d+4 impaling. Or, had I gone for a dueling halberd, 3d+3 cutting, 3d+2 swing/impaling, and 1d+5 impaling.

The reasons I didn't go this route:

- too vanilla. I was running an Unholy Warrior and I was just going to be a straight combatant if I did so, giving up all of the potential special abilities of an unholy warrior.

- too underpowered. ST 17 and a solid weapon skill? If you don't have Weapon Master, you're in the combat have-nots. You can and will be sidelined by the ones who do.

- likely to be duplicated by any knights, barbarians, and swashbucklers. In the event, he'd have been a weaker version of Krag Ironbelly (alter-ego: Craig Ironbaum, mild-mannered half-ogre reporter who wears glasses.)

So I decided . . . go for the special powers.

Tomorrow I'll post the half-orc assassin I was thinking of running . . . who might have morphed into an orc assassin if I played around with the template a bit more. That might have been fun!

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Otto the Terrible (Orcish Unholy Warrior)

Also known as Evil Otto, this is my orc unholy warrior from Sunday's game:


Name: Otto the Terrible

Race: Orc

Attributes [155]

ST 14 [30] (ST includes +1 from 'Racial ST Bonus')

DX 13 [60]

IQ 11 [40] (IQ includes -1 from 'Orc (Dungeon Fantasy)')

HT 14 [30] (HT includes +1 from 'Orc (Dungeon Fantasy)')


HP 16 (Hit Points includes +2 from 'Orc (Dungeon Fantasy)')

Will 14 [10] (Will includes +1 from 'Orc (Dungeon Fantasy)')

Per 12 (Perception includes +1 from 'Orc (Dungeon Fantasy)')

FP 14


Basic Lift 39

Damage 1d/2d


Basic Speed 6 [-15]

Basic Move 6


Ground Move 6

Water Move 1


Social Background

TL: 3 [0]

Cultural Familiarities:

Languages: Common (Native) [0].


Advantages [72]

Acute Hearing (2) [4*]

Born War-Leader (1) [5]

Goblin-Kin Infravision [10*]

Racial ST Bonus (1) (Size) [10*]

Rapid Healing [5*]

Resistant to Disease 5 [5*]

Resistant to Poison 5 [5*]

Trading Character Points for Money ($500) [1]

Unholiness (2) [10]

Unholy Might Blessed (Dastardly Deeds; DX) (1) (Unholy) [9]

Unholy Might Terror (Will-0) (Unholy) [27]

Unholy Warrior Higher Purpose (Slay Servitors of Good) (1) [5]

* = item is owned by another, point value is included in the other item.


Perks [3]

Blood Healing [1]

Legionary of the Damned [1]

Venomous Tongue [1]


Disadvantages [-35]

Appearance (Ugly) [-8*]

Bad Temper (15 or less) [-5]

Bully (12 or less) [-10*]

Callous [-5]

Intolerance (All other Religions) [-10]

Selfish (12 or less) [-5]

Social Stigma (Excommunicated) [-10]

Social Stigma (Savage) [-10*]

* = item is owned by another, point value is included in the other item.


Quirks [-5]

Broad-Minded [-1]

Cruel sense of humor [-1]

Hates wine, loves beer [-1]

Reticent to discuss his powers and religion [-1]

Thinks non-evil people are as evil as he is [-1]


Packages [0]

Orc (Dungeon Fantasy) [15]

Unholy Warrior (Dungeon Fantasy) [0]


Skills [60]

Brawling DX/E - DX+1 14 [2]

Broadsword DX/A - DX+3 16 [12]

Climbing DX/A - DX-1 12 [1]

Crossbow DX/E - DX+2 15 [4]

Exorcism Will/H - Will+0 14 [4]

Fast-Draw (Sword) DX/E - DX+0 13 [1]

Hidden Lore (Demon Lore) IQ/A - IQ+0 11 [2]

Interrogation IQ/A - IQ+0 11 [1]

Intimidation Will/A - Will-1 13 [1]

Knife DX/E - DX-4 9 [0]

Leadership IQ/A - IQ+0 11 [1]

includes: +1 from 'Born War-Leader'

Meditation Will/H - Will-2 12 [1]

Physiology/TL3 (Human) IQ/H - IQ+0 11 [4]

Poisons/TL3 IQ/H - IQ-2 9 [1]

Psychology (Human) IQ/H - IQ+0 11 [4]

Religious Ritual (Demon-worship) IQ/H - IQ-2 9 [1]

Shield (Shield) DX/E - DX+3 16 [8]

Stealth DX/A - DX-1 12 [1]

Strategy (Land) IQ/H - IQ+0 11 [2]

includes: +1 from 'Born War-Leader'

Survival (Woodlands) Per/A - Per-1 11 [1]

Swimming HT/E - HT+0 14 [1]

Tactics IQ/H - IQ+0 11 [2]

includes: +1 from 'Born War-Leader'

Theology (Demon-worship) IQ/H - IQ-2 9 [1]

Wrestling DX/A - DX+1 14 [4]


Stats [155] Ads [72] Disads [-35] Quirks [-5] Skills [60] = Total [250]  


Hand Weapons

1  Medium Shield  LC:4  $60  Wgt:15 

    Bash  Dam:1d cr  Reach:1  Parry:No  ST:  Skill:ST:DX-4, SK:Shield (Buckler)-2, SK:Shield (Force)-2, SK:Shield (Shield)  Notes:[2,3,4] 

    Rush  Dam:slam+2 cr  Reach:1  Parry:No  ST:  Skill:ST:DX-4, SK:Shield (Buckler)-2, SK:Shield (Force)-2, SK:Shield (Shield)  Notes:[2,3,4] 

1  Small Knife  LC:4|4|4  $30  Wgt:.5 

    Swing  Dam:2d-3 cut  Reach:C, 1  Parry:6  ST:5  Skill:SK:Sword!, SK:Knife, ST:DX-4, SK:Force Sword-3, SK:Main-Gauche-3, SK:Shortsword-3 

    Thrust  Dam:1d-1 imp  Reach:C  Parry:6  ST:5  Skill:SK:Sword!, SK:Knife, ST:DX-4, SK:Force Sword-3, SK:Main-Gauche-3, SK:Shortsword-3  Notes:[1] 

1  Thrusting Broadsword  LC:4|4  $240  Wgt:3 

    Swing  Dam:2d+1 cut  Reach:1  Parry:11  ST:10  Skill:SK:Sword!, SK:Broadsword, ST:DX-5, SK:Force Sword-4, SK:Rapier-4, SK:Saber-4, SK:Shortsword-2, SK:Two-Handed Sword-4 

    Thrust  Dam:1d+2 imp  Reach:1  Parry:11  ST:10  Skill:SK:Sword!, SK:Broadsword, ST:DX-5, SK:Force Sword-4, SK:Rapier-4, SK:Saber-4, SK:Shortsword-2, SK:Two-Handed Sword-4 


Ranged Weapons

1  Crossbow (ST 14)  LC:4  Dam:1d+4 imp  Acc:4  Range:280 / 350 

    RoF:1  Shots:1(4)  ST:7†  Bulk:-6  Rcl:  $150  Wgt:6  Notes:[3] 

1  Small Knife  LC:4|4|4  Dam:1d-1 imp  Acc:0  Range:7 / 14 

    RoF:1  Shots:T(1)  ST:5  Bulk:-1  Rcl:-  $30  Wgt:.5 


Armor & Possessions

1  Blanket  $20  Wgt:4  Location: 

9  Crossbow Bolt  $18  Wgt:.54  Location: 

1  Heavy Leather Boots  $52  Wgt:4.2  Location:feet 

1  Heavy Leather Gloves  $15  Wgt:1.2  Location:hands 

1  Heavy Scale Helm  $275  Wgt:10  Location:skull 

1  Light Cloth Skullcap  $13  Wgt:1.5  Location:skull 

1  Ordinary Clothes  $0  Wgt:2  Location: 

1  Personal Basics  $5  Wgt:1  Location: 

1  Pouch  $10  Wgt:0  Location: 

3  Rations  $6  Wgt:1.5  Location: 

1  Scale Body Armor  $578  Wgt:29.4  Location:groin, torso 

1  Shoulder Quiver  $10  Wgt:.5  Location: 

1  Whetstone  $5  Wgt:1  Location: 

1  Wineskin  $10  Wgt:.25  Location: 



- I interpreted Intolerance (All other religions) to mean non-demon worshippers, not all other demons than one. I didn't figure on a D&D cosmology with individual demons so much as a polytheistic approach of, hey, better placate all of those demons.

- I equipped him as if he was a real adventurer, not a one-shot guy. Even so . . . he's a bit lacking in gear in some ways.

- He originally had Resistant to Metabolic Hazards (+3) for [10] but Marshall and I both convert to the DFRPG standard of +1 = 1 pt, and so I split it into +5 and +5. It could have been +3 and +3 for 6 points, but a 16 point racial template is annoying and it's lame to go find a quirk to make your own guy cheaper. I might do that in a campaign, but hey, for a one shot, pay the extra 5 and be +5 vs. both!

- He's not "evil," exactly, but he is a selfish, bad-tempered bully who looks down on anyone who isn't a demon-worshipper, thinks the worst of people, and has little regard for the feelings of others. He's a sociopath, or at least sociopathic. Played long enough, it's likely he'd commit all sorts of evil acts just out of the convenience factor in doing so. But he's intelligent and will make his decisions based on personal benefit rather than personal spite, most of the time - but hey, he's selfish and bad-tempered, so you never know what he might rationalize as "personal benefit" if those are triggered.

- One of my players is always after us to play evil guys. He didn't show up to game. The guys who insist on being the good guys - like me, and a couple of other players - and who frown on intra-party conflict - showed up, made evil guys, and all agreed killing Kito to net 1 HP back for me was totally fine. So there you go.

Monday, March 22, 2021

DF Suicide Squad, Session 1 - Cave of the Dark Elves

We played a one-shot of characters with Social Stigma (Savage) on Sunday, March 21st. It was GMed by Marshall LaPira, who plays in Felltower and runs his own DF game for a different group of players.

Gobert, goblin wizard (250 points)
Kito, hobgoblin martial artist (250 points)
Krag Ironbelly, half-ogre knight (250 points)
Magnus, wildman rage barbarian (250 point)
Otto the Terrible, orc unholy warrior (250 points)
Shank Shankley, goblin swashbuckler (250 points)
Yoruck, half-ogre wizard (250 points)

(From what I gather, we started out in jail in a town. They put us to magical sleep, forced posion down our throats, and released us to go find some missing elf women. I missed all of this as I was not able to join the game until a few hours in. I arrived as the group started to fight a group of wolves. I apparantly missed finding some campfires and knowing we're a day behind the elf-kidnappers.)

The group was in a clearing, surrounded by trees and getting jumped by wolves. Gobert used Mental Stun-20 to stun one, so Otto shot it with his crossbow, putting it down. That one was near a tree containing Shank Shankley, who Otto assumed was a thief and needed rescuing. Turned out Shank was a swashbuckler and just wasn't willing to risk combat with a conscious wolf (Cowardice fail, I gather.)

Wolves mobbed us. Magnus had apparantly shouted a few back with Shout of Force before they rushed into melee backed by a dire wolf (apparantly, like rats in a cellar, this is a "classic" that post-dates my intro to game. Heh. To me, classic is murdering orcs in their homes.)

Yoruck, the half-ogre, attacked the wolves in melee with his staff using Deathtouch. Gobert dodged around casting Mental Stun to keep them unable to attack. Kito was attacked and bitten badly, but Yoruck used Spasm to knock the wolf off. Krag meleed a couple of wolves, killing one - he rolled a 3, max damage critical, and then a hit, and rolled max damage - then and stunning another. Kito killed a wolf or two swinging his kusarigama kama-end-first.

Finally the dire wolf engaged the group.

Otto, meanwhile, reloaded his crossbow and and then kicked one stunned wolf in the head before it was eventually put down by Magnus. He then aimed at the dire wolf, who was fighting Krag. Krag wounded it badly and drove it back, stunned . . . and then Otto killed it with a crossbow shot. Eventually, the group killed all of the wolves. At this point, Shank, who had hid up in a tree most of the fight, jumped down and killed the unconscious wolf that Otto shot the first time.

The wolves dead, we bandaged up the injured and we headed further into the woods, along a trail. Magnus used a lightstone created by Yoruck, since he was the only one who couldn't see in the moonlight without external light.

Eventually the group found a T in the path, and Tracking showed the way to go was to the right. We, going up the hills and eventually finding a cave mouth.

Kito signalled something, as he had a vow of silence and had torn his own tongue out to make it stick . . . but only had Gesture-8. He then snuck off with Light Walk and Stealth. He checked the cave, then came back and signaled us. No one had any idea what he was signalling, so we followed him into the cave.

It opened deep into the hill, so we crept in, not too loudly but several of the group failed Stealth. We found a badly rotted corpse with a silver ring with decorations on it. Shakely apparantly found another, earlier, but no one knew that. Someone pocketed the non-magical ring and we moved on.

Even so, we found a room carved deep in the cave. Kito spotted a temple within, and three figures with his back to the group. So, he decided to sneak in with Light Walk, but blundered into a tripwire connected to bells. The enemy was alert!

They turned and moved to fight us - two dark elves with melee weapons and a female with a bow. Everyone ran in as they could, with the total lack of coordination of typical delver parties. Gobert blocked Otto for a second, Shank hid in the back, Krag ran in and off to the side, Yoruck moved in as well. As this happened, an arrow came down from the ceiling and hit Kito, who parried it.

Was it a spider hanging upside down on the ceiling, with a goblin sitting on its belly with a crossbow mount?

Was it a spider with three bows?

No, it was a drider hanging from the ceiling in a webbed "blind." I guess that's okay, too.

Magnus used Shout of Force and knocked him off the ceiling and the other dark elves back.

Eventually Otto got into the room and used his secret ability - Terror! He yelled, "Dark elves, orcs are upon you!" and revealed his true form - a twisting mass of shapes and colors that shouldn't be. All of the dark elves, and several PCs, had to make Fright Checks.

Naturally, they all made it, so that was that. Meanwhile, Kito was hit with an arrow and knocked out (he critically failed his Knockdown and Stunning roll.)

Otto shot the drider with his crossbow and wounded and stunned him, but the drider resisted the venom Otto had licked onto the bolt between fights. The female archer shot him in the leg for 8 injury. Impaling is x1 for the limbs, and Otto has 16 HP, so he wasn't too put out. He dropped his crossbow onto its sling (not a proper sling, a cheap ersatz one) and readed his shield as the archer shot him in the arm for 6 damage. Otto was at half move and Dodge.

Meanwhile Krag ran in and melee'd one of the elves. The elf critically hit him in the neck, but rolled poor damage and couldn't get past his 10 DR (scale over leather, plus half-ogre DR, plus Fortify +1 on the top piece.) Krag, though, was pissed. He started to All-Out Attack, Feint + Rapid Strike, eventually hacking the elf down. He then finished him off on the ground before rushing the archer.

She didn't last long against Krag, either.

Yoruck and Gobert fought the other draw warrior. Otto moved up with his sword, activated Dastardly Deeds and got +2 DX for 15 seconds. He helped beat on the stunned warrior.

Meanwhile, the drider had engaged the group in melee. Magnus fought him and wounded him. The drider, badly wounded by multiple hits, used his Darkness spell to try and cover for himself. Sadly for his ally, the other warrior was just outside the darkness. Otto could see out, and proceeded to attack from within the darkness on the stunned dark elf, who had to defend at -9 (-4 stunned, -4 can't see attacker, -1 deceptive attack).

Shank moved up, and eventually melee'd the warrior that Otto and Gobert were banging on. He wounded him badly. Otto yelled that the dark elf was his, and stabbed him twice in the vitals and killed him. He then touched him to restore 1 lost HP.

Meanwhile the drider finally went down under the attacks of Yoruck and Magnus.

We looted them, found a dead elf on the altar with a sacrificial knife in her (she was sacrificed to Lolth, Otto determined, as he's a fellow demon-worshipper and made his Theology roll). Otto took the knife and kept it.

We took what we could use from them, and decided what to do with Kito. He was knocked out, badly wounded, and no one was friends with anyone. Otto killed him and restored 1 HP for doing so with Blood Healing.

We took the heads of the drow. Someone took a drider leg to prove one was a drider. We found where they slept but nothing else of interest, and took a few silver coins out of their blankets. Otto filled one with heads and carried it. We headed out of the cave and then rested until dawn.

We then headed to the edge of town. There, we met a "wizard" who took the heads as proof of what we'd done, shrugged at a "spider leg," and mourned the loss of life of the dead elf we plunked down next to the heads. He cast Neutralize Poison on us, or so he said he did - no one used Identify Spell to be sure.

He then waved us off and the guards gave us the evil eye. We headed away from town.

And that was that.


- The group was an interesting mix. Some people clearly went the "evil" approach - such as Otto. Others went the "don't care about other people" approach - Krag and Magnus. No one actually cared about other people except as useful tools, if that.

- The old "poisoned and we'll give you the antidote" routine. Otto was skeptical. He said there were three ways to do this:

1) Lie about the poison. How will someone know if you gave it to them?

2) Give them the poison, but don't actually have an antidote. Or have a second agent which will finish the job, or just poison them when they come back in the guise of an antidote. If you dislike someone enough to poison them to get them to do a job, you don't care if they live and probably prefer they die. Why give them an antidote?

3) Actually do the "give them the poison, but have an antidote" thing.

In any case, Otto reasoned, the real enemy was in town. If it was #1, we didn't need to do the mission. If it was #2, we didn't need to do the mission. If it was #3, then going on the mission was going to the one place we knew the antidote wasn't. But no one else seemed inclined to try this out. Otto wasn't concerned . . . HT 14 and Resistant to Poison +5 means that unless it was a "no HT roll" poison he was probably okay. Force-vomit and tough it out.

- So Otto was only hit twice, both in the two locations he didn't bother to armor up - his arms and his legs. I still stand by my decision not to armor them. I could have had much worse armor everywhere, and potentially been killed by a skull or neck or vitals hit. Instead, he took two serious limb wounds but thanks to the x1 multiplier for impaling on limbs and Otto's HP 16, he never even suffered a major wound. So, yeah, in one way the armor choice didn't pay off, but if Otto had just leather everywhere maybe the archer would have shot for his torso and he'd have been down after those two hits (6 and 8 damage impaling.)

- We didn't have an easy way to heal up Kito, who was badly wounded, and none of us knew each other from anyone else . . . and had no mission requirement to bring back all of our members. So why bother? Plus, killing him restored a HP to Otto. Yes, life is that cheap. Plus he had saleable, usable gear . . . and no one cared.

- I was very disappointed with Terror. It's 27 points, and in return I can use it once against people who make a flat Fright Check. With two fights, I could have used it against the wolves (where it wasn't necessary at all) and the dark elves (where it wasn't effective.) Plus with DFRPG rules, the Fright Check is likely to just cause mental stunning for a short time (a few seconds, tops). I feel like 27 points is too much for what you get here. I'll have to play around with options and ideas in a later post. For an NPC, who cares, but for a PC, that was a lot of points to sink into something much less effective than, say, 30 points in Luck, 24 points in True Faith w/Turning, Shout of Force 2, Weapon Master (!), Magery 2 . . .

- I wasn't the only one with a character with build flaws. Kito had a vow of silence, but also had cut his own tongue out. He communicated with Gesture-8, so he couldn't communicate anything but simple concepts and we couldn't understand even those. It wasn't a good choice for a character . . . who also insisted on scouting! Not that I did anything exciting by taking a specialist in fighting Good when it was clearly billed as an evil vs. evil game. And Cowardice on a fighter-type is crippling - we had a Swashbuckler who wasn't able to really engage in combat very much because his disadvantage worked against this.

- Someone accidentally referred to Krag as "Craig." I said that in no time he'd go from Krag Ironbelly to Craig Ironbaum. So out-of-character we called him Craig Ironbaum from then on.

- At least Otto ended up better equipped - a couple of silver, a really nice knife, better armor than he'd purchased (mail everywhere), and some food. Hurrah. I'll have to find out what happened to that edged rapier - it's a better tool than his cheap broadsword. He headed out to the town that is an enemy of this town, because why not?

- We got 5 xp. MVP was Craig Ironbaum for that awesome two-max-damage turn, mauling the dire wolf, and killing two of the four dark elves.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

DF One-Shot pre-summary

We played a one-shot game tonight with a bunch of evil and semi-evil guys GM'ed by one of my regular players.

- We were put to magical sleep and dragged out of town.

- We were fed "poison" and told we'd get an "antidote." Otto isn't convinced. Or worried.*

- We tracked some elf kidnappers.

- We fought some wolves and a dire wolf.

(I joined the session in the above fight.)

- We found a cave.

- Killed some dark elves.

- Headed back to town with a bag of heads.

- Got cured of the poison they supposedly put in us.

- Found an ornate +1, fine, balanced long knife.

* So Otto has HT 14 and Resistant to Disease +5 and Resistant to Poison +5 . . . he wasn't terribly worried by a "poison."

Full summary tomorrow!

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Armoring up Otto the Terrible

We're playing a one-shot DFRPG game tomorrow. I'm running an orc unholy warrior named Otto the Terrible. I almost ran an assassin, because I'd always wanted to, but the unholy warrior came out better.

I only had $1500 for gear, because it was tough to spare a lot of cash for gear without giving up on some good advantages. I could have really equipped him well, but it would have meant giving up on an advantage I wanted.

Picking armor was tricky. I ended up going with a partial set, covering the areas I felt were the most important for a delver:

- skull (twice over)
- torso
- feet
- hands

. . . in that order.

I went for:

Heavy Scale helmet (open-faced) - DR 5
Light Cloth helmet (open-faced) - DR 1
Scale Body Armor - DR 4/3
Heavy Leather gloves - DR 2
Heavy Leather boots - DR 2

That gives Otto the Terrible DR 8 on the skull, DR 4/3 on the body, and DR 2 on the hands and feet. His arms and legs are unarmored.

I wanted a crossbow sling, but they're $200. I barely had the 1 point available for $500 for armor. I was thinking of a Dwarven Dueling Halberd, but I couldn't afford it. A regular one is nice and cheap, but not enough to afford better armor, and it's not a survivable plan. Oh well. I could have gone DR 2 everywhere . . . but nah, I'd rather have one good location armored than a lot poorly armored. It's really hard to armor up well with DFRPG costs.

Otto is Light Encumbrance without his sleeping blanket, Medium with.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Scale Escalation & Voltron's Sword

Mailanka has a great post on scale escalation, the "Voltron's Sword" issue that Steven Marsh pointed out years back, and GURPS.

Musings on Scale Escalation

Sometimes I think a good solution to the "Voltron's Sword" issue is a bonus for not using it, such as a bonus XP for not deploying it. You don't lose out if you do need it, but you gain if you can find a different solution than using your Win Button. Of course, you can end up with the problem that no one wants to solve a problem with it, because they feel the "bonus" XP is somehow expected or required. It can also create issues where the players start to feel foes that push them into the "nuke" solution are unfair, because the ref is not making it possible to solve the probem without it. In other words, the "entitlement" issue. It's like charging 1 xp, in a way, but you don't get the xp unless you don't do the thing that spends it.

You can also, or instead, impose an in-game cost of consequences. If you fire the Wave Motion Gun*, you win the battle but it costs the benefits of winning without it . . . maybe it destroys some of the loot, kills the hostages, causes a negative reaction from people who see you do it, etc. You can win, but it comes with a cost. And sometimes, you don't win . . . rarely, but it's a non-zero chance. If you are a Space Battleship Yamato fan, you'll recall that there was at least one time where firing the spinal mount didn't turn out to be such a good idea. So it doesn't have to be perfectly "I win" or "I don't win" but could be "Almost every time I do this, I win . . . but don't get cocky."

None of the options for such powers are perfect, but hey, in the fiction, it's something that gets used every damn time anyway, so maybe it's an appropriate thing. "You get one nuke per session, you might want to make sure it's the boss fight first" isn't a bad thing, necessarily.

* Great. Now the "Uchuu senkan yamato" theme song is stuck in my head. Maybe I shouldn't have watched them over and over to practice Japanese back in the day.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Snek Neck? (Part II)

So, do snakes have necks or not?


In all seriousness, though, what does Slayer Swing at Neck actually get you?

If you look at Basic Set, p. 553, everything by default has a "Neck" hit location, regardless of body form.

As Faoladh pointed out on yesterday's post, it's really a question of a throat. Much more than a physical "neck." Creatures with "No Neck" might lack an actual neck, like Strong Mad. But more importantly, that location has to be vulnerable to extra damage from cutting attacks or it doesn't make any sense to hit it.

It also matters that you know where it is. Yes, yes, below the head. But how far below the head is okay? Physiology is a good choice of skills if you want to be sure, and not just be guessing.

Now, even if a target effectively has no neck hit location, but has a neck-looking section, I'll let people attack it. You get a lot of neck blows to golems, incorporeal undead, skeletons, and so on that way. I have no problem with this, because you're accepting a -2 to hit in return for no bonus. Plus you can tell people aboit that time you decapitated a golem.

I tend to broadly assume that learning Slayer Training fits everything, especially in a combat-heavy game like GURPS Dungeon Fantasy. You sunk points into it, you should get your benefits from it. DF11 seems to assume that it works broadly, and the only issue is that smart foes will get a bonus to defend if you do it too often.

So does it work on snakes? Probably on most normal ones, yes. But on some, you're taking a -2 to hit a -0 target.

(We also get a lot of shooting the eyes of eyeless creatures, and shooting "where I think the vitals would be." Nine times out of ten, though, this is taking a penalty for no purpose, often explained by, "That's what my guy would do.")

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Snakes - No Neck, or All Neck?

One of the great questions in DF Felltower has been posed over and over by Aldwyn, who hates snakes. Aldwyn, who clearly would like St. Patrick, asks if snakes have:

Injury Tolerance (No Neck)


are they all neck?

Do snakefolk have a neck, or just a head-topped snake body coming out of their shoulders?

Do snake-bodied demons count as neck from the body down?

If something has snake-headed snakey arms, are they -2 to hit for being arms, or -5 to hit for being a neck?

If he aims a medusa's head, is it -5, but if he aims at the neck or skull - full of snakey necks or necky snakes - is it a -7 (skull) or -5 (neck)?

If so, how does his Slayer Training (Longsword Swing/Neck) figure in to this?

You think I'm kidding, but these are all actually serious questions from Aldwyn. It's worth noting that Aldwyn has an IQ of 10, but also the quirk, "Dumb." And he'd dearly love Whacking Day . . . if he knew what his "to hit" roll was.

Happy St. Patrick's Day. Enjoy the snakes . . . before they're all chased away.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Jim Ward on Converting D&D and Met Alpha (The Dragon #18)

So you want to bring your D&D guys to Metamorphosis Alpha, or vice-versa? Jim Ward had some suggestions in The Dragon #18.

Guidelines for Mixing Campaigns:
Androids, Wizards, Several
Mutants, and Liberal Doses of
Imagination, Well Blended

by James M. Ward

I have great respect for James Ward and his works. But man . . . reading this article made me away of a lot of lessons about what not to do when making rulings and conversions. I think looking back, it's easy to see where a different approach to rules application would be a better long-term solution to the problem at hand.

Let's start with something good.

Magic and its effects are immense on the starship. Those MA crea-
tures have no resistance to magic so they take full effect without a sav-
ing throw.

I like this approach, to a degree. It's a good basic idea - those unused to magic can't resist it well. And (you'll see later), D&D characters won't have much resistance to radiation. I think a blanket "no saving throw" leaves out things that should warrant a save - versus a fireball or lightning bolt spell, say, which aren't much different than any other attack form in a mutants-shooting-lasers-from-eyes kind of world.

But it's a good start.

Takeaway: You can make for a clear distinction with a flat ruling, but you can also make it a little more nuanced so the underlying logic adds verisimilitude even if it costs a little simplicity.

I don't feel the same about this next bit.

There are many ways to handle the different D&D character
classes. For every two levels over the tenth a fighter has, allow a plus
one to hit with any weapon. Magic users over the tenth level should
have a plus per level to figure out any type of technical item. Since
clerics get their spells renewed everyday (and I never liked them any-
way) they don’t need any special powers or plusses. Bards over the
tenth level act like Singing Vines. Monks on the other hand are at one-
half their normal level because of the extreme quickness of the MA species.
Thieves don’t have their special attack bonus when attacking
the backs of mutants (everyone is always trying to zap them from be-


Fighters? Fine, get bonuses at high levels.
Magic-users? Fine, get bonuses at high levels.
Bards? Fine, get bonuses at high levels.
Clerics? Get nothing, out of personal spite.
Monks? Get their level halved for . . . combat, presumably. MA species are so damn quick that Monks have trouble defending against them or attacking them. No one else does.
Thieves? Lose their best offensive ability, because appparantly unlike any species in D&D worlds, MA mutants are wary of back shots. All of them are.

The issue here? It lacks an even-handed approach. Not that all classes need to be treated equally, but rather that the underlying logic must be applied equally. Here, it is not. Clerics get nothing, just because. Thieves lose out on a major ability because of a shaky rationale. You simply cannot gain a bonus to backstab anything in Metamorphosis Alpha, even though creatures that live in a world with characters with the ability to attack from behind do not. In other worlds, thieves are only able to backstab because their targets are suckers. And unlike the logic of specific familiarity breeding resistance, here specific familiarity breeds weakness.

The same logic that cuts monks in half for combat purposes is not applied to other classes. Fighters are unaffected, even though the "extreme quickness of the MA species" should apply right back to them. Monks haven't, for some reason, learned to hit quick targets, but fighters have. So has everyone else - no one else suffers a combat penalty from the "extreme quickness" of the MA creatures.

A consistent ruling would leave Monks alone. Some creatures might ignore backstabs . . . but they should be few and far between and have an in-game logic beyond their familarity with being attacked from behind as if it's less novel on a radiation-warped spaceship than in a world full of magic and invisible foes.

And if some classes get a bonus at high levels, it seems reasonable that others should, too, if only to help preserve their niche protection in a game built on niche protection.

Takeaway for me? Be fair, overall, and enforce logical evenly.

If any of you are wondering what possible harm De-evolu-
tion could do to a non-mutant let me list a few things. In magic users it
could take away all the ability to use spells of any type. Fighters could
lose a level or two of experience for every attack. Clerics could lose one
level of spells forever starting from their lowest level. Normal humans
could be transformed into cro-magnon man or even apes (but a few
have argued that this skips several generations of evolution).

Ooh, that seems fair. Magic-users become unable to use spells, period. Presumably forever - how do you recover from de-evolution? It doesn't say. And even scrolls are "spells of [a] type" so you're basically just a weak fighter, now. Fighters lose a level or two, which sucks, but spectres and vampires do that, too. Clerics lose spells permanently - so even the gods cannot overcome De-evolution. DEVO would be proud.

A better approach would be to allow for a way to fix such things, without just leaving it to "Wish" spells. Also, it's probably better, as above, to make the effect logically flat. If "de-evolution" reduces you to a previous version of yourself, then everyone should lose levels. Or turn into apes. It shouldn't affect classes in such widely different (and differently harsh) ways.

Takeway: Again, applying logic and game effects consistently seems to be the best approach.

Overall, I liked the article - and Jim Ward is just as harsh back (poor Iron Golems get it badly here). Logically, though, different effects for the same situation and explanation on different classes that otherwise should be in similar states seems like a bad idea. It's not a best practice you'd expect to see carried forward.

Still fun reading fodder, though, and a situation I plan to game out with different rules.

Finally, I just need to get this in here:

That covers all the character abilities for both sides except for
Radiation Resistance. The D&D player has had no former generations
to give them immunity so they have a resistance of 3

Emphasis mine - see, people tell me there was "always" a clear distinction between "player" and "character." Here we see them used one sentence after another to mean "character." Just saying.

Monday, March 15, 2021

AD&D Weapon vs. Armor Type, again

Delta has a post up about weapon vs. Armor Type in OD&D - specifically, Chainmail (technically pre-OD&D) and Greyhawk.

It's interesting to think that the numbers in Greyhawk are essentially in error, and weren't ever checked.

The ones in AD&D certainly pass the eyeball test.

I discussed them in more detail here.

Want to defeat heavy armor, such as plate mail & shield, plate mail / banded mail & shield, or chain & shield?

Weapons such as maces are pretty good. Picks and bec de corbin (poleaxes, basically) and flails are better. Lances and Two-handed swords are best.*

Those weapons - except for the sword - aren't great choices against lightly armored folks.

Conversely, if you're fighting unarmored or lightly armored types - none, shield only, leather / padded, leather / padded & shield, then your options are wider. Axes are a good choice, broad-bladed polearms, swords in general, staves, jo sticks - are good choices.

Sticks in general are terrible choices against heavy armor. Mostly one-handed swords are, too, including oddly the longsword, which was developed in the era of no shields and heavier plate and taught in a fashion that seems to assume you'd need to drive the point into joints and seams. Not that anyone in AD&D ever took a longsword without a shield.

Ranged weapons are about what you'd expect if you read a lot of old sources on medieval battles - longbows and heavy crossbows are excellent against heavy armor but still suffer penalties, and everything else kind of sucks. Long bows are great against everything except plate, which reduces them to a 0 or a -1.

Without looking at Chainmail or Greyhawk (they're not handy at the moment), and looking at AD&D . . . I'd say that for whatever the flaws, the penalties do make sense based on the weapon and the armor.

Still interesting if the original D&D set and its antecedant rules didn't do such a good job.

* Which might not be terribly realistic, either, but two-handed swords did come about in an era of heavier armor, so it's reasonable to think, okay, it must be because they're better at defeating armor.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Stericksburg's environs

Let's look at the wilderness environs of Stericksburg.

Stericksburg sits up against the Silver River, which is polluted by a mix of spillover from its tanning, alchemical, and non-magical concoction industries. Possibly from other sources - it's a bit too nasty even for a combination of those.

The Silver River largely divides "civilization" from "wilderness" and "uncivilized."

Only the slums and Sterick's Landing sit north of the river but are considered part of the city. Sterick's Landing is the original site of later-Baron Sterick's arrival near Felltower. The slums are where the day laborers who work in a variety of industries in Stericksburg live, as well as assorted other people living on the fringes of society or forced out of the city due to Social Stigma (Savage) or worse or sheer poverty (Dead Broke, generally.)

To the immediate south of the city are farms and orchards, fanning out from the city to provide its base of support. They heavily cling to the roads along the river, and to the south bank of the river. Despite the pollution, the river is useable enough to be valuable to sit next to. Smaller villages exist with a half-day's ride of the city, and a full day's ride out are somewhat larger towns.

Immediately north of the river are some farms and cultivated lots - orchards and grain crops. Some farms south of the river own and work land north of the river, traveling by small boat to their fruit orchards, but this isn't common. Mostly the north bank is used for wood, gathering mushrooms, trapping, and hunting. Even then, due to the number of owlbears, maned rats, occasional griffin fly-bys, threat of orc raiders, and so on, it's a risky business.

Further north are rougher and rougher hills (forested to the west, just hills to the east), mountains, and eventually the Bay of Ice. Due to unfavorable air currents and possibly magic, it's cold year-round and it's not uncommon to see chunk ice late in Spring and early in the Fall. Many cold-acclimated barbarians come from those regions.

In gameable terms, then, adventure happens north of the Silver River. It's also where those "camping" outside of town largely are doing their camping. The "local" druid cirlce is some miles off to the west in the woods. It's a trip to get there. The Silver River divides the game in half - it's largely safe south of the river. It's largely dangerous north of the river.

Next wilderness update - a little more on the rulership of the surrounding areas. I'd say states, but "nation" and "state" don't really fit in this pre-Renaissance structure. Short version - it's still largely feudal rulership and a manorial economy but slowly transitioning away from such.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Random notes from making a character for DF/DFRPG

I'm making up a character for a one-shot DF/DFRPG game run by one of my players.

- I vastly prefer humans. Especially at 250 points, you may net/net get more from being non-human but you don't get to choose where those go. I had a great character idea but we're all non-humans, and I couldn't afford my planned guy because I had to spend some points on stat changes I don't need and advantages not as fun as my plan. Point-buy is equitable but sometimes you just can't do what yours thinking of doing.

- I love GCA, but I usually end up picking advantages from "pools" and then deleting them all and starting over from a total list off the template because "up to" or "at least" always make you choose "exactly." So a template-legal character might not be GCA-legal on a first pass through the system. It's still incredibly useful but it makes for an extra step.

- I still don't have a good .gdf file for DFRPG armor. Does anyone? I should sit down and make one, finally, as it's annoying to do that park of my equipment on paper. This is handy, though - my DR to cost/weight comparison. Starting characters, even those trading points for money, can't afford much armor. No starting with plate like a lucky starting fighter in AD&D!

- I also need to put my DFRPG loadout article stuff into an .gdf file, too.

I'll let you guys see my character once we've played. I'll be coming into the game late, in all probability, as the reason I can't GM that day is also the reason why I might be late . . . but I should get some playtime in and I'll blog about that next Sunday and Monday.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Random Links for 3/12/21

Random stuff for Friday!

- Library in Miniature

Holy Grud that's awesome!

- So you want to fight an army? Delta has thoughts.

Running Mass Fights in Classic D&D

The critical elements in that article to me are:

* PCs should be attacking leaders.

* Morale must be involved.

Otherwise, how do you fight 200, 300, or 400 foes? You could bring an army but you should be able to do it with a smaller warband. And Isle of the Ape with its better-than-1st-level army? If you want to beat your enemies by killing every single one of them, first the weakest and then work up to the boss like in some video game fight, you are being foolish to my mind. You should try to hit the enemy's center of gravity . . . and that might be the leaders. Even if it is not, that's a good place to start. It's just too bad the AD&D morale system isn't the very simple and elegant one used in Basic D&D.

- So you think you know about iron?

Collections: Iron Part I

I like the approach here - what you think you know is so inaccurate we're just going to toss it all aside and start from first principles. That's remarkably like how I train people. Beginner, self-described expert, actual expert - I start off from first principles and build up so we don't have gaps where I think you have knowledge appropriate to the task. Yes, I'm pedantic and annoying in my other career, too. I'm a little nicer than I am as a GM, though.

- I like downtime activities that let you roll to see what happens in a mechanistic fashion. "Mini-games" are really enjoyable to me. So I like this one on Spying:

Downtime Activity: Gathering Intelligence and Spying

D&D-based games really lend themselves to mathematical encounter analysis. Anthony at The Blue Bard does some encounter balance calculations in this post:

Design Principles

It reminds me of the calculations of Delta (see above) and by Len Lakofka in Dragon (and as a reprise in Gygax Magazine #1).

- Haha, two weapons. I know, the Lone Wolf books did that for a reason . . . but nomads carried multiple bows, multiple spears, and assorted other weapons. Two is a low number for just about any historical warrior who expects to move/travel and then fight.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Low-Point DFRPG Delvers

In case you missed this announcement:

Key takeaways:

- the approach sounds very customizable.

- DFRPG doesn't have low-point delvers. DF has DF15, but DFRPG has been out of luck until now.

- DFRPG is getting more support.

All good things.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Ultima V: Stalled Out

I think I'm pausing on Ultima V for a bit.

I've gotten a lot busier doing non-gaming things, and I've had relatively little time to spend on gaming in general and video games in specific. I'm just along far enough in Ultima V that I have things to do. I can't just blow 20-30 minutes wandering around and killing monsters to pass the time. It's not a time-killer of a game.

I've been keeping my Ultima V notes handy and open, but I'm getting a little distracted from them. I think I'll set them aside and come back to the game in a few weeks and make a concerted push at it. I really like it - it's a better version of Ultima IV in many ways - but it's really too involved for the time I have to spare to spend on it.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

The Osirians - Why pseudo-Ancient Egypt?

The PCs have been puzzling out the heiroglyphed doors of the Osirian culture in GURPS DF Felltower. It's a pseudo-Ancient Egyptian (hereafter pseudo-Egyptian or Egyptian) culture.

That brings up several "Why?" questions.

Why a pseudo-Ancient Egypt culture?

Basically, because I have some kinda-Egyptian minis. Mummies, things like that. I have Toob toys of Egyptian gods that might be mostly correct. Or look correct-ish. So clearly, I need to have a pseudo-Egyptian or actual Egyptian culture to use them. Oh sure, I could have other mummies from other cultures, but I like the fantasy Egypt ones I have. I may as well stick with them.

Still . . . I could make it a true Ancient Egyptian setting, right, and still use them and accept that aesthetic inaccuracies are just that - surface errors like minis with armor that doesn't really look quite right or swords that are too big.

And it does have a cost, of course - it gets a weird mix of player knowledge vs. character knowledge.

Why not "actual" mythic Ancient Egypt?

First off, mythic Ancient Egypt isn't really full of mummies guarding their loot with weapons and magic.

Second, I'm not an expert on Ancient Egypt, nor do I have time to become one. I'd certainly make errors.

Third, it would encourage the players to investigate by searching Wikipedia for information and to one-up the ref by knowing the subject better than the ref instead of trying to learn things in actual play.

Fourth, it would limit my imagination. I'd rather have a setting that owes more to Iron Maiden album covers than to history books. That owes more to mummy movies than actual mummies. That owes more to AD&D and Rolemaster than to history books.

So I'll take the tradeoff of players wondering if they "know" Osirians have pyramids so I can just make stuff up and use the minis I've got. It's really a tradeoff, and I get how for some people that can yank them out of the game of pretend. But for me, it actually helps me play pretend better. If the PCs ever get to a mythical East, it'll likely be more of a Kara-Tur mishmash than a thoughtful look at Japanese historical culture and myths. If the PCs head back to Olympus expect more of the same - some bits of the myths as I like them rather than a real look at Greece. Just like Sterickburg sits in a weird mishmash of Europe of multiple centuries (plate armor and mail and fencing weapons and throwing spears all at once) and cultures (pseudo-Vikings adventuring with Renaissance swashbucklers and armoured late-medieval knights and crusading holy warriors) and garbled myth (medusas and giant spiders and goblins and banshees), the rest of the world (and attached worlds) are meant to be a pastiche of what seems like fun, gameable elements of other cultures. The pseudo-Rome in this world doesn't fight the pseudo-Carthage - instead, it's peopled by apes!

So don't expect historical accuracy so much as fun. Or what I think is fun, anyway.

It'll get worse past the Jester Gate. Or better. Much, much better.

Monday, March 8, 2021

More notes on DF Session 149, Felltower 115 - Sages, Draugr, Gyms, and Scrolls

Here are a couple more notes on yesterday's game. Well, actual notes - I had basically none last night, as I had very little time to write a summary - even as brief as that one was.

- I highly encourage my players to take advantage of sages. They're a useful way to get background information you can use to inform your decision, or fill in enough background information blanks that you can figure something out. They're not the answer, they're the staff work that helps you decide on the answer.

Not to pick on any particular player of mine, because a lot of them do it, but this was a perfect example. Yesterday, when discussing next options, someone offhand suggested doing or getting "research on how to avoid the damage-causing floor down the second giant fantastic staircase," I shot it down. I don't want to waste time and money. A sage roll wasn't going to reveal the existance of heretofore unknown equipment that ignores contact-based damage from a floor.

Besides, the players already know the answer. They just don't like it - take the damage, figure out a way to dispel the magic of the floor, find a way to avoid touching the floor (Walk on Air, Levitate, Flight), etc.), or find some other way to avoid the damage.

It's worth asking yourself, what do we expect to learn from the sage? Given that the GM isn't going to give some answer . . . and even apparantly accurate divination and oracles will sometimes give you exactly the answer you already know. How to kill a beholder? Lots of damage will do it. I'm not sure what answer was expected, otherwise. I guess it's a good way to check if a monster isn't a "trick" monster that can only be killed by a specific method.

- We spent a good 30 minutes post-session discussing how to fight the draugr. Basically, it came down to, "We can't defeat them in a slog, so we need another way to defeat them." No progress was made on this. A good chunk of the group agrees that they can't just engage them in a straight fight, and another way has to be found, but can't decide on what that other way is. Brought up and discarded (or at least set aside for now) included:

- lots of archers to "harry" them from the back ranks (usual issues - need for skilled troops to shoot through the front-rank PCs, relatively low damage of bows vs. high DR of targets, and the unwillingness of the PCs to advance against the draugr.)

- lots of hirelings to "lob" alchemist's fire at them (issues here - cost, skill of hirelings, vastly reduced effectiveness of fire against armored targets with "splash" damage versus direct hits, difficulty of follow up if the draugr don't just stand there.)

- rushing in and killing them quickly before they get up (issues here - high DR and HP of the draugr, time consuming to open a sarcophagus and kill one.)

- draw out the draugr, kill a few, and drag off the dead (issues here - no idea how to do this) or get them to abandon their fallen due to area denial magic (issues here - no plan on how to do that.)

- cut off draugr with a Force Wall and kill a few of them; repeat 5-6 times (issues - spell would be from a powered scroll - which will be an extra expensive for a rare spell*, unclear if draugr count as "magical creatures" and can just walk though)

- cast Flaming Missiles on Galen, who apparantly will kill them all thanks to the fire bonus injury (issues - it's not that much damage, Shield Wall Training means it's unlikely even three arrows/second on one target will consistently result in a hit) and/or blind them so they can be dealt with by the melee fighters.

A lot of these have been discussed before.

The same issues apply as always - the draugr are tough, well-armored, skilled, tactically flexible and smart, and their undead vulnerability doesn't force them all to rest at the same time. The PCs don't want to risk a straight-up fight with them, and it's extremely hard to force foes you are not superior to, to fight on your terms. The draugr seem unwilling to throw away a tactical advantage to fight the PCs when the PCs have stacked up a tactical advantage in their favor. The PCs, who really want to fight the draugr, are unwilling to do so except on terms of advantage for them and won't willingly take situational penalties to do so. So it's a standoff, still.

I've said this before, here and to the group: I personally don't think the draugr are a puzzle. I think they're going to be hard battle. They might be too hard of a battle. They're purely physical but what they're most vulnerable (fire) also risks their treasure, and what the PCs are generally best at (physically overmatching foes) the draugr are also very good at. I could be wrong, but no one has found a way to prove me wrong yet by figuring out a vulnerability that reduces the draugr from a hard fight to a puzzle.

- We had less info-fishing than last time, but people did ask over and over and over again about the white triangle - dimensions, type of triangle, what symbols it covers, are those symbols in a special order, how wide are the lines . . . ultimately, meaning behind it or not, the triangle was just painted on with some white, non-water-soluable paint, and not particularly well. It wasn't mathematically precise. I really should have made an image right from the start, but as I said in the comments on my summary, from this side of the screen it didn't seem like that complex of a puzzle.

- On a lighter note, we found out the name of Mild Bruce's Gym - the Iron Church.

* Also, because if you can "special order" any scroll, of any type, at any time, the game devolves down to searching through GURPS Magic to find "the spell" that will solve a problem, and then calculating the cost to solve it. Oh, and sending 3-5 emails to me to ask if it's possible to do so. And by emails, I means questions at the beginning of the game session. I don't really want my game reduced to "flip through GURPS Magic." It was bad enough when it was ordering magic items. And the more "we'll order 2-3 scrolls of (X)" that happen, the more likely I am to eventually change it so I don't have to deal with the old "I flip through my list of 30-odd scrolls I'm carrying at all times to find a spell that might work."

Sunday, March 7, 2021

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy - Session 149, Felltower 115 - Staring at Doors

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

Date: March 7th, 2021
Weather: Cold and windy.

Aldwyn Hale, human knight (340 points)
     Varmus the Hanged, human apprentice wizard (170 points)
Crogar, human barbarian (336 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (490 points)
Gerrald Tarrant, human wizard (418 points)
     3 skeletons (~35 points)
Heyden, human knight (308 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (343 points)
Wyatt Sorrel, human swashbuckler (354 points)

The group started off in town and gathered rumors. One has Black Jans seeking to buy the orichalcum key off of them.

Basically, nothing happened. The group headed to the big orichalcum doors. They set down in front of them. They made rolls against the stale air. And they tried an endless variety of ways to get through the door.

- they pressed on pictographs
- searched nearby rooms for keyholes
- searched the ceiling for keyholes
- spoke lots of words on the keys
- threw the key at the door
- looked through the webbing at the triangle and the door to see patterns
- tried a lot of mathematical sequences and touched pictographs for those in order
- tried speaking potential passphrases
- scraped the white triangle off in case it was a magic lock on the door (despite Mage Sight not showing it was magical.)

This took hours, during which I rolled lots of wandering monster rolls and rolled above the number needed over and over again, so nothing bothered them.

After many hours, including more spent resting in a Sanctuary, they gave up. They briefly debated going after the orcs but saw no real benefit to doing so; same with going after the cloakers. They decided to try the second big staircase and scout it out, but gave that up as too late in the (real-world) day to try.

They returned to town and sat around talking about plans to defeat the draugr.


MVP was Heyden, for his player's useful illustration of the door. 0 xp for everyone else, 1 for him.

Still fun to play, but nothing happened.

Felltower today!

Felltower today.

Lots of dicussion of what to do, but it seems to have settled down to solving the orichalcum doors.

Let's see how they do!

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Overpriced Disadvantages in DF: Lecherousness

I've blogged before about Underpriced GURPS Disadvantages.

Here is one that I think needs a little worsening to bring up the point value.

Lecherousness: -15 points

I think I good start on this one is to use Charles Saeger's rule from here:

Getting Your Points Worth


You're easily distracted by any potential romantic partner. You are at a -2 to attack and -1 to defend against foes of the opposite sex that display any attractive physical features of the sex that you prefer. This is broad - topless harpies? -2. Iron golems shaped like a Greek Adonis? -2. A succubus? -2. And so on.

I think with that addition and the risk of social disease, you're likely to really live up to the -15 point value in a dungeon-based game.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Random Links for Friday 3/5/2021

Some random links for Friday:

- the history of the home caltrop! I mean the d4!

- Anyone up for a Road Safety Game?

- I'm stalled on Ultima V because of work busy-ness. I can't complain but now I can't remember what I was doing last. It was easier to solve games back when I'd play them all day, every day, until I did so. And think about them at school instead of learning.

- My players have a whole chat going about plans for Sunday. I checked in briefly, but it's probably better than I just get the executive summary later. Like looking at the player-made map, reading their plans costs me SAN points. All hail Call of Cthulhu for the reference that never fails.

- the comments section on my history podcast blog post is full of suggestions. I received additional ones by text from a trusted resource. No, just kidding, from Hasdrubel/Hamilcar/Ahenobarbus's player. I'll listen to those anyway.

Not much for this week - I was too busy to read much and compile a list of things to recommend!

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Weird Wizards, again

I seem to have written two different approaches to the same idea - enforced weirdness for wizards in GURPS.

Required Weirdness for Wizards (May 2018)

Weird Wizards (April 2020)

Looking at my current campaign, I do a lot more of the first approach than the second.

Looking at those posts, I really like the direct tie to Magery as it's a very simple approach:

The modified approach I think I'd like is this:

Magery 1: -1 point
Magery 2: -5 points
Magery 3: -10 points
Magery 4: -15 points
Magery 5: -25 points
Magery 6: -35 points

Every 10 points in Energy Reserve, Mana Enhancer, Improved Magic Resistance, Familiar (or other supernatural ally), or Wild Magic is another -1 points in disadvantages and quirks of a "weird" nature.

I think that's a balanced approach. Your Magery 6, Energy Reserve 10, Wild Magic 1 wizard would have -40 of his -55 points in disadvantages in "weird" things. The list from the posts above would be a useful one, plus any other player and GM-agreed disads.

I'm not sure if I'll enforce this in Felltower on PCs . . . but I may use this as a guideline when making NPC wizards. I'll let PC wizards, if they want, be "so normal it's weird." I bet most of them won't.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

More Origami Correspondence

Here are a few more thoughts on "locked" correspondence.

- The shape of the folded locking - and the chosen style of folding - can be a message itself. No Gift of Tongues spell will help here - you might be able to understand the words, but the meaning might be obscured because you don't recognize the meaning in the shape.* If the lock is thus-and-so instead of so-and-thus, you know to ignore certain words in the letter, or fill in missing ones, I understand that the "uncle" means the "king" rather than "uncle" meaning "the pretender to the throne" in some correspondence between co-conspirators.

- In a fantasy world, the shape itself may form a magical seal that prevents non-destructive opening of a letter, unless you know the counter-shape. Dispel Magic may work here, but destroy other magic in the letter and/or erase critical bits of the contents. Lockmaster might work, or Undo, but perhaps not - it's a "lock" only in a sense of the word.

- A letter may be folded in a way that opening it properly keeps, say, a magical or poisonous powder sealed off in a compartment, allowing access to the contents. Opening it improperly can result in spilling the poisonous or magical dust on the opener.

- Finally, such things need not be paper . . . vellum, magical paper woven of moonbeams and only openable on a full moon, demon-skin that cannot be cut, and other, weirder materials can be available. A good puzzle letter - and opening it - could be a mini-quest of its own.

* I recognize here that most players really want the spell Tell Me The Answer, or to roll against the Solve Puzzle (IQ/H) skill, but neither are available.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Origami Correspondence

This is a short bit of game inspiration: Locked letters.

I had no idea these existed until I saw this article:

Sealed Renaissance Letter Virtually Unfolded

Meanwhile, Matt Riggsby could probably toss off 2000 words on the subject for a GURPS article in, oh, a day.

The idea of a letter designed to be difficult to open shouldn't surprise me but it did. It's a useful thing for games - especially fantasy or low-tech games, where "We just X-ray it and then let it pass on, the contents read" isn't an option.

Game rules? I can think of a few. A straight-up contest of IQ vs. the one who locked the letter. The intended recipient may get a bonus from a clue in a seperate letter, or a pre-agreed sign, or of some sort. If a lock-er has a signature style, and you know for certain the lock-er and that style, this may be worth a bonus of +1 (for a complex or wide variety of puzzle styles or mild clue) up to a +5 (for a completely consistent style or a blatant clue.)

You can also make it a contest of other skills - Mathematics (Cryptology), for one, or Cryptography for another - with appropriate TL penalties either direction! Skill in Hobby Skill (Origami) should work against almost any lock if I'm understanding them correctly.

You could, of course, just cut it apart - but then you can't re-seal it. And some fantasy materials may resist cutting, or magical reading . . . or contain traps (magical and mundane) that make circumventing the puzzle a very bad idea.

Monday, March 1, 2021

History podcast recommendations?

So I've started to try to listen to more historical podcasts on my commute. For a variety of reasons, I have less easy access to a library and books, so this has cut down on my non-fiction reading a lot. I studied history in college, along with Political Science (especially defense policy), so I like to think I enjoy factually rigorous history.*

I'm looking for historically rigorous podcasts, especially concerning:

- Ancient history
- Medieval history
- Renaissance history
but I'm game for the World Wars and the Cold War, too.

I'm mostly interested in:

- Military history
- Political history
- Economic history
with a sideline in religious history as it touches upon the topics above. Legal history, same.

Cultural, modern domestic politics (of any country), purely philosophical, purely religious, true crime, and "fun fact" history . . . probably not.

I already know about these:

The Medievalists (pretty good, although the sound quality on some episodes . . . ugh.)

A History of Europe: Key Battles - just started on this one.

Ancient Warfare Podcast

Military History Inside Out

I'm absolutely not looking for video series. I won't sit and watch a long video very often, and if I need to download it as video and then convert it to .mp3 to listen on my commute . . . I just won't do it. I know of a few, but that's not really what I'm hunting for.

I'm willing to give just about any podcast that hits those topics one or two tries and see if it grabs me.

With that in mind . . . what do you folks recommend?

* FWIW I took courses on American colonial history, Russian history (a love of mine since I first saw a TV drama about Peter I), the Old West, German history (including the Holocaust), Roman history (with a focus on Augustan Rome), Japanese history, and more . . . and pretty much read books on WWII, the Hundred Years War, the Tsars, the Aztecs, the Mongols, the Crusades, European military history, the Zulus, Pirates, Victorian age wars, the age of exploration . . . yeah, it's been pretty broad actually. And my poli-sci classes were fairly varied but I took everything I could on defense policy and wrote my undergrad thesis on how civil wars end. So, broad interest in terms of areas. But it's primarily around the topic clusters I mentioned.
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