Friday, April 30, 2021

Friday Links & Thoughts - 4/30/21

- I love my day job, which I rarely talk about here. It's been very busy (a good thing in my field) and I meet some new and interesting people. That's killed a lot of time to write good, solid, long posts. But it did mean I got to meet an old-school Tai Chi instructor, which would have been even more useful 15 years ago when I was writing GURPS Martial Arts with Kromm.

- Book writing continues.

- So does playing Battletech a bit every day. I think I jumped onto a "Priority" campaign too early, as I've won those battles but gotten mauled a couple times doing them . . . and now I'm sitting around twiddling my thumbs trying to get my mechs repaired and pilots healed so I can fight. But still enjoyable.

- I had to throw in a pedantic GURPS note on Lich Van Winkle's latest post. Thinking on "point creep" further, I'd note that in GURPS 4e, a number of items were re-costed down, a number of abilities point-costed up to make up for a disproportionate value, and things otherwise rejiggered. But generally, the big change was the value of 1 point is mostly lower because it gets you a bit less ability (generally) and the cool stuff costs more (generally.)

But I'll probably stand and die on the hill of saying that GURPS isn't inconsistent with "roll high" and "roll low." It just seperates bell-curve tables where extremes beat the average (criticals, random hit location), roll to succeed low (to hit, skill rolls, stat checks, etc.), and rolls for effect and duration (higher is better, unless you're the one being affected I suppose). It's a clear and consistent breakdown, but people who bullet-point GURPS down to "3d6 roll low" set up these "inconsistencies" to point out. It's merely inconsistent with that statement, not with GURPS.

- I find adventure prep the least rewarding thing I do. There are times I want to play really old school games because the adventure prep is easier. But then I look at xp systems, race-as-class, 1/10th of a pound gold coins, weird encumbrance systems, and so on and realize I play GURPS for a reason, and then get on with writing up things for it. Heh.

- This seems obvious, but it's worth saying. I once got exciting to play someone's GURPS game, but then it turned out to be nothing like advertised. Same with some other games. I played Vampire: Dark Ages once because I was excited by the looser Vampire rules of the era, and a chance to play some weird evil fantasy. Then it quickly became a very standard Vampire game . . . and I got bored instantly because I didn't like that era. Ditto with a lot of games. Hey, word to the wise - don't bait and switch me, even if the "surprise!" is "totally awesome!" I signed up for the outside of the box, and I expect it to show what's inside.

- I like this post on David C. Sutherland.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Writing Update

Just a quick writing update, because that's basically what I did today:

- my co-authored project is moving along. I got down a chunk of words yesterday, and did some revising of my co-author's sections.

- my solo project is also moving along. It's about 40% done by wordcount, and 90% done by ideas. That ones is due a few weeks after the other.

- my game prep for the Cold Fens is mostly done, but I plan to spend some time on it Friday getting it ready. Naturally, my players will start to email me "just a quick question to confirm something" starting . . . tomorrow morning, so I won't actually get this all done. But I should be good to go.

Having written is great. Writing is less great.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Battletech: No Morale Means Kamikaze Mechs

I've been having more fun with Battletech, doing 1-2 missions in a night before I knock off and do some actual work.

One thing I don't like is the lack of a Morale system.

Well, there is one, but it's not the kind I mean. All enemy units - and friendly ones, too - fight to the death unless the scenario dictates otherwise.

It's actually something that makes the game a bit less fun.

Enemy mechs sometimes go down swinging, and damage or cripple one of your mechs as they die. So be it. But why do they go down swinging when they have a chance to retreat with their mechs and their lives?

Usually, though, they just die. I had a limbless and nearly armorless enemy light mech - with no weapons - run up to and melee a medium mech standing in a crowd of four medium mechs. It did a little damage, and then the pilot was killed when we shot the leg out from a mech and then another mech stomped it flat. What pilot would do that? It was also a pirate mech, so what pirate throws himself into a kamikaze attack on enemy forces to inflict slightly more monetary pain on victorious mechs?

It's maddening to have to hunt down and kill an enemy who is so clearly outclassed they can't hope to win unless I deliberately let them.

Especially when I get missions pitting my four-mech lance against, oh, two light enemy mechs, each physically seperate from the other. Why do they attack me? Because . . . I don't know. It's a combat game I guess but it's more fun when foes don't all fight until slain.

I'd actually like a system where enemy - and friendly - mechwarriors have morale.

One thing I like in X-Com: Apocalypse are the morale rules. Having friends and foes panic, go berserk, drop weapons and flee, temporarily refuse orders, etc. isn't great for chessboard manuevering but it feels more realistic. It adds verisimilitude, if nothing else.

It would cost loot, but who cares?

One thing I liked in Basic D&D was the easy built-in morale system and the expectation to use it. It would be a tough, but nice, addition to Battletech.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Battletech: The Cheat Commandos

So yes, I did name my mercenary company The Cheat Commandos. And choose a heavily yellow theme.

Otto is the name I use for all of my sci-fi heroes and most of my fantasy heroes in video games. He's clearly the 25th century descendent of the legendary Walter Gunhaver, commander of The Cheat Commandos.

I just need to see if I can edit in a proper image of Gunhaver.

Overall, I like the game. It's a bit of a learning curve on the mechs and scrap, but since I know Inner Sphere era Battletech pretty well it's mostly an interface issue. I still can't ID most mech gear by name yet, though. The gameplay is good, though, and it's pretty forgiving on the command interface. I can't quite gauge where to put my mechs to properly take advantage of their weapons, such as the long-ranged PPC and LRMs. And it's still amusing to me that the AC/2 outranges the AC/5, which outranges the AC/10, and finally there is a short-ranged AC/20. The bigger the gun, the shorter the range. It's like having 17th century cannons instead of high-tech weapons.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Changing a Vow (Part I)

What does it take to remove a Vow?

Generally in my DF Felltower campaign, I allow people to change their quirks and disadvantages around to suit how the character actually plays at the table.


I make a few exceptions. You can't just willy-nilly remove or swap out a Sense of Duty, any kind of externally-imposed or template-imposed disadvantage, or a physical disadvantage.

I prefer people make the change smooth - better your temper improve and then go away, or your greed get more controlled and eventually become a quirk. Or expand out - your tight-fisted nature may eventually become Miserliness.

Vows fit into a different category than the behavioral traits. You've sworn an oath. In Felltower, this is presumably before the Good God.* If not the Good God, before some other earthly or heavenly or diabolic entity. If it's another earthly entity for a non-evil person, it's likely that the Good God was involved or some other similar power (Nature, say.)

If you swear an oath to never used edged weapons, or never refuse a challenge to combat, or to own no more than can be carried . . . and then you decide, geez, I'm not really feeling it anymore, then what?

You can't really just say your paper man grew out of that. It's a proper oath - a contract between you and (in all likelihood) your god. Even if you don't like it, it's a contract that you must hold up.**

The question I'm stuck on is, how would you end a Vow?

What if you, the player, or the paper man itself, has some reason to think that Vow isn't a good representation of the character/a good oath to keep? What is the in-game method that makes sense without become an oathbreaker? And how is such a path meaningful in a megadungeon/delves-only adventuring approach?

I'm thinking about that. I haven't - yet - hit on something I find satisfactory. So I decided I'd put it up here and see what suggestions I get. I don't know if I'll read one that I like, but it's worth asking as the commenters here often have a very different angle on gaming than I do.

* Who, keep in mind, isn't an abstract concept you believe in, but a real being capable of granting miraculous abilities and smiting foes, albeit largely through other angencies.

** I've had it argued that Sense of Duty, Vow, etc. aren't suicide pacts, but in some cases they might amount to one. If you've sworn an oath not to use weapons and die in combat when a weapon could have saved you . . . or accept a challenge to fight against a foe you can't beat (knowingly or unknowingly) . . . or swear an oath to silence and must either call for help or fight alone . . . you can get killed. Your Vow in no way comes with an "unless I'd die" escape clause. It's what makes it a real disadvantage and not a Quirk. "Use no edged weapons unless I have to" or "Silence except if I really need to say something" or "Never refuse a challenge to combat that I think I can win" are probably Quirks at best. The first two might be - the third is just about every delver, ever, and restricts no one from anything. It's not even usual enough to be remarkable.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Cold Fens: Troll Culture

Trolls figure deeply in the history of the Cold Fens, and why they sit unexploited, edged only by small settlements with guards used to keeping oil and fire on hand.

What is known about trolls?

Besides what is in monster entries, not much.

They are a very odd thing, even in a magical world.

Trolls lack any positive feelings for non-trolls. There are trolls, there is food, and there are things that might be too difficult to kill and eat. They're utterly fearless, don't seem to reproduce in any normal fashion, and seem to lack seperate sexes. Periodically trolls show up in very large numbers. The recent "troll wars" were basically putting down an invasion of hundreds if not thousands of trolls into some areas around the Cold Fens. It's supposed they multiply by dismembering a troll and keeping the parts seperate so they'll grow into full trolls, but that's never been observed.

Trolls don't seem to have an organized religion, but it is believed by scholars that they worship a particularly loathsome troll god of some kind. Crude statues of a troll-like figure pockmarked with nail-made hokes have been found. Crude claw marks of varying sizes have been placed by trolls on menhirs and large boulders deep in their territory. Divinations have revealed the trolls refer to this being as the "Great Old One," "Great Destroyer," or "Troll Father." It's not clear if they respect or worship the "Troll Father" or just respect him. The idea of the trolls fearing such a being can be dismissed outright. Since trolls don't seem to age, it's not clear if this is some exception aging but immortal troll or a representation of a mythical "old" troll.

Trolls generally speak orcish, common, or other languages on the rare occasions that they speak. They have been seen to understand a very large number of languages, but just as often seem to understand nothing said to them. Especially evil wizards and evil clerics have been able to work with trolls - or magically suborn them - and seem to have no language issues in being understood. They are usually silent, and manage to coordinate with one another without seeming to directly communicate. Rumors of troll language that includes dozens of nuanced words for "bridge" and "goats" have never been substantiated.

Trolls have never been seen at play, or dancing, or creating art unrelated to the "Great Old One." It's possible they sing, if the hloo-hloo sounds they make can count.

That about sums up what is known about trolls.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Battletech: Let me save when I want to!

So, I bought Battletech.

So there goes what non-writing free time I was going to have. Heh.

The good?

It's a Battletech game, set in the Inner Sphere era, which I'm most familiar with. I understood how the Clans era had some foreshadowing, but I just didn't really buy it. And it wasn't as fun for me as the Inner Sphere era.

It's turn based, so I don't need a high Twitch stat or Compartmentalized Mind to manage all of the units in real time.

The bad?

Oh for the love of all that is good, just let me save at any time. Not just in combat, not just when you want to, not after 10 minutes of cutscenes. Just let me save. Some grownups play for 20 minutes before leaving for work and can't just stick it out while your NPC wants to talk to me. I'll turn it off and redo the mission. You've been warned!

But fun, yeah.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Friday Links & Notes - 4/23/21

- As a huge, huge fan of the Fiend Folio - my first-ever AD&D monster book - I really liked this look at the authors of the monsters and compiler of the book.

Who Wrote the Fiend Folio A-E

Who Wrote the Fiend Folio F-K

Who Wrote the Fiend Folio L-M

Who Wrote the Fiend Folio Final Chapter

Who Wrote the Fiend Folio Epilogue - Don Turnbull

- So the Battletech: Mercenary Collection is on deep sale for GOG newsletter subscribers. ~$14 with all of the DLCs and such. Hmm. SOOOOO tempting. I passed up the base game for $9.99, because I wanted some of the DLC and that would tack on more money. This is a good overall deal. I think my computer could handle it - it's a solid gaming system that exceeds all of the recommended specs, depending on where my laptop GeForce sits on the spectrum of NVIDIA hardware, of course. RAM, processor, etc. - I'm good. Hmm. But I'm playing X-Com and Ultima V, too. This is why I don't finish games that often.

- My writing continues apace. My solo project is actually coming along fast. My co-authored one, not as much, but my co-author is also doing stuff so that's helpful.
When I wrote Megadungeons, it was really slow going. What I eventually turned out needed a lot of help from other authors - especially Douglas Cole - to make it come in under the wordcount. This one is just pouring out of me. Not in order - I never write books in order, sometimes not even sentences, and not this post. But it's fun when it's all going.

- Medieval Price List!

Thursday, April 22, 2021

DF Felltower - Church as a Congregation

Clerics want extra benefits for being in the church. If they want it, they should have to pay for it.

I'm not really planning on it, but if I did allow the Church as a "patron," I'd actually use Matt Riggsby's excellent rules in Dungeon Fantasy 17: Guilds.

The Church would fall under the rules for Congregation (p. 10-11), with exceptions.

GURPS DF Felltower doesn't use the Bless spell, so "Blessings" aren't a thing that the Church could provide.

They are a bit more free with spellcasting, though, so those ARs would be at +2.

I might tweak the AR roll so it is below 3 for Rank 0, just to avoid everyone asking to make a roll for many different things each session. Or set a cap on requests.

Otherwise, the Church would likely function indentically to Matt's outline.

Any details I'm missing? I don't think so, based on my (admittedly not recent) reading of DF17.

I reiterate that I'm not planning on switching to the DF17 system, not as yet. Mostly becuase I suspect 3 of my players would read DF17 and spend a lot of time and effort on maximizing their benefits from the organization(s) involved, and the rest of the players would read none of it and use none of it except to be told what to roll. That doesn't sound like a good use of my between-game time (when I'd be reading emails about "Can I ask for [this]?" or "I want to make a roll for [that]") Or my early-session time doing the same.

But this is likely how I'd do it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Priestly discounts in Felltower

Ulf Sigurdson follows in a long line of clerics in my game who want special benefits for being priests of the Good God.

I've heard this from both directions:

- the church should give us stuff for free, or at a discount, because we're doing work for the Church. Free healing, free holy water, free information, etc.

- people should give the PCs stuff for free, at a discount, or otherwise help or volunteer to the best of their ability because they have a cleric in the group, and the cleric is doing the work of the Good God.

Often it's from the same PCs. So money and resources flow in two directions - one to the church, in the form of the PCs, and from the church, to the PCs. Oh, and anything the PCs recover will belong to them, and if it's valuable to the church, the church should pay a premium to get it. So the PCs want a "church servant" discount from the church, and a "church representative" discount from everyone else, and a "church servant" premium for loot, plus a reward for anything good done, plus free healing . . . and anything they find is theirs to keep.

Yes, one guy tithes to the church. It's a fraction of the hoped-for recompense for being a cleric, or from having a cleric in the party, or from doing good deeds in return for rewards.

I asked in game yesterday . . . is this all a thing from somewhere? My background in historical reading doesn't put anyone into this position.

Game-wise, Clerical Investment gives a +1 reaction from those who respect your faith (which Ulf gets), lets you buy holy water for 1/2 price, potentially favorable prices for selling things to the church (but only certain items, church-specific, and not for cash - see DFRPG Exploits, p. 15-16). Holy Warriors don't get this, as they aren't clerics.

That's it.

No discounts on anything else.

No special price back in cash.

No special help from people unless that +1 reaction roll dictates it (and often won't, if you're backed with 3 skeletons and a mob of over-armed folks including half-naked barbarians and shabby scouts and so on.)

Do you get that +1 from the church? Yes, and it's already included in how I do church interactions.

So that's all you get. It's still pretty substantial, but it's far from what PCs ask for. But it's what they get. "We're on a mission from God!" quotes are appreciated, but not necessarily rewarded. It won't always work, either, even with the +1. Like the Queen said, "Don't you blaspheme in here!"

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Planning a Roll20 Replacement

Roll20 has been very frustrating sometimes. Odd command issues, weird macro problems (mostly for the players who insist on using macros*), and so on.

Add on the stupidity of icons needs to have vision activated, the confusing mess of Dynamic Fog of War vs. Fog of War, layer issues . . . ugh.

Sunday was the last straw for me.

My players mentioned Swampsedge but then chose it last-minute. So I had to find my map, scan it, trim it, upload it, and then place Fog of War on it.

That took some time, but I did it.

But as we used it, we had issues.

It took a lot of fiddling before anyone could see anything except black.

I ended up having to delete the entire page and re-enter it and re-do it from scratch.

That worked.

Once I figured that out, I started to reveal map sections. So far, so good.




Except for the fact that as I revealed, only some of what I revealed actually displayed. Other things were concealed behind blackness. Not on my screen, but on the PC's screen. I could reveal all I wanted, but some sections stayed opaque. The players saw black, I saw nothing. When I turned Fog of War off, they could see everything.

I tried to fix things, and sort-of did, but then my "Reveal Area" commands revealed different areas, in different shapes, than I had highlighted.

I deleted that one and tried again.

Finally, I put up the map, put an icon on it, give it vision, gave it control to everyone . . . and then it worked. Sort-of. But we have other pages with no icon everyone can see. Why do I need a token to have Fog of War? I clearly don't, except I needed it to have it work sort-of correctly.

That's it. I've had it up to my limit with Roll20 and it cost me actual game time due to actually very stupid issues that should have been simple.

I'm sure someone can explain how this is all user error, but I have new and different frustrations with Roll20 on top of old ones. I've had enough, and it doesn't do what I need it to do well enough to justify putting up with all of the stupid things it does.

We'll stick it out until I'm done with my two books, and then I'll spend time learning a new VTT. This one isn't worth the effort.

* I don't, as I find the player-facing ones take at least as much time as rolling straight-up 3d6, and often need to be checked or double-checked.

Monday, April 19, 2021

GURPS DF Session 150, Cold Fens 9

Yesterday was a milestone - session 150 of my temporary, let's play until we get a real game going, something to do on weekends game of DF.

Date: April 18th, 2021
Weather: Partly sunny, cool.

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)

We started out resolving a pre-game situation. Pre-game, we resolved the visit by Wyatt and Galen to the drum circle of the druids.

Wyatt and Galen hiked out, and sought out and found the druids. They explained their purpose, showed the weird plant suit they found, and rolled a reaction roll - and I allowed Galen to use Luck. He got a range of "Good" to "Very Good" - a 17, in the end.

Warlock, the head druid, explained the plant suit with called a Vineshield, and he and the other druids explained its powers and uses. Warlock said, "Listen man, we could really use that Vineshield, man." They offered 6 Great Healing potions, 4 Hindering Clay, and 2 Soil of Entombment for the item. Wyatt and Galen decided the Vineshield was really nice, but not nearly as nice as the very generous offer of Warlock and took the trade. Wyatt offered to escort them to the Lost City if they wanted to investigate, which Warlock though was righteous but not needed, man, and sent them on their way.

Back in town, the PCs met up and plotted. They decided the thing to do was to head to Swampsedge, to investigate rumors of trolls and lizard men. The last time anyone had been to Swampsedge was five and a half years earlier, when Gerry was sole survivor of a disasterous delve.

They gathered rumors, bought food, and hiked for the better part of a week to Swampsedge (there are faster routes, but not cheaper ones.)

In Swampsedge, they paused to review the rumors previous delvers had heard and recorded over their delves. Gerry didn't remember any of them, because Gerry doesn't remember anything not related to undead and magic, and not all of that, either.

The garrison and innkeeper told them that 6 miles or so south was the edge of the fens, and there were some fisherman who lived there. They headed that way. The found Old Crazy William's ramshakle and abandoned hut, and searched it again, and found nothing. Next door, a few miles away, was a woman (they call her "Karen") who was standoffish but was willing to allow that her neighbor might sell the group a boat. Ulf spoke about being a priest, and Bruce laughed about yeah, a priest and his skeletons. Yeah, the walking dead don't give you a reaction bonus.

The next person they found was Wat, who was looking to sell his boat. He said he was looking to be done with fishing, and wanted 2,000 for his boat and the location of another boat. Ulf plead with him for a discount on behalf of the church (not that he was buying this for the church), but Watt wasn't swayed. They haggled, and Watt offered to sell them the other boat only for 1,000 and take them there. In the end, Wat threw in everything except what he was carrying and his catch of the day for the 2,000. They counted out coins and gave him the gold and silver. He told them how to get to the other boat. Ulf drew up a contract and had Wat sign his mark (a rough W) and Ulf signed his name. Wat told him he could register it in town.

Wyatt, Ulf, Bruce, and Galen headed out on their new boat after instructing the others to get the house (actually, a fishing shack at best) into shape.

They headed out into the Cold Fens, dealing with leaping leeches (Galen killed a couple, Wyatt dodged one), biting insects, difficult boating, and more biting insects.

Aside: the Cold Fens are a mix of terrain. A bit east of where the PCs are exploring is more solid ground, like so:

The area right were the PCs are - where the Silver River fills the swamp - it looks like this, but with more moss and vines.

Add in the fact that those "channels" are water ranging from 6" deep to 6' deep (with a silty bottom which may be 1-2" to 1-2' of silt and muck), occasionally choked with weeds, and occasionally are over fallen trees, submerged rocks, and other hazards . . . and the going to slow. A shallow boat helps, but overloading them with SM+1 PCs loaded for heavy combat doesn't help anything. That requires some delicacy in movement. The "ground" might be wet earth, or muck, or reeds, or tree roots. Moss covers lots of areas, obscuring the difference between tangled roots and hard ground.

The PCs also had to contend with lack of ideal equipment. They have axes, but they're war axes, not broad-bladed work axes. They have short blades, but not proper machetes. They have boots and armor, but encumbrance is a major issue when dealing with uneven ground.

Why come here? Because a few solid islands exist, and so do ruins - of the Swamp Goblins, according to Heyden (who failed his Hidden Lore (Lost Civilizations) roll), possibly from the Old Fenopia. One solid island is tunneled under - a wonder in a swamp - and holds the Tomb of Sakatha. Others may hold other ruins.

So they headed into the fens. They meticulously followed the directions, and naturally skipped a step, got lost, headed back, and had to spend the night on shore after wasting a good six hours or so trying to get to the hidden, "spare," boat.

They came back to Wat's hut - now Ulf's - shortly before dark. Not long after they'd headed out in the first place, though, Gerry had cast Zombie Summoning, calling the nearest zombie within 10 miles to him. And within 30 minutes or so after the first boat returned, a skiff poled up to the edge of the fens near them, crewed by a dilapidated skeleton in tattered mail and scale. It was Rahtnar the Vegan, turned into a zombie by Gerry on his way out of the Cold Fens.

In the morning, greedy for a third boat, they loaded up their boats and headed out, this time following Wat's instructions without skipping a step. The encountered some biting insects, swarms of flying thumbnail-sized slicer beetles (ouch), and more biting insects. They avoided a sawyer that almost fouled their boat and delayed them a piece. They found the "cove" that he spoke of. There was no boat there, though. They immediately suspected Wat had come back in the meantime to take the boat. There was some sign that a skiff had been rammed aground here for a while, and then torn free of the muck, mud, and vines in the past day. Eventually they realized they had the boat already - it must be Rahtnar's skiff. That would explain why Wat was being cagey out having a "spare" boat, saying he was sure it would be there, and why he didn't find a way to tow a (valuable) boat back.

On the way back, they spotted a pair of trolls in the water about a quarter-mile off to the east. Clearly, it was deep, as one only had it heads above water. Another, in shallower water, was hunched over and digging around for something underwater. They quickly turned the boat and poled hard to the nearest land, and clambered out to get ready to fight, waiting for the trolls to arrive.

They didn't. The trolls ignored them, and went about fishing around for whatever they were seeking - catfish, muck-dwelling crayfish, who knows?

The PCs made it back to their base.

Rahtnar's skiff showed signs of having been run aground for a while, and significant (but not crippling) rot, when they headed back to Ulfhalla and examined it. Wyatt wanted to fix it but they lack the tools - and the boat would need stripping to the frame and boards cut and replaced, and no one has the skills for that.

They headed to the East, hoping to encounter more trolls.

Over the next day they made it to a curve of "land" and landing on the inside of the curve. They holed up, choosing comfort and concealment, and used their weapon-axes as tools to make cover for the boats. During the night, while Ulf and Bruce (IIRC) watched, they spotted figures moving in the distance. Humanoid figures. They woke Galen.

Galen got up, and could see figures around 500 yards or so off, on a spit of "land" that connected to the north with the same one they were on, but west of them. They had loinclothes or kilts, and clubs, and some wore skulls on their belts. Ulf declared them evil, because they had skulls. Bruce declared them cannibals, and just shrugged and was ready to move on.

Naturally, this meant that when they began to melt back into the tangle of trees, Galen shot the closest one in the back, aiming for the heart. It wasn't an easy shot - over 500 yards, -7 for darkness (-1 for Galen thanks to Night Vision 6), -3 for vitals, for a net -18 or so. Galen hit easily. Galen's shot was at 1/2 damage range - just over 500 yards - yet it still hit hard enough (16 HP of damage, halved to 8 HP) to force a death check and kill his target outright. The victim fell without a sound besides him hitting the ground.

Its fellows crouched behind cover. Galen shot two arrows at the next one. Without several seconds of aim, he had to just aim for the torso, but both hit, and that one fell, too - dead or alive, it wasn't clear, but it did scream in pain and surprise. ("They can talk, so we can negotiate with them.") The others went prone, and crept away out of sight. The PCs stayed up, waiting, knowing they could circle around.

They heard them north of their position. The sounds never got clearer. The humanoids figured out they had been attacked from the east, but obviously weren't able to figure out where the arrows came from, exactly.

Come morning, the PCs headed out on their boats, short on sleep but unmolested. They poled over to the corpse, which was still on its exposed spot, slumped over a tree root, with one leg trailing in the water.

Something had been at that foot, and gnawed more than half of it off. Other things had been at its legs.

It was a greyish-greenish skinned human-like figure with grey-and-white hair, sharp, pointy teeth, and a loincloth and a split thighbone club with a wedge of sharp rocked lashed into the notch with leather straps. Naturally, they summoned its spirit to question it.

His name was One-Who-Scouts-Ahead. He was part of a group of 3 and 1/2 fists. They were seeking food. The PCs asked about valuables (yes, they had the skulls of their wise ancestors and their fiercest enemies), enemies (all they can find to kill and eat), do they eat humans (of course), do they know where trolls lair (yes), how do we get there (gives directions), did they know where the dragon lives (south, on the hard ground), how many trolls in the lair (didn't know), where is there gold and silver (the trolls have metal that doesn't rust in their lair.) The directions weren't very easy to understand, but Gerry rejected asking for a clarification because the spell forces the truth, and it would already have directions as it knew how to give them.

Armed with that information, they poled around in the Fens for another two days, trying to find the troll lair, and arguing over the directions given to them. They encountered little. The weather was better, so they had fewer insects (a breeze kept them off.) They tried to steer near to land against Bruce's suggestion, until they saw a giant frog and realized he had a point, and stayed mid-"channel."

They did have one scary encounter - a dragon flew overhead. "What color?" Ulf had been asking everyone, and gotten one answer - dark. Well, this one, flying above, was dark. It flew southwest to southeast, and they were luckily (very luckily) in the shadow of some "land" when it went by. They waited a bit and moved on.

It took another full day, powered mostly by magically created food, to get near what they hoped was a shortcut back to Ulfhalla. It was not. They ended up in a dead end. They stayed overnight, using Vigil to keep Galen and Gerry up for a second night in a row, and then in the morning hacked and climbed and pushed a path though the trees to the waterway on the other side, carrying their 14' boat and 16' skiff. It took a lot of time - and a Luck use by Galen on his net 8 against Survival (as no one, including him, has the specialization needed), but they managed to do so. They poled their way "home" from there, and decided to rest up, recover, and gather themselves up in a couple of weeks for another crack at the swamp.


- Session 150 wasn't as exciting as it could be, but it was good. They're down 2000 sp but up some property and knowledge. Next goals - not sure. They'll look for the troll lair, and maybe move south far enough to find that dragon. Ulf is convinced it is a black dragon, and thus acid-using, so he wants Resist Acid before they attack.

- I need a whole post on Clerical Investment and the expectations player's have of what influence that gives them. Also, of the downsides of bringing undead around with them everywhere. Gerry is clueless - it's a very fun character - but is everyone else clueless that outside of a dungeon, the skeletons aren't improving their appearance? Not that the others are anything less than an armored and extremely over-armed motley crew.

- The Cold Fens are based on the Pripyet Marshes. The pictures above are of that area.

- I was expecting to use zombie Rahtnar, but not exactly as I did. I figured eventually they'd find him, but not that Gerry would summon him right off the bat. The range was perfect, too. So, a dead PC is back. Gerry wants to keep him - so I'll figure out his cost as an Ally and maybe Gerry will spend some of his 25+ points to allow for that. I'm not sure if he wants to keep his group of lesser skeletons, too, but Zombie Rahtnar should have DX 17 and Axe/Mace-20, so maybe not. Speaking of points, Heyden has 47 saved, so he's a good delve short of a lens. Which lens? Who knows?

- The weather was very kind to the PCs. All "Passable" or better. The Boating rolls generally were not, but those just meant slower travel.

- I'm always amused by Summon Spirit. It does allow for PCs to get some very specific information, but mostly people meander around trying to elicit specific answers to specific questions and don't accomplish that much. If there is a downside, it's that it takes a long time to do the spell (1 question per minute), so with the right mix of casters, they can effectively keep it going as long as they need to, and get 10, 20, 30+ questions. You end up with a lot of marginal questions that way. Intelligence gathering takes some thought and flexibility, I think, and it gets tougher with 9 people asking questions than with 1-2.

- The wandering encounter rolls were kind after a while. Initially, they had to slog through issue after issue before the rolls just got friendly.

- XP was 0 for loot, 2 xp for exploration as they did a lot. MVP was Gerry for summoning Rahtnar. "Rahtnar," by the way, is "Ranthar" spelled backwards. Wyatt's player's first GURPS character was a dwarf named Ranthar.

- Roll20 was such a nightmare this game that it requires its own post so I don't poison this one.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

150th game session today, summary tomorrow!

Today we played the 150th session of my DF game.

No dead PCs . . . well, one dead one, but not killed this session.

Only a few combat rolls.

And no loot.

But a lot of fun . . . if you discount Roll20 going from "annoying" to "made the GM legitimately angry and disrupted game."

And the PCs ended up with a lot of things to do.

Exepct the summary a bit late, I think. I may be out most of the day and need to write the summary at night. But it'll come.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Felltower tomorrow

Tomorrow is another game of Felltower.

At the moment, it seems like a small-ish crew, as we've only heard about five players.

I had to shoot down one really good idea - the Jester Gate. It's going to be session 150 of our game, and that would be a fun destination to head to. Sadly, though, you can't decide to go to a gate less than 24 hours before going. It's one of my rules. I can keep almost everything prepped and ready, but I don't have unlimited time to spend on my game prep. So I can't make sure that all destinations you can ever reach - especially gates - are ready, with minis prepped and out to show off, icons made (which I may or may never need, depending on people going or not), maps drawn in Roll20, writing on the gate destination reviewed, etc. It's just a bit too much these days. When I started the game, sure, I had more free time. These days, not at all.

Other than that, it's not really settled. There is some chatter about Swampsedge, but based on my skimming of the emails I think it's An Underwear Gnomic Plan:

1) Go to Swampsedge.
2) Somehow, a demon with ichor they can use as unholy water or carrying unholy water just shows up and they can kill it and go for Sakatha's sanctum.
3) Profit!

(PS - Always hit "publish" - this has been sitting unpublished since yesterday, when today was in fact tomorrow. Oh well.)

Friday, April 16, 2021

Friday Roundup 4/16/21

A few quick pointers to things to read this week.

- I've been listening to Bret Devereaux get interviewed about the Battle of Helm's Deep and the Siege of Gondor, analyzed as historical military operations. It's really good stuff, especially if you love Tolkein (I don't) or military history (I do). Even if you like neither, it's very accessible if you have a superficial knowledge of the key players in the setting and just want to understand logistics and planning better. Why doesn't Saruman just bypass Helm's Deep? Why does the Witch-King attack Gondor the way he does? And so on.

He also has a fun bit about Julius Caesar and his operating at the end of his logistical tether, and pulling it off over and over. At some point, he says, it's not luck. That's why I argued for giving JC Strategy-17 in GURPS Who's Who 1. There was an argument that he didn't deserve it, because his foes weren't that good. But my argument was that he basically made his opponents look bad, and the ones who were clearly good against other people looked bad against him. That's high skill - consistantly outclassing people.

- Is it possible that there are still seats at this game table? Perhaps. If so, take one.

Crawlers of Scorn

- I usually enjoy reading about kids getting into gaming. Actually getting kids into gaming, not so much. But other people doing so? Sure.

- Writing-wise, I got both of my contracts signed and work happening on both manuscripts. They're due a few weeks apart, which is just dumb on my part, but hey, make hay while the sun is shining.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Vow: Never refuse a one-on-one challenge to combat

I've been having a discussion by email with one of my players about disadvantages. I thought elements of that were worth sharing and preserving on the blog.

In DF Felltower, some disadvantages warrant special treatment because they're especially disadvantageous, or because they call up circumstances that just don't occur often.

Here is how I priced one:

Vow: Never refuse a one-on-one challenge to combat

Much like the -10 point version, you've sworn to never turn down a challenge to combat - but only a one-on-one fight. In DF Felltower, this is a Quirk.

It's exceedingly rare for a PC to be challenged to a specifically one-on-one combat. It's happened twice that I can recall.

The circumstances are very unusual. You'd need a foe that wants to fight a specific PC. The that foe would need to make some kind of effectively communicated challenge that the PC could understand. Then, the NPC would need to face the PC one-on-one. It's not clear who determines what "counts." Presumably the Vower. The vower can't say no, so it's tough if the NPC is, say, the Lord of Spite. It's hard to rule on if the foe is a dragon who roars out a challenge at the PCs in general or the PC in specific - was that a challenge to a duel, exactly, or just a general roar?

Also this disadvantage also says nothing about help. The PC can be buffed and enchanced by friends. Can the NPC? Does it still "count" as one-on-one if the enemy has magic put on him? What if he puts it on himself, still fair? What if the PC accepts the challenge, but then the PC's friends jump in? If the PC refuses help, that's nice, but it's not really that restrictive unless he's required to give up existing advantage as well as turn down potential help.

So the circumstances come up rarely. The vow is minimally restrictive even when they do come up. The vow doesn't really hinder the PC in any way except when it turns out a really nasty foe makes a very clear challenge to fight.

Hence, this is a quirk. It'll come up - even quirks can have very steep game effects - but rarely. When it does, it won't really restrict the PC's actions overly.

In a different game - perhaps a Musketeers game inspired by Alexander Dumas - this could be -5. In a megadungeon with group-on-group fights with magic around, it's a quirk.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

10,000 marbles & PC shopping lists

We're playing Felltower this weekend, and naturally this means planning what to do.

Cue up a long list of places to go, most of which have an attached caveat about equipment needed to pull it off.

Pretty much, every player plan seems to depend on everything going right, and on some very specific equipment requests.

These requests are often qouted in a Princess Bride reference, but this is actually what goes through my head as people plan equipment:

It's never "a holocaust cloak and a cart." It's "8 charged scrolls of (obscure spell), two spellstones of (specific spell) per person, special order equipment, and one (rare item not actually for sale.)" It's always some multitude of things that would have taken a lot of planning. It's a plethora of pinatas. It's 10,000 marbles.

Generally I've dealt with this by saying you can't shop for availability, you can just shop. You try to round up what you need from a limited supply spread across multiple merchants. You can't say, "Let's see if they have 10,000 marbles. If so, we can decide if we want to do this. If not, we don't buy the marbles . . . this time. Next time, we'll know they have 10,000 marbles." What a nightmare.

It's as bad as that time my friend figured out that with some time manipulation and scrying magic in Mage: The Ascension we could reasonably fight out a fight precognitively and then decide if we won we'd actually go through with it. Funny, maybe a great movie or book idea, but in game terms it's useless grinding of time that could be fun and making of misery for the GM. The GM spends a lot of time coming up with answers that may or may not be relevant.

So basically, if you want to know they have 10,000 marbles, take your money out and shop. If they do and you don't get them, they're no more or less likely to have them next time. Do it too often, and it goes to "less likely." It's a GM and player time saver more than anything else.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Silliness in Gaming and in T&T

I've been very busy with work, and writing two writing projects simultaneously. So short posts might be the rule for a while.

Over on Grognardia, James Mal has a post about a letter to the editor by Ken St. Andre over Lewis Pulsipher's discussion of Tunnels & Trolls.

"Pulsipher's Sanctimonious Pile of Crap"

The humor in T&T does come on strong. Ken St. Andre might rail against that a bit here, but it's a weird stance to my mind. It's not like the jokes in T&T are accidential.

It's not the only game that has humor and silliness, either.

AD&D sure did, with modules like EX1 and EX2 taking the PCs to lands based on Lewis Carroll's books.

Rolemaster snuck in silly monsters to its monster books - Skeleton, Red, for example, a sub-type (kind of) of the jester skeleton.

GURPS DF takes a humorous tone with its material. My own games feature humor - the Apetrium, the Crogar Conference Room, Phase Snake Junction, actual silly gate destinations, jokes about Raggi's day job as a lawyer, accountant, and more. DF doesn't take the source material and game style too seriously, either - perks like "Van Gogh my Van Dyke" aren't exactly totally serious.

It can be played straight, though. I think the point about T&T's spell names, continent names, etc. really is revealing. If your charm spell is "Yassa Massa" and your feebleminding spell is "Dum Dum" and "Whammy" is a spell to enhance strikes . . . you're going to be hard-pressed to play it totally straight. It's a harder pull toward comedy. It's not always timelessly funny comedy, either. Probably would have been funnier when I was 9 than 19, and 19 than 29, and so on.

I haven't played a lot of T&T - only some limited solo play. But the names really make it tough because I have to remember the joke, not the thing the spell does.

Like a lot of spice, humor is good in the right amount, and can kill the flavor of the rest of the game when it's overdone.

Monday, April 12, 2021

More Minis Than I Need: Plague Doctors

I have no call to get these guys . . . but I really want to:

They are Plague Doctors from Warmonger Miniatures - an associated line to Wargames Foundry, who make amazing minis and the best damn Pirates ever.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Felltower Progress . . . kind of

It's been a while since we've been able to play Felltower.

Our last game was 3/7.

Next game is probably 4/18.

So what's up with that?

Basically, scheduling. I've had a few Sundays I couldn't GM, and while we did have a guest GM on one, we didn't set up another for the next available game day. So we shifted things down a week.

Time has passed in the dungeon, of course.

But it's been tough to prep.

Since the PCs have done very little in the actual Felltower dungeon, there hasn't been a lot of bookkeeping to do.

There isn't a lot to write rumors off of. Exploration drives rumors. I've managed to keep up solid numbers of rumors for a while, but I really can't right now. There just hasn't been enough activity by the PCs to drive any NPC chatter about the discoveries.

So that's really where Felltower is. We have a tentative game date, but no particular plans and no particular rumors to drive the PCs forward.

It'll be our 150th session of DF. We will have to see if it is momentous enough to match that number.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

A 60/60 split

This is a repost from my old LJ, from 2012. I spent a bit of time looking for it here, and realized it was there. Well, now it's here, too.

I picked up a collection of Fritz Leiber's work from the library. It included the short story "Ill Met in Lankhmar."

Then [Fafhrd] looked up at the Mouser with a broad, ingenuous smile.
"Fifty-fifty?" he suggested.
from "The Leiber Chronicles: Fifty Years of Fritz Leiber"



From the original:

Then [Fafhrd] looked up at the Mouser with a broad, ingenuous smile.
"Sixty-sixty?" he suggested.
Lankhmar Book 1: Swords And Deviltry

Yes, the original was sixty-sixty. Mouser agrees, and later repeats himself. Yes, the math is wrong. That's part of the humor in it.

Nice editing job guys. You marred the original work.


Friday, April 9, 2021

Random Links for 4/9/21

- I was only peripherally aware of this product, yet Jon Peterson has tracked down a date when it was available. Pretty neat.

A Date for Monsters! Monsters! Monsters! Galore

- I like these minis for Star Schlock a lot:

Astrogaurds - My First Sci-Fi Miniatures

- Grognardia on the Eyes of Tekumel. And the kind of dumb humor we enjoy in my game, too.


- I wouldn't call this easy, but you could learn some orbital mechanics before you play or run a sci-fi game.
- Not gaming, but there is another MST3K Kickstarter going.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Revised GURPS Magic for DF: Sunlight

After consideration and thought on the comments on the post I made last week, I've decided on how to modify the Sunlight spell. For more modifications to spells for my DF game, see the Revised GURPS Magic for DF page.


As DFRPG Spells, p. 48, but with the following additional sentence at the end of the first paragraph.

"This spell must be cast on the terminus of the light - it cannot be cast in midair, over a gaping chasm, etc. to reach the bottom."

I think that takes care of the main issues we've run across with range penalties and how to cast the spell.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Writing Update

Quick writing update:

- I have outlines for both projects done.

- My co-author and I are starting to split up work on the co-authored project. I rattled off a few ideas I had in my head to help get the writing flowing.*

- My solo project isn't actually contracted yet, but I assume it will be, so I've started pulling my notes together on it.

My approach generally is to turn the outlines into an editable document and just pour in seperately-written sections, or write directly into the ms (manuscript) as I go. So I really have an ms ready to go from the time I turn in the outline.

I wish I could report more, but really, that's all I have so far. Thins should be more clear in a couple of months.

* Something Michael Suileabhain-Wilson taught me - a bad sentence is more than halfway to a good sentence. So I write down *anything* I think might be useful, no matter how poorly, and go from there.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Board games to play

As we creep slowly towards playing in person, I've been eyeing some board games I'd like to get to play again . . . or the first time.

Vampyre (TSR). We played this back in 2015, and I enjoyed it . . . although it did need some fixing when it comes to movement.

Trogdor!! The Board Game. I got this from the Kickstarter but I haven't been able to get a game in, and I'm not thrilled playing solo with no prospect of a playing partner.

Boot Hill. Okay, it's an RPG. But let's face it, it's a board game at heart. It plays like one, anyway, and you can't get too attached to characters because they'll die in droves if you engage in any non-backshot assassination gunplay. I'd have to put the pieces together but I have the rulebooks . . . and some Boot Hill minis, even. We could probably play on Roll20 if people knew the rules at all. Besides me, I mean.

I have some games I like but I may never play again - Deluxe Illuminati, Junta, sadly probably Car Wars (Deluxe Edition and earlier) . . . Panzer Blitz probably fits here, too, although with a little open space I could get in a short game. I just lack a good open space and stable gaming table so I can set it up and play as a please.

Of course I want to play Third World War again, even after the last time. I just no longer have room to play.

I have to get back to playing Shogi, actually. I've played some Doubutsu Shogi just to help familiarize someone with the app, but the full game is fun. Tough, but fun. I need to brush up on my stylized kanji reading, anyway.

Anyone have board games they are hankering to get back to?

Monday, April 5, 2021

Standardized equipment for PCs

Does your game feature standardized equipment for the PCs and NPCs?

The safe bet is that it probably does not.

You see this in gaming all of the time, where every person is unique. To some degree, each is run and equipped as if they were a solo hero ready to take the world on alone. Fair enough - each person has their own vision of an enjoyable paper man.

The downside, though, is when you really need someone in a particular spot to deploy a particular thing, and the group has this thing, but said person does not.

Standard loudouts help. I wrote a bunch of kits for the DFRPG for just this reason.

"Oh, I have one of those."

Standardization is really helpful.

Drawing on my recent play of X-Com: Apocalypse, I give everyone a standard loadout:

- one stun gas grenade
- one smoke grenade (rarely used, but when you need it . . . )
- one anti-personel grenade
- one promixity mine
- a medi-kit

Later in the game this may include other alien gear.

I scatter around one-per-group stuff like motion sensors (I rarely need them, but they're critical when I do) or specialty weapons (missile launchers or demo charges).

This way, no matter who is in position, they can toss a proximity mine, or stun gas, or smoke. It's never, "I don't have one of those."

It's worth identifying in a tabletop game what might be useful for everyone to have. Items that are situationally important, and for which you can't necessarily wait for a person with it to deploy it for you.

It's tougher in a game like GURPS, especially my games, where encumbrance is enforced ruthlessly, so people only carry within certain bands of weights. You want to ensure your maximum Move and Dodge, and adding a vial of holy water or a smoke nageteppo or an alchemist's fire might just be enough to push you past a threshold. And hey, you say, I won't use it anyway.

But there is an upside to doing so, and knowing that every party member is equally capable of setting fire to a fallen troll, or covering a hex or two with smoke, or spilling some holy warrior on a vampire's corpse, or whatever. In a more military-type game (like Gamma Terra), it might even suit the game image better. Worth a thought when you're prepping for your next delve or mission.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Thoughts on spells - Sunlight and small-d darkness effects

Over the years I've revised some GURPS Magic spells for my DF Felltower game.

The Sunlight spell is an especially weird spell, in my experience.

Part of this is because of how games treat darkness - darkness is more of a tangible thing, like smoke, just without the actual smoke. It looks black, you can't see through it, it can have a shape and limits. It's like squid ink in air, really, just not substantive. Light, though, we know diffuses out over and area, and it is brighter near the source and less out from it, and can be seen from far away.

Darkness, thus, works not at all like in reality, where it is an absence of light, but we expect light to work just like in reality. It creates a lot of confusing and conflicting expectations.

Add in, then, the sunlight spell. As written, it creates "real" sunlight, for purposes of anything that is affected by sunlight.

It also creates a spell that extends upwards as far as possible - the sky, to clouds above, to a ceiling if cast inside or underground. But does it extend down, if cast higher up? The spell doesn't say yes or no.

If yes, you get delvers casting the spell on a hole in the ground at -0 for range and getting a shaft of sunlight that extends up and down as far as it can. Got a nearly bottomless pit? Why drop down an object with Continual Light on it when you can spend 2 energy and cast Sunlight and shine a shaft of light all the way down to the bottom and harm any vampires intersected by the path as a bonus. Not sure where the roof is? Cast sunlight and it'll extend upwards, too. The latter is clearly not as big of an issue as the former can be. Especially when the former goes through a No Mana Zone - is it natural sunlight, and thus ignores it, or magical, and thus ends on it and reveals it?

If no, you get the oddness of a hard stop of sunlight on nothing. That violates the way light operates in the game otherwise, where it comes from a source and diffuses out.

There isn't an easy solution here.

- If I treat Sunlight like Darkness, it is just a small area of light with sharply defined boundaries but is totally inconsistent with everything else we do with light.

- If I allow it to extend up and down, but it's really annoying that it does. It becomes a really effective flashlight and people "explore" by shining a perfect, -0 to see light down to look around.

- I could substantially change the spell to create a sunlight source, much like Continual Light, but then people will cast it on rocks and carry sunlight around.

- I could allow it only to be cast at the terminus of light. So, no shining down by casting it up in the air to look down. This has the benefit of being as written even if not as intended. You simply couldn't cast it if you weren't on the ground or some other ground surface.

I'm not sure how I want to deal with this. I think the last one might be the only way to "easily" fix the spell without having the weirdness of effectively always being only horiontally-penalized for distance as it'll always been up and down.

I'll have to give it some thought, as it's been a minor but annoying issue for all of us in the DF Felltower campaign.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

More random links

Long-ish workday today, so I could finish writing what I wanted to write. But I did get in some reading:

- More Judge Dredd, now with links to the entire series of JD game play posts.

Sector 55 Blues Prog 7

- A good post on consecutive dice numbering mechanics - 1,1 to 1,2 to 1,3 etc. up to 6,6:

From Consecutive Dice to 2x1d6 Grid to d66

- So, Dungeon Robber was Flash based. Now what? I'm not keen on reinstalling Flash for any purposes at this stage . . . but I have to wonder if DR will make a comeback.

Dungeon Robber

- I'd never heard of this game, but I know all of the weapons this blogger didn't recognize:

Game 53: Maces & Magic Balrog Sampler (1979)

Nice weapon list. In 1979 I wouldn't have known some of them and we couldn't just use the internet to look up a picture of them.

I just like saying "shamshir" (the game spells it shamsheer) but I'm not that big of curved blades on my fantasy characters. Yeah, I learned to use one (albeit wooden) and straight bamboo version in real life.

- So I've been giving Tides of History a try, and enjoying it. I went to start it from the beginning, but everything from right after the first two intro episodes in 2017 until sometime in 2018 are gone. Er, any way to find them? I've tried searching for it and failing.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Friday Roundup - 4/2/21

Busy week. Started my two writing projects, played some games, and did a lot of non-gaming things. So only a few things to highlight:

- Is this what will happen when the PCs find the legendary Felltower Bar Level?

- Some coins found in the U.S. might be from the Ganj-i-Sawai, an Indian imperial ship plundered by the pirate Henry Every. I really need to do a post on Yaquinto's Pirates & Plunder.

Ancient coins may solve mystery of murderous 1600s pirate

- I played a bit more X-Com: Apocalypse. The morale system is amusing, but sometimes units do really dumb things. Panic? Sure. Get hit by an attack that destroys your armor and equipment, so you run away and then run randomly back and forth or even charge the enemy? Oka-a-a-a-ay. No morale loss indicator, either, so they're not berserk, they're just doing some odd stuff.

Also, is there a way to use a medikit on a fallen ally? It doesn't seem like it. I had a badly wounded veteran soldier die a split second before a combat ended from a critical wound. There were two soldiers next to her with medikits and I couldn't seem to figure out how to use them on the unconscious soldier. They just stood around and watched her die, like the guy in that song by Johnny Cash. Sense of Duty? Guess not. Callous, more like.

It's getting fun, though. I must have cranked the difficulty, because UFOs are coming in packs of 4, with shields, concentrating fire on X-Com units, and dispersing alien infiltrators fast. I shoot a couple down, drive the others off, lose some craft, and then have to clean up the wrecks and then a mass of infiltrators. It's wearing down my troops and using up personal deflector shields and Toxigun ammo as fast or faster than I can make it. I'm enjoying it, except when wounded unarmed people charge into combat for some reason.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Wizard Potato Head

New Felltower magic item! I blame Gerry's player for this, because he thought it was funny. He enables a lot of my bad humor.

Wizard Potato Head

Power Item: 1
$ A lot probably, I don't feel like doing the math.

This strangely light, vaguely head-shaped hard brown potato-like lump is about the size of an eggplant and is topped with a blue wizard's hat. It has various holes in it, and comes a pouch ($10, 0.5 lbs) filled with an assortment of facial features of similar material (but in bright, lively colors.) Each feature can be taken out from the bag and placed into the "head" to activate a feature.

Each feature allows you to cast one spell.

All of the features can be placed into the "Wizard Potato Head" at once. However, a feature must be removed and replaced before a spell can be cast from it again, because half of the fun is decorating your new wizard friend.*

The appropriate feature allows the holder to cast:

Wizard Eye
Wizard Mouth
Wizard Nose
Wizard Ear
Wizard Hand
Wizard Feet

Each at Power 20, all at a casting time of 1 second plus the time to ready the feature (1d6 seconds from the pouch - they must be taken from the pouch and put back when you're done playing with them or they'll get lost and/or broken and you're not getting another one), plus a Ready maneuver to place it correctly. This requires two hands - one to place the feature, another to hold the Wizard Potato Head.

Oddly, the Wizard Eye spell generates a pair of eyeglass-wearing googly-looking eyes. They are targeted at -6, not -7. Sadly, "Wizard Feet" doesn't seem to do much except conjure up a pair of hard shoes that don't do anything, probably because real wizards float around with Levitation and don't use their feet except to store their shores. No known use for the spell exists, although Dryst swears the spell is abusive if you know how to use it right. He does not use it, as it costs too much to cast and he doesn't want to waste the energy.

* Your plastic pal who's fun to be with.
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