Wednesday, June 30, 2021

SJG GURPS 2021 PDF Challenge

So . . . guess which book I wrote?



Kromm already leaked it, but it's not like it would be tough to guess.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Weapon Master: What to do in DF?

Based on my other posts on Weapon Master, here is what I think makes the most sense in Dungeon Fantasy for me. It's in the game and here to stay. Haves and have-nots exist, and the have-nots struggle to stay relevant with the haves in combat and the monsters too able to fight the haves. So what to do?

I think I need to build around it because:

- DF really embeds Weapon Master as a core trait;

- WM creates a strong have/have not split;

- and WM and its effects are core to the high-power experience;

Therefore I think the optimal solution is to expand access to Weapon Master.

Right now, the only combatant template that lacks any kind of Weapon Master is the Holy Warrior as far as I can tell. I think a simple fix is to allow the Holy Warrior to buy Weapon Master in some fashion:

- Limited to a specific class of weapons

- Limited to the "All Weapons" version

- Unlimited

I don't think anything is really harmed by allowing them access to any level they want.

There is a slight temptation to make it a Holy Ability, and thus dependent on their holy disadvantage - violate it, lose it. But in practice, I've found it's not that common to violate your holy disadvantage. So that would just be a discount for a power to be always on, and have weird effects like losing it in No Sanctity. It's not a bad idea, I'm just not sure it's worth it.

Moreso the idea of limiting to the "only against Undead or Demons." Ugh. Now I'll get the annoyance of this nonstop: "Is this undead or a demon? If so, my Rapid Strike is only -3/-3 not -6/-6 so I want to make my Deceptive Attack -2 not -1. If not -1 is fine, I'm just checking." Plus what if you don't know it's undead? Or you're attacking a vague shape in the darkness and it turns out not to be a cultist but a demon, instead, do I tell you that by modifying your roll? Ugh. Nevermind that.

Another option is to say they have Weapon Master (Holy, -10%, only weapons with the Holy modifier, -20%). They'd be standard warriors without it, but for 14 to 32 points, they could have the advantage usable with any Holy weapons - see DFRPG Magic Items for a description. This is pricy, but you get guys who are hell on wheels with a sword that fits their idiom (if that's the best word for it here), but not otherwise.

Giving Holy Warriors some kind of access to WM might be the only way to take an existing campaign and level the playing field at least on the side of the PCs. The non-fighters will have to just cope - bards, thieves, clerics, druids, wizards, and the like should recognize that fighting isn't their thing and avoid it when possible.

I'm not certain what approach I'll use, but allowing Holy Warriors access to WM seems like the only way to keep them relevant when everyone else has access to multiple attacks, multiple defenses, and skill-based-per-die damage modifiers and they do not. You can easily copy this approach on other templates if they, too, use weaponry but lack the firepower to keep up with everyone else.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Weapon Master: Monster consequences

Here is part II of my mini-series of thoughts on Weapon Master and its consequences. You may or may not like these consequences. I'm really just observing what I see and what I think the results of the advantage being freely available is on a game.

How do you make sure monsters are a threat to Weapon Master PCs?

The simple answer is, "Just use more monsters!" or "Just use stronger monsters!"

That's fine, and it works to a degree.

The monsters must be designed with dealing with WM in mind or they're going to provide a less-than-expected challenge. Rewards are less appropriate to the challenge if they're easier because you're getting more, higher-damage attacks against them and fending off more attacks with less penalties. Or monsters are designed with an eye to WM foes, and are thus more dangerous themselves. That balances them better against the WMs.

But it further leaves the have-not PCs in a hole. They're facing increased numbers of foes, yet effectively attack less often than their WM-having buddies and defend against multiple attacks less well than they do, as well. Or they they're facing foes designed to absorb multiple defense penalties (or get around them by having a high Dodge), the DR to absorb an additional +4 to +6 to even +8 damage expected from a WM PC, or the ability to saturate defenses to deal with the WM's ability to defend multiple times more effectively.

Essentially those are decisions I make when I'm designing a "boss" monster for DF. The assumption is the monster must have the DR to deal with very-high-damage threats, because the "low" damage PCs can inflict 10-15 points of raw damage. The monster must be able to deal with 2-4 attacks per PC per second; out of each block of attacks one is likely to be a high-skill Feint. The monster must be able to deal with high defenses without needing to saturate them to do so, because defenses will, at worst, cascade down at a -2 and likely will do so from two pools (dual weapon or weapon and shield) or be at -1 (fencing weapon or two-handed sword) or both. All of this is without Great Haste more than doubling the threat of the PCs, as the first turn will be an All-Out Attack.
They may or may not need enough HP and damage-reducing advantages to survive all of this anyway; Regeneration is nice but unless it's at least 10 HP/second it'll get smothered. A worthy foe merely needs to be able to this against one PC; a boss against multiple. If they can't hold up more than 1-3 seconds of this, they're really just fodder by another name. And the ones who can hang with WMs for a while like this can generally ignore non-WMs unless they get a lucky break or jump in between WM character turns.

Much of this exists without WM, but it's all to a higher degree just with the addition of a 20-to-45 point advantage on a PC. WM effectively attacks as an attack-and-damage multiplier on a PC and thus makes them more of a threat to that worthy or boss foe, and may reduce worthy to fodder and bosses to worthy. If that boss was meant to take on 5-6 PCs and now faces 5-6 but can only hang with 1-2 WMs, the reward it provides just won't make much sense. Any loot will probably be turned into more power, contributing to the lopsided nature of the encounter later.

There are consequences to decisions elsewhere in the game system. This is one of them. Much like how magic system choice dramatically affects the threat of monsters, so does WM. Magic might make ranged foes helpless (Missile Shield) or provide the only way to fight them (ghosts, say), but either way it's a change. I'm arguing here that Weapon Master is such a change, too, since it makes a category of PCs (the haves) able to more effectively deal with monsters as foes than a non-WM would be.

So monsters are affected by WM, too, and by monsters I mean the GM's adventure design. It's harder to appropriately challenge a WM PC without making non-WM PCs basically irrelevant.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Session 153, Cold Fens 12 - Scouting Sakatha's Island

I spent the week prepping AD&D, so we could play A2 Secret of the Slavers Stockade. But it needs nine characters to be run, and we ended up with four players. One player was very enthusiastic to play AD&D. Another, less so, because running multiple characters isn't really his thing. After some discussion, it was clear that the way to go was to play the Cold Fens, and do a scouting/exploring mission. Exploration of a lot of new areas (10+ hexes) would be easily done and net 2 xp even if no loot was found . . . and the PCs really want to know the current status of Sakatha's Tomb.

So we last-minute switched to that. I literally had both games queued up to play and then just started running DF.


Game Date: 6/27/2021 - 7/3/2021

Characters:
Galen Longtread, human scout (498 points)
Heyden, human knight (308 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (343 points)
Wyatt Sorrel, human swashbuckler (354 points)

The group gathered at Ulf Hollow, and set out in a boat after gathering up all of the paut, healing potions, and rations they could.

They worked their way south from Ulf Hollow and took the first SE passage they could. That ended up a mistake - it slowly turned NE and then N. They reversed course.

They explored further south and then southwest and then southeast. This took a couple days of travel, mostly using Sanctuary at night after a pair of leaping leeches sucked 4 HP of blood out of Wyatt's face before he could smash them bare-handed. Otherwise they mostly dealt with insects ranging from nuisances (loss of some FP) to lethal (loss of some HP) and once getting stalked by (probably) some shamblethorns.*

Eventually they reached a point where, come evening, wisps of strange fog came questing in from the SE. So did bats. Lots of bats. Bats that sure seemed to Wyatt (who rolled a 3 on his Per check) were looking for something. So they ducked into a Sanctuary (and I ruled they couldn't fit the boat in) and waited it out until morning. Ulf stayed awake with Vigil.

They sent Galen exploring overland for most of the next day, and found little except a fog-shrouded island to the SE. They camped not far from where they started after waiting out the day in the rain while Galen explored solo, and slept in a Sanctuary again.

The next day they landed on Sakatha's Island, and found the "dock" and the steps. They tied off their boat their and climbed up. Relying on the journal entries that described the place before, they sprinted past the watery murder nymphs. Ulf blasted one for 18 damage with a Sunbolt while on the run, but they otherwise avoided them. They did the coin-on-a-string trick, which Wyatt had read about, and went down through the trapdoor.

Once below, they systematically searched the whole place. Their map wasn't accurate, but even so, they covered the place and searched all they could. They found many signs of fierce battles, but not a corpse, coin, stitch of valuable clothing, or anything worth taking. Wyatt wanted to test doors to see if they could just be opened but Heyden kicked or shouldered or yanked them all open with Forced Entry without waiting. In the end, even with See Secrets on for part of the exploration and Galen's expert eye, they found nothing new. Just "secret" doors that wouldn't open without some trick (unholy water, according to the journals), and that was that. Ulf tried to Dismissive Wave away the evil temple and failed utterly.

That done, they made their way back a new way and then to home. The only threat was a pony-sized frog that swam at them . . . Galen put three arrows at it, hit with two, it dodged one, and he did minimum damage (8 damage) to the skull . . . enough to knock it cold. They poled on home and left it behind.

Notes:

- The PCs made it home just in time for July 4th, a day when people celebrate something with fireworks and fire spells for some reason.

- One hex had a random encounter with lethal insects and then had the same lethal insects encounter, totally at random, the next day. So I decided that's near a bunch of wasp's nests. So I labeled that hex. Avoid it, there are more wasps than you'd like there.

- Where were the bodies? Why were the doors closed? Good questions. Some of the bodies had become zombies or skeletons under Gerry's command. Others are just gone. The place was pretty thoroughly picked over by the PCs several times.

- MVP was Hayden for finding a Simpsons meme for every critical moment to paste into the Roll20 chatbox. So XP was 2 each for exploration, 0 xp for loot, +1 for Heyden. The lowest point PC out of this group is 308 points with 52 points saved. We'll see when "we're too weak to do that" runs down a bit with the lowest point guy soon to be 100 points above a starting PC.

- 2 xp from now, Galen will need $200,000 for 4 xp for loot, and $40,000 for 2 xp. So he'll likely insist on exploration (1 for a new place, 2 for 10+) all of the time. That's a positive to me. The old guard really will only benefit from a huge pile of loot or finding some new and interesting thing. That's why the 500+ point lord sends you lower-point guys out on quests. He can still get killed - the risk isn't any lower than before - but the reward is usually nothing at all. So YOU go do it, you new guys.

- Lots of fun today, even if the summary doesn't make it seem like it.

* Quote of the day, "Do they shamble? Like mounds would?" - Galen

Emergency Cold Fens

Thanks to illness & injuries & work and such, we have only four players today instead of the seven or eight we were expecting.

So the players decided it was better to play the Cold Fens and do some scouting. Overriding Galen's (sarcastic) suggestion to go "dirt the Los Bros Humongous."

Exploring in a swamp, hurrah! I'll just shelve all of my AD&D books for a couple weeks from now.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Tomorrow: A2

We're playing A2 tomorrow.

A week or so back, I put out the characters to see who wants to run who:

Claimed so far:
Blodgett
Elwitta
Karraway

Remaining:
Freda
Dread Delgath
Phanstern
Kayan Telva
Eljayess
"Ogre"

"Ogre" is likely going to Crogar's player, as he won't use any special abilities or spells if his character has one, so it's not a good choice given him a fighter/cleric or fighter/magic-user or ranger.

I think we'll have six additional players, so we're ready for a full house of AD&D fun. But I guess we won't see people read over their spells ahead of time, check their magic items out, etc. Oh well, I tried!

Still looking forward to it.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Links & Thoughts for 6/25/21

A few quick links and thoughts today.

- I have some more to write on Weapon Master issues, but that'll need to wait until tomorrow or Sunday. There are some interesting ideas in the comments on that post. My next post will deal with other fallout

- Okay, this is just neat. I'm surprised it took so long for someone to calculate, in retrospect. This would let you cost a self-control roll that isn't just 6, 9, 12, 15. I don't think I'd use this, but I like knowing I could and I'd be fitting into the mathematical curve.

DFRPG Self Control Rolls

- I don't particularly like aboleth. I do like this writeup and the way it weaves a lot of possibilities and rumors - often contradictory - into one narrative.

On the Ecology of the Aboleth

- Here is a nice GURPS 101 post on ending combat.

GURPS 101: How to end a fight

Sadly, so, so, so many of these endings require one thing - willingness on the part of the victor to not murder the defeated. If they're going to do that - either due to capital-B Bloodlust or just RPG-player-think of "kill everything so it can't fight you again" - then the fight cannot end except in death unless the defeated are faster than the victors. And are able to keep fleeing farther and longer than the PCs can follow. Most PCs in my experience pursue like the Mongols after a defeated foe. They won't generally surrender either, because what if the enemies act like they do? Better to fight to the death, just in case.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Weapon Master creates have/have nots

I love my GURPS Dungeon Fantasy campaign. It's been one of the longer campaigns I've run. Still, there are things we'd do differently, or we wouldn't port over to another campaign.

Weapon Master

Weapon Master creates have/have nots.

One of my players - the one who runs Gerry and used to run Vryce - pointed this out. He's not the first to do so. But it's significant that it's so clear to everyone involved that this one advantage causes issues. I know some of my players would argue for a "lighter" version, or a way to make, you know, skilled guys viable via some version of this. But it's a fact that GURPS has always favored skill over strength (which is probably realistic), and giving something that rewards skill with the equivalent of both more skill and more strength means it's a mission-critical ability if you need both.

If you have it:

- you attack more frequently (-3/-3 for Rapid Strike, not -6/-6)
- your attacks are more damaging (+1 or +2 per die)
- your defenses are more effective (multiple defense penalties are halved)
- any benefits you have for combat skills or inflicting damage get a stacking benefit and increase in value.

If you don't:

- you get none of the above.

This isn't really news if you've played DF for a while.

I think if I ran another game, I probably wouldn't allow Weapon Master, Heroic Archer, and possibly Trained By A Master. The first for sure, the second just as likely, and the third . . . maybe. It's so much more limited in scope than Weapon Master, even though it affects more skills. Heroic Archer similarly creates a split - effective in ranged combat vs. nearly hopeless in ranged combat. You don't just become a better archer, capable of amazing shots . . . you become a machine gun. This is absolutely in-genre and necessary in a game with Weapon Master in common use, but if Weapon Master goes, so should it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Crypt of Krysuvik cover

Doug put up the covers for Delvers to Grow and Crypt of Krysuvik.



It's nice to see my name on such an attractive cover, along with my player and fellow DF GM Marshall LaPira.

I can't wait to see this in print.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Andrew Hackard

I just wanted to post this here, because I had professional dealings with the man. Andrew Hackard, Munchkin Czar and (as far as I could tell as a freelancer) one of The Powers that Be at SJG, passed away.

SJG put up a memorial post here:

Andrew Hackard

Monday, June 21, 2021

AD&D and A2 and Weapon Speed?

A while back I mused on using Weapon Speed and its weird, weird rules in my next AD&D session.

I'm leaning towards, "Not this time."

A couple of encounters have some special considerations that I think will complicate the Weapon Speed rules. Because of such, we'll have rules no one is really familiar with faced with exceptions, which I absolutely know will cause time to be spent arguing if it's X and Y then it should be Z even if the module says it's really not-Z-at-all.

Similarly, I don't think it's the place to use Weapon vs. Armor Type adjustments. Probably not, anyway. I'll have to take a closer look. I suspect it'll feed value into a couple of players who'll closely examine the rules and leverage their weapon choices vs. the enemy, and give the others one more modifier they don't know and have to deal with. It'll also make a joke of one stated tactic in the module, too, which isn't really a good outcome, either.

I might have to save those for some other situation where I feel like they make a lot of sense to drive play decisions, yet don't add too much complexity in the process. That might not even be possible. It's clearly not a good fit here.

A-Series: What use is Raise Dead in a tournament?

The Pregens in the Slavers series - A1, A2, A3, A4 - come with some magic items, naturally. In A1-A3, Karraway comes with a scroll with Raise Dead.

What the heck is it for?

For bringing back a dead PC, obviously, so they can jump right back into the fight! Boo-yah! Heck yeah, look how well-equipped these guys are! Those fighting the slavers are serious.

Except that in AD&D, Raise Dead takes weeks to recover from. You're helpless when you come back. It's not a quick way to get a dead PC back in action. It's a poor way - compared with Resurrection - to get a dead PC back eventually, if they make their System Shock roll.

Looking back at the version of Raise Dead in Men & Magic - book 1 of the original D&D books - it still requires a recovery time of weeks.

So why give it to the tournament PCs?

I can really only think of three reasons.

- it lets the PCs question a dead slaver by bringing him/her back from the dead to question. They'll be helpless. Useful as a plot device - ask Icar where to go next!

- it gives the impression the PCs have the resources to survive casualties. When you go to the next round, you can have all of the PCs because you can have raised them from death.

- it was added post-tournament to let the PCs bring back casualties between modules.

I don't know of any evidence for that last one. I have no proof, but not reason to suspect otherwise, for the following: the PCs are the tournament characters as-written. I'm curious if there is anything else out there that can explain it.

Any reasons anyone can see that makes this make sense, without having to provide for additional gear or handwaving away rules? I'm genuinely curious.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Next Week: AD&D, A2 Part II

Next week we're planning on a break from DF, with so many delvers mauled so badly that they need time off to recover from injuries. It's a good time to take a mental break and play some AD&D.

We'll play A2 Secret of the Slaver's Stockade, Part II - the dungeon portion of the tournament adventure.

We played the surface over two sessions last year:

Part I
Part II

I sent out a link to all of the PCs, their spells, etc.

My goal is to have everyone pick their characters within the next couple of days, or assign them out. That way people have a chance to decide who to play and look at their abilities.

With a group that's not really expert at AD&D and only plays sporadically, I think we'll need that.

We have one guy who only likes to play support characters. We have another who doesn't like to use special abilities or spells - and who once died with all of his spells still memorized because he wouldn't use them. We have guys who only like spellcasters. Etc. But we also have nine characters - Cleric, Illusionist, Magic-User, two Fighters, Thief, Ranger, Fighter/Magic-User, and a Fighter/Cleric. Seven of them have special abilities that can change the game. The ranger is best used against giant-class humanoids. The thief must find a way to backstab and detect traps. The clerics need to heal, bless, and offensively neutralize foes. The magic-users must handle the utility and offense roles. The illusionist needs to be a force-multiplier with spells that chance the enemy's ability to organize or attack.

If those classes aren't played optimally, or at least well, they're just cut-rate fighters with low HP.

The players will need a strategy for casting spells, and for healing. They'll need to ditch the GURPS mindset of "and heal everyone up to full after each fight." They did that last time and were dismayed when the lack of healing spells meant they couldn't heal up wounded characters they needed later on. They'll need to find a way to move with speed and boldness without taking excessive risk. And a way to solve puzzles without "There must be a way to completely avoid this puzzle in this railroad-style tournament module." We'll see how it goes!

These posts might help, too:
Lessons Learned (2019)
Some Thoughts (2017)
Avoiding HP Losss in AD&D

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Ever Use Dungeon Shops?

One little feature of a megadungeon - and some video games - that I've never used in play is the "dungeon shop."

I mean a store, inside of a dungeon, usually selling things immediately useful in a dungeon (rations, 10' poles, torches) or special equipment you can't get elsewhere (magic armor and weapons, special magic items, useful monster bits), or buy the same. In video games they tend to have hideous guardians that prevent you from reasonably robbing the place.

This is one of those things I've heard of in tabletop games but never encountered.

Have you ever used one in a tabletop game?

My DF games feature a lot of in-town sales of equipment one might consider "special." An in-dungeon store wouldn't serve any purpose except to replenish stocks of forgotten items. The PCs would eventually assault the place anyway, and kill everyone and take everything, unless I made that literally impossible.

But I'm curious about actual real-world non-video-game occurances of mid-dungeon shops.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Links for Friday 6/18/21

- I have below zero interest in Harry Potter or English boarding school stuff that isn't that in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, but I do have a lot of interest in the Foundry VTT. There is a useful description of what it's like to play GURPS with it here at DF Whiterock, and here, too.

- I like maps placing known locations on other maps, like this one for the Majestic Wilderlands.

- We're probably playing AD&D next, to let all of the crippled heroes heal up. We'll play the second half of A2. Here is how A1 went:

Part I
Part II

- I put in an inquiry about another book . . . but it's not looking like a summertime project after all at this stage. Or at least not early summer.

- This is miniature wargaming in a nutshell. Basically, "these tankettes are useless and obselete by the time they hit the field. But at least I have a lot of them."

Green Red Horde

- Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord is just a brutal game. I loved it. I don't plan to play it again, though.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Shadow Harold's knife, silver, and the undead

"The [large, double-edged knife] cost me a whole stack of gold coins. It was a little less than a cubit in length, almost a short sword, and the mounting of the blade was covered with a strip of silver, so if you wished you could even risk a fight with someone who had risen from the dead."
- Shadow Prowler, Alexei Pehov

So it's probably a fine long knife ("almost a cubit" means probably a bit under 18"), possible balanced, definitely silvered. Could run as much as $1200 (+9 CF for all three), which is a reasonable stack of gold based on the prices we see in the books. It's not crazy, anyway.

One thing that made me want to write it up - the effect of silver on the risen dead. The undead - zombies, especially - are scary as all get-out in these books. They're not cannon fodder, to be chopped to bits by any given fighter or turned by a priest. They're flesh-eating creatures with a dangerous bite, extremely hard to kill, and while vulnerable to silver it's not really enough:

"I could quite easily be lucky enough to walk away from such a skirmish, even if my arm had been torn off."
- Ibid.

I like a universal vulnerability. It gives PCs a good handle on what to use. My own DF game doesn't feature this enough, so people tend to guess. That's fine, too, but it's empowering to the players and world-building if you have specific effects. If the undead are always scary . . . and silver is always useful (or potentially so) against them, you have already learned a lot about the world and how to interact with it. That's never a bad thing.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Really Old Guns in Modern Service

I forgot to post this yesterday, but I found this video really interesting from a historical perspective as well as a gaming perspective.

Mark Felton: WW2 Guns in Modern Service

Out of all of them, the idea that the PPSh-41 is still out there is amusing to me. Out of all of them, the idea that the M1911 Colt and M2 HB .50 cal and the DshK are still in use isn't surprising at all. It's weird to even think of them as WWII guns, because WWII kind of came along during their run, just like so many other wars did.

Still, there is something interesting about PCs running into really old guns in current, regular-military service. Don't put your copies of GURPS World War II aside, you can mine them for firearms for your 2021 GURPS Action game.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Stolen Military Guns

A lot of times in modern games, GMs may want foes with modern military weapons to face the PCs.

The PCs sure as heck want to have access to modern military weapons. Usually extremely oddball special-purpose weapons, but in my experience they won't turn up their noses at grenades, assault rifles, and grenade launchers.

But you can't just pick up some M9, M4, M203, etc., right?

Apparantly if you take the very tiny loss rate of weapons from the US military and multiply it by the millions of weapons they have, it's not actually as rare as you might have thought.

This piece in the Military Times is a bit chilling in some ways in a real-world sense, but in a game sense? This is "that's why the fringe criminal group you're facing all have M4s!" justification.

US Military Guns Keep Vanishing, Some Used in Street Crimes

It reminds me of that scene in Lord of War when the main character tells a Russian general to, basically, declare 10,000 or something AKs lost and sell them to him. This is a much smaller scale, and is more likely a mix of thievery, accidental loss, and bad record keeping . . . but it's a way to put modern military guns into the hands of player characters who aren't in the military proper.

Monday, June 14, 2021

More notes from the Cold Fens

More notes from last game.

- I'll admit that despite all of my years as a GURPS GM, I'm still not sure exactly how to treat objects falling on people.

The rules for damage are clear enough. Hit location, very large objects falling on people, and defenses still throw me a bit.

Take the deadfalls. A tree falls on multiple PCs. Does the damage divide up? I know it's too heavy to Parry, but Crogar went for a Dodge and made it by the DB of his shield. So I ruled the shield took damage first. Had he blocked, would that have simply meant taking the hit but giving a very high chance of the shield being hit? It doesn't make sense that blocking with a shield makes any difference against a sufficiently large falling object. It shouldn't even necessarily break, but your arm might as you try to use it and a slab of leather, metal, and wood to stop something hitting you doing 10, 15, even 20d damage.

Blow-through is another. It seems like unless it clips you in passing, you should very likely take damage to multiple locations, especially if a limb gets destroyed.

I'm never exactly sure how to modify the hit location rolls, either. A standing person should have a very high chance of a skull hit from a big object falling from above.

So I'm not sure I handled the deadfalls correctly. They probably could have been - even should have - been more lethal. 15d shouldn't be "lose a limb, move on." That should be a potential effect but you shouldn't be more likely to get hit in the leg by a falling tree than in the skull . . . but I think the math says you are, as if you were a standing target attacked by a standing foe.

It's something I really feel like I don't have a great handle on.

- The PCs got a pair of boats. It was actually a pain to figure out what boat fit. I can't just eyeball one . . . the stat needs and costs and sizes are for very specific boats. They're often of historical interest rather than grab-and-go vehicles suited for adventurers.

Next they want to add waterproof tarps. I think this is just thin leather coverings (Low Tech Companion 1) but now I need to figure out the square footage needed for overhead coverage, and then price that out. GURPS doesn't always make things easy. It's something I don't love about the equipment lists.

- I ruled that Faith Healing can heal a crippled but intact limb, but a dismembered limb, even if technically still attached, is not intact. Sufficiently mangled is no different from cleanly cut off.

- It amuses me that the group has the Mythic Corselet - resizes to SM+1, potentially, with no weight gain - and the Universal Sword - which can be any sword - and they're both on Wyatt, who is SM +0 and only uses one specific sword size. Yet they have SM +1 guys who are eyeing heavier armor and people in need of either multiple swords or a rare sword type to just find (such as a greatsword or bastard sword.) It's not a criticism, really, and Wyatt uses them appropriately and well, it's just amusing to have the resources that can adapt nailed down to a specific person. Wyatt can't give that sword up, either.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Session 152, Cold Fens 11 - Deadfalls & Defeat

Game Date: 6/13/2021 - 6/18/2021

Characters:
Aldwyn Hale, human knight (340 points)
     Varmus the Hanged, human apprentice wizard (170 points)
Bruce McTavish, human barbarian (329 points)
Crogar, human barbarian (336 points)
Desmond MacDougal, human wizard (263 points)
Gerrald Tarrant, human wizard (418 points)
     2 skeletons (~35 points)
     Rahtnar the Skeleton (~125 points)
Wyatt Sorrel, human swashbuckler (354 points)

The PCs gathered at Ulf Hollow, with two new 18' skiffs they'd had made for them. They filled each boat up with four PCs (one big guy per boat) and left the extra skeletons behind, taking only Rahtnar the Skeletal Boatman with them.

They headed out into the Cold Fens, along the coast before making a beeline for the giant's islands. They did so without major issues - the weather was fine, and although they got eaten alive by insects, they mostly made out okay. One leaping leech attack on Mild Bruce failed. Swarms of bats harassed Aldwyn and Varmus, and again crippled Varmus's leg before being driven off. He was healed up easily.

The eventually made it to the giant's island, but decided to repeat their same path. Arriving late in the day, they moved out to a nearby landmass and camped there until morning, shrouded by the thick white mist that surrounds the island.

The next morning they poled over, dropped off the group, and then Rahtnar, Bruce, and Wyatt - the last two sans most gear and all armor - brought the boats back to their camp and concealed them there. They waded and swam back to the group. They gathered up and headed inland.

Along the path, about 1/4 of a mile in, they got their first inkling of trouble when their vanguard - Crogar, flanked by Aldwyn to his right and Bruce to his left - tripped over a vine and triggered a deadfall (for 15d). Alerted to the falling log out of the mist by Crogar's senses, they dove aside. Aldwyn failed utterly. Crogar's shield was destroyed as he dove backward. Bruce dove forward, onto a cunningly placed bent-branch trap that slammed a series of stakes into his back, wounding him badly.

Aldwyn was hit solidly, and his right arm was crushed under the log (more than 2x the damage to cripple, thus destroying the limb.) His mangled arm was freed by Crogar and Bruce (once they freed up Bruce.)

They continued on, this time with Bruce solo in the lead. Ahead, he spotted a trap, maybe 80-90 yards - another heavy deadfall, this time a bag of rocks and logs up in a large tree. They bushwacked a path around it, and continued on.

Another 100 yards or more past that, they hit a third deadfall, which Bruce triggered despite his caution (Traps-7 isn't great). It did another 15d, and crushed his left arm, again destroying it. The deadfall trigger also set off a trio of branch-launched spears. One missed everyone, one would have hit Crogar but he parried it, and another hit Aldwyn and went right through his left hand, crippling it.

At this point, with two fighters down limbs, they decided to bail. They retreated back to the water's edge, and used Levitate and wading/swimming to get across to their boats. They left, leaving a Wizard Eye behind to spy out anything coming after their boats. Nothing did.

They made it a few miles away before dark. They found a reasonable camp - but only with Comfort - and concealed their boats. During the second shift, Gerry and Wyatt were on guard. Gerry heard what sounded like someone wading off in the mist. They later heard low rumbled like deep voices, then a muffled crack of laughter and splashes of something hitting water - and of a rock hitting multiple trees.

They woke the group up. Bruce drank an Agility potion. They waited, and heard the sound of a big splash and more, like a struggle in the water. Low voices called back and forth to each other over the sound. Something like a big slap on the water was followed by deep laughter.

The wading and speaking continued, but this time further away. It receeded a bit, and nothing bothered them until morning.

They headed out from there, exploring nothing else, and worked their way back to Ulf Hollow.

Notes:

- Galen's player couldn't make it today because of ill health.

- The PCs gave up quickly after they realized they were walking into a fight - and probably more traps - with severely compromised combatants. 15d deadfalls are no joke. The after-action report was pretty simple. They didn't have anyone with Traps to make up for the loss of Galen, and they made a mistake in trying to attack the giants along the same path they took the last time. Going that way had a lot to say for it, but in the end it cost them their delves as the traps mauled them.

- Sparks flew between Wyatt, who immediately started to threaten to tell Mrs. MacDougal about the delve, and Desmond, who threatend him with Acid Ball. Those two ended up in the same boat, which wasn't the best planning to keep things quiet . . . Desmond is hard of hearing and tends to speak as if everyone else was, too.

- XP was 1 per for exploration. MVP was Mild Bruce for - and I quote - "I solved five traps."

- Short, profitless delve today, but it was still fun. It's a big question what's next, though.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Tomorrow: Cold Fens

As far as I know, the group is returning to the Cold Fens tomorrow.

They bought some boats, discussed but didn't actually budget for any elven blinds to cover their boats (I expect to hear "We mentioned it, does that count as a pre-order?"), and made some vague plans.

I think the plan now is to return to the lair of the giants and loot it.

I'm not sure if they have any secondary objectives or targets of opportunity.

We'll see tomorrow!

Friday, June 11, 2021

Links & Thoughts for 6/11/2021

Assorted stuff for Friday.

- This is an interesting take on an "origin" for beholders. It would fit well in a GURPS Fantasy II: The Madlands game. There, all of the really horrible things that will kill you used to be humans like you. Soulless, skinless, boneless . . . creepy stuff.

- The Reaper Bones V Kickstarter is finally shipping soon. I think I might have all the minis I need, though . . . I'm not really excited about getting more. I was already painting less pre-pandemic, and here during the (tail end of the?) pandemic I've painted almost not at all. I love minis but painting hasn't been something I've been able to keep up. We'll see what I do with the minis when the arrive.

- I probably won't have a game system that can run this . . . but I'll want to get one:



- Let's learn about Romans.

- Crypt of Krysuvik production is still moving along.

- I owe some work on my DF book, too, and I'll do that this weekend. Time for quotes! It would have been nice if I thought to find some ahead of time.

- Want to sell your TSR stuff? Noble Knight has a wishlist with prices.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

GCA Data File Update

I clearly haven't been paying close attention to the GCA forum . . . or any attention, really . . . but there was a big Data File update.

The change log just says updates, not specific changes.

But if you use GCA for characters like I do, this is probably important.

GURPS Character Assistant Update

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Adventuring Mistakes III: Is there a correct path?

If it's a mistake to go, "Oooh Shiney!" and too-easily get distracted from your goal . . .

And if it's a mistake to go, "Stay on Target!" and stubbornly refuse to get shifted fron your goal . . .

. . . then what is a poor adventurer to do?

Without a rule that is "Always turn left!" or "Never get out of the boat!" and can absolutely be followed, how can a delver delve?

It's really some variation of this:

Always keep the goal the goal.

I've heard this stated a few different ways by a few different people - usually attributed to someone's ancestor or old neighbor or something. I doubt it's a new concept.

It's simple in thought but together in execution. Pretty much all "how to succeed at adventuring" guide has some variation of this. And it's harder in practice than in statement.

You just keep re-evaluating, what's the real goal here?

If staying on target gets you there, you stay on target. If veering off gets you there, you veer off.

Is it possible?

A pitfall of this approach is, you need to really know your actual goal. Not just your stated goal. You must know what you will actually strive to do when it gets tough.

If the goal is, say, garnering treasure, then anything that best advances the garnering of treasure is worth doing wether or not it's part of the original plan.

If the goal is defeating evil, then anything that results in defeating more evil is worth doing - again - wether or not it's part of the original plan.

If your goal has contrary aims, you're going to struggle with this on. If you aim to defeat evil at all costs while getting as rich as possible, well, when the Truly Evil demon-worshipping vampyre-lich-troll says he'll reveal his otherwise unobtainable loot stash in return for his unlife, which do you choose? Or if going left fights evil and going right leads to loot, and you don't have the resources to do both, do you go right or left? The one you choose is your primary goal. If you don't know - or the group is split on which is "nice to have" and which is "the plan" then trouble will ensue.

Goals with hidden contrary aims also present a problem. The often-unstated, ". . . without undo risk or getting any PCs killed" addendum to most goals is also a contrary aim. You can't get maximally rich, or slay all the dragons, or fight all the evil, or find the bottom level of the dungeon, or whatever and satisfy that goal easily. If you try to do both, you usually veer off of the stated goal to satisfy the concerns of the unstated goal of minimizing the chance of harm. It can sometimes get you killed anyway when you turn away from a known risk into a "surely less dangerous" approach that contains more risk.

You can have a goal that's a little more vague - fight monsters, or investigate interesting things, or something of that sort. If you all understand what that consists of, it's easy enough to follow through on. Such goals rarely get coupled with "Stay on Target," but it's possible.

Overall, though, this maxim is something you do benefit from keeping in mind. Your plan isn't ruined if you're distracted by something that advances your actual goals. Your plan is worth a repeat of "Stay on Target!" if the distractions or opportunities don't further your goals. Sure, those are fun monsters to fight or that door is interesting, but you are after loot and know where it's to be found.

There isn't anything min-blowing in this post, but it's true. The goal is to keep the goal the goal, and not to let that slip aside too often. The goal of the game is to have fun but there is usally a specific in-game goal you're after. Figure it out, get agreement on it, and try to stick with it and it's usually easy to figure out what to do.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Adventuring Mistakes II: Stay on Target!

Yesterday was Part I of this mini-series: Oooh Shiny!

If you just clicked on that link, never to return . . . you probably suffer more from Oooh Shiny than from Stay on Target.

If you ignored it because you're here to read this post and you'll get to it later . . . maybe you're more of a Stay on Target type.

Stay On Target

This is a refusal to be swayed from your plan once you've set on it. You have your task, and you go after it without varying from it.

Just remember this famous proponent of the "Stay on target!" approach, Porkins.



Everything turned out for him okay, right?

Note, however, that inflexibility or stubborn foolishness is often fatal.
- Gary Gygax, "Successful Adventures," AD&D Players Handbook, p. 107



The Stay on Target approach can cost you opportunity. You have a chance encounter that presents an action you can take or pass on . . . do you pass on it to stay on the plan, or do you swap to this new thing? What if that "new thing" is a clearly better option, or a one-chance option?

Sometimes Stay on Target is, like Oooh Shiney, a way of avoiding decision making. Ironically, a cost of Stay on Target is missing out on your real goal. For example, you may plan to find a set of stairs down and explore there . . . but really you're doing so because you want to find a way to avoid a specific monster. Then you find a different potential way down and ignore it, because Stay on Target! We're looking for stairs! This especially happens when your plan is even more vague, or is really just a hope disguised as a plan (Step 1: Find monsters. Step 3: Profit!) Instead of shifting to an actual opportunity, you stick with the sunk costs of a plan that isn't as valuable as what you came across.

What kind of behavior do you see with Stay on Target?

Usually some or all of the following:

- insisting on a plan

- refusal to adjust or change the plan, even in the face of evidence of something better

- unwillingness to entertain changes

- arguing for continuation based on the costs expended on the plan already (sunk cost fallacy)

- risk aversion, especially in the form of avoiding new risks while insisting on surmounting old risks

How do you know you do this?

This one is generally very clear - you refuse to take opportunities or shift to something else until your original plan is done, or until it becomes completely untenable.

So which is better?

Like the choice of being frozen to death or burned to death, neither is really what you want. Neither is better than the other - they're both mistakes. One is an inability to stick with a plan. The other is an inability to be flexible in the face of changing circumstances. Both are built on logical fallacies. There is a third option - always keeping the goal the goal. More on that tomorrow.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Adventuring Mistakes I: Oooh Shiny!

Today and tomorrow I'm going to talk a little about what I call "Adventuring Mistakes."

These are mistakes that players make that disrupt the accomplishment of their goals.

I discuss them mostly from a megadungeon perspective, or a limited sandbox perspective, where you have a choose-your-own-goal approach to play. A more mission-oriented game might not allow for this to happen, or give you such built-in focus that it's hard to get pulled out of the overall plan. You might get tactically distracted, but you're less likely to get distracted from the main goal of the day's delving.

Obligatory "Wrong, these aren't mistakes" pre-response: Anything that doesn't accomplish what you're trying to do, or actively undermines what you're trying to do, is a mistake in my book. It might be chosen deliberately, it might be fun, but it also might mean that you don't accomplish your stated and intended goals and miss out on more fun regardless of your intention either way.

With that out of the way, let's go make some mistakes.

Oooh Shiny!

Sometimes called "Adventurer ADD," or some similar construction, this is the mistake of letting every side issue pull you out of your planned delve. Instead of accomplishing your goal, you get lost in a seemingly never-ending series of distractions, each pulling you away from what you're really after.



How far back does the issue of getting distracted go?

Pretty far.

"some firm objective should be established and then adhered to as strongly as possible."
Gary Gygax, "Successful Adventures," AD&D Players Handbook, p. 107


You don't give advice like that because everyone is always keeping to their plans with hard-nosed rigidity.

What kind of behavior do you see with Oooh Shiney?

It's usually one or more of these types of things, all done despite a plan that specifically involves doing none of them.

- let's chase down those fleeing wandering monsters (or fight them in the first place, often enough, because "they might have treasure!")

- let's check that door

- let's see if this hallways on the map connects up to that hallway on our map

- let's investigate that sound

- let's run away from that monster to this new area

- let's check this one thing out real quick on the way

etc.

The list can go on and on.

In other words, you have a plan, but then let yourself get pulled out of the plan to do some other thing that seems attractive or interesting. Or, often enough, easier than the plan itself. This is especially the case if you've chosen a plan despite a lack of enthusiasm for it, or because you couldn't think of anything else, or somehow hoping something better would come along. It's grasping at a straw of convenience because you didn't want to go through with your plan in the first place.

It can also be something that disrupts a good, solid plan that you really do want to follow through on. You can just get yourself distracted by something that seems like it must be done right now.

This can often take the form of combat, too - getting into a fight can solve a lot of questions about "what next?" and what to do right now, as well. It provides relief from the decision-making process that following through on a plan often requires.

The inability to follow through on a plan isn't in and of itself a failure to adventure. However, it can mean:

- wasted time planning (you spend 45 minutes talking it out, which isn't spent playing, and you don't follow through anyway.)

- wasted resource acquisition - you bought and brought stuff that isn't going to be needed because you didn't stick the plan out.

- lack of resource acquisition for the next task - lack of rations for a side trip that might call for them, lack of purchasable magic that is needed for a new plan, etc.

- inefficient adventuring, especially if you have a series of tasks you need to accomplish.

How do you know you do this?

Looking back at your delves, how often do you have a plan and follow through, at least to a degree?

How easily are you distracted from an ongoing task with a new task?

Getting pulled from Task A to Opportunity Task B isn't a bad thing, if B is something you may have wanted to accomplish in the first place had you given it some thought. Sometimes opportunity knocks, and you have to answer right now if you want to reap the benefits.

But if you find that opportunity is always knocking, or you're depending on it knocking, or assuming it's knocking whenever something new comes along . . . you might be making the "Oooh, shiney!" mistake.

Tomorrow: Clearly, getting distracted is a problem. So let's go to the other extreme! The natural opposite to Oooh Shiny: Stay on target!

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Cold Fens Things to Do

I thought I'd be helpful and list what my players have brought up as things to do in the Cold Fens.

These may not all be equally doable. Some aren't doable at all.

- loot the dragon's lair. More than one suggestion has been predicated on, "Get there while the dragon isn't home, just like in Session 46." None have included fighting the dragon.

- checking Sakatha's lair for nymphs/bandits/random vials of unholy water/etc.

- finding trolls to fight.

- fighting the giants and/or looting their lair.

No one has brough these up, but they are possible:

- exploring the rest of the Cold Fens, at least the watery section, for other adventure possibilities.

- Finding the main dwelling area of the trolls, off to the east where they seem the thickest on the ground.

I'll add more if my players mention more to me!

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Blind Wizards & Wizard Eye

This came up as a random question in our game last time.

Can a blind wizard see with Wizard Eye?

We really have two idea here:

- no, because what affects vision on the caster affects the Eye,

- yes, because it's awesome.

One player said, if the answer is yes, he'll immediately make up a guy who does exactly that. I told him not to. While it's a cool thing to contemplate, it's going to require rulings basically every game, for every single thing. That's one thing for an NPC wizard, but another for a PC doing basically everything.

- How to cost Blindness when someone will have a spell on to make it irrelevant all of the time?

- How to deal with NMZs?

- Can you "conceal" the eye inside armor, like a light in a helmet lamp?

Etc.

In the end, though, my answer is yes. Nothing in the spell says the wizard's disadvantages affect the spell, only spells that affect vision affect the spell.

So yes, you can blind a wizard and he, she, or it can cast Wizard Eye and see anyway.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Random Links for 6/4/21

- I'm more than a little surprised at the relatively small number of backers of Doug's latest Kickstarter. He discusses it here. It feels like the main complaint about GURPS Dungeon Fantasy / GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game is that they aren't zero-to-hero, and don't sufficiently support lower-point play. Yet when support is out there - like Doug's Kickstarter - a relatively small group of people jump in on it. So maybe it's a vocal minority that feel like the line needs more low-point support but there isn't a lot of monetary support for it overall.

- When I was younger this is what I visualized my basement having - a big table to play minis battles on, like this:

Shakos and Bayonets

- Am I missing any GURPS blogs? I periodically look around for GURPS-centric blogs to (possibly) add to my blogroll. Are there any not on the sidebar of my page that I need to know about?

Thursday, June 3, 2021

GURPS book - done!

My latest Dungeon Fantasy book is submitted, edited, and turned back to me for review. I added in a single little tweak after a re-read, and now it's on to production.

This one should be available pretty soon, in some fashion or another. I'm glad to finally get that in!

In theory, I now have more time to write for my blog. Let's see if I follow through on that - I hope so, I feel bad that writing too books at once, on top of a full-time job and a part-time self-employed thing, has killed my longer-form posts that might be useful to GMs and players alike. Or even short-form posts that actually discuss game content.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Battletech: Finished!

I was able to finish Battletech last night.

The final mission did, in theory, take extra pilots and mechs. They tell you that you need at least two heavy lances worth of mechs.

This was not correct. You just need 7 mechwarriors and 7 mechs in case you lose 100% of your force while winning the first of two connected missions. I lost zero mechs and zero pilots - I severely outgunned the opposition. Their "assault lance" was much lighter than my lighter-than-usual lance. I skragged them easily.

The final fight was a bit tougher, but only because one enemy mech is a rule-breaking monstrosity. Of course. I trashed it - with some equipment losses (an AC/20++ I'd found) but otherwise . . . a straight fight and I brought my three best pilots and my three best mechs to support the client in her battle. I've had tougher throwaway missions.

Oh well.

Still a very fun game, and I intend to keep playing with my rich-and-successful mech company, and may later start a seperate campaign once I've done a bit more messing around.

Well worth the $10 or so I paid, but I'm glad I didn't spend $40-50 on it. Good game overall, yes, but I'm cheap when it comes to gaming since I'm not a big latest-and-greatest player.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Books - in Editing!

Alright, both of my books are in editing.

- Crypt of Krysuvik, by Marshall LaPira and myself, is currently getting a full Doug Cole go-through. He's being appropriately picky, and we've got a draft to read through and turn back in our comments on the edited draft. Still a lot to go.

- Dungeon Fantasy: Not the Breadboxes of Felltower, has been turned in and is now waiting on Nikki or Kromm to edit it. I expect to get a list of revisions to make, potentially, or just get it turned around into a rough production draft if there isn't much to write. It's not terribly crunchy, so probably more "fix Peter's bizarre English" and less "You say 2+2=5, fix that." Either way . . .

Exciting stuff. Leaves me plenty of time to think, gee, I have all of this free time. Why am I not writing something? Hah.
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