Thursday, September 30, 2021

GURPS Fantasy Folk: Elves

I had the pleasure of peer-reviwing/playtesting this book, which came out today:

It's out today, and if you're going to use elves in a GURPS game, it's worth the $6 to expand your variety of pointy-eared chums.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

The ugly business of firings at TSR

This could have been a random Friday link, but I didn't want to forget it.

Jon Peterson looks at the waves of firings at TSR.

This is about when I was leaving TSR and its games behind . . . and went to SJG, which has had its own worries but not quite like this stuff.

Game Wizards: TSR Staffing

Having been fired from a job I specifically wanted at a company I specifically wanted to work at - by someone in the "strategic growth" department, no less - I feel for the people listed here often as mere numbers. It colored my relationships with all businesses, and it's why I can be annoyingly independent about how I do things. Imagine being a gamer, hired at TSR, and then, bang, pack up and go home. It must have really sucked. But then again, with all the people being laid off, maybe it became the kind of environment you wanted out of. I wouldn't know. I just know around this time TSR stopped making stuff I wanted and moved on. Maybe that's why this all happened - too many of us doing the same.

Nice to have Jon Peterson doing the hard documentation of the hazy memories I have of the downsizing of TSR.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

My friend's Kickstarter - Blackbirds RPG

So one of my gamers posted this on our Discord group*:

The Creator & Lead Designer of that game is Ryan Verniere. Ryan is our old GM for Armageddon, and Vampire, and Mage, and other games. He also ran a few crazy fun characters in my Forgotten Realms-based GURPS 3e game. And survived the duststorm that was the Warped Tour on Randalls Island with me and the guy who ran Chuck Morris and a few other fun folks. Good times.

Anyway, Ryan is incredibly creative and fun. So I'm going to back this at least at the PDF level - I need another book on my shelf like I need another hole in my head but if it's got Ryan's name on it, maybe I'll get it anyway. It'll be pretty and fun to read, if a bit large.

I'll put the tracker up on my sidebar, too, for you guys using the web version of the blog.

* Which I basically never visit, but I did on a whim today. Probably for like the second or third time ever? Glad I did.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Fire in the Lake 3rd edition . . . getting closer

I just decided to take a quick look and see how Fire in the Lake is doing:

406 orders. Needs 94 more to ship.

I ordered it back in January and I was order #86.

I'm starting to get that last-week-before-Christmas feel - like it's almost here and yet will never come.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Felltower Updates

Just a few Felltower updates today.

I added a couple more monsters to the "Monsters Encountered" page - the two Lizard Man variants and vampires.

I started writing Felltower Rumors again.

and I cleaned up my Felltower notes in anticipation of a return to the dungeon halls beneath the ruined castle.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Warfare: 1944 Won

Since I had a bit of fun with Warfare: 1917, I decided to try Warfare: 1944.

It was fun, but much easier than 1917. I should have cranked up the difficulty, and I will if I play again. But it was pretty brief and not terribly exciting.

I got a screenshot of my victory screen but promptly did another cut-and-paste and lost it from the clipboard. Oh well. It wasn't really worth that much.

Still, enjoyable enough way to spend, er, 20 minutes or so?

Friday, September 24, 2021

Fun Stuff for Friday 9/2/21

Fun stuff for Friday.

- I am a big fan of posts like this - actual play rulings and feedback.

RPM Mistakes- some made, some avoided

I probably would do the proper potion thing in the future. I suspect some players would groan about how they "need" potions and that 1 second to Fast-Draw and open and drink a potion and have it take effect is reasonable . . . and that more than that is really a game-breaker.

- This is nonsense from the DMG is why I know so much about taxes, tithes, etc. but I don't enforce them in my game - and make rules to explain why not. They're not fun.

Random Roll: DMG, p. 90

- I'm slowly posting my comments on the DFD Thieves playtest. Overall it's good stuff. No spoilers - it's not even my book, so I really can't say much more than that.

- Otherwise I'm writing as I can, and getting back through comments to try and respond.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Conan the RPG from TSR on sale for $295

Back in the day, I didn't buy this because I had stopped buying random TSR boxed sets . . . and I didn't see why I needed another game to play Conan, given having AD&D Conan modules. Well, one at least.

But maybe I should have.

It's going for $295 without the dice. So not exactly common and cheap . . .

Pretty cool, though. I've read stuff for the game, but I don't know if it's worth it. Conan runs well enough in GURPS. Or at least he did in 3e, and probably in 4e, too, I suspect.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Is it possible to destroy Sakatha?

In our last session, the PCs really struggled with the boss monster they've come to destroy - Sakatha, the demonic god of the lizardmen.

They hit him with everything they could at least once, and most things over and over again - especially if it gave any sign of doing something to Sakatha.

They also tried every weird gamer move in the book - break his weapon in case that's the key, get him off of his throne in case it is that, stand on the throne, stand on the altar, hit the throne, hit the altar, hit his skull, neck, arms, torso, vitals, legs, feet, and hands in case it is any of those, stab him with a wooden stake (his armor was too tough), Dismissive Wave, Deathtouch, splashing holy water on the altar and throne, Sunlight (which does seem to help . . . but slowly) . . . the only thing that they haven't tried was breaking his crystal ball because I pointed out that it wasn't that.

So apart from Sunlight, which seems to be harming him (but not killing him), what is left to do?

I'm not saying.

I put him clues but I know they were missed - flat-out bypassed or skipped over. And this isn't a fight they can run away from and come back after trying to find them. At this point, it's win or TPK, unless Gerry can somehow sneak out invisibly and get past all of the obstacles in his way.

But what I said to my players by email was, "I'll give one big hint, really - Sakatha is much less of a puzzle monster than it seems. You guys got desperate and started to grasp around for the "thing" that will destroy him and tried all sorts of gamer stuff no GM would ever put in, trying to get a clue on what to do. Just remember that he was potentially defeatable by your original 275-ish point guys, and didn't depend on any special weird ability that someone had on their sheets."

What it would take is still within their grasp, if they can see it and try it. Sakatha isn't giving them any clue how to defeat him - and they haven't tricked it out of him. So they need to figure out how to figure it out before he eventually rolls some nice critical hits and downs people for good. Time is on his side - he's eventually going to hit someone, and they can't make him any more damaged than he is now.

I took the name and inspiration and image from an adventure published by TSR, but the Sakatha of that module isn't the Sakatha of my game. There isn't a hint in that material, in case anyone asks.

In the end, yes, it's possible to destroy Sakatha. There was a reason I though we'd wrap that fight up 1 1/2 sessions ago . . . but what is it? Up to the PCs to figure out before next game, or it'll be a long grind to death.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Fight like an Archmage: lessons from Threshold of Evil

I read this excellent post today about a "Dungeon" adventure that was very influential on me, Theshold of Evil:

How a Real Archmage Fights: Threshold of Evil and D&D’s Most Underrated Wizard

The article is full of spoilers for the adventure, but if you're not going to play this module as part of a very high-level AD&D campaign, you're probably okay reading it.

I learned a lot from that adventure, like:

- archmages don't fight fair.

- archmages sure don't just sit back and wait until you chop your way through low-level minions and single demons and dinky traps and then fight you. Oh no. They watch you from afar as you slog through their best defenses and Wish bad things upon you.

- archmages don't through their spare magic items into a treasury, they issue them to Simulacrums. And I finally saw what Simulacrum was really good for.

- archmages don't care if you think they are good, or evil. Or to quote one of my favorite all-time quotes from my favorite all-time fantasy author, "Ferocious mad-killer sorcerers do not whine because nobody likes them."

- archmages have henchmen and allies that are worthy of archmages.

- and seriously, archmages don't fight fair.

It's a brutally tough module; it's the brute force equivalent of Tomb of Horrors in a way. Oh sure, you won't have deathtrap rooms with "death with no saving throw," but you get direct enemy action from a powerful, powerful foe who doesn't take his enemies lightly, or use a flyswatter when a hammer is needed.

Fun, brutal stuff. I'm glad to read that someone went through it and ended up as my groups likely would have, had I been able to run that in AD&D.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Delver current stats for the Cold Fens

Here is where people are:

Ulf Sigurdson is at 11/12 hp, 0/8 ER, 7/12 FP, 0/25 Power Item, Wooden Stake and Shield in hands, just all out attacked and in Sakatha's hex

Crogar hp 8, resist poison, shield +2

Gerrald Terrant 9 spells up, 4 FT, 12 hp, levitate, missle shield, dark vision, apportating one of Wyatt's dropped swords

Wyatt:HP 13/15; FP 5/13

And Bruce is dead.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Session 158, Cold Fens 14 - Sakatha's Lar Do-or-Die (Part III)

Brief summary today. I just don't feel like doing a blow-by-blow of a largely boring fight. But you'll get the basic flow.

Game Date: 8/31/21

Bruce McTavish, human barbarian (336 points)
Crogar, human barbarian (350 points)
Gerrald Tarrant, human wizard (418 points)
Heyden, human knight (308 points)
Wyatt Sorrel, human swashbuckler (354 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (362 points)

We picked up where we left off, with the PCs pressuring Sakatha. Wyatt was running him down, and the other PCs were wading into the fray.

They continued to push him back, with Wyatt and Bruce and Crogar following him as he backed off, plying his trident and step to keep distance. He managed a few good strikes early, forcing Wyatt and Crogar to use up their Luck (which resets between sessions, per our usual Luck table rules.) They fought back, slicing away at his torso, mostly. Bruce was wounded nearly to death when he was stabbed twice. Crogar was wounded and stunned from a vitals hit himself.

Ulf followed along, healing as he could, and Gerry supporting with Shield and Great Haste (on himself and Wyatt).

Eventually they forced him back, badly wounded, to his marble throne - a big gargoyle-carved thing with a crystal ball next to it within easy grasp. He backed up to it and sat down. Wyatt attacked . . . and his weapons bounced off of an invisible shield. His sword is magical, so they decided it couldn't be Force Dome, but maybe Utter Dome. Either way, he couldn't be reached. Crogar and Bruce rushed up. They tried and failed as well. Meanwhile, Sakatha's wounds began to heal at a prodigeous rate (ah, HP multipliers FTW.)

Wyatt swapped his wooden longsword for his meteoric long knife and attacked with that. It passed through the shield and hurt Sakatha - he aimed for his neck.

By the time they attacked again, the screen was back up. Sakatha charged up a 9d Explosive Lightning spell and threw it. Wyatt dove and blocked it, as he has Resist Lightning on. Still, Crogar and Bruce were hurt but Ulf was spared the blast. The damage was pathetic - 9d-9 = 18 damage. Ugh.

So then Bruce tried Laccodel's Rune and successfully cancelled the spell! But sadly Wyatt wasn't poised to take advantage and Crogar had just dropped his weapon and stepped back with a potion to drink to heal his serious wounds.

They tried again, this time with Bruce dispelling the screen as Sakatha created an Explosive Fireball. Wyatt waited for Bruce's attempt and struck Sakatha. He dropped the fireball as his arm was crippled, and it went off. It was only 3d but did 17 damage. Bruce was set briefly on fire; Wyatt had Resist Fire on.

They managed to crippled Sakatha's right arm and smash his shield. But then Wyatt critically failed (or was critically defended against, I don't recall) and rolled a 15, suffered Hjalmarr's Shoulder, crippled his meteoric long knife hand. This really stopped him from doing much. His sword was lanyarded to his left hand, and his right was crippled. He had no way to get the lanyard off or break it.

Sakatha, meanwhile, attacked Bruce and hit him . . . and killed him outright with a pair of vitals shots (Wyatt stopped one, but the other slew Bruce.)

They repeated crippled Sakatha's arms and hands, forcing him to keep dropping his trident. They stabbed his vitals (best guess where they'd be based on other lizardmen), tried to cut his head off, tried to break his skull ("Hit to the Brain" people still say, a 3e-ism), etc. Eventually they decided to take his trident, clearly the source of his invulnerablity. But even without working arms he just put a foot down on it as Ulf ran up to take it. So Ulf yelled to Crogar to, "Get his trident!"

Crogar broke it, making into more of frog gig, and ruining its enchantment.

Eventually Wyatt gave up and decided to try getting to the altar. He slapped at both the marble throne and marble throne but neither provoked a reaction from Sakatha.

Sakatha stood up at this point and ran out to grab a pick from a dead lizardmen, furious that they broke his "Trident of Office." That's when Ulf decided they needed to kill him with his own weapon, I think. Crogar attacked Sakatha a few more times and crippled his limbs again . . . and they didn't heal away from the throne.

From here the fight devolved into, basically, Sakatha following Crogar around trying to bite him. Ulf tried Sunlight on him - which seemed to work, but clearly needs minutes, not seconds, of exposure to hurt him. Gerry tried Deathtouch and it didn't seem to hurt him. Repeated blows to legs and feet didn't cripple him any further.

Finally Wyatt tried to stand on the throne, but nothing. They smashed holy water vials on the altar and throne. Nothing. They moved his broken trident around and then Ulf dropped it. Finally Ulf tried to stab Sakatha in the back with a wooden stake in the heart, but didn't do enough damage to penetrate the DR. Crogar was facing Sakatha but backed off . . . and Wyatt closed in but didn't have anything to try.

We left it there - Sakatha horrifically damaged but clearly unable to be usefully damaged further. Ulf probably about to get torn apart by a vengeful Sakatha. Crogar and Wyatt unable to hack him down, and Gerry out of ideas.


- 3/4 length session today, more or less. I thought we had only a little bit to go last time, so we planned to play 11-3 with no lunch break instead of our usual 11-8 with an hour off. Instead we played 11-4:30 with no breaks, or 5 1/2 hours instead of the usual 8.

- We ran out of time. I think we'd have had enough if either this was a full session and the players had figured out what to do, or if they'd figured out what to do early and then just won the thing.

- I ruled that you can't power Faith Healing off of a Power Item. Good God knows how long Ulf has been doing that, but it calls for "FP" not "energy" and allowable sources of energy are often pretty clearly spelled out. If Faith Healing costs FP but can use a Power Item, then it's nonsensical that Power Blow, say, can't . . . yet we know the latter can't, so the former shouldn't, either.

- Certain traits, like Unkillable and Supernatural Durability, I run a little differently than by the book, if only to prevent the old "break the feet and then pile on damage until we come up with a real plan." I won't reveal what Sakatha has, just saying, if this looks "off" by the book, it very well might be. The PCs started with the default "use up his HP" and then went to plan B ("pile on damage faster than he can heal and hope we find a solution") after that.

- Pretty much all of my boss fights are puzzle monsters. If they aren't, they just get hacked apart by massive, continuous large amounts of damage. If sufficient damage will solve a problem it's not really a problem, just a speedbump.

- A lot of the PC's plans hinged on Sakatha giving the game away by revealing what would kill him (if anything), so they did the usual delver things - smashed his weapon, talked about killing him with his own weapon (after breaking it and ruining the enchantment), hit the altar, hit the throne, sat on the throne, stood on the altar, threw holy water on both altar and throne, tried Dismissive Wave (even after I specifically noted it wasn't the tool for the job and would fail), asked the Good God for help (and got some), suggested cutting the straps on his armor off in case that's keeping him alive, etc. etc. They attacked literally every hit location on his body at least once. The only reason they didn't smash his crystal ball was because I said "IT'S NOT THE CRYSTAL BALL!" I mean really. Who makes the external focus for their immortality/invulnerability a glass ball they leave in the open? Not my bad guys.

- I won't say what will end this . . . but I did tell the players I was sure that the original group could have, if they knew what to do, kill Sakatha. So that means it doesn't require obscene skill (like the cut-the-armor-off suggestion) or unique ability (like Dismissive Wave to do a 3-hour Exorcism in 1 second) or a high-margin success roll, or otherwise. I might have mis-gauged, but I don't think so, and I think that will eventually become clear when they finally figure this out. I don't think they have sufficient clues to have come in knowing what to do, but I do know I planted a bunch of clues but they were very often bypassed or missed. I'm not great at giving clues, I'll admit, but the knowledge and clues to complete the job exist and aren't just a few Hidden Lore rolls.

- the fight has lasted long enough that FP loss will start to occur mid-fight starting next time.

- No MVP, by universal agreement.

- I always have fun gaming, but this was a frustrating session for the group. Hopefully they'll figure something out. It's less of a puzzle than they think, which is always what causes the most trouble.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Warefare 1917 - Won

So I won WWI. Or at least a campaign:

This game was a lot of fun, except for a late bug. After both sides got poison gas, we both deployed gas against the initial deployment area of enemy forces. It was persistant - so persistant that it never went away. The gas clouds did, but any forces except for - eventually - tanks - died instantly upon entering the battlefield. I won the last three battles waiting out enemy deaths until their morale broke, and/or deploying my tanks and fire support against their tanks and winning. That's it. It wasn't even worth deploying infantry as they just died.

Oh well. A big flaw that spoils an otherwise interesting little game.

Still fun. Glad I played.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Assorted links & notes for 9/17/21

The usual disorganized mess for Friday!

- looks like we'll try to wrap up Sakatha I on Sunday in a short session.

- it pours when it rains. I'm starting to write my writing project, playtest a book, and I signed up for multiple work certifications that could have waited until later, and volunteered for something I think is worth doing. Oh, and added more work. I should, you know, find a new video game to waste my time on.

- TSR financials of interest to you? Jon Peterson has you covered.

- This would be useful in Gamma World:

Post Apoc Locations 1 - Wasteland & Wilderness

Thursday, September 16, 2021

10 Years a Newbie

10 Years ago on this date, not terribly long after I launched my blog, Tim "I Roll 1s" Shorts gave me a Newbie Blogger Award:

He discussed it here:

9-16-11 Newbie Blogger Award Winner

I'd like to think after 10 years solid of blogging about GURPS in specific and gaming in general, I've made good on Tim's expectations.

Thanks for the early faith, Tim. I hope I didn't let you down. If I did, geez, man, temper those expectations a bit!

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Writing Project

It's all fun and games until you say, "I'll do it!" and set a deadline.

So I'm going to write a short bit for an upcoming project, and I just put in a query about a deadline. Regardless, the clock is ticking.

This is one reason why you should wonder if making your hobby a job is worth it. Still, it is very satisfying to see my ideas put to paper and used in other people's games. That makes it worth doing. Also, you get paid if you do it for a company like SJG or Gaming Ballistic.

And yes, the short bit is DF related. I have a half-baked Post-Apocalypse idea, but I need to figure out if I can make it unique, useful, and non-derivative. If I had a place for a good crunchy article, I'd like to write up a whole Deathball team. I just need something a wee bit softer.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Assorted notes from session 157

Just some notes from last time.

- As always, fights are incredibly brief. Exchanges of blows in a fight can be incredibly fast, but that means GURPS fights are always done at that speed. The Sakatha fight is about 7 seconds old at this point.

- Someone asked if Gerry could re-build Skeleton Rahtnar. Nope. You can't re-animate a corpse using old bones. You can't rebuild zombies from destroyed zombies. So Skeletal Rahtnar is gone.

Too bad, really, it was fun having the skeleton of a former, killed PC going around. I quite enjoyed it. But after getting dipped in acid it wasn't combat-worthy enough to fight a serious combatant solo and that is what it had to do. I'm surprised it made it through the earlier fight, although - because it was a former PC - its defenses were already so high that skill 16 foes couldn't reasonably Deceptive Attack it low enough.

But it was fun. I'm sure they'll try to bring back the lizardmen for Gerry but that won't work, either, as they are former undead.

Gerry did harvest flesh from the clerics and the lizardmen for "research" but it's unclear what he'll do with it. We joked he'll put in the fridge at Ulf's swamp-side shack, unlabeled.

- I still wish I was doing fixed-effect Feints. They're kind un-fun to do the math on.

- I basically made up Beat, but I do wish I'd made it mesh a little better with disarm. A crushingly effective Beat should really disarm a foe . . . like when you win the contest by like 20 points. Against a two-defense foe, Beat is often irrelevant, because they just defend with the other weapon unpenalized anyway.

- Wait and Move is a very common request in my games. At least once a fight, someone wants to Wait and their trigger is "(so-and-so) moves" and their action is Move to follow that person.

I get that with a staggered initiative this seems silly - If A moves before B, B can follow, but if A just stands around and then B moves, A has to let C, D, etc. go between them before A can follow. But is it really silly? If you're a hair faster than a slow person, does that mean you can always stay exactly on their tail? And ensure that no one else goes before you?

People who really want to move in a formation together can take the Teamwork perk (Martial Arts, p. 52) and spend the time to form up, and then move as a unit.

You can't act with complete independence and with complete coordination. They're opposing poles. So you can't rush in front of your friends and hack and slash and slay, but also have them move in coordination with you while you block and parry for them, but have the ability to just retreat back if you need to, or let them waltz by you on their turn. You need to actually learn to coordinate and then do so.

I'm sure reading that, my players will want to get everyone to buy the Teamwork perk. Okay, fine, but everyone needs it - no, you can't kinda fake-form-up around someone and drag them along as you move, say, or transfer Feints and Ruses, etc. to them. You're in or you're out, as written.

And for the love of the Good God, Ya'll, before someone asks, you can't Wait and have your trigger be "when my friends come by" and the action be "form up with a Ready." No, you have to waste a turn getting into position - maybe more than one - and then you're in a movable formation after you all take the Ready. The other benefits will accrue as appropriate as each person is added to the group. GM judgement may force a re-form up after casualties or someone comes running up to join - or not, depending on the logic of the actual circumstances.

And yes, this is a Combat Perk.

Monday, September 13, 2021

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Session 157, Cold Fens 14 - Sakatha's Lair Do-or-Die (Part II)

Game Date: 8/31/21

Bruce McTavish, human barbarian (336 points)
Crogar, human barbarian (350 points)
Gerrald Tarrant, human wizard (418 points)
     Rahtnar the Skeleton (~125 points)
Heyden, human knight (308 points)
Wyatt Sorrel, human swashbuckler (354 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (362 points)

We picked up where we left off last session, with the PCs just outside the door to where a near-TPK had ended a previous attempt to destroy the evil in the Cold Fens.

Wyatt, first thing, downed a DX potion, getting +4 DX.

Faced with the heavy black (stone?) doors, the PCs had tried calling out "Hail Sakatha!" but they did not open. Next, they sprinkled the rest of the unholy water on the doors and tried to walk though - nope. Nothing happened. They tried "Hail Sakatha," but again, nothing. Bruce tried to force the doors open but failed. So then he and Crogar both tried, each on one door. That did it - the door swung open, slowly.

Beyond was a darkened T-shaped hall. The PCs rushed in, planning to fight in a hook-shaped formation against the right wall with their casters invisible and shielded.

The rush in was disjointed - Bruce ran forward and Wyatt called him to go to the right more. Crogar drifted too far out. Bruce then almost ran down invisible Ulf. But they made it to the wall and up along to the second pillar. The lizardmen guards Gerry found last time were there, their numbers replenished from their losses, and some staff-armed lizardmen in the back. All had tortise-shell armor covering their bodies.

The PCs formed up around a pillar and fought the incoming lizardmen. They advanced silently, swinging sickles or picks, while the ones in the back kept up a low chant. The PCs waited, and the clash began. They slowly but steadily hacked at the incoming undead lizardmen, who swung back but couldn't penetrate the very high defenses of the PCs.

The lizardman clerics in the back finished their chanting, and one ran up and cast a Poison Cloud on the group. They ignored it with their Resist Poison spells, except for Bruce, who "didn't need" that spell and relied on his Resistant to Poison. It's not resisted, so he straight-up took damage. Meanwhile, a smudgy cloud moved up from the darkness - a toxifier. It hovered near-ish to Bruce, the only one showing any effect of the poison gas cloud. Bruce resisted its gasses, however, and Gerry cleared up most of the gas and annoyed the toxifier with a big Purify Air after putting Great Haste on himself so he could get spells off quickly.

The PCs steadily whittled down the lizardmen, who managed to bungle a few attacks with critical misses - two in the same hex dropped weapons trying to attack Wyatt - and weren't able to land any attacks. They eventually went down to a man. Wyatt and Bruce, freed up from the attack after killing the foes they faced, moved out. Wyatt took three slashes at the toxifier but being Diffuse it didn't get hurt much. Wyatt had a clear shot at the clerics - all three of whom moved up to try to touch people with their staves over their front-line fighters - but turned to help Crogar whittle away the ones in front of him. Ulf saw the toxifier and put Affect Spirits on Bruce's sword. Gerry put Great Haste on Heyden, but it took him a while to cut down his foes. (It turned out later that Marshall, who was running Heyden for his absent player, didn't think Heyden had Weapon Master and so didn't use Rapid Strike basically at all.) Heyden managed to whack himself in the leg for 50% damage - luckily, because he was able to avoid crippling himself. It wasn't his day.

Bruce rushed the toxifier and swung at it, but it dodged. So naturally he immediately dropped his sword and tried to grapple one of the clerics who had tried to attack him. The cleric parried by enought to inflict damage on Bruce, and put the 3d Deathtouch it was trying to deliver into Bruce. It did only 7 damage (!) but still kept Bruce off of him.

The clerics kept trying to fight off the PCs, but Wyatt killed two of them. The third fought Heyden and Crogar and then Wyatt, but was hard to kill - not only having Shield but also an Armor spell up - but eventually they wounded him badly. He cast Curse on Heyden just before dying, giving Heyden a standing -1 until it is removed or goes off.

Gerry, meanwhile, threw an Explosive Skull Missile at the toxifier and clipped it with it, damaging it. So, naturally, all of the PCs charged it as Gerry threw in another, larger Explosive Skull Missile to finish it off. They all suffered a good bit of damage in the process, and the toxifier was badly wounded. Bruce finally recovered his sword and cut it down.

The PCs decided to "quickly" police up the area and get rolling.

Naturally, this took ~30 minutes.

Ulf spotted two secret doors and three tiny (2"?) bronze levers at the back of the blood-soaked altar. He also saw two secret doors, one behind the altar and one on a side wall. They had no visible mechanisms.

Wyatt suggested they put the dead clerics on the altar to let their blood drain out. Ulf seconded this and said they'd do it "later." (These are the two most devout PCs in the group. Not sure what they're going for here . . . )

They checked the dead and found nothing of value. Gerry identified the dead clerics as not-undead, but actually demons . . . so they gathered up 7-8 pints of their ichor using Hazardous Materials, using tools from Ulf's surgical kit and empty paut bottles from the fight.

They eventually started to plan on how to arrange themselves to flip the levers, trying to figure out how to throw them all together - three clerics, three levers. Heyden shut that down with, "Let's just try the simple thing - one lever." They threw the left lever, and the door to their right (facing the entrance) opened up. They went through to a hallway.

Beyond that they found a door . . . forced that open, and saw a circular room with four low sarcophagi in it, as well as another door. They were all partly open, and smelled of old death. Wyatt went clockwise around the room, stabbing the lizardman corpses within. As he did the second, though, out from the one to the right of the door popped a grey-skinned lizardman. She - it sounded clearly feminine - screamed a terrible, terrible scream and clawed at Bruce, who stood next to it, guarding the others still outside the room. He failed his fight check, barely, and was stunned for a second. That was all it took for him to get clawed and paralyzed - he rolled an 18 on the resistance roll. The greater lizardman wight kept clawing and biting him. It dealt a huge amount of damage to him, including taking him down to -1xFP, before it could be slain. It didn't help that Wyatt kept hacking into combat and hit Bruce a couple of times as well as the wight. Crogar stepped up with his axe and finished the wight. Wyatt quickly went and stabbed the other corpse to ensure it was dead.

They had to stop for 10 or 15 minutes or so more to heal up Bruce, trade around FP, and recover more by resting. They needed to maintain their Resist Poison spells and search, of course - finding nothing.

They forced the other door and then turned left at an intersection, convinced it was the way deeper into the complex. They forced another door, and saw a room with four lizardmen, a giant turtle, a big lizardman with a trident, and two shimmering blue hounds. The were immediately rushed by this group. The leader started to mock them in a hissing tone - as they told Crogar to hold the doorway, not by name, it said, "Yes, hold the door Crogar. You can do it!" It would later mock Ulf and Wyatt by name, too. Ulf was more than a little alarmed by this.

The PCs tried to hold the door, but it didn't work well. The two blue hounds shimmered and popped behind Crogar and attacked Wyatt and Rahtnar. Ulf and Wyatt had guessed that based on their appearance and crackling they'd use lightning, so they put Resist Lightning on themselves.

Meanwhile Sakatha - the leader - told Heyden to surrender to him. Heyden blew his Will roll and narrowly missed resisting. He joined Sakatha! Heyden tried a desultory attack on Bruce and failed, and then tried in earnest.

Meanwhile Rahtnar got bit by one hound and destroyed, taking just enough damage to finish him. (It's how his player would want to go - slain by a GM-made new monster!) Wyatt hacked down the two hounds in short order - but each exploded for 3d lighting damage and injured most of the group, and stunned Heyden.

Crogar kept fighting the lizardmen at the door, before eventually getting forced back after dropping one of them. They weren't any more sturdy, but slightly more skilled, then the ones they'd fought before. Sakatha jabbed at Crogar with his trident and wounded him, and then his turtle, Gamera, rushed the group. Crogar gave ground to dodge, and the turtle plowed into the midst of the group.

A confused melee went from there. Ulf tried to Sunbolt the turtle and missed everyone. Gerry had created a big, big, big explosive spell after using Great Haste on himself but found the hallway too choked for a successful throw, and had to just keep aiming.

Gerry eventually let loose his spell and wounded two lizardmen and Sakatha with the big blast. Crogar meleed Gamera, who kept trying to slam people after pulling its head in defensively after someone tried to take its head off. Wyatt slashed its legs and it went berserk, but wasn't ever able to land a slam. Crogar kept hacking it. Eventually he got it down, despite its extremely high body DR (mid teens maybe?)

Eventually the next-to-last lizardman went down. Bruce tried to smash Heyden's face in to knock him out, but even stunned Heyden was too good. He recovered, and Gerry put two Animate Shadow spells on him. He eventually critically missed and hacked himself in the leg, and crippled it, knocking himself down. The shadows moved in, and scored the occasional hit, but even prone, one-legged Heyden, unable to use his shield DB, could parry most attacks. Eventually he was negative on FP and unable to make much of an offensive threat.

Wyatt fought Sakatha at this point, who stabbed at him. Wyatt parried. Next turn, Sakatha used Beat, and then a Disarm against the same sword and flung it aside. Wyatt drew his spare. He'd lose that, too, from a critical failure, a bit later. He'd draw a wooden sword to replace that (he carries four longswords.) Sakatha managed to stab him in the leg - his DR doubled against the trident and become 20 . . . but Sakatha does 3d+12! I rolled a 16 (2+1+1+12 . . . thanks Roll20).

The PCs moved in and finished off the last lizardman, and began to fight Sakatha.

Wyatt ran in and used his high Move and Run and Hit power-up to stab Sakatha in what he hoped was the vitals. That didn't take him down, although they hit, and he tried to run around and slash him. The cuts hurt, clearly, but Sakatha seemed unphased. He managed to get a critical hit against Wyatt, who'd used Luck earlier, and hit his unarmored face. Wyatt was very badly wounded but not killed - although he needed a death check - but he was stunned and knocked down. He mananged to become unstunned as the others ran up to join the fray.

We cut it there as it was late (~75 minutes past our usual end time) and it was clearly not going to end quickly.


- "Can I see anything special about these guys?" - very common question. Usually at the end of a full Move to previously unseen foes. Heh. Next question? Does their armor cover their hands and feet? Ironically, low-HP foes have weak hands and feet but people don't target those (thank goodness, it rarely makes the fight easier for them and always makes for more bookkeeping), and high-HP foes have strong hands and feet so people target those and rarely cripple them. The guys who most easily could generally go for killing shots anyway.

- Not to take anything away from good tactics and coordination, but what a difference ~100 points per PC makes. The previous group that tried the first fight in this dungeon was destroyed almost to the man. These guys were 308-418 points, averaging just under 355 points . . . compared to 265-302 points and averaging 278.5 points. This group would be a lot more if Galen showed up, or Heyden had spent his 52 saved points. The tactics and coordination really, really helped. But the enemy was so overmatched that the majority of damage suffered was caused by Gerry using Explosive Skull Missile too close to friends. In his defense, the second time he case it on the toxifier all of the PCs ran right up to it. Ulf claimed that he couldn't possibly have known Gerry's plan. You know, like using an explosive spell against a diffuse foes just like he did a handful of seconds before in clear view of Ulf. Other than that, there was no warning at all!

The other damage inflicted was from the Poison Cloud spell - one of my creations passed on to Alex for the Toxic College - and from Bruce thinking it was a good idea to drop his sword and grapple the staff-armed caster who was clearly so intent on touching him with the staff. Sigh.

- Canonically, parries don't complete the ritual for Melee spells. We don't play it canonically. If you parry with a staff with the Staff spell on it or unarmed while you have a charged Melee spell, you inflict that on the target if its possible to do so. Because, why not?

- the PCs couldn't identify the various forms of undead . . . despite Gerry being IQ 16 and having Close to Death 2, he flubbed the roll. Oh well. They did determine the lizard men "clerics" were demonic, however, and not undead.

- Heyden sure gets charmed a lot. Hey, you have to know the big armored guys are generally not high-Will targets. He wasn't effective at all, but that was mostly bad luck.

- The flash hounds didn't last too long, but they were fun. They'll show up sometime when I have enough monsters for a Monsters of Felltower collection. The turtle, same. It was fun but it was just a distracting pet. So many foes with Fragile (Unliving) this time that it the PCs were able to take them out in relatively short order.

- We'll finish the fight next time. It's looking very good for the PCs. The mooks did their job as best they could - inflicting casualties, costing resources, and tying up offensive power while the boss did his thing. With something less than crappy rolls (16 damage on 3d+12!) it might have worked out better. It might still - a crit to the face of Wyatt slowed him down for a second. He'll almost certainly be healed back to full by Ulf within 1-2 seconds.

- I did some terrible rolling via Roll20. A couple of critical hits - I think 3 - largely negated by Luck. A lot of 17s causing dropped weapons and "Lose your balance!" - my own personal hell. The damage also applied to the shadows of Heyden - the last strike doing 2 FP on 2d6-1 is a case in point. 3 FP would have put him down. It wasn't a good day bad guy rolling.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Cold Fens current status

Had to pause mid-fight tonight, 10 seconds into a fight. Here is everyone's stats:

Ulf Sigurdson is at 11/12 ho, 1/8 ER, 6/12 fp, 17/25 Power Investiture, See Secrets, Resist Poison, Resist Lightning x2 (on Gerry and Ulf)
Ulf Sigurdson has out his Buckler and Wand of Holding 6 rounds left of DX +2 from Heroic Grace

"Mild" Bruce McTavish is at -37/40 hp, 5/14 FP, has his greatsword out.

Crogar has 14hp and has resist poison on himself. Axe and shield.

Gerrald Terrant has 5 FT, 10HP, 0 ER, 5 PW, 11 spells up, levitate, invis, missile shield, drak vision, great haste, and has 8 sec of GH left.

Wyatt:HP = -27/15; FP = 10/13; Resist Poison, Great Hasted (7 sec left), Resist Lightning, DX+2 potion, Magic Sword + Wooden Sword out.

Heyden the Ebon Page is at -22HP and -13FP and is charmed.

MVP was almost Marshall for cutting through the lever puzzle to a solution . . . but it went to Wyatt for his planning and formation fighting.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Sakatha, potentially round 1, tomorrow!

Tomorrow we'll pick up with the PCs facing some unopened doors in the dungeon, hoping to fight Sakatha.

First, they'll need to fight past one encounter. Hopefully they'll do so successfully, and not spent most or all of the session on it. I know it is hard to run quick tactical combats . . . everyone wants to assess the entire fight when it comes around to them.

I know I complain about that a lot, but I know as a player, I can't wait for my turn and I'm totally ready to go. I am chafing at the proverbial bit to get my turn in. So I'm a little less patient than a perfect GM should be when it comes to players who want to start to decide what to do only when it is their turn.

I am hoping the "big fight" beyond the doors actually turns out to be less than a full session . . . so the PCs can figure out what's next and then get on with that.

If not, this will be session 2 of 3 of a single delve. I'm not proud. Or tired.

Not all of the players from last time can make it . . . but other players will step up to play the PCs that are there. Teamwork!

Friday, September 10, 2021

Assorted Links for 9/10/21

Random links!

-In Defense of the +1 Doohickey...

The comments have some good non-+1 doohickey information.

Me, I'm a fan of the plain vanilla +1 doohickey and the special stuff. So I mostly agree with the original poster.

- Tim Brennan had, according to this blog post about Dragon #110, a changing relationship with Elminster, but spent a good chunk of time not liking the guy, as I read his words to mean.

I loved the Elminster stuff in Dragon magazine.

In actually play in the Forgotten Realms . . . I just made him a sage. A really learned one, but not a problem-solving dragon-smashing adventurer wizard. I wanted to push the players to solve things, not find the 26th level NPC wizard who could do it for them. 26th level for a magic-user in 1st edition AD&D is over 5.5 million XP, isn't it?

But yeah, I came down hard on having too many Player Smackdown NPCs.

- Fiend Folio discussion, complete with comments saying, basically, the Fiend Folio sucks. Heh. I obviously disagree.

- I'm going to try writing another DF-related piece, but I'm not sure on what, yet. But it is time to write more. I am curious what from Felltower people would think would make good DF material. I already did Artifacts of Felltower, and inserted some of Felltower into Megadungeons and Gates, and wrote up the longjawed lizardman temple, as well. What else?

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Monsters list updated

I went through and added a couple of monsters to this list today:

Monsters Encountered So Far

I added greater wights - they've fought them before, not recently, and I'm not sure why they weren't on the list.

I also added the two milk-skinned giants as "Giant, Albino (?)" since they're not sure what they were except that they have white skin.

I'd been meaning to check the list and check it twice, but that's all I noticed that was missing.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Catching up on T2K game summaries

I didn't have a lot of time to do gaming stuff today, so I spent it re-reading Dungeon Fantasy (REDACTED) - oh, sorry, my players need to not have a clue here.

I also spent it reading these sessions summaries . . . somehow I'd missed the T2K sessions over on Kaliszweb for a few months. It is only a handful of sessions but I really enjoy them.

Winter Quarters: Captain Bart Moss, the Fire Knights’ New CO

Winter Quarters: Pine Barrens Exercise

Winter Quarters: Attack of the Duster

Winter Quarters: Convoy Return

Some notes:

- the lack of Maks is just weird. Understandable, and all of that, but weird.

- sometimes switching game systems isn't worth the reward of the switch. And sometimes it radically changes the results.

- I need to go back to the beginning and read the others . . . I kinda picked the game up partway through. I mean, in theory, I'm already all ready for game Sunday, so I can just read unrelated stuff, right?

I doubt I'll ever get to play but I do really love reading about T2K.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Gargoyle Guarding the Chamber of Decision

James Maleszewski shared a link to this excellent series of pictures today - auctions of the original art from a very old dungeon-exploration themed art book.

This piece, especially, could easily depict the kind of area I put in Felltower:

Don Greer, Gargoyle Guarding the Chamber of Decision, Down in the Dungeon interior book illustration, 1981

It would fit, either with the wizard in the middle or without. "Let's just go 30-40' down each one and then we'll decide which one to explore." Or is it really not that simple? Let's find out.

Monday, September 6, 2021

Dungeon Fantasy Denizens: Thieves playtest applications are open

Like the subject says, applications for the playtest of Chris Rice's new book, Dungeon Fantasy Denizens: Thieves are open.

Details are here:

Call for Playtesters: GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Denizens: Thieves

I'm hoping a few of my more active, rules-questioning players will jump in on this.

I'm pretty confident I'll get in on the playtest, but I have no idea what the competition will be like to get in. I'm looking forward to seeing what the draft looks like in a week or two.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Looking ahead in the Cold Fens & Felltower's environs

Not that the PCs are done with the Cold Fens, far from it - they need to survive their current expedition.

But then what?

Let's look at some areas in play.

Cold Fens

At some point, the Cold Fens will be considered played out from an exploration perspective. In other words, there will still be hexes that haven't been explored, but a sufficient amount of them will have been that exploring others won't net any XP.

This is basically so the Cold Fens doesn't eventually become a default "We don't have a plan, so let's go explore 10 hexes and get 2 xp" session. Especially since the fens are more empty of encounters than rich in them, so it will be a procedural hexcrawl with hexes that largely contain hazards, obstacles, bugs, and wandering monsters that don't typically carry treasure.

Naturally this means after the dragon, right? No. After Sakatha, really, and not much after that if anything at all. There is a dragon, of course, but the PCs have a number of clues pointing in the direction the dragon's lair is, and have followed none of those clues. They're not as blazingly obvious as "go X miles south and Y miles west and turn right at the big tree," for sure, but the general hints points to areas the PCs have not attempted to go to. Again, I just don't want to spend sessions rolling random encounters while they move around hoping to luck into something.

Caves of Chaos

This area is low-threat and low-loot. It's not 100% explored, but it may as well be as it will take exploring known areas to find the handful of unknown ones. Unless some high-loot monsters moved in - and there is no indication of that - this area has been largely done over. It's not free of threats, but it's free of threats DF delvers will find worth going after.

Lost City of D'Abo

Like the Caves of Chaos, this is largely done. There are a few big things that were missed, but it would probably take some second looks at things and lawnmover exploration to find them . . . and I'm not sure they'd be found anyway.


This basically leaves Felltower. Yeah, that's how it goes. A lot of time has been spent by the current group not going deeper in Felltower and not going into gates seen as risky. They've almost fully played out the "side quest" areas I have prepared and have interest in preparing. So Felltower is likely what waits after the Cold Fens. It's back to going down the exact same path to the second level, avoiding the orcs, coming back to Five Ooze Corner "on the way back," and the usual things of that sort. We'll see what actual occurs . . . but going deeper or going into a risky gate might be unavoidable for survivors of Sakatha's lair, if indeed there are any. If there are not, well, back to the drawing board I suppose, only with Quenton as the mighty veteran of the group!

Saturday, September 4, 2021

What do I get royalties on?

So, someone asked what books I get royalties on. Here is the list:

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 12
GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 15
GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 1
GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 3
GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Denizens: Barbarians
GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Treasures 3: Artifacts of Felltower
GURPS Low-Tech Companion 2
GURPS Martial Arts (and the POD version)
GURPS Martial Arts: Gladiators

I'll edit later with links.

Now, this is not to say you shouldn't buy my other works - I was paid fairly for them, and the continued sales of them provides incentive for companies to keep offering me work or accepting my proposals. But if you want to buy a book that results in money going to be as a direct result of your payment . . . it's those books, above.

Friday, September 3, 2021

Random Links & Thoughts for 9/3/21

Notes and links for today.

- Ever wonder why I approve your comment, and then don't come back and respond to it for hours, or days? Because I have content moderation on, and whenever I have a minute and remember, I go check for comments that need approval. If it's clearly a real person, I approve it . . . and don't come back to read them until I have time to actually think about what's being said.

- Here are minis painted up for B2 Keep on the Borderlands and T1 The Village of Hommlet.

- If anyone wants to buy my core-set-only Bones V set unopened, complete with dice and bases, let me know. I'll sell it at cost + shipping. I'm sure there is stuff in there I want but as I've said before, my time is limited and my eyes and hands just don't allow for painting like I want to. I just don't need all of this.

- I've fallen behind on the play reports for this Judge Dredd game, but I'll make good!

- Ah, Gary Gygax and AD&D, my original game system. Want to do a cool thing? It's extremely hard, it's unfun, and it turns you into an NPC. At best. Enjoy. That applies to running monster PCs, becoming a diety, becoming undead or a lycanthrope, etc. I know all too much of how I run game is best understood in how deeply this was absorbed by me.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Limiting sources of situational bonuses?

Just a brief GURPS thought today.

I tend to find lots of stacking situation modifiers tricky. Players constantly want to "just make sure" that they get all of their bonuses. They want to deal with a long-term problem now with a focused investment of points. They want to eke out every bit they can to survive.

But making sure you've counted them all can take time, and still result in errors and edge cases - does Hard to Kill protect against a spell that might kill me? Does Hard to Subdue help me roll to wake up? Does my +3 for Dirty Fighting apply to this one opponent, this time?

On top of that, it can be point inefficient as well as unwieldly. The guy with HT 13, Fit, Hard to Kill 2, Hard to Subdue 2, and FP 13 has spent 16 points to get most of the effects of HT 16, but not all of them, and lost out on 0.75 worth of Basic Speed (15 points on its own) and 2 FP (6 more points) by not spending 14 more points. And has a lot more questions about what applies, when.

So what if you could only every buy one ability that provide situational bonuses? So you could get Fit and Hard to Kill, or Fit and Hard to Subdue, but not all three (and Fit only because it's not a situational bonus, it always applies.) You basically have to make a hard decision and get the one you really want.

You'd still get situational bonuses, but you wouldn't have a lot of them, and have to have so may iterations of your base stat + bonuses to keep track of.

I'd need to do more numbers and look at more cases, but this is an idea that might suit a game with high power and steady growth . . . while very high stats and skills might be annoying, are they more so than moderate stats and skills with lots and lots and lots of bonuses to comb through and decide where they apply? My experience says no. And it's better, in general, for the players - less questions, generally more effectiveness, and less edge cases where they thought something would apply and it does not. Simplified chargen and progression, too, is a helpful bonus.

So I think I need to put some more thought into what this would look like.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

How much defense is too much?

This is somewhat of a rant, I guess.

I exasperatedly exclaimed something like, "Oh for ****'s sake!" during our last session, as someone rolled a 13 and made a Parry by 2 . . . not counting any DB, without Retreat, and without any extenuating bonuses of any kind. Just a pure parry roll of 15 before all of the fun stuff that's piled on top of that - the PC also had a 2 DB shield, and a Shield spell of +2 or +3, and could potentially Retreat. Why the exclamantion? Just some general muttering about how dangerous the situation was. You know, followed by the revelation of a 98.1% of success and only a rule-required margin for failure or critical failure.

Honestly, I get why my players do the things they do - why they layer defensive buffs over high defenses over everything.

But still, as a GM, it's face-palm territory when people say their defenses aren't good and then you find out they have a 15 Parry, without any DB or Retreat, or say they're about to get overwhelmed and die when they're forced to fall back on Dodge-14 and can't get that all-too-important +3 for Retreat. It's the defense equivalent of poor-mouthing . . . woe is me, I only have a near maximal defense, not the maximum possibly allowed.

Like a 95.4% of success is too low, and only a 98.1% chance of success - on a guy who also has Luck and a pile of DR and high stats and additional bonuses to deflect any non-damage followup.

Anything that can potentially cause any harm get classed as "lethal." So monsters are put into two categories - harmless, or so dangerous they can only be fought with superior numbers, in a defensive posture, while buffed, with no possibility of allowing flanking attacks, with room to Retreat.

Personally I think the "we can't afford to get hit, because we can't afford any casualties" approach means excessive caution.

It also can feed an arms race. Massively layered defenses that cannot be reasonably dealt with means they must be unreasonably dealt with. A GM really has no choice besides, effectively, "I guess you all win" or ramping up the offensive power of foes and provide for effects that cannot be avoided. Otherwise it's just rolling dice to see which PC kills the enemy, and how long they take to die, without real challenge of potential failure.

Yet, again, this means a push towards caution. It further forces the game towards tactical combat considerations in all situations, since Retreat is held up as a requirement to survive and worries about denying a flank dominate discussions about what to do.

This is why I've mused a few times about hard skill caps, hard defense caps, and other bounded limitations. That way the arms race at least ends at some point.

But I'm not sure it would stop what drives me a little nutty about the whole thing - the excessive concern that any chance of failure means a high chance of failure, and describing anything less than maximal defenses as poor. One of my players can get a little smug about his high defenses, but at least he's owning the fact that he has them and that they're high. I just feel like a more reasonable acceptance of how defensively secure the PCs are, right out of the gate and then especially after they get more points and better gear would help. So would an acceptance that risk can be reduced but not minimized without costing some - perhaps most - of the risk-reward challenge that DF is meant to be. And I've said it before - people over-patch and they tend to hold up "without any casualties" as delve goals . . . and it costs a lot without getting the end-goal in return.

Just some thoughts.
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