Saturday, December 31, 2022

Year in Gaming 2022

Here we are at the end of 2022. How was it for gaming for me?

Running Dungeon Fantasy

We had only 13 sessions of DF this past year, from session 145 - session 162. That's down from 20 - I think - last year. It was a lowsy year for gaming.

Session 165, Felltower 118 - Beyond the Repelling Doors
Session 166, Felltower 120 - Draugr Do-or-Die (Part I)
Session 167, Felltower 120 - Draugr Do-or-Die (Part II)
Session 168, Felltower 120 - Draugr Do-or-Die (Part III)
Session 169, Felltower 121 - Second GFS - Part I
Session 170, Felltower 121 - Second GFS - Part II
Session 171, Felltower 121 - Second GFS - Part III
Session 172, Felltower 122 - Desmond Takes Command & Stirges
Session 173 (Part I), Felltower 121 - Second GFS - Part IV
     Interlude: Prisoners of the Masters
Session 173 (Part II), Felltower 123 - Dungeons & Dwarves
Session 174, Felltower 124 - Mission for the Masters
Session 175, Felltower 124 - Mission for the Masters II
Session 176, Felltower 124 - Mission for the Masters III - Beholder
Session 177, Brotherhood Complex 1 - Tricks, Traps, and Triger

Our player pool dropped, too. We had only seven players this year, down from ten. All regulars, no new people. But Galen's player hasn't played since 2021, along with a couple others. Some can't seem to handle Foundry, and I can't handle Roll20 anymore. I'm not sure I need new people, but I do need to get some of my players back.

A good chunk of the game was in Felltower - all of it except the last session. No gates. A little deeper exploration. And a number of sessions centered on the ill-fated delve that led to the capture of the PCs, and the consequences. That derailed a lot - it took a while to get people together to play it, a long time to resolve, and then we had a few sessions of trying to satisfy the Masters's needs but they ended in a TPK.

Oddly TPKs don't seem to dissuade anyone from playing. Which is good, although if everyone threw up their hands and say no more Felltower aka DF on Hard Mode I'd just run something else.

Foundry has been annoying, but vastly better than Roll20. I'm getting more skilled at it. I anticipate paying The Forge to host another year - it was well worth the price and their tech support - the one time we needed it - did all that we could have asked. As a former IT guy myself, I'm both understanding and very picky. I understand the issues, but I expect results. We got results.

Playing RPGs

I didn't get to play any.


Another year with no AD&D. I expect this coming one will be the same, although I'm going to try otherwise.

Other Games & Gaming

I got my copy of Fire in the Lake. I've read the rules, but I need space to play it.

I played Pathfinder: Kingmaker and enjoyed it a great deal. I'd play it again except I need to give it a little more time before I'm properly decided what to do in it. I want to run an unarmed monk, and I'm trying to decide between good (again) or evil. Fun stuff.

I didn't really get a lot of other video game playing in.


I wrote all of one article for Pyramid for publication. I'm a lot busier with work - at my place of employment and with my own personal business. So not as much time to write . . . and not as much interest in writing what came along.

I did put my name in the ring for a possible project in 2023. We'll see if I get the gig. If so, it's GURPS, and it'll involve my usual areas of interest. That's all the hint I can give.

I am still keeping up the blog, but with more breaks than last year. Call it 319 posts this year. Not bad, although I will try to keep up daily posting more in the future. Still, it's over 11 years in and 3900 posts.

Overall, a so-so year in gaming. I will do my best to make sure the next one isn't so light on gaming as this one.

Friday, December 30, 2022

Friday's Links 12/30/22

Early post today, because a power outage took out my workplace and cut my day unfortunately short.

- I'm almost done with How to Defend Your Lair. I'll get a full review up - I think it's well worth it.

- I finished reading Slaying the Dragon. Not worth a full review. It's a readable, general audience overview of TSR from inception to the Wizards of the Coast takeover. It's not bad, but it's light on the deep details I'm interested in. Also, this may be accurate, but Peter Adkinson comes off pretty much like a Deus Ex Machina, swooping in and fixing everything with money and by being the best guy possible to everyone. I had no idea . . . but it felt a bit overly lauditory.

- I managed to finish my mapping and most of my monster input for our next Felltower session. Not all of it, but most of it. Enough to play through. Next game is 1/8.

- I have to take some time today and write my annual report of the blog and gaming. I'm looking forward to seeing how much we played this year.

- Here is a fun Labyrinth Lord character generator.

- This is grim game inspiration, but I watched The American Experience: The Battle of Chosin. Short version - US and Korean troops attacked by the Chinese in the dead of winter and have to fight their way out. Longer version - it starts out about battle, but mostly is about slogging through horrific cold during a retreat (for the US) and during an attack (the Chinese, while inadequately equipped for said cold.) It's game inspiration in that it is a good look at what terrible weather is like. If your game features bad weather and bad conditions but the weather and conditions are just a minor descriptive filip, I think you're potentially missing out. Of course, in a fantasy game, PCs will just cast Resist Cold and undo a lot, but at least make the conditions part of the adventure or I'd say just skip them in the first place.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Felltower numbering - fixed! Maybe.

Following up on a comment by Periapt Games, I had to go in to my Felltower summaries and do some renumbering.

First, I had to make sure I was only missing the ones I was missing . . . and then go and edit each one to make it right. This took quite a while.

I'm not certain I did it correctly. I believe the numbering should be correct, now, for sessions numbered from 150-177. I didn't check earlier but I don't seem to have missed any sessions earlier.

If anyone wants to take a check, feel free! The html address will be misnumbered - I'm not going to try and fix those if I even can - but the titles and descriptions on My DF Campaign page should work fine now!

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Felltower shirt sale!

Just a quickie today - the Felltower t-shirt is on sale.

I Died in Felltower

Yes, the I Died in Felltower t-shirt is now only $16.08 with code WINTERDEAL22, plus shipping. Need a late Christmas present to honor a late PC? Feel left out by being left off of the graveyard?

Proceeds go to support the player who designed it, who has to care for the widows and orphans of Ulf, Bjorn, Hjalmarr, eventually Desmond, and others!

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Must-Have Dungeon Features

If I'm creating a dungeon, I make sure to include these:

Latrines - or something similar. A midden, refuse heap, garderobe, etc. There needs to be some place for folks to relieve themselves. Lack of these indicates the builders don't produce wastes, or the GM just forgot. Make sure it's the former.

Pro tip: Put these in convenient places but where it's unlikely to interfere with living there. Humans rarely want to live right on top of an open sewer. Ensure there is a way to have them emptied, or make sure they self-empty.

Dining areas - and lacking these, a place to eat where people barracks up or otherwise live.

Storerooms - absolutely necessary to live, given a lack of Doesn't Eat or Drink on everyone in the place. Plus players will probably insist on going through this stuff like crazy. I've seen players spend more time on barrels of hardtack and "what kind of dried fruit do they have? My character wants to eat some" than on 1,000 pieces of gold. Make sure the amount makes sense - if you have X guards and 2 days of rations for X guards, that should be an issue.

Water Source - lacking Doesn't Eat or Drink, you need this. Bonus if you can also clean dishes, wash yourself, etc. in this. Make it liveable.

A Way to Restock - not more monsters, although that helps. I mean reprovision food, etc.

Stuff to Do - unless your inhabitants are automatons, they need entertainment. Dice, cards, books (for a literate culture), a practice area, etc. are necessary if you're saying the inhabitants live there for weeks and weeks.

I'm sure I'm missing some things . . . but these are pretty important in my book. I've seen too many dungeons without them.

Monday, December 26, 2022

Terrain, Tokens, and Decorations for Foundry VTT?

I'm busily creating my dungeon features for Felltower in Foundry. I'm having the usual issues - perfect minis for a token but I can't find the mini in my collection, tools that aren't always the friendliest in the world, a Run Time "5" error on GCA sometimes killing my NPC imports, and so on.

My current wonder is, how do I do terrain features and the like for Foundry? I've found lots of maps with details on them, but I really need a set of things like trap doors, couches, bookcases, boxes, urns, etc. like I had (somewhat) in Roll20.

Even being able to roughly draw them would be fine, except that drawings are all-or-nothing. It's very easy to wipe them out with a single wrong click and it's hard for me to draw well with a pencil nevermind a mouse or trackball.

There must be a "terrain pack" of some kind. And something with weapons so we can place dropped weapons down would be sweet. I'm beginning to think I need to take a lot of pictures and make tokens for each and every one. That sounds . . . very labor intensive.

So if you know of a good pack, or a good solution, I'm open to suggestions!

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Merry Christmas from Felltower

I spent this morning updating maps, uploading NPCs, snapping pictures of minis and making tokens out of them, and assorted other game prep for Felltower.

It was a nice way to spend a quiet Christmas morning. I hope yours was excellent as well!

Friday, December 23, 2022

Links & Thoughts for 12/23/2022

Random stuff for Friday! I'm not feeling very wordy.

- the lack of a scanner means I can't keep uploading Felltower bits to our VTT to map. Annoying, as I'm kind of in a zone. Monsters next, I suppose.

- Jeff wants to know if you've seen this monster too ridiculous even for me to use. Probably.

- Some advice for running a long campaign. As someone 11 years or so into one, this advice seems reasonable.

- 25% off stuff from Doug's company's store.

- I didn't know that Kim Mohan died.

- I may or may not post tomorrow and Sunday due to Christmas. We'll see!

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Forced Entry in DF Felltower

In DF Felltower, we do no-contest door forcing.

Despite this, buying Forced Entry isn't that common, and almost no one puts points in it.

So I'd like to clarify what else it can do for you in DF Felltower.

Evaluate a forceable obstacle - Per-based Forced Entry allows you to identify the construction of a door (light, heavy, vault, etc.), and on a sufficient success will give details like range of HP and DR, penalty to force, etc. IQ-based rolls can tell you additional details such as moisture levels (letting you know if Destroy Water will shrink it, say), any odd features that you could understand with experience, etc. Some of this is really obvious (upwards of +10 on a roll, so even an unskilled person notices immediately) but not all of it is. (Generally the IQ-based ones are GM-called for rolls, not player-asked-for rolls)

Do Additional Damage to Obstacles - heavier iron or iron-bound doors have enough DR to bounce most attacks. +2 per die to damage is a huge help.

Adds to ST for lifting obstacles - use ST-based Forced Entry to determine BL for shifting an obstacle. (This is for gates, heavy doors, a portcullis, etc. not some random statue you want to look under, a rock you want to shift, etc.)

This isn't a huge expansion - some isn't even an expansion - but it should help people understand why 2-4 points in Forced Entry is useful.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Felltower game prep

Yesterday and today, I had a little bit of time.

I spent it carefully tracing walls on the uploaded map for our game, and fixing the sloppy walls I put up myself earlier. It's going well. I don't need to switch maps if I have the whole dungeon down. I may need to start putting down foes in their rooms ahead of time, so I can just move them around as needed.

I have to clean up a few tokens for next time, too. GCA4 and Foundry don't talk to each other perfectly, and I'm not GCA5-fluent enough to swap over to that. My players use a mix of GCA and GCS so we're not even all on the same page.

Overall it's going a little better as I get more skilled with it. But I still need a more solid system for uploading and building maps. Vic has some ideas, and a program, that I can look in to. Anything that will make mapping easier would be good.

One note on playing on a VTT - player maps are perfect. Not "close," but perfect. They can see the map and easily copy it down. That's not a bad thing, but it's a very new thing to a game based on an old principle of Theater of the Mind description and close-enough-is-good-enough mapping. It's something I need to get used to.

Monday, December 19, 2022

Questioning the Cultists

In our Felltower campaign on Sunday, the PCs took prisoners (!) and didn't make extreme threats to give up everything or die instantly (!!) or rob them of every single thing they owned (!!!) and were actually nice to them!!!!

That's almost a whole post's worth of news right there.

It happened mostly because one wounded one threw down his sword and asked for quarter, and Kaylee (despite Bloodlust, but because of Code of Honor (Soldier's)) accepted his surrender. The guard offered to tell them everything in return for his life. The PCs captured another, and then extended the deal to the other five unconcious foes they were able to take prisoner after the fight ended.

This is what they learned:

- these guys are general ruffians, down-on-their-luck types, and mercenaries. They hooked up with the Cone-Hatted Cultists (who call themselves the Black Brotherhood) for the pay, mostly, and lack of other options.

- they were paid pretty well - they had 150-ish in silver and gold coins in their pockets.

- they weren't particularly well-equippped - heavy leather armor, pot helms (DR 4 segmented plate), cheap broadswords, light crossbows (ST 12), and medium shields. They wore cult black-and-burgundy robes but didn't wear their hoods.

- their overall morale was low. They said there were nine "fanatic" guards elsewhere in the complex, but better equipped.

- there is another level to the complex below the one they were captured on. It's accessible from a spiral staircase behind a door.

- there are gnolls downstairs.

- the Brotherhood is conducting some kind of sacrifices to some being in strange religious rituals. They were forced to chant along with some of them but were basically excluded from all of the really important bits - they really had only superficial information and didn't know what they were chanting. Sacrifices tend to be stragglers on the road, people who wander too close to the valley, and captives taken from afar.

- some of the guards have gone missing, and the official story is that some deserted, and others were sent on special long-term missions. The guards didn't believe this because it only happened when it was a while between prisoners being taken.

- the Brotherhood here is led by wizards - anywhere from four to six or more of them, the count varied by guard. The honcho is female, but with a disturbing voice. They've never seen her without her hood, but her voice echos a lot. She has an accent much like "that guy" - one pointed at Lenjamin of Cornwood. A Cornish renegade?

- the guards have never armor like Desmond's magescale. Possible wrinkle - Desmond painted and decorated his magescale to be really "attractive" and "eye-catching," so it's about as subtle as Austin Powers's VW Beetle.

And that's it so far. None of the guards joined Ambassador Durinn in his morning prayers, but he encouraged them to find the Good God. Desmond decided to help, by scolding these youngsters for being foolish and young and not following the Good God and hanging around with the wrong crowd and now you see what happens!

And let this be a lesson to evil bad guys - don't leave your least-reliable but somewhat informed men as your first line of defense. Keep your least reliable troops for "rear area" and low-level duty, not as your first line of defense.

Sharp observers will note that the group that built (maybe built) the upper levels of Felltower was called the Black Brotherhood. The cone-hatted cultists seem to have a mix of male and female leaders, while the Brotherhood leadership seems to have been all male. It's not been made clear if this is the same brotherhood, or a group that apes the old Brotherhood and seeks the value of the name but is not the same. How they all tie into the Masters aka the Gith isn't clear either, but there is clearly a lot of copying going on. At least now, though, most of the players have realized these are distinct groups even if they have overlaps. Or are probably distinct groups. They're not one universal and allied lot.

Sunday, December 18, 2022

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Session 177, Brotherhood Complex 1 - Tricks, Traps, and Triger

We played a session in a new area today, a couple of days from Felltower but perhaps ultimately connected.

Just a note on numbering - one of my readers noticed I'd missed putting a pair of sessions on the DF Campaign page, and it seems like I overlapped my session numbering for at least one session. So I think this is actually session 177 . . . and numbered it as such.

Date: 12/18/2022
Game Date: 12/18/2022 left Stericksburg, delved on 12/20/2022, returned to Stericksburg 12/22/2022.

Ambassador Durinn, dwarf cleric (250 points)
Desmond MacDougall, human wizard (278 points)
Kaylee, half-elf knight (250 points)
Lenjamin Gundry of Cornwood, human knight (250 points)

The PCs gathered in Stericksburg. I gave the players the following background, which amusingly is based on Galen's player's listing of his downtime activities:

Years ago, there was a rumor.

"There are supposedly a pair of unopenable doors way out to the West. They say they connect to Felltower somehow."

Galen's been lurking on the fringes of the unsettled territory north of the Silver River - claimed by the kingdom, but wilderness for most purposes. Sometimes, though, his travels take him near the roads, doing some work to keep himself amused.

On one of those trips, after disposing of some pesky goblins that were annoying local farmers, he spotted something interesting - a covered wagon of goods headed west. Nothing special, except he briefly saw a cone-hatted man poke his head out of the back to order the porters around.

Galen decided to follow and see what was up. It's not legal to kill men in the borders of the kingdom without cause, so he figured maybe he'd track them outside of the borders.

Eventually, he followed them to a small valley. In the small valley was a cave - the wagon headed to the cave, where many cone-hatted cultists came out to receive the goods. Once that was done, they coerced the teamsters into the cave, broke up the wagon and took the entire thing inside.

After dark, Galen snuck in. In the cave was a tunnel, narrow and winding and dark. At the very end of the tunnel was a room with a pair of giant doors lacking a handle, keyhole, hinges, or latches of any kind. They showed signs of attempted forcing in the light of Galen's torch, but no guards or anything. Traffic clearly had been coming and going - and it seemed it was both booted feet of men, and clawed feet . . . probably gnolls.

Galen spied out the land for a few days and saw that very occasionally cone-hatted cultists would come out to harvest berries and gather fruit and catch some rabbits and other game. He realized he could pick a few off but couldn't besiege the place, so he went to find some people who could go in . . .


Meanwhile, Desmond had come across an interesting passage in a book at the guild. It said that the Black Brotherhood had created a "hidden fastness" off "in the West" to just prior to the siege of their Felltower-top fortress. In it they supposedly hid treasure and learning of their dark cult. But it notably said that it had unopenable doors . . . which would only open for "a properly proclaimed brother."

And then along came Galen with his doors.

So Desmond gathered up Red, Blue, and new guy Grey (he can't remember names) and told them he knew the password past the door.

They bought a week's worth of rations and hiked a couple of days West and a bit north of the roads to find the valley Galen told him about. They reached it around noon on the third day.

They headed into the cave after debating waiting it out. They followed a very windy and narrow (2 yards by 2 yards) tunnel up and down stairs to a tall-ceilinged room with a pair of metal doors. The doors were almost 18' tall and 6 feet wide each. They - and the ground and walls around them - showed signs of attempted forced entry. The walls were scorched on the walls facing the doors, as well. But they had no hinges, keyholes, locks, or handles. It had taken a while to get there - they'd mapped as best they could along the way, with Durinn doing the mapping on his shield lecturn.

Desmond looked for a black hand print but there was none. So he said, "I am of the Brotherhood. By the Brotherhood, let me pass."

The doors slid silently open.

Beyond was a T-shaped room with a staircase down to the right. Shortly after the doors silently closed. They looked around and Durinn used See Secrets and saw nothing. The stairs to the right led to a dusty room with cobwebbed corners and dust floating around in the air. It was oddly dry. On either side wall of a square room was a metal-bound oak door, and in the center far wall was a rotatable statue. It was of a robed, cone-hatted figure with slanted eyes and its faced covered, pointing a six-fingered left hand languidly forwad.

Durinn checked the statue closely and saw it could rotate to face either door. He touched it and got zapped by black fire for 1 HP injury and 5 FP drain.

So they surmised this was like the puzzle rooms they'd read about being in Felltower. So they proceeded to try to force the doors. Zap. 3 HP injury and a lot of FP drain (Kaylee once lost 15 FP). They turned the statues to face the doors and opened them. Nope, wouldn't budge. They turned it to face the other door and forced it. Nope. Zap, zap, zap. They'd do a few, rest and heal, and do a few more. They tried using the passphrase in a few combinations. Nope. Zap, zap, zap. They tried the passphrase in the entry room - the doors opened, but that was it.

Finally, Durinn decided to tap the walls of the first room, because if there was an illusionary wall, See Secrets wouldn't have revealed it. And sure enough, opposite the stairs to the statue room was another identical staircase, behind an illusionary wall. It had been a few hours of game time including rests.

They headed down those stairs, a bit battered but okay.

At the bottom was an open, wide corridor with a hole in the wall. They moved carefully over to the hole in the wall, taking the time to map. They got close, and began to hear a caterwauling roar from three throats. So they kept moving close to the hole in the wall, Kaylee in the lead, taking their time to ready weapons, put the map away, etc. The roars kept coming.

And as Kaylee got to the narrowest bit, a triger pounced on her, biting her. She managed to slice up two of its mouths, but the third latched on with a critical hit, holding on to her leg.

They rushed it as she dropped her sword and fished out a large knife. Lenny threw a hatchet at it and nearly lopped off a back leg. Durinn healed Kaylee with Major Healing and Desmond put Armor 4 on her.

Kaylee sliced the triger and it kept gnawing on her, and then Lenny finished it off with a hammer blow, wounding it badly and causing it to collapse a monent later.

Just as that happened, though, down the adjacent hallway came eight men with crossbows, swords, and shields. They wore the black-and-burgundy split robes of cone-hatted cultists but lacked the hoods. They lined up and aimed crossbows from about 14-15 yards away.

Desmond threw a 1d Explosive Acid Ball and slightly wounded three of them. Lenny threw a hatchet but missed - range and darkness told.

The PCs advanced. Crossbow bolts rained in, missing Durinn (Missile Shield), blocked by Lenny, or hitting Kaylee - but with her 6 DR scale and 4 DR Armor spell she bounced all of their quarrels.

They reached the foe, but it took so long even at top speed that they'd dropped their crossbows, readied shields and swords, and were Waiting. So Desmond cast Terror on three of them. One picked up a new quirk (mild fear of wizards, FWIW), one was stunned, and a third began to retch and dry heave. Kaylee slashed at another. The guards swarmed around their left flank and surrounded Lenny and Kaylee, who went back to back. The ones who came after Desmond and Durinn found Durinn ready to fight, and Desmond stunned one with a hefty Dehydrate spell. The guards landed a few blows, and fought hard, but weren't up to the task. They hit Kaylee a couple times but her DR stopped what her sword didn't. Lenny blocked most and was hurt a couple times, but managed to hammer a few arms, breaking them. Kaylee slashed one in the throat. That one stood another second before dropping - to quickly die on the floor.

One with a crippled arm fled. Others began to back off, but the PCs managed to quickly put them down. Lenny and Desmond took off after the fleeing one - and Desmond hit him in the back with an Acid Ball, but didn't quite wound him enough. He still had enough move - and willingness to run away in the dark - to evade them.

Meanwhile one had tossed his sword down and asked for quarter. Kaylee accepted it, even as Durinn beat a wounded and stunned one unconscious next to him. The retching one eventually was able to comply with orders to drop his weapon.

The fleeing one got away, but the other seven were dead or captured. They brought the living two to their guard room after one told them there were nine more guards and how to find them. He warned those guys were fanatics.

The PCs walked their prisoners to the room, taking their cash and weapons and helmets. They got them to accept being put in Suspended Animation. They dragged in the wounded and the one dead and tied up the wounded.

After discussing staying in the guard room until they'd recovered FP and healed up (call that another 20-30 minutes or more) they realized it wasn't worth the risk. They tried to force a nearby door to no avail, even after Destroy Water on the mildewed and damp door. They couldn't open it.

At this point they gave up. They woke up the wounded and the prisoners, and took them out with them, offering their lives for cooperation. This took a lot of discussion - a few minutes - before they settled on what to do. They left the triger because it's too heavy, they lack the skills to skin it, and they weren't sure it was dead and no one wanted to provoke it if it was recovering. They left.

Once outside the dungeon, they moved a mile or so away, and questioned their prisoners. Durinn treated them humanely and kindly, and healed where he could. One had a skull fracture from Kaylee cracking him in the skull during the fight, so he used Suspended Animation to keep him alive. They got some info (I'll post it tomorrow) and let the guards go. They seemed like riff-raff but clearly weren't fanatics.

They headed back to Stericksburg. No one wants to spend the holidays outside some cultist-occupied complex.


- Good session today. I was amused at the trap working. What's even funnier to me is that Durinn's player noted that See Secrets wouldn't see an illusion, and that the room was dusty and cobwebbed but the rest of the entrance was not. Yet they persisted in a good 90 minutes of real time puzzling out the puzzle. Or should I say, getting trapped by the trap.

Some of that is play style . . . there is a strong tendency towards figuring out puzzles, clearing locations (nothing is done until it's all done), finishing a setpiece and then just resting, looting, and mending, and have a very mixed plan of action that depends heavily on pausing and debating. And some others. A truly old-school paranoia would probably have made them walk away from that room . . . and maybe avoid that hole in the wall instead of walking up to it to check it out. Not saying that this would have solved everything, but you can see how trying to maximize finds its way in.

- Use of ranged weapons! And fight-breaking spells! Craziness.

- I was going to use the mook rules for automatic KOs at negative HP, but the first guy made his HT roll by a lot. So I figured, maybe these guys are a bit tough. I'm glad I did - it made for a better fight and better results when guys fought hard and only folded when badly wounded. So why not?

- We have a second knight of Cornwood. The loyal knights of King Titanius Anglesmith I are always willing to delve into Felltower to widen the reknown of Cornwood!
Durinn's player quipped he's a robot.

- XP was 6 each - 4 xp for loot at threshold or above, 2 xp for exploration of a large number of significant areas. MVP was Durinn for finding the illusionary wall with some old-school wall tapping. They took home around $850 each in cash.

- Kaylee ended up with 10 points and spent them on Magery 1. She's got enough to start learning a few spells she's been after.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

I hate VTT game prep

Let's just say this right now, clearly:

I hate VTT game prep.

- I spent a good 2 1/2 hours of prep time putting in three monsters and one NPC. The NPC ended up with weird issues in the mook generator and I had to bail.

- I used to be able to just drop minis on a map or grab a box with the minis I own. That's not a think with VTT.

- I find all of this a frustrating version of what I used to do in IT, except I get paid $0 for it.

- my HP 8620 printer just died. Well, it's not dead, but it says, "Printer Failure" so I can't even use it as a scanner. None of the troubleshooting works. I need to take pictures of the maps I'll use and then upload them. I'm probably just going to junk the printer and not even try to fix the piece of junk. It was great for a while, and then bad ever since. I'm totally unimpressed with my experience with HP and Dell and Brother printers. So what's left? Nothing I can see.

I'm not fully read for game tomorrow but I'm ready to just stop now. It used to be that having the game in my head was the most important thing, and stuff written down second, and any props a useful way to make game better. Now it's the reverse. The most useless thing is having the game in my head, and everything I write has to be in the correct format for upload and on the VTT or it may as well not be done at all.

I don't miss driving home from game at night and carrying all of my minis, but it's a damn sight better than this.

Friday, December 16, 2022

Random Thoughts & Links for 12/16/2022

End of the week nonsense from the typing fingers of a sleepy GM. Here we go!

- Tom Van Winkle has a nice post on the history of D&D's HP.

- I started to read Empire of Imagination but I got lost right away by made-up conversions. That's not the style I like in nonfiction.

- I lost access to my Fire in the Lake table. As expected. I'll try to see what else I can do.

- I almost completely stocked the new area for Felltower. I have one big area potentially accessible right away to deal with, and three or four things to stat out . . . and then hopefully get some of this up in the VTT. Maybe. I'm hoping to do more mapless combat if my players will let me. Generally, they will, as long as they can take full advantage of everything they'd get with mapped combat without any of the downsides of mapless combat. Which generally means, they won't. I just don't have enough free hours to upload everything.

And that's it for today.

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Lost Items of Felltower

There is a hell of a trove of magical items and valuable high-end mundane goods in Felltower . . . on the corpses of the fallen delvers "slain by a beholder."

But the PCs left a lot in town.

What the hell happens to that stuff?

Stuff left in town all goes away when the PC dies. It gets confiscated by some authories, legally claimed as abandoned property by the landlord, taken by the church or wizard's guild in some cases, and so on. It's not accessible to current or future PCs. With some exceptions, but they're generally very narrow and determined by me on a specific basis. I don't see any of them relevant here. The upside of stuff left in town is that it's invulnerable to theft and you don't need to explain where exactly it is. It can't be lost in the dungeon. But, equally, it can't be recovered from the slain in the dungeon.

Here are a few items I'm pretty sure are gone, not to return until some coicidence puts them back into play. If then.

- The Orichalcum Key. The key to the big orichalcum doors was in Ulf's possession, as far as I can tell, but in town. With luck, the key will end up with the church to be handed out to delvers who the church needs to use it. Or in a curio shop waiting to be discovered and purchased. Or with the wizard's guild. Or in the king's massive vaults along with the Ark of the Covenant. But for now, the riches and challenges beyond the doors will remain there undisturbed . . . unless another key is found.

- The iron flask. Wyatt had it, double-tied down with ropes, to keep it away from Ulf and curious Gerry. But he also left a note in Ulf's room leaving everything to the church. If someone opens that, and honors it, before Wyatt's room is cleaned out . . . it might end up with the church. Or an unwary person might open it. Or a wizard might buy it. It's incredibly unlikely someone will just hand it to delvers and ask them to open it. So it's very likely out of play.

- Many magic javelins. Heyden has a few, but Bruce and possibly others had some of the magical javelins recovered from Sakatha's lair. Those left in town are certainly gone. Oh well. Maybe more exist in other dungeons? Yet more victims of "save it until we really, really need it."

- Possibly other items. I'm not even sure. But the usual rules apply - if a current PC doesn't have it down on their sheet, it's gone. Many items have gone away that way. Hey, people lose stuff. It happens. Only evil stuff tends to resurface, and only then if it amuses the Fates (okay, the GM), in the hands of the corruptible or evil.

It's tempting to list what the lost items did . . . very tempting. I did it for the Razor in DFT3. But equally, I've found that secrets held are secrets you can use later. Maybe in 2023, or 2033, I'll need to have that iron flask appear, or some other item left behind to turn up, to make something work. It's times like these I feel much like the Old Meddler in Glen Cook's "Dread Empire" series, pulling at the strings of past victories and defeats to web them together into a new plot. So maybe it'll need to keep as a secret.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

How I decided to buy Keith Ammann's new book

I decided to get myself an RPG book with some holiday cash. I'm getting myself this:

Keith Ammann's "How to Defend Your Lair."

Before I decided, though, I dug around for some reviews. I mean, I love his work, but I don't GM D&D5e so it's the systemless aspects I most care about. And it's not necessarily the positive reviews that help the most.

This review mostly explains why the book isn't good for the reviewer. Since the writer's play style sounds like very much the opposite of how I GM, I think this helps sell it to me. Especially this:

I continuously ratchet difficulty levels up and down for my players because I do not think TPKs are fun and I also want them to each get their shots in before downing the bad guys. I like for my players to feel involved in combats, and to experience the terror of thinking they’re going to die (but not actually killing them.) As a GM, I feel that my job is to challenge the players but not frustrate them.

And as much as I’ve loved the hundreds of players I’ve run games for over the years, I can confidently state that most of them don’t play D&D, or any other role-playing games, in order to think. They’re there for the action, and they’re there for the drama. The fun ones are also there for the lolz. My job as the DM is to facilitate all this, to make my players feel smart and capable and like big damn heroes. I have thrown away so many puzzles and lowered the success rates of so many secrets just to make sure my tables have a good time getting through carefully constructed adventures, whether my own or others’ (I’m a big fan of running from pre-written modules.)

So, that's exactly not me in a nutshell. It's quite possible that the last thing my players want to do at the table is think. But I run games that reward thinking and the odd bit of bold action. I don't run games that reward drama. I don't change puzzle difficulty even if people spend boring hours on a Sunday throwing keys at a door to try and open it.*

Finally, I found this podcast with the author, which finished my decision in favor of buying it.

It's on its way, and I'm sure my players aren't even slightly happy that my defended lairs will be even better designed and even more logically constructed.

* It's still not a puzzle. And they're still going to be mad at me when they figure it out. Hopefully that's during an online session because they outnumber me a lot.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Guardian Article by a first-time D&D GM

This article amused me.

‘Why can’t anyone make a decision?’ My first time as a D&D Dungeon Master

It's pretty funny - players diverted by throwaway nonsense, no one able to decide things, players agreeing with and then ignoring a GM suggestion - all the fun stuff.

Also, the author looks kinda like John Doe from X.

I do like to read articles aimed at a more general audience than the hard-core gamers that I write for. Not always, but this is one I got a chuckle out of. And there is a link to a nice site with a trap generator.

Plus the title reminds me of the time my players made the then-11 or 12 year old son of one of our gamers the leader. He'd groaned all day about things being slow, let's do something, let's attack something . . . they made him the leader and all of a sudden he couldn't decide what to do, needed to check the map, wasn't too sure about any given suggestion . . . good times.

Monday, December 12, 2022

Delvers vs. Dwellers, Animals vs. Animals

So I'm finishing up Fire in the Lake - the book, not the game - and I came across this quote.

It's remarkably descriptive of delvers in a hack-and-slash, loot-centric game. And sadly, often enough in non-hack-and-slash, loot-centric games, too.

"You'll look at your enemy and these people that you're sort of a visitor to. You'll look at them as animals and at the same time you're just turning yourself into an animal, too."

"Michigan Winter Soldier Investigation," p. 7, Testimony of Steve Pitkin, 20, SP/4, "C" Company, 2/239, Ninth Infantry Division (In Vietnam from May 1969 to July 1969.)
- Frances Fitzgerald, "Fire in the Lake," p. 371

Sad but true . . . delvers tend to be in a situation they don't fully comprehend (especially if there are factions), possessed of the ability and permission to do violence, and regarding all as potential threats around them. Eventually everything gets reduced to "what can they do for us?" and a feeling that anything less than gratitude for the delvers not stomping them is permission to stomp them - even if stomping them isn't the only solution. Like The Black Company, most delver groups in this type of game regard things as us vs. them, even if they nominally owe some allegience to something outside the group (religion, state, group, or alignment system.)

It's sad but not shocking that I'm quoting a soldier at war in a real situation . . . but there is a reason PCs might be designed as heroes but end up with a rap sheet of anti-social behavior.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Felltower Next Week

A few things have settled for Felltower.

- Next game is Sunday 12/18.

- Next game is the new A-Team, which is the old B-Team plus a few new guys for folks who didn't have B-Team PCs. I'm not sure if that includes Galen's player. Galen might want to come along and shoot down foes at rannge for 0-1 xp per session. We will have to see.

- We're still voting on rules changes, and some skill merges and new talents I've proposed. I say proposed because I usually make this just as unilateral decisions but these have a bit more umph to them so I want to ensure everyone thinks they are fun.

Either way, we have 7 regulars, 3 occasionals, and right now 4 votes. I'd like votes from all seven regulars before I implement anything. So these changes won't go into effect until that happens. I strongly suspect that two of them will lodge their votes by voice next game session. That's not very helpful but it's what I expect. I may have to make some retroactive changes. The only one I think I can't make after the fact are the loot changes, and the skill/.talent merges. At least not easily. So even if everyone is on board, they may have to wait until a later point to get implemented.

- I do have a lot of prep work for the new area, but it's all self-inflicted. I want to do more of the new area by hand and make less of it lifted from its inspirational sources.


Friday, December 9, 2022

Friday 12/9/2022 Thoughts & Notes

- I have seven steady players in Felltower, three more semi-steady players, and four votes on my proposed rules changes. We'll see if I can get even two more votes.

- James Mal bags on the tedium of figuring out artifacts in Gamma World. It's not the most fun thing we ever did in our 20th Homeland campaign, either. Also look for the drive-by Rolemaster slam!

- He also talks about wandering monsters as a spur to player activity. I find them a drain on real-world time, although I still use them. They don't chivvy play along, just in-game time spending is done with more care.

- This is interesting - a challenge to build a 12-level megadungeon daily across 2023.


I'm not doing that, because I have a megadungeon already with more than 365 rooms.

I'm likely to be AFK for the weekend as I have a professional cert to do. But if I have time I'll drop a quick post in on Sunday if there is anything Felltower related to note!

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Player questions on possible GURPS DF Felltower rule changes

We've had two concerns come up for the Fixed Feint option: - At least one person wants an option for a -8 if you win by a lot.

- And one person is concerned that fixing Feints at a -4 penalty unduly hurts high skill/low damage PCs more than others, and that -4 is possibly not enough to stay relevant.

Let's look at those in turn.

I have one option that could allow for that -8 without fussing over math each time and people double- and triple-checking numbers to eke out 1-2 points to ensure a -8 and cause people to say, "Do I sense that I should use Luck here, since I really need a -8?". I posted it the other day.

As for the second, I have two points.

The first is that from the GM's side of the screen, the high skill/low damage types are no more dependent on a successful Feint than the moderate skill/high damage types. They often need to aim for a more difficult hit location to ensure the damage they do is relevant or penetrates DR, but almost all of them, almost immediately, buy up enough skill and/or Slayer Training to make that a non-issue. Higher skill folks also always - always - inflict more Deceptive Attack on foes than moderate-skill/high-damage fighters. They have at least as many attacks as high-damage fighters, and usually have more. So much so that I spend approximately no time at all worrying about high-damage fighters when I design foes. I don't give them a thought. But once we get an eye-shot feint specialist, I have to consider that. Foes with eyes, and a lack of multiple defenses, and insufficient skill to resist a Feint, are basically fodder, albeit some of them are dragon-sized fodder. The need to give supposedly worthy or boss-level foes enough skill to have a fighting chance against a Feint every turn without going down high-single or low-double digits in penalties means they are harder to defend against in turn.

So I understand why someone would think this, but on the GM's side of the screen, and in my summaries, what I see is high-skill/low-damage folks mowing down foes and acting as the primary killing arm of the party while moderate-skill/high-damage guys do some grunt work keeping alive in a fight and taking out foes that lack eyes, vitals, and have high DR. Not one of those, but all of those. Otherwise, those foes fall to the high-skill guys.

I had once suggested that Feint do nothing except double the Deceptive Attack penalty you inflict on the victim next turn, but that was almost instantly and unanimously shot down as being bad because "What if you need full skill just to hit the guy so you have nothing to double?" And combining them - double with a minimum inflicted penalty of -4 - sounds like a solution but is the worst of both worlds, as unless you can afford a -6 to get a -6, you go with -0 and get -4 and use that 6 points to ensure a hit on a better location or to keep into crit-fishing range (16+.)

The second is, a fixed penalty of -4 means those high-skill guys actually have less need to keep pushing their skill up, and can do things to push their damage up or otherwise widen their capabilities. Once you can't stomp a foe's defenses to 0, you have no incentive to maximize your margin of victory. You just need any margin of victory. This applies in both directions - enemies no longer need skill 20+ to be "worthy" and skill 22-24+ to be a "boss" that can hang with a swashbuckler with a longsword.

- Merging Higher Purpose - "Does the Higher Purpose switch basically merge Undead and Demons?" Not exactly. If we change it to "Destroy Truly Evil" than it will change Higher Purose. It will apply to all demons, and all truly evil, willfull undead. But not all undead. Mindless skeletons and zombies and lesser mummies? No bonus. They're not evil. Eyes of Death and Mindwarpers? It will apply, they're "Truly evil."

Cost is an issue. We might have to make it cost more, and this suddenly broadens out what it applies to. If it's just as-written, I could live with 5 points. If it's as-written plus a per-die damage bonus, that applies to a great swath of foes. 5/level might be too cheap. But that's a second vote issue, as a clarification.

So there is some commentary on the commentary I'm seeing. Less than half of my players voted. I suspect in a week and change when we game a couple people will just announce their votes on some things as we play. That won't be so helpful compared to a pre-game vote. But . . . so it goes.

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Felltower Update - New Area and Game Date hints

We've had some movement on Felltower.

First off, I'm not sure when next game is. It might be Sunday, or the Sunday after. I have a scheduling conflict on Sunday, which I'll ignore if I have to.*

Second, I've figured out our next gaming area.

It's going to be a Felltower-connected area I've been sitting on for a while. It's come up in rumors a couple times but not ones the players have really been able to decipher and exploit. It is based on a published adventure that I quite liked. I'm not quite settled on all of the details of how I'll use it, but there is no point in saving it any longer. It's a wee bit tough for new characters, but we'll have a mix of brand-new guys, almost-new guys, and at least one vet (Desmond!) to help get things along. I think it'll be a good one if everyone is a little more bold than cautious. I'll spice it up with some additional work to make it more appropriate for new delvers and let it go from there.

We'll see. But it won't pull them away from Felltower for too long, since it's really in and of the same as Felltower in the end.

Or so I hope.

Thirdly, we've had a few interesting questions about some of the rules changes I've proposed. I'll go over them tomorrow.

* I'd quite forgotten I'd signed up for a professional development online certification (actually, re-certification) this coming weekend. I had mentally penciled it in for a different weekend. Either way, it's vitual and I can do it asynchonously, but it's also about 16-18 hours long and I'm much more likely to gainfully learn from it if I do it live and catch up on missed sections than do it bit by bit later. But if we can only game this coming Sunday, I'll do it.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Fire in the Lake-sized table acquired. Kinda.

Good news - I have a table space enough the size of South Vietnam . . . in Fire in the Lake!

Bad news - it's not actually my table. I may have to negotiate for use.

But it's a step forward. Onward to victory!

Monday, December 5, 2022

Fixed Feint modification?

I was thinking about my "Fixed Feint" option for Felltower.

I know at least one player likes the idea of a fixed feint outcome, but also likes the idea of being able to get a -8, not -4, to defend.

But said player described that as "-8 if you make the feint by 10 or more" . . . but the suggested rule is actually "Winning the Quick Contest by 10+".

My main concern with this is that we still need to do the math. I don't need to eyeball the results, but instead calculate a margin so I can then decide if it is -4 or -8. It means people wanting to check and see if they had just 1 or 2 more points they should have gotten, or the opponent shouldn't have gotten, so they can eke out a -8 instead of a -4.

So here is an idea I had.

If you attempt a Feint and roll a 4 or less, and win the contest, you inflict a -8 penalty on your opponent instead of a -4. If your opponent also rolls 4 or less, you inflict a -4 penalty if despite this you win the contest.

It doesn't matter if you roll a 3 and your target rolls a 4. 3-4 are equally weighted on the roll. That's why I worded it as "a 4 or less." That should forstall any questions about is a 3 better than a 4 and shouldn't it be.

Note this is not a critical success - it's a contest of skills, not a Success Roll, which are not the same things (except for spells, somewhat problematically.)

I don't know if I'll use this, but it's an idea to preserve the possibility of a -8 without needing to worry about most contest results. And you'll know if you rolled a 3 or 4, and I'll know if the foe rolled a 3 or 4, instantly.

Sunday, December 4, 2022

10x Loot & 10x Magic Prices in Felltower - Full Proposal

This is the final proposal for 10x loot and 10x magic prices in Felltower.

My players will be voting on this privately.

Effects on Play & Rules

- Starting Wealth and Trading Points for Money are unchanged.

- Findable loot will be approximately 10x as much as before.

- Jewelry, gem, luxury good, and coin values will not change unless they are permanent or temporary magic items.

- Permanent and temporary magic items, items that convey spells (scrolls), spellstones, potions, etc. cost, and are worth, 10x listed or $200/point of energy.

- Potions sold in town are sold at $1,000 per as their base value (subject to Wealth sale percentages) regardless of the potion.

- Power Item recharging is $50/point.

- Spells cast by NPCs cost $200 per point, or 10x list cost (so $150,000 for Resurrection, or $10,000 for Remove Curse, $1,600 for Analyze Magic).

- Loot Thresholds for XP are 10x higher.

- Upkeep costs are unchanged.


This should make magic items more scarce, since comparable (or nearly so) mundane items are cheaper.

Orichalcum is still restricted for purchase. You can't just order any. That's a Felltower feature.

This should also explain delving better - even a cruddy delve that nets you just enough for full loot XP for a brand-new delver - $2000 each - is far more than you could earn at a real job. You're risking death - probably courting certain death, eventually - but the payoffs can be staggering.

I'll add any future player comments or requested clarifications here.


Will the weight of loot change, per this older post?

No, that's not listed above. We're voting based on the post above and not on any other discussions, ideas, floated rules changes, or other details disucussed elsewhere.

What would the Loot Threshold Tables look like?

Modified Method 2 (aka the rules that made it into DF21)

Up to 249 Points: $1,000 each (1x Average)
250-299 Points: $2,000 each (1x Comfortable)
300-349 Points: $4,000 each (2x Comfortable)
350-399 Points: $10,000 each (2x Wealthy)
400-449 Points: $40,000 (2x Very Wealthy)
450+ Points: $200,000 each (2x Filthy Rich)
Every additional 50 points: x10

Yes, that's a lot. A 500 point guy needs $2,000,000 to get 4 xp! No wonder they stay home and send weaker delvers to fight orcs and slimes!

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Goodbye to two perks in Felltower

Upon reflection, I'm definitely getting rid of Signature Gear on top of getting rid of Trademark Move. I just find that neither of them adds more than they take away from the campaign.

We'll see about other changes, but those are gone!

Google forms question

Does anyone know how to create a nested question in Google Forms?

One of those where, if the person chooses YES, it opens a followup?

I've looked but the answer I've found just confused me a bit.

And yes, we're going to use a Google Form to figure out who wants to do what rules-wise.

If I get sufficienty skilled at framing questions I'll probably do that for a future delving area, too.

Friday, December 2, 2022

Links & Thoughts for 12/2/2022

A few things:

- I have some replies to comments from the last few days, but I don't have the time to make them at the moment. They're coming!

- I have to write out my 10x loot proposal again in a final form. We may not use them, but I answered three questions by email that are answered in the general post on the subject. So that's not a good sign for comprehension. I'll be explicit what would be what way.

It might actually be easier to cut the price of mundane items by 1/10th, actually, and it would have the same effect.

I'll only put it into practice this campaign if we get 100% of the current players to agree on it.

- I'll give these a go. The library had them both:

I need to finish this, first:

Hey, be careful of spoilers! Don't tell me how it turns out! It's looking good for the Americans at the moment!

Just kidding. It looks terrible the whole time, just like Hell in a Very Small Place. Not inevitable or inexorable, but you can see what came coming. I just need to find a copy, somehow, of The Short-Timers. I read a friend's copy but it's overpriced on the secondary market.

- Ah, AD&D. I love your ridiculous complexity. I think of it every time someone tells me GURPS is hard. Hah. I started with AD&D. I laugh at your concept of complexity! Heh.

- Jeff looks at some really old orc minis. I like them.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

DF Rules Tweak - Should Higher Purpose give per-die bonuses?

One issue with Holy Warriors in DF is that the other fighter-types, generally, do better against undead or demons than they do. A Knight or Swashbuckler with Weapon Master exceeds them in skill and damage, even against those the who the Higher Purpose applies. Barbarians do so much raw damage that they exceed the Holy Warriors as well.

One solution is to allow Holy Warriors to have Weapon Master. Sure that'll work.

But another idea I had is to make Higher Purpose do per-die damage bonuses. So a Holy Warrior with Higher Purpose 3 vs. undead would have +3 to hit, +3 to defend, and +3 per die to damage. A ST 13 Holy Warrior with a Fine Broadsword would do 2d+7 to undead.

You could allow this to stack with Weapon Master if you are a glutton for such things. Or just allow this instead.

I haven't tried this but I like how it plays out in my head, so far.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Possible Felltower Rules Changes

This might be a good time for rules changes, since we're essentially starting over.

Here is what I'm thinking.


Eliminate Trademark Move.

I've found that Trademark Move just doesn't do what it's supposed to. The purpose is, to speed up combat, you get to spend 1 point on a specific sequence of combat actions and get a +1 with all components of it. You keep using it, and thus the GM and player are on the same page and everything moves along more quickly.

Much of the time wasted in fights has to do with the players working out odds and consulting obscure rules. To combat this, the GM may suggest or even require that each player work out a few “trademark moves” that cover an entire turn’s worth of actions, and write down the effects in advance.

- Dungeon Fantasy 2: Dungeons

In actual play, this is 1 point for +1 to one particular combination which the player in question chooses from a menu of options. They pick whichever is their best option for that time, which may or may not be the +1 Trademark Move. It's essentially a one-combo +1 to skill for 1 point, with none of the game-speed benefits it's meant to bring with it. At best it has no benefit on play speed; at worst it slows things down as people compare move to move to move to pick the one that fits the best.

So it's gone.


Fix Great Haste. This is a great time to fix Great Haste. We have literally no one with it at the moment or dependent on casting it. It's a game-play nerf, but it's also a huge time suck in actual fights pretty much except for casters.

We just need to settle on what it does, and any costs that come with it. Maybe it does less but doesn't cost the target any FP. We'll see.

But I'd really, really like to take the time to fix this while it's not a "but I need this to do the thing I do every fight!" issue.

Magic & Money. It might be a good time to throw down a big change on money, like I've thought about before. That is, rescaling magic and money costs. Paut at $1350 will probably produce squawks but in the long run that's not a change . . . it's just not being made as cheaply as swords and such are.

(Amusingly, one of my players suggested this today whilst this post was being written, but after I'd put this on the list. Great minds, etc.)

Fixed Feints. I mentioned this back in the day, too, in the same post.

I'd consider doing Feints as a fixed contest. Win, get a result, lose, don't. No margin of error to worry about. The Rule of 16 is another way to do it, but often necessitates more steps.

(Editing later - forgot one)

Eliminate Signature Gear. I don't think Signature Gear really fits Felltower as conceived and played. I'm not too sure about Weapon Bond as it means people tend to hold on to old weapons forever because they put a point into it, but that's a personal choice. SG just forced me to make sure an item sticks around and is accessible even when circumstances and play style dictate that it would not. I'm leaning more to yes than maybe on this one, to be honest.

We'll see if I do any of the maybes, but I'm thinking about them, at the very least.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

What next in Felltower?

Sunday was a disappointing TPK. I'd thought the PCs would have gotten out of the predicament they were in, but here we are.

What now?

I agree with my player's assessment that there isn't a lot to do in Felltower that a group of 250s can do. I don't think it's nothing, but I agree that the pickings have gotten very thin. That's especially so given some limitations, such as:

- equipment lost in the depths (although it's likely keys, etc. were left behind in someone's posession.*)

- PCs design choices (places have been limited by people's character personalities)

- contraints of previous exploration (some options have been closed off by previous actions.)

Farming orcs for weapons with Galen in tow is boring to GM, as well, so hopefully it won't come to that.

I'm not enthused by the idea of a new area, either. I might need to do it, but every new area has ended up the same way:

- it's designed for X delves turning out Y loot.

- PCs go for 2-3X delves and over time earn about 2/3Y loot. Many delves are not particularly fruitful.

- It becomes a default area to drop in on when people can't think of what else to do, essentially draining game sessions and in-game resources from Felltower itself, to the detriment of play overall.

If getting to the Lost City wasn't unreliable, and if I didn't just say no to the Caves of Chaos, we'd be back at those again, too. The Cold Fens were explored over and over in fruitless exploration in the face of little else, hoping to blunder into an encounter with loot-carrying trolls or humanoid foes with valuable swords to sell in town. I'd like to avoid that.

But I may need to do something like that again.

I asked my players to opine in before I list some ideas that I have. People are welcome to suggest some here. I'm sure it would be a spur to my player's ideas as well. The only things really off the table are allowing people to start above 250 (a flat, hard no) or play multiple 250s so they can "level up" a few people at once for backups.

Tomorrow or Thursday I'll take a crack at listing what's been lost in the depths - there is a lot of amazing loot down there waiting to be reclaimed.

* I don't know who, which is an issue. I don't really allow for a "party loot pile" in town. Someone has to own any given item. Items that fall off of everyone's equipment lists just fall out of play. But keys and other unique items do tend to migrate in mysterious ways despite this. I'm not really complaining, but insert raised eyebrows here.

Monday, November 28, 2022

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Session 176, Felltower 124 - Mission for the Masters III - Beholder

Date: 11/27/2022
Game Date: 11/13/2022

Crogar, human barbarian (375 points)
"Mild" Bruce McTavish, human barbarian (349 points)
Gerrald Tarrant, human wizard (420 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (366 points)
Varmus the Hanged, human apprentice (180 points)
Wyatt Sorrel, human swashbuckler (382 points)

We started off in the dungeon, with the PCs in a dark cave, with Wyatt getting injured with some invisible attack from presumably off in the darkness.

Wyatt and Bruce headed that way, while Varmus, Ulf, and Gerry hung back and cast spells. Crogar hung back with the casters and waited.

Wyatt ran far enough to see a half-dozen Eyes of Death in the darkness. (To be accurate, he knew roughly where they were because of our lighting/invisible icons being visible issues with Foundry last time.) They were roughly 5-6 yards off the ground. He just kept running at them. Gerry and Varmus readied explosive spells.

Wyatt suffered a lot more damage, until after Ulf put Protection from Evil 5 on him. The Magic Resistance 10 did nothing but the DR 5 helped. He ran up and swung at one with AOA (Long) and forced it to retreat up. A second later, Varmus put an Explosive Fireball into the ceiling near it. It dodged down, taking only 3 HP of damage. They're weak, but not that weak. Wyatt later finished it off with a jumping attack. He forced others to the ceiling, but they kept moving up to avoid the sword swings and away from the wizards. Gerry took a shot at one but it dodged completely out of the blast area of his explosive spell.

Bruce moved up as well, as Wyatt fell back briefly, and the eyes turned their damage on him. He has a good HT and a lot of HP but they were wearing him down steadily.

Then, as they felt like they'd figured out how to deal with the eyes, Gerry put on Dark Vision. He saw, off in the distance but closing in, a beholder. (He must have told them over lunch, because before lunch no one noticed it was there, and after lunch break the first thing people did was start doing stuff to deal with a beholder. Talking is a free action so clearly that includes when it's between people's turns. I should have delayed lunch break until the reveal occured!)

They found their magical enhancements - basically Wyatt's Great Haste - just ended. Colored rays came out of the darkness and hit them all, one each. That kept upf for a few seconds, costing some Luck to resist and lots of consternation - and more Protection from Evil spells. The eyes of death floated off to the side, either fleeing Wyatt quickly, or, when far enough, slowly backing up and higher and using their invisible gaze attacks. Varmus took damage from a couple of those, and then from a black ray from the darkness. Then the PCs saw the multi-eyed orb float into view.

From here the PCs kept up attacks mostly on the eyes. Varmus was charmed, and threw a 4d Fireball (he'd rolled a 4 casting!) at Ulf but missed. He passed out a second later from accumulated injury. Crogar was put to sleep as he ran over to grab the fallen Varmus (I think the plan was to try and run somewhere.)

Shortly after, Gerry was first slowed, and then petrified, after resisting multiple ray attacks.

Bruce was hit with fear and charmed, at the same time. He finished drawing a potion and drank it down, healing himself all the way from the low single digits to his normal 41 HP. (He readied his sword after this, presumably, or just forgot it wasn't in two hands anymore.) He swiftly ran up and did an ineffective Move and Attack on Wyatt. A second later, Ulf was paralyzed.

So Ulf prayed silently in his mind, sacrificing 11 xp for a +11 on the roll, asking for the Good God to unparalyze him. He made the roll (exactly, I think). The Good God removed all of their afflictions at once. Gerry was un-pretrified. Varmus had the charm removed. Crogar woke up. Bruce was no longer subject to a -1 from fear and was no longer charmed. And Ulf wasn't paralyzed.

The PCs went back into action. Crogar gathered up his axe and headed towards the eyes of death and away from the beholder. Gerry went back to casting spells - Great Haste, first, and then I'm not sure what next. The eyes of death focused on Bruce after it was clear they couldn't really hurt Wyatt or Ulf reliably.

Bruce rushed the beholder with Wyatt, but Bruce eventually failed a HT roll to stay conscious from his bewildering array of wounds and fell unconscious. Ulf went shortly after from eye of death attacks and the beholder's rays. Gerry after that from a black ray from the beholder and a failed HT roll put him very negative and then dropped him, mortally wounded.

Wyatt rushed the beholder alone. Crogar tried a running jump attack on an eye of death but missed. After that, he turned away from a new exit visible to him - which the eyes were close to - and moved back towards the way the PCs came in.

We ended up with two fights going on. Crogar was hit with a fear effect, and was at -8 to all non-fleeing actions for 8 seconds. He spent all of those running towards the Master's area. He reached it, only to find the way blocked by four obsidian golems (guardians they'd passed on the way in last session.) He Evaded but failed. He tried again and succeeded, and ran past them. One spun and punched him twice but he parried their attacks. He ran past them and out of the room into a new area and stumbled into six humanoid figures consisting of dark, tattered robes with ghostly hands clutching scythes. They formed a semi-circle blocking the only way out. He decided not to try to run past them, too. He ran back to the obsidian golems, who now blocked his way into the octagonal room from this direction. So he did a shield rush on one for 15 damage. It stood its ground (they're strong and heavy), and they all swung at him, injuring him with a hit or two. A second later, he tried to get by and failed, and they all launched their paralytic eye rays at him. One, two, three, four. The second succeeded, and we didn't resolve the others. He was paralyzed. One grabbed him by the neck and proceeded to try and Neck Snap him. We drew the curtain on that fight.

Wyatt kept after the beholder, running in and throwing a knife at it - a meteoric one, hoping it would try to disintigrate the knife like it did Hjalmarr's axe back in the day. It dodged. He kept after it, throwing knives and then his swords, as it kept dodging and playing various eye rays over him to no avail. The eyes of death kept after him, all four that remained (they'd slain 4 of the original 6, and then 2 more joined them.) They could only hurt him on a failed HT roll (most of the time) and then by rolling max damage (1 in 6 times, statistically.) But they began to slowly wear him down. Eventually, he was Slowed by the beholder, but not before it blew a Dodge and took a thrown sword in the body. It hurt, but its hard hide/shell protected it. Even slowed, Wyatt just kept slogging over to his weapons, kicking them into his hands, and then throwing them, once ever four seconds. Eventually, he scored another hit, putting out the main eye with a thrown dagger. But before he could do any more, his luck ran out - he eventually failed to resist a sleep ray, and fell asleep.

That was second 69 of the fight. He had five more seconds of Protection from Evil, after which the eyes and beholder would have just finished him off easily once his +10 to resist and 5 DR went away.

And that was that. TPK.


- Not much to say overall here. Second year-end beholder massacre in the campaign. I'll follow up tomorrow with a post about what's on tap.

- Gerry's player opined that - even before the beholder showed up - that this was going to get them killed, uselessly. No power items, no time to recover energy after castings, etc. He didn't see the point. Wyatt's player argued that getting them killed off in the process of killing some enemies probably was the point. I know who is closer to accurate, but I also hold the Masters' cards close to my chest.

- My beholder isn't exactly an AD&D beholder, but it's not one of the later ones, either. It's very much based on the AD&D version but scaled to GURPS better. So it isn't incredibly slow, and its rays don't have crazy ranges, and it does have some weak points. It's dangerous and it's a boss monster but they aren't invulnerable. They can be lethal.

- Magic Resistance - in fact any non-HT-boost - has no effect on the Eye of Death attacks. I think my players were disappointed but I wrote the darn things up, and I know I'd have mentioned MR if I'd meant to mention MR. Beholder writeups do. Cosmic ignores all DR didn't seem sufficient when faced with DR 5 vs. supernatural evil attacks, which this clearly is. So that's one way to fight them . . . PfE 6.

- I'm taking over charmed PCs in the future. Varmus was going to throw his fireball at Wyatt, who was facing him, instead of back-shotting a helpless caster (Ulf.) I overruled that. Bruce did a Move and Attack on Wyatt from behind while within easy Committed Attack range. We've had dedicated eye snipers go for limb cripples, vitals-hunters shoot extremities, and so on. People can't help but kid glove their moves when it is a PC. Nice to know, but it means Charm attacks are a waste of time for the GM and I'll need to replace them with save-or-suck attacks that just take you out. Otherwise it's a foolish move - "Makes the victim completely loyal to the caster, except if he has to do something he wouldn't do without having been charmed, in which case he'll do the least efficient thing that kinda-sorta helps the caster" = a waste of time.

- I'm not sure what Crogar was going for. He was under a fear effect, and so at -8 to do non-fleeing actions for 8 seconds. But he was trying to get away before that, and was just cut off by the eyes. He ran into some new monsters, ran from them (probably a good idea), and then shield-bashed the obsidian golem. They finished him off quickly after that. Servants of the masters, sure, but the golems aren't smart enough to deal with "Defend yourselves, but don't kill other servants." I think he was concerned that lacking Protection from Evil he couldn't risk the eye rays or eyes of death, but I'm not sure what the plan was. As always, I don't really ask, I just referee.

- Prayer worked - and it had better, with an 11 xp sacrifice to do it. The ask was very small - to free Ulf from paralysis. The Good God did him a bit better, and just wiped out all negative status effects (and one Great Haste, too) and left the PCs all ready to restart the fight.

The issue with asks from prayers and wishes is that I often find them disjointed - people don't ask for one thing, but 2-3 vaguely related things, or they ask for something so constrained that I'm not sure what they really want. I figued this was close to what they wanted. On a critical I'd have just restored the whole party to fighting shape and HP and FP, but it wasn't a critical. I think he made the roll exactly even with that +11.

In the end, it didn't matter. It gave them another chance but they weren't able to capitalize.

- I'm bummed. I wasn't expecting this to go easy but I didn't think it would be a TPK. I was hoping they'd have won the fight and/or found a way out, to come back and get revenge on the Masters in the end. After the last beholder battle that they'd realize the best defense is a good offense. That, and when they discovered its real weak points - it depends heavily on its anti-magic ray (and Gerry could ignore that, albiet at a -5) and non-magic resistant targets for its eye rays - seemed like a turning point. But ultimately, it was not to be. They couldn't coordinate the melee attacks with ranged attacks that would force their foes down from the ceiling, and mostly ended up fighting one-on-one battles or piecemeal attacking. No one with thrown weapon skills aside from Wyatt even had throwable weapons, and the lack showed here.

MVP was Wyatt's player, for basically almost making this work somehow.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Felltower pre-summary

Short pre-summary today:

- Suprise! Eyes of Death in the darkness, and the PCs without much ranged firepower.

- Suprise! There was also a Beholder.

- No more surprises after that . . . but there was beholder and PC blood spilled. Details tomorrow.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Foundry Lighting - Fixed!

This morning, Vic and I finally fixed the lighting.

It turned out to be a bum token - Gerry's token was, for some reason, emitting 360 yards of dim light in a 360 degree radius.

How we found it was the old fashioned hard way:

- we reset all the settings we could on the original map

- we created a text dungeon and did the settings from scratch to see if they worked (they did)

- we created a duplicate of the original map to see if the problems persisted through changes (they did)

- we created a new map and pulled the walls over to see if that worked fine (it did)

- we brought over the tokens . . . and the problem reappeared.

So we then put down one token at a time until we found the problem.

That fixed on the original map and on Gerry's prototype token, the problem went away.

We/I also solved a few other issues:

- How to make Gerry invisible to everyone but him, even if they de-select their icon. That took making him Owner-only, and using an invisibility macro that Vic gave me a while back.

- How to put icons down invisibly - hold down Alt when you click to place them down.

- How to add icons invisibly to the turn tracker - have them toggled to invisible (the above Alt-click method works fine if you're placing them the first time) and they will be invisible in the tracker.

- How to make someone invisible in the tracker (it's the eye icon).

- How to shade the lighting so it's dimmer outside the bright circle (at max, "dim" and "bright" look identical.)

I also experimented with Perfect Vision - I'll likely use it next time, but not muck with the game at the moment. And I deleted a bunch of modules we don't use anymore or which didn't keep pace with Foundry updates.

So that's a lot of fixes done. Thanks Vic!

For you guys playing along at home, here is the Invisible Macro:

const effect = => e.getFlag("core", "statusId") === "invisible");if (effect) return effect.delete();await"ActiveEffect", [{ icon: "icons/svg/invisible.svg", label: "Invisible", "flags.core.statusId": "invisible"}]);

Friday, November 25, 2022

Links & Thoughts for 11/25/2022

Friday links and thoughts gripes!

- I didn't know there was a CRPG based on the Odyssey, kinda, in German. Where you can play a butterfly.

- I aspire to this level of fatality in my games. And diversity of deaths. We're getting there.

- This is a very cool city make called Queensport.

- I still can't seem to figure out lighting in Foundry. I have a dungeon room where the PCs get full, unrestricted line-of-sight dispersal of Fog of War, despite having light sources that only extend out a few yards. Instead of darkness, they just have areas that are less-than-fully-lit that they can see out until a wall blocks them. Resetting Fog of War does nothing. Changing their vision to nothing and lighting to nothing and resetting it all gives the same results. I just don't understand how to make it so that they can see normally within range of a light source but not otherwise. I did not have this problem on an earlier map. Just now.

- So many sales, but I haven't painted more than a few minis in a year or so, and haven't finished reading everything I've already bought. So I'm largely sitting this out. Even this 3 for 2 on top of 50% off 5e D&D sale isn't quite doing it for me.

- I'd linked to the kickstarter for Tonisborg. Here is a post talking about why they didn't do a PDF. I understand, but I also remember fully OCR'd PDFs of out-of-print books popping up in the early 2000s. And I understand what others have said - including at least one independent author - that those who would steal your book weren't going to buy it anyway. I'd love to see Tonisborg, but not enough to pay a lot to get a physical copy shipped to me. I eye my game collection and wonder who will end up with what when I move to a smaller, more distant place . . . and I'm reluctant to add anything to the collection that isn't going to follow me forever at this point. Or which has some trait that makes it worth owning on paper in order to benefit from its use now. So no PDF . . . I'm not likely to want it at all.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Felltower Thanksgiving Turkey

I'm thankful for turkey, so let's talk about how to make it Felltower stye.

1) Prepare the turkey by thoroughly rinsing it, then stuff it with Strength and Dexterity potions. Coat with Missile Shield, Shield, Invisibility, Levitation. Optionally, Great Haste it. Encase it in the best armor money can buy and festoon it with 4-5 different weapons in case any are dropped in the dungeon.

2) Pre-heat Felltower to about 50 degrees F.

3) Insert Turkey into Felltower. Optionally, teleport it nude into an even deeper part of the dungeon and take away the player's maps. Douse repeatedly with Paut and healing potions and toxic, corrosive, cutting, crushing, impaling, and piercing damage. Optionally: include some tight-beam burning for crispiness.

4) Bake for 9 hours every other Sunday until the turkey or most or all of the adventurers are slain.

5) Repeat annually for 11+ years.

6) Enjoy!

Happy Thanksgiving fellow Felltower-Americans!

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Great Haste fixes . . . again

I've been giving a revised Great Haste more thought.

I put down a few options here:

Lessened Great Haste

I'm thinking about these again.

I don't think Great Haste as written is broken, but I do find it really does take a lot of time to resolve. It's not really a question of nerfing it, it's a question of how to make the game roll along more smoothly. People cast Great Haste and then one of two things happen:

- if a wizard, the target gets off some spells more rapidly


- if a fighter, the game grinds down into careful tactical movement during an All-Out Attack (usually Double, for +1 attack), with a maximum of allowed Dual-Weapon or Rapid Strike attacks, with careful placement for the second turn. Second turn is the same, except a normal Attack.

The second one takes a long time. So I'm trying to think of how to speed this up.

I'm leaning towards Double Your Abilities. There are issues:

Learning curve: It'll slow things down as people get used to it

Extra Attack: We'll need to decide how Extra Attack counts. Likely, it would be doubled.

What are my stats? You'll need to recalc your move to know what your Step is. This will likely result in the biggest time killer in my games - HELPING PEOPLE. "Hey, don't forget you get 2 steps." "No, I have Move 3, so I don't get a second step." "Oh yeah. But wait, isn't it doubled speed? Let me check the blog." Etc.

I do think if people got behind it immediately it would work and speed up play and resolution. I don't expect that to happen, though.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

No more ads

So, I'm kicking AdSense and Amazon ads to the curb from this blog. I'm not sure what will replace them, but I decided I don't really love them around anymore. So they're gone.

I'll probably still post affiliate links from, but I just don't want ad banners up.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Star Schlock Sale

I like the concept and minis for this game. I don't forsee getting to play it, but I do like it.

And Star Schlock is having a sale.

"Get 15% off your purchase through Dec 31st by entering promo code HOLIDAY22 during checkout."

Also, free shipping on some orders.


Sunday, November 20, 2022

Felltower of the Day

Sunday is a day when I run Felltower, or do Felltower related things.

Today was a day to stat up a monster that I've had in miniature for a while, but hadn't put down final stats for.

It was also a day to fill in some sketched-out areas in the dungeon with more details - treasure by item rather than just by total, a few traps by description rather than just stats, and a few other little things here or there.

Next Sunday should be Felltower proper, when we'll find out if anything I did to the VTT fixed the Fog of War - I doubt it - and if the PCs can defeat the Eyes of Death, which seems possible. They sure need a ranged combatant who doesn't depend on fireballs.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Random Links addendum!

Geez, I totally forgot these two links for yesterday!

- If someone had this in their backstory, I'd reject it out of hand.

A venomous cobra bit a child, who then bit the snake to death.
So, "Man bites dog."

On the other hand, Raggi and Bruce probably have something like this in their backstories.

- Manhunter: New York wasn't a great game. But it was atmospheric, and I did like the idea behind it. Nothing like being a servant of murderous alien overlords in a post-apolyptic world. It's like being one of the capped in the Tripods series, albiet with free will. This review is a bit negative but it's fun. I didn't realize the eyes took over in 2022. I'd have made reference to that last session when my players encounters flying killer eyenballs!

Manhunter: New York

The game was a bit maddening with all of the mini-games. But conceptually, it felt cool. You can see how annoying it could be here, though.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Friday links for 11/18/2022

- A fire-breathing bulette . . so . . . a non-flying Gamera, then?

- Thanks to Tenkar for posting this.

$100 is a lot for 8 minis. The beholder is beautiful, but it's also around $13 even if you think the others are worth the same.

- The post yesterday about offense vs. defense was specifically occasioned by me listening to a bunch of Hawkwind recently, including Warrior on the Edge of Time (listen here) (Lemmy's last album with them.) It got me thinking about Elric, and the Chaos Shield, and why I'd rather give someone Stormbringer than the Chaos Shield. So, now you know.

- These guys are interesting.

Grognard's Grimoire: Gorodaka (Haughty Dead)

- Wargames Foundry has launched their Christmas sale for their main site and Casting Room Minis, too. Too bad I already have dozens of pirates!

- (Editing Later) Forgot one - collected information on the Egg of Coot. it has that weird technological/magical mix that characterizes a lot of Blackmoor and makes it feel more like Hawkmoon than generic fantasy.
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