Monday, January 3, 2022

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy: Session 163, Felltower 118 - Beyond the Repelling Doors

Game Date: 1/2/22

Characters:
Aldwyn, human knight (360 points)
     Varmus the Hanged, human apprentice (180 points)
Gerrald Tarrant, human wizard (420 points)
     3 skeletons (~35 points)
     1 tough skeleton (105 points)
"Mild" Bruce McTavish, human barbarian (340 points)
Wyatt Sorrel, human swashbuckler (378 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (366 points)

We started out in Felltower, with everyone hearing one of three rumors - about a "black mist" "down where you guys have been exploring," and about how orcs and goblins follow some race they call "the Masters," and that mana-devouring monsters - just like wizards - get more powerful by sucking the magic out of things.

They headed out to the ruins of Felltower.

Once in, they went down through the trap door . . . and then walked around underground to the main entrance and crossed it to the other side (lots of this today, honestly.)

They made their way to the second level, stopped to open the secret door near the stairs to the "fresh air room." They went in and checked, and yes, the air is still fresh. No, it's still not higher than normal Sanctity.

At the bottom of the stairs is one of the rotating statue rooms. The door opposite the stairs - site of the famous "naked crowbar fight," was gone and the passage was filled with rubble fill packed in and then shaped solid.

They decided it was too long to dig, but there is a trapdoor on level one. So they went back up, tripped off a crossbow trap (which missed everyone), set off (magical?) alarm bells, and forced their way into the big room with the scorched ruins of . . . lots of wood. They searched and found the trap door. It, too, was sealed - someone shaped the stone door into a solid mass. Ulf put Silence on the center of it and Bruce and Aldwyn and the new skeleton took alternating whacks at it with picks. They broke it apart, and the pieces fell to the (not-silenced) floor below. They put Missile Shield on Aldwyn, then sent down a Wizard Eye to look around - the room was as before, but the two exits not blocked by rubble were blocked with floor-to-ceiling barricades full of dirt. They used Silence again, pounded in some spikes, and had Aldwyn climb down a rope ladder.

At the bottom Ulf used 7 Silence spells to cover the barricade - Area 1 is free to maintain, Area 2 is not - and they broke it up. He used more to cover the next section, and they broke that up.

They advanced on the orc hole cautiously, but no one was around. They made it all the way to the end of the hall to the left . . . and found it, too, was plugged up with stone. They wanted to dig there to avoid going back but some of them remembered their map shows a mere 10', but the hallway is definitely longer than that. So they turned around and retraced the steps to the initial plug in the statue room from hours before.

There they dug, again using 7 Silence spells to cover the area they dug in, breaking up a 2 yard by 2 yard area to walk through (the barbarian hunched.) They needed 5 iterations - 35 castings - to break through. About halfway there, it unraveled. Ulf rolled a 17, and critically failed.

A smokey, shadowy figure appeared behind him in the little mining hole where Bruce and he and Alwyn were crammed, and howled - most shrugged off the terror, but Bruce did not, and promptly passed out. The figure stuck its hand into Ulf's heart. He took some injury, failed a HT roll, and dropped . . . mortally wounded. Aldwyn got his swords out in the tight spot. He stabbed at it uselessly and then also dropped, mortally wounded, as it reached right through his guard and touched him.

Wyatt came running as Gerry yelled, "It's a shadow demon - magic weapons and sunlight!"

Varmus backed off, as did Gerry, and Wyatt engaged it, slashing between its wings and hitting the head twice. Neither blow did much but clearly did something - it was Diffuse but his magic sword could at least hurt it. Gerry put Blur on Wyatt and Shield on himself. It kept trying to hit Wyatt or Gerry, but they managed to avoid it. It dodged many of Wyatt's attacks.

Varmus eventually created a 4d Fireball and threw it at the creature's back . . . burning a huge hole in it! Wyatt finished it off moments later.

It was gone, but their cleric was dying, as was Aldwyn. Gerry defaulted Esoteric Medicine with a 7 . . . used Luck . . . and rolled a 7 on his third roll. Ulf and Aldwyn made their checks to not die in the meantime. They fed five healing potions to Ulf and then pumped him to full on FP with Lend Energy, then used an Awaken spellstone to get him up. He cast Stop Bleeding on Aldwyn, and then they did the same with Aldwyn.

Once everyone was back up, they resumed casting Silence and digging. Eventually, they broke through.

They made their way to the lens room. There, Ulf put Hide Thoughts on everyone except the skeletons. They approached the repelling doors - and were not thrown back!

They checked the doors - no handles, hinges, marks, words, glyphs, symbols - six-fingered hand or otherwise, or other indications of what to do. They tried to force the doors but failed. Ulf whispered something to Aldwyn, who then proclaimed, "All hail the Brotherhood, by the Brotherhood let me pass." The doors opened.

Ulf cast See Secrets on himself but rolled a 17. As far as he knew, it worked, but it had no effect.

Inside was a circular room ~12 yards across. In the center was a blood-stained tripod-based basin. Glowing runes line the walls. They pointedly didn't look at them. They spent some time checking the basin, the blood (old), the amount used in the past (a lot), and the three pairs of doors leading out. Eventually, unable to go anywhere, they had Gerry read the glyphs. He could get the gist of them (a Hidden Lore (Magical Writings Lore)-3 roll). The room was the Chamber of Blood, and it needed the blood of a creature with Magery to open the doors and "activate the chamber." Gerry sliced himself open and let 2 HP worth of blood flow in. He was faint and woozy but the doors opened.

Beyond on either of the left and right side doors were identical rooms. Each had a summoning circle and glowing-glyph instructions to summon an elemental within. One was the Chamber of Tears, and Gerry was able to largely understand it wanted for a water elemental. The other was the Chamber of Breath, and needed an air elemental.

They found a spiderweb of tunnels beyond the center doors, and found a number of identical doors they couldn't open. At each and every door, they tried "All hail the Brotherhood, by the Brotherhood let me pass." It did not work again.

They marked a few intersections with chalk, and eventually found the Chamber of Crystal (aka "the Quartz Room.") It had a big crytal not unlike the lenses, but much bigger (10', not 4'), and humming. Gerry determined it was something like a power item, but how big and for whom he didn't know. It has glyphs which said "From One Must Be Made Many.” They decided this must mean someone must blast the crystal with a fireball or sunbolt reflected off of the crystals outside, since they were "many" and the spell was "one." Gerry argued they shouldn't be casting damaging magic spells at the humming crystal. (They wanted his expert opinion on the amount of damaging spell the crystal could take, but Gerry lacks any materials science skills)

They stationed PCs around strategically, and then set up the crystals. Varmus took a shot with a 1d Fireball, and it didn't reflect. So Ulf tried 1d Sunbolt, which didn ricochet around and then left a scorched, black mark on the humming crystal. Ooops.

They didn't have any further ideas, so they closed the doors and left. On the way home, they stopped at the "Saints" room, had Wyatt pick the lock on the door, and used Seeker on one of the missing heads. Ulf got nothing.

After that, all that was left was a trek to Stericksburg, where they arrived nearly the next dawn.

They ordered some scrolls and potions and whatnot, including Summon Elemental scrolls to open the doors and the anticipated other doors.

Notes:

- Wyatt's player is looking for alternatives to heavy armor on his Swashbuckler, but can't seem to figure out a way to go that keeps him from getting squished from a critical hit or a failed defense but also weighs little. I don't have one other than setting the concern aside, but my group is extremely DR-demanding. Even the lightly armored guys have DR 5+, and many of them have DR 8+ even for non-melee combatants. He's already maxed out his defense-enhancing advantages.

- Gerry got a new skeleton to replace Rahtnar. People started calling him the "big" skeleton. I stomped on that. It's SM 0, and no bigger or smaller than the others. Once it gets called "big" people will want to "just double check" its SM, help by reminding people it is SM +1, ask for a ST discount for it when it is upgraded, get it oversized weapons, want to use it for cover, etc.

- Switching digging places was a classic example of a) thinking there must be an easier way, and b) trading real world time for in-game time savings. It took some in-game time to get to the trap door and hack it open, then explore to the plug, then get back . . . but it took a real-world hour or so of exploration and movement to do, and in the end they needed to head back the way they came anyway.

I offered the IQ roll to remember that their map is wrong just to speed thing along. Otherwise, they were looking at ~10-15 yards of rubble fill shaped into a solid mass . . . all backed up against the dig by the orcs in the orc hole. I'm sure the players were confident they could hold off any number of orcs basically forever, but enforce enough FP loss and they'd lose. So the dig was likely to be a constant battle for no real purpose.

The dig was fast, but it's BL based and Bruce has a 106 BL. Human norm is 20 BL. He's better than 5 workers.

- I almost never use the Critical Spell Failure Table. I just had no good ideas for the result of the critical failure. So I rolled, and rolled an 18 and Ulf summoned a demon. The arguments immediately began - it can't be the worst possible result, because it was a 17, not an 18 on the critical failure. Sorry, tables don't work that way, and the rules nowhere specify that a 17 can't had really nasty, potentially fatal consequences simply because 18s also exist. So I kept it. Ulf's player argued that it was a Holy spell, cast for "good" purposes, so . . . also no. The out in that table entry is way to stop saintly Father Healicus from summoned The Devil while casting Major Healing or Bless or something of that sort, not to stop a delving cleric using Silence to help dig past a barricade to get at potential loot. So no on that, too.

- This one is on me - I let Gerry default Esoteric Medicine. I asked my players to look up the skill and the Healer's Kit, and they reported it didn't say you needed the kit. I looked up the skill but in the interest of time I didn't look at the kit until we had a break later as someone had it in sight. I should know by now - they don't read past the first sentence, and glance around for numbers. What they told me was the first sentence of the description and that is gives a +1 to the skill, and that's that.

No.

What the kit says is this:

"Basic equipment for one speciality of Esoteric Medicine. Required to use that skill - but in situations where it or First Aid would do, gives +1 to either skill."

So it's required. Gerry didn't have a 7, he had a 7 and a -5 for no appropriate equipment for the skill, or a 2. He would have needed to take Extra Time to even earn a 3 and a chance to roll a 3-4. They should have been forced to march everyone home and end the delve right there, except for this error.

A player later argued that the "required" bit didn't make sense, because why is it required but also gives you a +1 to skill rolls? I pointed out that's not what it says; it says that you get a +1 if you have an either/or case of Esoteric Medicine/First Aid being something you can roll. For cases where Esoteric Medicine is the only thing, it is a +0.

I forgot this once before, and the players used that case - default roll without a kit - to justify this one. I won't forget this again. I'm fine with occasional generosity, but this was a bit above and beyond as they lacked any of the tools or other solutions despite facing this situation before.

- So yeah, based on those points above, it seems like my group has completely morphed into a rules lawyer / munchkin group. They do roleplay their guys, but every rule is quoted chapter-and-verse to argue positive cases for the PCs and lots of stuff is scanned, misread, or ignored to avoid negative cases.

- I've said it before and I'll say it again - GURPS is extremely generous with injury recovery. Magic sped the process, but literally all it took was some HT rolls and then everyone was healed and happy and as good as new. I've gotten fairly harsh with guys with -96 HP wandering around just because they didn't fail any HT rolls in combat and have 4 HP left before automatic death . . . Mortal Wounds probably deserve an after-effect, too. You literally were dying with a tiny chance of recovering on your own, and then you're fine? Eh. Magic should help fix that but it shouldn't be a skill roll followed by a few cheap-o potions. At the moment, the only thing that has an actual long-term effect is dismemberment or death. Anything short of that - anything at all - is easily solved by routine means. I don't mind dying being hard, but nearly dying should have a bit more of a lasting effect.

- If you know the answers to the puzzles, please keep them to yourself. This area is meant to be entirely player-facing, and no one in town and no sages have any research to share on this. So there won't be rumors about how to get by, and I won't approve comments that seem to be giving hints.

- XP was 2 each for exploration - new areas plus a rare special area. MVP was Gerry for his Esoteric Medicine roll.

11 comments:

  1. "Wyatt's player is looking for alternatives to heavy armor on his Swashbuckler..."

    Spend 50 exp and cross-Profession into Barbarian for Tough Skin or Knight for Armor Mastery? Has he maxed his ST and Lifting ST to just wear heavier armor? Very Fine Dwarven Plate cuirass with maxed Armor Enchantments and Spider Silk under jammies?

    Has he contemplated becoming an Ogre Barbarian with Shirtless Savage so he can jack that Though Skin to 10/12? I know, you don't allow Ogre PCs, but a Dwarven Shirtless Savage Barbarian could get to 9/11, that's 2 for Dwarf, 2 for Barb, 5 from Shirtless Savage (doesn't stack with armor), and then the 2 DR vs Crushing. If he can get a "ritual of race swapping" done at the Magi-Mart and then cross-profession into Barb, he could layer on 4 DR Tough Skin +2 DR v crushing, skip the Shirtless Savage and just where armor... I've contemplated this build a few times... wear some Dwarven Plate and you can get to stupid levels of tanking.


    Of course if you do allow cross-profession building, going into Martial Artist would be an interesting (if expensive) choice. I've got a Swashbuckler-Martial Artist character than weaves SB and MA abilities to good effect, things like Power Blow, Parry Missile Weapons, Blindfighting, Light Walk, Kiai, and Throwing Art don't care what weapons you're carrying. Both SW and MA fight in a fencing form, so they both lean towards going lightly armored and Dragon Skin helps bolster that.


    "I don't mind dying being hard, but nearly dying should have a bit more of a lasting effect."

    It's DF, with the right amount money //even dying// doesn't have a lasting effect. Unless you want to start throwing in "Crippled HT" and have them have HT penalties until their HT recovers from the "near-death experience".

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    1. There isn't a lot of player-facing transmogrification in Felltower. You canonically can't just save up points and change your race.

      I don't mind death being curable, just that nearly dying - actual mortal conditions - have less lingering effects than a lasting crippling injury or dismemberment do on the adventurers. The latter two can cause real problems. Death ends you adventure for the day and can cost you the PC. Heart attack? Mortally wounded? If you don't die, some Lend Energy spells and healing spells later and you're as well off as if it never happened. This feels . . . odd. If C is worse than B which is worse than A, it's odd that A and C have lingering effects and B does not.

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    2. "There isn't a lot of player-facing transmogrification in Felltower. You canonically can't just save up points and change your race."

      Sure. That's something for a mighty quest... or just going the Martial Artist or Barbarian cross-route. That's an additional 2 DR plus the extra benes those Professions bring to the table. Or something else, I doubt I've exhausted all the options, just the ones I tend to reach and see reached for most often (because maximally Lightened double Fortified Fine Dwarven Epic Plate with Spider Silk jammies is stupidly expensive - almost $200K and still weighs 43 lbs).

      "If C is worse than B which is worse than A, it's odd that A and C have lingering effects and B does not."

      Okay, then maybe toy with the idea of a Crippled HT, some level of HT penalties until the Temporary/Permanent Crippling has worn off? Possibly an FP reduction along with the HT "reduction" that lasts as long as it does. Like a crippled limb, if the Cleric has the right counter-measure (Restoration could remove the lingering effect of one Major/Mortal† Wound in one month, or immediate if they pay the Church)

      .† Maybe a Major Wound only has a chance of leaving their HT crippled, like a regular limb crippling with Temporary/Lasting/Permanent where a Mortal Wound is automatically Lasting/Permanent (so a success on the modified HT check would be Lasting, any failure is permanent, maybe a critical failure doubles the HT reduction?).

      Something I've done is that Stop Bleeding does not stabilize someone from a Mortal Wound, it will only stop the bleeding from a Major Wound or Crippling Injury (I have Major/Mortal Wounds and Crippling Injuries cause Bleeding as per Basic pg 420). This has slowed the roll of the group on several occasions as they've had to stop and take an hour here and there to stabilize PCs using Esoteric Medicine as they either failed the Great Healing roll or had already used it on that PC that day. Which did almost kill a PC from HP loss to bleeding... and hour is a lot of Bleeding rolls.

      I also track wounds separately and don't allow lesser† healing to heal more than half the HP lost to a Major or Mortal Wound.

      And are you remembering to have them make a HT roll when they recover from a Mortal Wound or lose HT, take the Wounded Disad, or Appearance loss, etc? (Exploits pg 60 fourth paragraph)


      .‡ Either Great Healing, Healing Slumber, or any other Heal spell that heals twice the wound's HP in one casting.

      So I've already implemented measures to make Mortal Wounds rougher, but at a cost that you might not want to pay: Increased GM paperwork.

      Tracking Crippled HT from Major/Mortal wounds is one thing, tracking individual wounds to make sure they are bleeding if they were Major, Mortal, or Crippling is another...

      But yes, even what I'm doing is 'easily' cured after the fight with a Great Healing, it just means that too many 'bad' fights and they have to stop or slow down for the 'day'*.


      .* I also track a Cleric's day differently, depending on who they follow, a Cleric's day starts at dawn, noon, dusk, or midnight.

      Also, at least in my games so far, most fights have been in the afternoon/early evening, so I have seen some Cleric choices based on having Gods that are tied to dusk to "maximize" the number of Great Heals they can cast on an "adventure" (it just means the next day they have to be more cautious until dusk).

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    3. I tried looking at “harsh realism” or “gritty realism” switches in GURPS Basic and GURPS Martial Arts but struck out insofar as to how we might deal with mortal wounds differently than we do now, but struck out. I’ll give it some more thought. Restoration and Regeneration have time components, although Resurrection does not. Magical healing can be weird at times. It does seem weird that someone can go from mortally wounded (or 1 less than automatic death at -5xHP) and be good to go moments later. I guess the big question is “how limited is magical healing?” We know that regrowing or reattaching limbs takes time… should there be a somewhat similar limitation on recovering from a mortal wound? Like you can’t do anything that requires exertion for at least one day, even if magically healed to fill HP and FP? Or would that be weird?

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    4. We can just cap FP for a duration, or add a condition, and allow for magical recovery from that. Probably Restoration fits the bill, and may be sufficient to remove the FP cap or condition.

      I'll post some thoughts in a bit.

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  2. I'm with the donkey here:
    '' have them have HT penalties until their HT recovers from the "near-death experience" ''

    There is a common DnD 5e house rule - "Hitting 0HP adds a level of exhaustion" - that is an analogous attempt to reduce the amount of ridiculous wound recovery.

    I'd use something like:
    Being under -X*HP HPs adds a lasting "Trauma" penalty of X to all HT, which heals at a rate of 1 per day (2 with successful esoteric medical care). If this happens again before the penalty goes away, add the numbers together.

    Mortal wounds add 5 to Trauma.

    You can just use the mortal wounds part to minimize record-keeping if you want.

    If you apply the penalty *before* the problem is healed, you make things a LOT more deadly.

    Expensive/slow methods to reduce Trauma are probably needed if one does this.

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  3. You end with some comments, dominated by a mini-rant that your players are exploitative cheaters (in much nicer words) centered around an Esoteric Medicine roll that shouldn't have been allowed. The very last line of your comments was "MVP was Gerry for his Esoteric Medicine roll." The irony of railing on how this should never have been possible, and then having to reward someone for specifically doing it! LMAO

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    1. I wouldn't say exploitative cheaters. They're just rules lawyers, and stop reading as soon as they find the answer that suits them.

      And yeah, the irony is thick. They vote for MVP, not me.

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  4. I still keep reading this title as "Beyond the Rappelling Doors" and keep picturing them having to chase a set of doors up and down a cliff face in order to open them and enter the area beyond...

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  5. Making mortal wounds an instant "go back to town" condition will just make each session end at each minor setback.

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    Replies
    1. Two things:

      - I don't think people will throw an entire day of gaming away over this kind of consequence

      - I don't think it's fair to call a Mortal Wound a "minor setback."

      So I'm going to have to disagree with you here entirely.

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