Monday, January 24, 2022

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy: Session 164, Felltower 119 - Beyond the Repelling Doors II

Game Date: 1/23/22

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 Stericksburg. The PCs picked up a few spellstones - they must have spent many tens of thousands on them by this point - and headed out. After a long discussion they decided the best bet was to try the area beyond the repelling doors again. They don't have all of the answers but they were sure they could get enough answers to advance their cause.

Basically, they headed right down to that area. The dungeon is largely abandoned on the upper levels at this point and even random encounters are vanishingly rare.

Once there, they used Hide Thoughts to get into the area. Gerry used blood to open the first doors.

They then summoned an air elemental in the Chamber of Breezes to open more doors. They found the Chamber of Passion - a fire elemental. They summoned one and opened more doors. They found their way to the Chamber of Illumination. That took light - Gerry tried Light but failed, so he tried Continual Light at maximal brightness. That worked.

They found another chamber - the Chamber of the Soul. It had a skull on a glass pedastal. In its mouth was a 10 carat (!) sapphire. They decided it must be a Soul Jar and left it alone - especially because the doors in this room were all open already.

In the "end" chamber they found a 8 x 4 x 3 metal box floating in the air. It had its own call for activation but they couldn't figure out what to do with it.

They moved back to the Chamber of Tears. They summoned a water elemental but nothing happened. They asked it to open the doors for them. Nothing happened. They re-read the runes for clues but there wasn't one.

Then Ulf asked Varmus to punch him, "not too hard," in the nose. Varmus hit him as hard as he could and rolled 2 damage. Ulf teared up from the pain, and flicked the tears into the summoning circle with the water elemental. The doors opened.

They found the Chamber of Strength, but couldn't summon an earth elemental.

It's around now they gave up and headed home, having gathered a good amount of useful information.


Short session - we wrapped up around 2-3 hours earlier than usual. But there wasn't anything to do that wasn't a big "to do," and nothing small worth doing.

Ulf's player made some comment about "keeping this information secret." Sorry, not in this game. Well, maybe I can let them, but then it's off-limits for any PCs not currently present to know this stuff, and there will be no rumors or in-town support that comes from people hearing about the stories and talking about them. It's not a good precedent and has more downsides than upsides for the PCs, but I may allow them to do it if it's really important to them.

So no one could map, but people instead took meticulous notes about room locations, relative positions of doors and hallways, etc. Sigh. So, mapping except in name. It's not like people tried to remember where everything was, they literally told me what they expected to find in rooms complete with locations of all exits and navigated that way. Should I basically just say, hey, it's virtual, you're all welcome to map out-of-game and use the map in-game even if no one in-game is mapping? I'm okay with notes to remember things, but this felt like it crossed a line. At one point I told the guys navigating that I was talking to the tops of heads on Zoom as they looked down and talked me through their path. All glyph readings are taken down word for word, too. Maybe I should require someone in-game to be taking time, have hands free, and let it go from there. I'll have to think about this because it feels like people are violating what's meant to be a central conceit of the game - you can't have maps or rubbings or copies of things unless your PCs make them in game.

There was a brief discussion of going to the weird altar on level 2 and hoping Varmus could touch it, have 1d30 of his silver coins converted to gold, and that would be loot. That was shot down - it's only a 1 in 6, and then they'd expect Varmus to split his coins with the party, who'd want to give all of them to one non-Varmus guy to ensure someone got at least 20% of loot threshold. That's both extremely unlikely and ridiculously gamey. It's not Varmus wouldn't share but even a maximal roll would have meant very little actual money and not enough to go around . . . and it would take everything to go right for that.

The plan for next time? Go for the draugr. It would have been today but Galen was out sick and Crogar had plans with his other friends, so they want to go when they're back. We spent a good ~30 minutes on the usual "We can use Create Fire and Alchemist's Fire and then a miracle occurs and the draugr do whatever we want and we win!" planning. I dropped out of it after that. Heh.

XP was 1 each for exploration and 1 xp for Ulf for the tears idea.


  1. "Ulf's player made some comment about "keeping this information secret." Sorry, not in this game."

    Yeah, that's not really the premise of your game. It's all very "West Marches", no secrets, shared stories.

    "So no one could map, but people instead took meticulous notes about room locations, relative positions of doors and hallways, etc. Sigh"

    That's sticky. I'm surprised Gerrald or Varmus isn't mapping, or that they aren't hiring a sage to map for them and try to stay out the way combat occurs.

    There are some tricks you can employ but they are 'kinda' dirty pool and very much requires you've prepped your dungeon to be mildly confusing with over under tunnels, gentle slopes (that aren't obvious with tools), oddly shaped rooms, wild switchbacks, even moving passages or doorways...

    Without that you can just "not mention" curves or turns if they fail an Cartography-5 check (check to make the map correctly later based on memory).

    But this is why my character who is into mapping has Eidetic Memory and a decent Cartography (and is aiming to get other skills such as Measurement to make sure his maps are as accurate as possible... and my other non-mapping Characters either don't care or would hire a map-making Hireling...

    "There was a brief discussion of going to the weird altar on level 2 and hoping Varmus could touch it, have 1d30 of his silver coins converted to gold, and that would be loot."

    I keep forgetting that exists... hmm... if I were in your game... the odds of that altar popping each time a newby touched it is roughly 17%, and then it's only going to generate roughly 15 gold (across the average), that's 22$ per trip they could make...

    Bah! You clearly thought this out as it costs more to bring a Hireling on each trip. It's still worth it to bring 30 silver on each trip and have Varmus give the altar a touch until it triggers for him though. And any other Allies/Hirelings anyone picks up.

    Have they tried Gerrald's skeles on it yet?

    1. I think I'm going to be much, much more vague with my descriptions in these cases, if they're going to take maps-in-all-but-name notes.

      They've tried undead on the altar and it didn't go well for the undead.

    2. This seems to bring multiple benefits to you. If the characters aren't mapping then make your descriptions lacking and vague. They can't pseudo-map from it and it will speed up the game since you use fewer words for each area. Instead of relaying measurements and precise locations of exits and contents, "you came through a corridor with some turns to a medium size room with two doors on the left and one in front, and there is writing of some sort on one wall." And refuse to answer any clarifying questions. This works great in person. I have not run online but I see no reason why you couldn't skip revealing the map, only reveal the location of a fight, and conceal that room after the fight so the players have only your vague descriptions next time.

      Alternately, you could just roll a d6 every time they navigate in this cheating way at a decision point. If the result is 1-2 they go where they say. On a 3-6 ignore their navigation and take them down a path they did not describe. Regardless of how accurate their directions to you, they can't outsmart the random die result. (Or make the odds 50/50 if you prefer.)

  2. Which part was Ulf trying to keep secret? How to open the doors? I feel like I'm missing something, why would anyone want secrets in this game?

    1. I'm not exactly sure, honestly, what they want to keep secret and what they expect to accomplish from that.

      My experience, in general, is that PCs don't want to share any information with anyone, because, reasons. My experience, in general, is that they learn more and accomplish more by sharing. My previous campaign was about 10 years long, of which the 8 years in the middle were very heavy on "don't tell anyone anything" and not very heavy on plot advancement because, well, no one knew what the PCs knew or could fill them in on the missing bits.

      Secrecy in the real world is oddly like this, too.

  3. Your PCs passed on a huge valuable gem just because it seemed like an obvious trap? Are they ok?

    1. Not because it's an obvious trap, but because they believe it is why the doors in the room were open. They think getting all of the doors open will do something and so don't want to mess with what might be keeping that plan going.


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