Friday, September 30, 2022

Random Thoughts & Links for 9/20/2022

A few bits for the week:

- I haven't started reading Blackbirds yet . . . but it's really beautiful. It even has built-in silk page markers, like an old bible.

- I'm sad I didn't think of this first.

Wandering Monster Table

- This post is basically re-inventing GURPS and templates, if you read the comments, too.

Thinking about Skills

Game Sunday - Felltower, possibly both A-Team and B-Team. We'll see!

Thursday, September 29, 2022

GURPS Conan - Queen of the Black Coast playthrough - Session 0 setup

I'll be doing a playthrough of GURPS Conan Queen of the Black Coast using the rules of the time - which should be GURPS 3e as the module came out in 1989.

I'll be running Conan, who is a 500 point character in this rules set. He's not as strong or skilled as his 40-year old self in Beyond Thunder River. He also has a boatload of additional disadvantages which bring his point total down.

For example, he has Sense of Duty to Belit, to all woman, and to comrades, for -5, -10, and -5 respectively. He also has Fanaticism: Love of Belit, which is a great way to depict an unquestioning love. He's also Struggling, but has plenty of valuable gear and this wealth issue never comes up. It's a bit of a muddle.

Belit is a mere 235 points, but she's still formidable. We'll see if she's plot-killed if I make the wrong choices!

I've got everything set up - including a small copy of the combat map I can mark up with pencils since I don't have space for the very large combat maps, and a crew roster for the Tigress.

I'll be away tomorrow so I'll start play Saturday or next Monday. This should be fun . . . although I remember this is a hard one to "win."

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Blackbirds RPG Arrived

Last night I received my copy of the Blackbirds RPG.

It also came with an ad and a sticker.

The lead designer is my old gaming buddy Ryan Verniere. Oddly, Ryan took longer to write an RPG book than me. That might seem like false modesty, but it's not - Ryan is very creative, and I'm a bit more of a rules person. He did spend a lot of intervening years doing creative real work, though, so we can let him slide a bit. The important bit is that the book is here.

I feel a lot of pride having books written by my friends on my bookshelves - especially those who were my friends long before we wrote professionally. I won't lie - I'm disappointed that Ryan's name isn't on the spine or cover. He's got a very small billing inside as Lead Designer. Above everyone else's billing, true, but still. Name on the cover or name on the spine is just a lot cooler to look at.

I'll read it as soon as I can - I'm mid-book on a few books I need to read for non-gaming purposes - and post a full review. For now, it's beautiful and my friend was the lead designer.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Felltower - next game

Next planned game of Felltower is 10/2. It's going to be the B-Team unless I hear otherwise.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Hyborean War - Arrived

So, Reality Simulations Inc. is still running.

The other day I received a packet containing:

- Info sheet and setup page and map for Hyborean War

- Info sheet and setup page for Forgotten Realms (yes, that Forgotten Realms)

- Info sheet and setup page for Duel 2

It looks good.

Honestly, though, I have to wonder - are the turn costs really $7, $9, and $11 for Hyborean War? That might have been what they were back in the day, too.

All in all it looks good. I'm not up to play right now, but I'm keep to keep an eye on it.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Random Links for 9/23/2022

Fun stuff for Friday!

Warning: Your fun may vary.

- An analysis of AD&D attribute generation methods and the character classes.

Compleat Character Creation Catalog: AD&D

- News flash! Fun is fun. Fun and Challenges

- Next solo game will be Conan and the Queen of the Black Coast. I think I need a brief break from the Picts - especially since I'd like to try my divergent path in Beyond Thunder River, as well.

- My Blackbirds RPG stuff shipped. Or got a shipping label, either way.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

GURPS Conan: Beyond Thunder River playthrough session 4

I will play through GURPS Conan: Beyond Thunder River in short sessions until I've completed it. Again, here is another 30-odd minute block of gaming. It's not that long, but there is a lot of page flipping if you haven't copied any stats or maps ahead of time.

I will run Conan of Cimmeria as written up in that supplement, as a 40-year old, 521-point character. I am using the 1st edition GURPS rules from my original boxed set, as written.

Session 1
Session 2
Session 3

Plot Words:

I pick up where I finished - we'd just killed three Turtle clan Pict braves. Having won the fight, I can decide if I want to return to the fort, or continue the scouting mission. I choose the latter.

We've determined the Picts are massing to take out the fort . . . and so I can either go back to the fort immediately, risking a daytime crossing, or wait until dusk (630 pm).


Two issues here - one, it's around midnight already on Thursday, so immediately isn't a daylight crossing. Two, we didn't even take a crack at Zogar Sog and I'm not allowed to do so. Sigh. Make it three - we need to swim. Didn't we conceal boats like, I dunno, in this same hex?

The only option that actually makes sense here is "Wait until dusk" and use those parameters for the crossing. So I do that - we swim (actually, it doesn't say anything about "we" - maybe this series of numbers assumes I'd lost my scouts . . . and the errata says nothing on this.

Swimming is at +3 (intentionally entered the water) and minus twice encumbrance (Conan's is Light, so -1 x 2 = -2). Net roll is 15. 11, made it by 4. The scouts have a 14, +3, and no encumbrance. So six rolls turn up as 10, 12, 11, 6, 5, 10. We all make it. We add +1 hour to the current time, making it 1 am.

Ironically, the next decision point will let me swim the river back and try for Gwawela village and Zogar Sog. I'll put a pin in this . . . might be a fun "alternate ending" attempt. But I start for the fort.

Lots of page flips later, it's 3 am and I need to roll for a random encounter. 6 or higher gets it, -2 for plot for Valorous, so I literally can't have an encounter. I roll a 4-2 = 2.

Another travel entry - now it's 5 am and we're adjacent to the fort, with no encounter (1 -2 = -1, encounter on a 6+). We enter.

The entry is a "if you're written your letter home, and blah blah blah put your clothes on the lower peg" one. It's 5 am Friday morning and I have no relevant plot words. I'm conducted to Valannus, the fort commander. He asks if Zogar Sog is alive. I say yes, because for some reason I didn't take a shot at him because "continue the mission" wasn't on the list. Valannus concludes Zogar Sog's magic is too powerful, the fort is doomed. I need to make an IQ roll. Conan has a 12, and I roll a 10.

. . . and proceed to explain to Valannus stuff I saw in Gwawela, including a traitor!

EXCEPT I didn't even get there, because the entries didn't let me. So that's kind of b.s.

I make an executive decision to go with the "failed" IQ roll entry because the success assumes I did something I did not.

Valannus offers me a chance to leave the fort and take word to Velitrium. I reject it and stay to fight, because I'm playing Conan the Cimmerian, not Harry Flashman.* I get put in charge of the blockhouse and reserve troops. The Picts come at sundown, and get repelled . . . at least initially. One of my plot words dictates the name entry.

I'm confident we'll win . . . but is Julian alive? I don't know, so I flip to the appropriate page. The east wall collapses, and Picts rush in!

I lead the counterattack, and have to roll Tactics, with a -2 due to one of my plot words. Conan has a 13, -2, for an 11. I roll an 11.

We retake the lost positions, but more Picts surge in and manage to kill Valannus, who dies "beneath a torrent of Picts." That's not good. I can launch another attack, or flee the fort. Conan is no dummy - time to flee the fort. Especially because the entry for "launch another attack" is the same as failing that Tactics roll . . . so why choose to have failed the previous roll, effectively?

I bust out from the Picts easily, since they're too busy killing the wounded and burning the fort. I roll and escape with 9 Gundermen and 1 Bossonian archer. Each is down 1d HT (but none will be below 1/2 HT.) I'll make those 10 rolls if it matters. It's 8 pm.

We hurry down the road, cross Scalp Creek, and start to warn everyone the Picts are coming. The Picts burn farms as they advance, spreading the warning of their own advance.

The Picts make it to Velitrium, but they're repelled in hard fighting. Canojohara is lost. Conan gets to make the "whim of circumstance" speech.

I get XP:

I never reached Gwawela, so I get 1 xp. Seems like that's it. Conan got 4 xp in the original story.


* Not for nothing, but playing this with a Flashman like character would be pretty funny, especially if you deliberately made the cowardly choices but steered your guy to maximum danger each time. Ol' Flashy would need a decision path that leads to fighting a companion who discovers his cowardice, and get to seduce a fierce and beautiful Pictish woman!

Had I failed that Tactics roll, Conan would die in a fruitless counterattack against the Picts, no further rolls. Success lets you win enough to escape. Save or die, right there from back in '88!

I'm disappointed at the issues with the options - being literally unable to get to Gwawela due to a random encounter, and then being able to reveal a traitor I didn't know about, is a problem. I've played this before and didn't have that occur. This is actually the first time I've lost the fort in any playthrough - it's about time!

I'm well set up for Moon of Blood, which I believe is the battle of Velitrium. But I think I will do that "alternate ending" and just skip to the map-maneuvering section and go to Gwawela. It feels like a big miss, never seeing the Pict fort or Zogar Sog. So that before Moon of Blood.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

GURPS Conan: Beyond Thunder River playthrough session 3

I will play through GURPS Conan: Beyond Thunder River in short sessions until I've completed it. I did this one last night, but set it to post in the morning. I may do a double if I have time to play later.

I will run Conan of Cimmeria as written up in that supplement, as a 40-year old, 521-point character. I am using the 1st edition GURPS rules from my original boxed set, as written.

Session 1
Session 2

Plot Words:

I lead my 6 scouts out of the fort to find and kill Zogar Sog. My current time is set to 10 pm Thursday - it was 9 pm last time I was asked to advance time.

There is an outdoor map, and I will follow along with it to get to the village.

We row south, with the current. We advance one hex, time is now 10:30 pm, and I have to roll 1d: 6, which sends me to a different entry.

Picts! Quick Contest of Skills, my Stealth-16 vs. a hostile Stealth-14. For every person with Boating (Canoe)-12 or better, I add 1 (max +4). Everyone in my group has a 13, so that's 20 vs. 14. I roll a 10, so made it by 10. The Picts(?) made it exactly. A canoe crammed full of Pict braves in war paint slides by as we hide in the shadows in the shallows.

We continue south, making the time 11 pm. I roll a 1, no encounter.

Again south, making it 11:30 pm. I roll a 5, no encounter.

We disembark on the Pict side and tie off the boat and head in . . . and unluckily encounter three Picts. e can try to escape, flee along the river bank, out-stalk them, or boldly attack them. We try the stalk. They know someone is around, but not where we are exactly. I roll their tribe and it is 2, Turtle. It's my Stealth-16 vs. Stealth-11, hoping to win by 4+. I roll a 13, making it by 3. The Turtles make it by 2. Uh-oh. They spot us!

It's a tabletop battle, Conan and six scouts vs. three Turtle braves. We're quite spread out, actually, and have some bushes and trees on the map.

Turn order will be: Conan, scouts, Picts, based on Speed.

Turn 1
I throw my axe at the Pict to my left, over the bushes. He's 4 hexes away, my axe has PB 2, Inc 2 and is -1 for one range increment. I have a 14 and aim for the body. 10, a hit. The Pict will Dodge and Retreat with an 8. He rolls a 13 and is hit. Damage is 3d+3 for 12 +3 = 15 cutting, so 22 cutting, and he drops, automatically unconscious. I Fast-Draw my sword with a 12 and succeed.
The scouts go. I'm assuming half of them have bows drawn and half have melee weapons, and put them behind Conan in a loose line. Scout A, C, and E have bows, B, D, F have Axes.
Scout A steps and looses his bow at the Pict ahead. The short bow has PB 5, Inc ST/2 (so, 6). He's 5 away, so it's Point Blank for a +4 to hit and +1 damage. He has Bow-15, +4 = 19, -3 to aim for the vitals for a net 16. I roll a 9 and hit! The Pict has Dodge 8 with Retreat, and rolls an 11. He's hit for 1d-1, +1 = 1d impaling. 6, tripled to 18! He's down.
Scout B moves up to the Pict on the right and slightly past, to keep an open lane for archery.
Scout C steps and looses his bow at the Pict on the right. Range is 8, so that's one Inc for a -1, giving him a 14. I roll a 4. The dice dislike the Picts tonight. He hits the body for 6, -1, = 5 impaling, doubles to 10. The Pict goes from HT 11 to 1, and has to roll for knockdown and stunning. He has an 11, and rolls a 10. He's still standing, but automatically Stunned.
Scout D moves offline. Scout E looses an arrow at the stunned Pict. Range is 10, still one Inc past PB, for a 14. He rolls a 10 and hits. The Pict had Dodge 5, -4 for stunning. He rolls a 9 and fails. The arrow hits body and does 1, -1 = 0, min 1, impaling. The Pict takes 1 x 2 = 2 damage, goes to -1 HT, and drops unconscious automatically.

Fight is over. The Picts didn't even make it a whole second!

I end it here as it's getting late.


Oddly, the scouts have Shortsword skill, and in the short story I believe they carried, basically, falchions, but they don't have them here. Oh well.

I did Conan's ranged attack wrong before - I forget to count Increments after Point Blank. I counted them including Point Blank, which is wrong.

I'm unsure if you can attempt to Fast-Draw at the end of your turn. I have to look that up and check.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Welcome Back Durak

Yesterday was 666 days after Durak, the Lord of Spite, was defeated and banished in Felltower.

So, he's back!

Time to crack open a few delvers and celebrate with a song!

"Welcome back
Your defeat was your ticket out
Welcome back
To that same old place that you terrorized

Well, the names have all changed
Since you last appeared
But those souls have remained
And they’re all a-feared

Who'd have thought they'd lead ya (Who'd have thought they'd lead ya)
Here where we fear ya (Here where we fear ya)

Yeah we flee him a lot cause he's got us on the spot, welcome back,
Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back."

(John Sebastian, with Jon Lay and Peter Dell'Orto)

Monday, September 19, 2022

Hyborean War

Way back in the day, I played a lot of PBM games. Among them were Supernova II, Legends, Feudal Lords, Midgard, and others with names I've forgotten. I paid a good bit of money on turns and rules and printouts and even more on long-distance phone calls to fellow players. One I wanted to play, but never actually took the plunge, was Hyborian War.

I loved the map for Hyborian War. I found it more attactive than the maps in the Conan books - especially those that superimposed the outlines of Europe over it - and in the GURPS Conan book. I decided to see if anyone had it up online, because somehow I'd lost my copy.

Wikipedia says it's still going. There are webpages talking about it . . . but the publisher's website looks like a late-90s Geocities site. It had a contact section and I asked to have a rulebook mailed to me. What the heck. I have my doubts this is still a thing, because I can't really find very recent posts. Plus people are still doing mailed-in PBMs?

But maybe it is.

We'll see if anything ever arrives.

But I can still find the map here:

And this nifty fan map, too.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Felltower Update

Since we're back to Felltower, I used my pre-game prep time today to do the following:

- Updated the map and key.

- Added more rumors and random events to the rumor table.

- Confirmed our next game date - in a couple of weeks as I'll be away a bit - and plan (B-Team). If we can resolve the A-Team's situation, we'll do that. If not, I'm thinking of what's a good deadline to set to just declare what happens so the dungeon isn't locked down forever.

No Conan today, I think, as I have a lot to do - but time tomorrow for the Conajahara to deal with the Picts!

Saturday, September 17, 2022

GURPS Conan: Beyond Thunder River playthrough session 2

I will play through GURPS Conan: Beyond Thunder River in short sessions until I've completed it.

I will run Conan of Cimmeria as written up in that supplement, as a 40-year old, 521-point character. I am using the 1st edition GURPS rules from my original boxed set, as written.

Session 1 can be found here.

Plot Words:

I left the ruins of the farm with Owen and Slasher. A few entry flips later I was unavoidably at the fort - so Slasher left. Pity. Owen, my new companion, presumably continues to come with me. Nothing says he always will, but equally nothing says I can ditch him. So he comes along.

Current Time is 6 pm. If it's 8 pm or later I need to flip to a specific entry.

I immediately leave the fort to scout around. I decide to circle the fort to check its defenses. I run into a officer of the Gundarmen named Julian. I "wouldn't trust him to command a latrine-digging squad." I need to make an IQ roll. I have a 12, and roll an 11. I've heard rumors about his Pict-looking mistress, his gambling habits, and his sword skills.

He talks badly about the fort, its leader, and its outcome. So I disagree with him. He gives the line from BtBR about barbarianism always triumphing. He talks of the Pict wizards being too powerful and the need to pull back from the current border. He wants to talk tomorrow.

Long story short, I roll 1d to add to the current time. 1. Current time is now 7 pm.

Back at the fort, I choose to talk to the Gatehouse guards. I overhear them talking about Zogar Sog, the Pict sorcerer, and how he got back Socratus, who wronged him. I can eavesdrop or walk in. Bah! Conan does not evesdrop. I go inside.

They talk about the men being lured out, so I ask about that. They call the lure "the loon" that only the doomed hear.

I ask if anything odd happened on shift, but they deny it. Roll 1d to add to the current time. 2. Current time is 9 pm.

Aha, nothing . . . "except for that fat fool" - Tiberias, the merchant. I grab a Gunderman gaurd and bring him with me (so no Owen) and rush out after Tiberias. Checking his stats, he could have a variety of weapons, so I choose randomly - 1-2 Pike, 3-4 Axe, 5-6 Halberd. I roll a 4, so Axe. Current time is 10 pm.

We hear a wild scream, and roll! 5. It's only a few minutes away. I can avoid the scream or run there. So I run there. I have a -3 to my rolls because of my previous roll. Ouch.

I roll 1d and add my Move, with a -3. I roll a 1, +8, -3 = 6. I have to roll for my companion, who gets a 1, as well, -3, Move 5 = 3. We're slow and blunder into a corpse.

It's Tiberius, killed by a forest devil according to me. I have the Plot Word TRIUMPHANT, which dictates my next page flip. I point out he was gashed by a claw and find a three-toed bird-like footprint. I can hide the body, or bring it with me. I bring it along. We make a litter and bring him.

Again, Plot Word dependent flips ensue.

A blinding flash erupts! IQ roll. I roll an 8 and succeed.

A forest devil has jumped us, but I can parry! Hurrah. (You'd think Danger Sense would have given a re-roll if I'd failed.) Oddly, it's a Quick Contest of my weapon skill vs. its DX. So, 19 vs. 16. I roll a 10 and make it by 9. It rolls a 13 and makes it by 3. My success and Plot Words dictate another flip.

It wasn't trying to attack me, but Tiberias's body. I dump the corpse and face off with the monster. My companion and I have to fight the swamp devil. If I come into physical contact with it, I have to do a page flip. I'm not sure if it means hitting it with my weapon . . . I'm assuming not, but I will have to check that entry to be sure. (Annoying, but it seems they mean touching it directly.)

Turn 1: It has Speed 12. It goes first, and does a Step and Attack. It has a 16 to hit . . . and I roll a 17! Whew. Lucky.
I swing at it with my broadsword, aiming for the head as usual. 19 -5 = 14. I roll a 13. It has PD 2 and Dodge 8, and can Retreat for a +3, for a 13. I roll an 8 and it Dodges. Gunderman moves up to the forest devil side, leaving a yard in between.

Turn 2: Forest devil. It does a Step and Attack and hits. Location is 2d = 8, body. I have PD 3 (1) for mail and Parry 9 or Dodge 8. I go with Dodge for the +3 and have an 8 + 3 + 3 = 14. I roll a 4! Hurrah! He goes to the Critical Miss Table; I roll a 10. Dropped weapon - unarmed means he takes 1d-3 damage to the claw. I roll a 1, and he has DR 1. No effect.
I swing at the head again, with a 14. I roll a 6 and hit. He Dodges with a 13 exactly. I step forward to follow.
My companion steps into range.

Turn 3: Forest devil steps and attacks me. A 13 hits, to the right leg. No PD there, so I have an 11 Dodge with Retreat. I roll a 10.
I attack again. I skip going for the head just because I'm annoyed, and swing for the body, and roll a 6 - this time it's a critical hit with my 19 skill. I roll 12 + 3 = 15 damage. It has DR 1, so it takes 14 cutting for 21 damage. It goes to -11 HP. It falls unconcious automatically at -1 HP, and rolls a 9 to not die.

Turn 4: It's out, so Conan and the Gunderman finish it off.

It bursts into flame and burns up.

We return to the fort, bearing the corpse of Tiberias.

I go talk to Valannus, the fort commander, after dumping the body with the gate guards.

I tell Valannus about Tiberias's death. He asks me to take a troop of men to go kill Zogar Sog. I turn him down . . . no, of course I don't. He probably orders you to do it if you do. I agree. I can take at most 8 people including me. Owen isn't a special option to bring, so he doesn't come. I can take Gunderman, Bossonian archers, or Scouts, or some of each. I go for the Scouts first.

I get to roll 2d-2 to see how many scouts would come. I get a +1. So 2d-1. I roll a 7, so 6 will come. That's 7 people including me. I check the stats of Bossonians and Gunderman and figure it's not worth taking one, because their Move and Stealth are lower. So I go with 7 of us.

That's where I'll end today. Too much to do besides game.


- I can't seem to find any rules for injuring an unarmed strike with a weapon parry. That might not be in 1st edition. I'll dig further.

- I forgot how fragile fighters are - stun is automatic on certain damage, lots of very easy to reach unconsciousness thresholds, and low defenses.

- Lots and lots and lots of page flips. Different plot words can potentially change this a lot, as do rolls - one option at the fort was coming back with Tiberias alive, for example.

Friday, September 16, 2022

Random Links & Thoughts for 9/16/2022

A little bit today:

- No Conan today, too much to do. I'll play a bit more tomorrow.

- 3 Toadstools has some Gamma World content. Got to love this line:

"The tavern section serves [. . . ] an alcoholic beverage called "Galou" which tastes bad but is green and frothy."

Oh, good. The bad taste would turn me off, normally, but luckily, it's green and frothy.

- This book was so . . . so-so that I sold it off out of all of my AD&D stuff. Huh, along with WG7 Castle Greyhawk and the City of Greyhawk boxed set. I sense a theme of Greyhawk material have been pretty unimpressive to me after Gary Gygax stopped writing it.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

GURPS Conan: Beyond Thunder River playthrough session 1

I will play through GURPS Conan: Beyond Thunder River in short sessions until I've completed it. I have about 40 minutes today, right now, so I'll begin play and log it as I go.

I will run Conan of Cimmeria as written up in that supplement, as a 40-year old, 521-point character. I am using the 1st edition GURPS rules from my original boxed set, as written.

Plot Words:

Entry 1 lets me sleep in or wake early; I wake early. Conan isn't lazy. Current time: 6 am

I wake and go talk to Purenius the quartermaster and learn about Ligureans and Atlanteans and then he sends me on my way. Current time 8 am.

I go talk to the scouts I command and reassure them the fort is defensible, even though I read "Beyond the Black River" befoe this. +1 reaction from my scouts. Add 1d6 to time, +2 hours, so 10 am.

I leave the fort to scout around. I scout the woodlands this side of the river. I smell smoke and head toward it - and then choose to rush in at full bore to catch any potential Pict raiders before they go. I see them and rush into their midst. They are Mentally Stunned. I roll a die and they're from the Otter tribe, one of the backwoods tribes.

It's Conan vs. 3 Pict raiders, who are attempting to tie a settler woman to a stake for nefarious purposes. I'm essentially in the middle, with two to my right and one to my left. (The book says I'm at location J, but the map only shows A-I. So I ruled I'm at I.)

Turn 1: I throw my axe at the solitary Pict at E. He's 6 hexes away, and my axe has INC 2 so that's a -3 to hit; I aim at his Body (-0). Throwing-15 gives me a 12. I roll a 10. He has Dodge 5 and -4 for being stunned. He rols a 7 and gets hit. 3d+3 cutting, roll 12 = 15 damage. He takes 15 x 1.5 = 22 damage and has HT 9, putting him to -13 HP. He fails his HT roll and dies.
The Picts roll IQ to recover from mental stun. They have IQ 8, but roll a 6 and a 7 and are no longer mentally stunned.
Per the encounter description, I roll 2d but don't hit the numbers needed for a page flip. I downed one Pict, so they might run - I roll a 3 and they stay and fight. Good.

Turn 2: I try to Fast-Draw my sword and then rush them. Made it, and I run 5 yards into one and slam him. I roll a 6 and hit, he fails to Dodge and we roll a Quick Contest of ST, 19 vs. 11. I made it by 11, he failed by 3. He is knocked down.
The knocked down Pict gets to kneeling. The other steps and attacks. He has a 15 and rolls an 8, a hit. I try to Parry with my sword for a 9, location is Body and I had PD 3 there for a 12. A 9 does it. I roll 2d and get a 12. I flip to page 315, and Slasher the Dog jumps out of the woods! He'll stick with me until I hit the river, fort, or Velitrium. Nice.

Turn 3: I hit the kneeling Pict, aiming for the Head (-5), for a net 14 skill. I roll a 13 and hit. His Dodge is 5 and his Parry is a 7, he can't Retreat while keeling, and he rolls a 10. Whack. 3d+3, double damage. I roll 15 +3 = 18 damage -1 for skull DR, doubled to 34, and he has HT 9 and goes to nearly -3xHP in one blow. He automatically knocked out and actually is dead anyway (I rolled a 12 on his HT roll.)
Slasher charges inte Close Combat with the Pict.
Standing Pict has a hatchet and spend his turn readying his weapon and steps back.

Turn 4: I step and hit the standing Pict, aiming for the Head (-5) on this one, too, and roll an 8. He has Dodge 5, +3 for Retreat, for an 8. He rolls an 8.
Slasher bites the Pict in close combat, and hits with a 12. The Pict can't Retreat again and has a 5. He fails (12) and takes 1d-1 = 1 cutting damage to his body. Slasher holds on.
The Pict can't use his weapon in Close Combat so he tries to break free, rolling ST vs. ST. He fails and Slasher makes it. He's stuck.

Turn 5: I hit the standing Pict in the Head again, roll a 10, and hit. The Pict can't Retreat or Parry, so he has a 5 Dodge. He fails. I roll an anemic 6 +3 = 9 damage, just winging him, but that's still 9 - 1 = 8, x2 = 16 damage, for an automatic knock out. He drops.

Fight's over. Let's see what happened with this woman.

Oops, she's not a woman, but a young man in disguise. Plot twist! His name is Owen. He's unarmed, so let's give him a bow and pair of hatchets from these Picts. I recovery my axe and a hatchet.

Current Time is now 2 pm.

That's all the real-world time I had tonight. Lots of page flipping because I couldn't be bothered to photocopy pages or take serious notes. Also, I couldn't find my Basic Set for a few minutes. Luckily I could remember almost all of the rules . . . we really did play a lot of 1st edition GURPS.


The solo version of Danger Sense is pretty nice. Whenever you fail a Vision or Hearing roll, you can roll Danger Sense. If you make it, you treat it as a success on the sense roll. I kind of like that - it's a permanent one-reroll Luck for sense checks.

I honestly like the low defenses . . . hits mean something more often. These Picts in 4e would have 8-9 Dodge and roll an 11-12 every time, and I'd need to give up a lot of attack skill to drive it down with Deceptive Attack. Conan's 19 in Broadsword is overpoweringly high, just like it appears in the stories, because there isn't much defense to be had here.

Fun stuff. If any rules seem odd, remember to reference 1e, not 2e or 3e or 4e, before you tell me just how wrong I am. I'm going for the full "Me playing this through in 1988" effect here.

Monday, September 12, 2022

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Session 172, Felltower 122 - Desmond Takes Command & Stirges

Finally, we're playing again. Only three delvers today. But it's good to be gaming again.

Date: 9/11/2022

Ambassador Durinn Hothrun, dwarf cleric (250 points)
Desmond McDougal, human wizard (263 points)
Kaylee "Blue" Blackwall, half-elf knight (250 points)
Eegah the Basher, semi-human thug (??)
"Pigsticker" Paul, human spearman (??)

We started out in Stericksburg, where Desmond gathered with his two new friends, Kaylee (who he nicknamed "Blue" for her hair color) and Durinn Hothrun, of the Ambassadors of the Good God. They quickly put the word out that they needed help delving in Felltower, but couldn't afford to pay for it. They couldn't find Orcish Bob, who usually will come for a share. Raggi is semi-retired. But they found "Pigsticker" Paul and Eegah the Basher.

They gathered rumors and headed out. They went down through the "main entrance" of Felltower and crossed the pit . . . but Paul bungled his crossing and fell into the pit, crippling his left arm. Desmond brought him out with Levitation and Durinn healed his arm.

They moved through the dungeon with as little noise as they could make, which was a fair bit, given Desmond's Hard of Hearing, Eegah's communicating in grunts (except for one spoken warning to watch out for snakes), and Kaylee being a knight in scale. They made it to the second floor and opened up the secret door near the Apetrium and had Kaylee touch the six-fingered hand. She suffered 1 HP injury and 5 FP lost, and -1 DX and HT.

They went from there toward the stirges, which they decided to wiped out and search for loot.

They closed the door on a double-doored room full of stirges and made sure there were no others. Then, they gathered at the door and forced it open. They tossed in a lightstone and then Desmond threw an Explosive Acid Ball at a group flying at them. He took one down and wounded two others.

What followed was a close-in melee, as they couldn't keep the stirges from flying over the front ranks. They were engulfed by a few dozen of the critters.

In the melee, Kaylee hacked down strix after strix with her greatsword, even in close combat. Desmond put Shield on himself and another (I can't recall whom) and then realized Armor was a better choice. He managed to get that off on Durinn and then Kaylee, but Eegah and Paul unfortunately not. Paul skewered a stirge right away, but then was quickly mobbed by four that latched on to him and brought him down. Eegah dropped his club and kept pulling stirges off of himself one after another. Soon enough Paul dropped, as Durinn tried to concentrate long enough to get Cleansing off on him. He died before that could happen.

In the end, they killed or dropped about two dozen or so stirges, but in the process lost Paul and Eegah was badly wounded. The steady slaying of Kaylee as well as Durinn taking some out before he switched to healing helped, as did Eegah's primitive grab and squeeze method.

They pulled back right away, and camped in a nearby room to heal and recover. A couple hours passed in rest and spellcasting, including Seek Earth to find some treasure. They detected gold and silver in what is probably the stirge room.

So they put Armor on Ambassador Durinn and Kaylee and sent them in. They scattered a horde of rats gnawing on fallen stirges, and then searched the room as stirges kept away from them. In it they found a skeleton in armor, and dragged it and its weapons to the other room.

They tooks its gear - slightly rust light mail and a plate helmet, broadsword, spear, a couple knives, and 63 sp worth of gold and silver coins.

They used Seek Earth again and detected more gold and silver, but it was a trip to get to it. So they decided to head home. (I offered to just say they got back, if they went the same way. They declined, wanted to "just check" the tower trapdoor exit.)

They climbed up to the first level and headed to the circular stairs . . . and stumbled into three rust monsters! They fled, but the rust monsters caught him. Just in time, Desmond created a wall of earth, and they ran up and turned it to stone. He floated himself over the top and threw a 3d Explosive Acid Ball at them. He wounded one slightly and the others barely, but they backed off. They PCs fled to the surface the way they came in.

They made it back to town, used Final Rest on Paul, sold the stuff, healed Eegah . . . and divided up their loot. Each got a few hundred sp and Kaylee kept the helmet they found.


The PCs originally considered the Black Library, but shot it down once they realized a) they don't have anyone who speaks Elder Tongue and b) you need to be evil to get in.

It's always amusing when the party insists on going back a different way instead of taking a free pass out of the dungeon in safety. I've done it.

Eegah the Basher is semi-cousin to Basher the Thug. Same stats, except he's SM+1 and has a defensive beard. I couldn't find Basher's mini but I found a similar one, and thus made him a different NPC. Eegah was given $50 as a tip.

Paul had some bad luck. He just kept rolling 17s and 18s. He fell, he rolled an 18 on consciousness, he rolled a 17 on a death check. He just couldn't make it go today, and died as a result. Pigsticker Paul will rest in peace. No long will he be planning to purchase or purloin pork pockstickers from pocksticker purveyor "Potsticker" Pete. (Credit to my players for that whole series of jokes.)

The PCs decided there must have been a hireling strike, and these guys were scabs.

We also decided that Ambassador Durinn is almost certainly a Star Wars character. Probably on-screen in Jedi for two seconds in that big hangar scene, and you'd need to buy three X-wings, two A-wings, and the Death Star playset to have enough credits to send away for him.

4 xp for loot, MVP was Desmond for his spell use, even though he's the reason they blundered into some rust monsters.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Felltower pre-summary

Delved in Felltower today:

- three PCs and two NPCs entered

- four total returned alive

- loot was found

- stirges (and other things) were encountered

- and things were left to do "on the way back" and not done.

Yes, it's good to be back.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Felltower tomorrow

If I've done my math right, it will have been 97 days since our last game.

We have only two players committed to tomorrow, and thus two PCs: Desmond and a new dwarven cleric.

They'll need some hirelings - I've heard talk of hiring Orcish Bob.

But we'll be playing, hurrah!

Friday, September 9, 2022

Random Links and Thoughts for 9/9/2022

Random stuff for Friday night.

- Here is a Grognardia post about ambivalence. It's not stated as such, but it and a lot of the comments reflect it. There is a lot of joy in being in a niche, as well as pain. There is also a sweet spot of big enough to be self-sustaining but not so big that it feels like you're not a big fish in your small pond, or part of something exclusive.

- Best comeback from any of my players? A player wants his holy symbol to be a book. I said it would need to be a small book or heavier to be a tome. Oh really? "Must be faerie made . . . " Touche.

- I'm not sure I ever shared this quote, but the quote of my campaign, which probably should go on the campaign page, is this one:

"Felltower is all about safety."

- This article on hunting lionfish could be good game inspiration . . . although in a dungeon fantasy world, pretty much even non-invasive species are a threat and worth killing. Got to get rid of those owlbears, they're eating dragon eggs, clearing out prey species that keep the umber hulks around, and devour those treasure-hoarding mimics before they can even figure out how to fake being a chest. Bounties abound! Heh.

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Next GURPS Solo Play: Conan Beyond Thunder River

It's been a while, but after reading some Conan recently, I've busted this back out and intend to play through it myself next week:

I'm debating converting it on the fly to 4th edition . . . or just playing it as-is.

It's a fun adventure . . . it's quite possible to do better than Conan did, or worse, or the same. I've done all three.

This was such an eye-opener when I got it. We'd been playing with 100-point 1st edition GURPS guys, and then here is Conan with ST 19 (150 points!) and HT 17 (100) and 32 points in each of Brawling and Broadsword. 521 incredible points . . . so, so fun to run him.

I can't wait. (And the SJG web page is wrong, I think - this is the PDF on W23.)

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Felltower & Vow of Chastity

One of my players sent me a cleric, and it has Vow (Chastity) [-5].

I think in Felltower this is a quirk-level Vow. No less serious, but it just doesn't limit your character much. It's very rare that romantic involvement - or sexual involvement - comes up in a game-affecting way.

So I have rule it's a Quirk, and -1 points. I think the player has some other options which will actually be worth the -5 points, and I won't grumble over a disadvantage that doesn't actually limit the PC's actions or choices or results.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Russ Nicholson Conan

I'd never seen this image of Conan:

I'm a big Russ Nicholson fan . . . and coincidentally a couple days ago I grabbed one of my Conan books ("The Conquering Sword of Conan") off the shelf and have been re-reading a few of my favorite stories which happen to be in that one.

So yeah, Russ! Conan!

Monday, September 5, 2022

Nothing but tough left in Felltower

We'll play with a short crew of lower-point delvers on 9/11.

Most of the "easy" areas of Felltower have been gone over maybe 2-3 times.

I can point the finger at cautious play. But I did some things to encourage that.


Not that this is a change from how I run games in general, but Felltower was especially lethal right from the start. We didn't have cut-rate Resurrection yet. We didn't have a lot of money for the full version. And people in general didn't want to risk their paper men. I get it, even though risking your paper man is the only thing that generates good stories. It's the root of fun. No one sits back 10 years later and says, wow, we sure didn't lose any PCs, wasn't that awesome? They do tell stories of PCs that survived despite the odds, and of exploits good and bad. Mo is dead but the Naked Crowbar Fight lives on. Vryce is probably ashes or dust but who can forget him killing a dragon? And so on.

But because people don't want their paper man dead, they tend to choose the least risky way to play even in a game that only rewards risk. Or does it?

Loot Thresholds

Part of the problem, I think, was the loot requirement.

I set them low to start with, with a very gradual slope. Only very high point characters needed serious loot to get points. Allowing unequal divisions - meant to allow bootstrapping new delvers - was not a big help either.

Setting them too low for too long allowed relatively high-point characters - especially amongst that first wave - to keep getting 4 xp and then 2 xp for loot smacking around foes too weak to present an actual lethal threat, and taking loot that would be more reasonable for newer delvers. I hesitated to change them because of resistance from my players . . . the push to keep them low, because they wouldn't be able to get enough loot and the newer areas were too dangerous, was strong.

And I'm sure many people reading this are nodding their heads, saying, sure, makes sense, you should always go for maximum loot at the minimum risk. But I'll note that it has been very rare for my players to talk about maximum loot, and much more often talk about getting the minimum loot to meet threshold. The goal wasn't the big score, it was the smallest score necessary. I had to put in rules about partial hoard looting, for goodness sake, to prevent people from finding loot and then taking only enough to maximize their point gains each delve. And about re-found loot, if a delver carried money in and died and then his friends came and recovered it. That wouldn't have been necessary if the delvers had been focused on getting the most they can each delve instead of the least they need to keep advancing.

Changing them for the higher has been very helpful.

Ol' Spitey

Another problem was the Lord of Spite. I still think he's awesome, but the PCs had one encounter with him and basically decided he was to be avoided like Evil Otto in Berserk. So much so that as far as I knew, they didn't know his "room" was a staircase down. The new players didn't. So they spent a lot of time trying to find a way down in a dungeon designed (as time-saving method) to pen the PCs in to the first couple of levels for a while. It worked too well. No one really wanted to open the door and find the Lord of Spite to fight so they poured over the upper few levels again and again looking for loot and a way down, in that order.

The House Limit is Three Do-Overs

I wouldn't change all of this, if I had a chance do it all again. The need to have a functioning megadungeon that I didn't have to write a good 5-6 levels worth in one go required a I have bottlenecks . . . and putting the Lord of Spite in as a wandering monster added something I don't think you get in other megadungeons (at least not that I know of offhand.*)

I would use the current XP rules and loot thresholds. I think they make the most sense, and would have driven players to push their delvers deeper, quicker, in most cases. Maybe not. They're a cautious bunch. But they'd have progressed much, much slower in that case. The other things - yeah, easier access to cheaper rezzes would have been helpful. The Lord of Spite, he'd stay, but I'd been served better to have a different style of bottleneck to the lower levels. They opend up below but open up too slowly. I'd have put in many more connections - 3-4 times as many - given a chance.

This is why, ultimately, I'm not keen on putting in more new areas, more "starter" areas, and more side delves. It really just encourages bottom-feeding as much as you can . . . not just with 250-point guys but with 300, 350, 400+ point guys. Why take the risk? Just wait for a new side area to develop so people can "build up" to areas. I think Felltower is a vibrant place to delve. The choices aren't as wide-open as they were in the initial days, but they aren't closed off. There are risks to take and rewards to reap . . . just not as many easy ones as the loot threshold made it seem there were in the past. Now a serious level of risk to gain loot is assumed, not a side effect of choosing poorly. Our player Greg used to quote a friend as saying, "Now is the time for heroes." Felltower isn't for the heroic, but now is the time for the brave. Risk or gain no reward.

* If there is some other megadungeon that has a wandering demon lord on a shallow level meant for very early play, let me know. The Lord of Spite isn't the most powerful demon lord in the game, but he's no slouch.

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Next Felltower: 9/11

We've got a game date for Felltower. It's likely to be a small crew of B-Team delvers plus whatever volunteers or hirelings they can pick up . . . if they choose to recruit either.

But it will be a Felltower game. As long as I have at least two players willing to delve, I'll run the game. I'm not sure what they'll do yet, but there is enough to do to keep a crew busy. And it's been since 6/6 that we played so that's enough for me.

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Power Score's look at the D&D Cartoon

Power Score is doing an episode by episode look at the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon.

I watched this cartoon growing up. I didn't see all of the episodes - I just didn't get to watch Saturday morning cartoons week in and week out.

I didn't hate it, but I didn't really love it. I was the usual DM for my group and all of a sudden the DM is this weird little Yoda wannabe.

Still, I do remember episodes I really liked (episode 9, with the skeletal warrior, was one), and I watched it as long as it was on.

This look at the episodes is interesting because of that. I probably won't go back and watch the series, though . . . reading this is enough!

Part I

Part II

Episode 15

Friday, September 2, 2022

Stuff for 9/2/2022

Three links for today:

- A nice look at a very, very old CRPG - Dungeons & Dragons from 1980 for a computer system I'd never heard of. Neat.

- What Doug is up to. Nice note in there that Charles Saeger finally has a book coming out.

- One of my clients was explaining how her son painted little models for some game. I said, "Warhammer?" and she was quite surprised I'd pulled that out of my hat. Honestly, though, if you paint minis for a game, odds are that's the game. He also plays D&D and used to paint figures for that. So did my client when she was young. Heh. It wasn't even a big topic of conversation, like, of course I played D&D and had a custom-painted mini for my character . . . looks like rain, huh? What's the next movement we're practicing?

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Fire in the Lake charged, awaiting shipping

GMT Games sent me this email today:

"We're writing to let you know that game [sic] Fire in the Lake, 3rd Printing is one step closer to being completed and shipped out to you! [. . .] so it won't be long now until the process is complete and we can ship your game."

Hurrah! Finally! I ordered this in January 2021, order #86 . . . of what is now 997 orders. Been a while.

Oh, but Thursday is almost always GURPSDay, going back more years than I care to look, so Obligatory GURPS:

GURPS Seals in Vietnam is an excellent book, and I highly recommend it if you're interested in the subject and know some GURPS. It's meticulously researched and very well detailed.
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