Monday, October 31, 2022

GURPS Conan - Queen of the Black Coast playthrough - Session 1

I finally had a bit of time to play GURPS Conan - Queen of the Black Coast. Here is my session 0 post.

Crew Stats:

N'Gora
N'Yaga
Gwythar
5 Subchiefs
80 Crew

Crew Morale Rating 0

No Plot Words yet

Current Time: Afternoon

We start out on the Tigress, sailing around, with some backstory in case you haven't read the original story.

Just like in the books, the Tigress is badly depleted and laden with loot, yet Belit wants more and wants to sack a lost cursed city of the Ancients. My first choice is wether to protest the depleted nature of the crew, or endore Belit's idea. Young Conans in love don't question, they follow. I endorse her idea fully!

The jungle river is spooky and silent. The current time is now Afternoon . . . which is where it started.

I have to do a couple time-and-morale dependent page flips. The I need to roll 1d. 2. Flip to entry 7.

I'm on lookout duty. I have Danger Sense so I get an IQ roll. I roll an 8, and make it. Not critically, so I flip to 153.

I turn just as a giant river serpent looms over the bow! Time to break out a combat map of the ship. The serpent will try to grab a crewman and eat him. The adventure doesn't give any suggestions or rulings on where the other 89 people are - just Conan. I'm actually better off just making it fight Conan one on one but that's not the description, so I'll put a subchief (I need one for each group) and a half-dozen crewman near the serpent and fight it out from there.

Turn 1: Conan Moves up to the edge of the boat; this is two hexes away.
The serpent is tied with the warriors, so it moves to the edge of the boat and attacks one. It has DX 13 and I roll a 10 - a hit! The crewman has to try to Dodge. They have Dodge 5 and have Shields, but nothing says what kind of shield (seriously - they have a table entry but no equipment list). Conan has a large shield, so it seems reasonable that they do, too. So PD 4. I roll an 8, so the serpent hits the shield but its 1d damage won't penetrate.
The crewman can fight back with his Spear-12. I roll an 11. The serpent can Dodge with 6, +1 for PD . . . and I roll a 6!

Turn 2: Conan attacks the serpent with his sword (which is listed as doing 1+3 cutting, 3+1 impaling, and yet hasn't been errata'd. Tsk, tsk.) Conan has Broadsword-18 and so I aim at the Skull Brain (-7) for an 11. I roll a 5 and hit. The serpent rolls a 16 fails to Dodge. Damage is 11+1 = 12 cutting. The serpent has 0 DR, 2 for skull, so 12 - 2 = 10 x 4 = 40. It had HT 20 and goes to -20 HP and is knocked out automatically (3e rules.)

Having beaten the snake with no casualties, we get a +2 Morale (Crew Morale now 2) and Conan gets a +1 to reactions from the crew.

The time advances to Evening.

More time-and-morale based page flips, and a die roll - a 6.

We see some large glowing eyes of a sickly purplish hue. I can laugh it off, shoot at it, ignore the eyes, or bring the ship in closer. I attack!
I have a -12. Okay, that's a lot. I can aim, shoot without aiming, or decide not to shoot. I have a 17 skill, so that's a 5, 7 with aim, 10 if I take the max time. May as well aim. I do, and I shoot, rolling an 8. A hit and a page flip.

The weird thing turns out to be a wolf-like thing, which screams and falls dead into the river from a vitals hit. I have to roll 1d. On a 1-2, +1 to Crew Morale. 5. Oh well. Hard guys to impress. Anyway it falls into the river and tentacles seize it and rip it "asunder." -2 to morale! Easy come, easy go.
Crew Morale is 0 again.

Current time becomes Night.

More morale and time page flips, and a die roll. A 6. But I need to stop now, at entry 175. I'll pick it up from there tomorrow (if I have time.)

***

Fun so far. I'm not sure why there are no stats for the spearmen. I hope I'm not missing an insert.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Felltower & Fire in the Lake

So, I'm going to mix Felltower and GMT Games's Fire in the Lake!

Okay, no I'm not.

But in all seriousness, there are some conceptual overlaps.

If you're not familiar with the COIN games, they are generally for four players. You have four factions - and in the case of Fire in the Lake, at least, two factions on each side are allied. But their goals aren't identical.

In FITL, you have the NVA and the VC. One is the army of North Vietnam . . . the other the home-grown communist insurgency in South Vietnam. You'd think from far enough away that they're on the same side, but the NVA would like the war to end with a united Vietnam under their control. The VC would like a communist south where they have influence and control. The ARVN and US both want a non-communist Vietnam, but not the same one. They don't even always have the same means in mind.

You can project this over to any of the so-called factions in Felltower. The orcs would like to find something in Felltower. The PCs have offered to find it for them . . . but the orcs refused, because they want to be the ones that find it. The PCs finding it doesn't solve their problem (have the thing found) in the way that they'd prefer (they find it.) Same as the PCs with, say, anyone else they briefly ally to before killing them (see: Orcs, Hobgoblins, Crazies, most NPCs in town who come with . . .)

It's worth keeping in mind with any faction - their goals and your goals might be the same, but the path of accomplishment might be different. Or you might have similar mid-point goals but not the same final goal. You can sometimes bank on assistance but you can't always bank on complete assistance. You can't always trust that you have the same outcome in mind just because you share an identical path. Or that you share a path even if you share the means.

Back in Paranoia, we used to quote the motto - Trust no one, keep your laser handy. Felltower isn't quite so cut-throat, although the PCs generally act as if. Even so, you can't assume like goals or like means automatically means both goals and means are alike. Keep in mind your own goals, and see if you can't figure out those of your allies and enemies, before you trust or betray.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Fire in the Lake - first look

I finally had the time to pull the shrink wrap off of Fire in the Lake, 3rd edition, from GMT games.

It's beautiful.

The manuals are nice and crisp, with very clear writing and on high-quality matte paper.

The map board and cards are equally nice.

And the pieces are attractive but admittedly a little small. I need to take an inventory before I lose an ARVN unit or a VC base.

The counters are heavy cardstock and mounted. I need to find a good video showing how to best cut them free. I'd like cleanly punched counters.

I've started to read over the materials. I'll admit it's hard to not just look at the book in awe and leave everything as-is. I need to find some space to set the game up and then start to work through the tutorial elements included. There is just so much here. This isn't the ideal starting point into the COIN series. I've been told that Cube Libre is a good place to start, and I'm deeply fascinated by Andean Abyss. But nothing has quite grabbed me as much as the Vietnam War. It's such a refreshing idea to think of the VC, NVA, ARVN, and US as different groups with different goals, instead of the usual "NVA with VC henchmen" vs. "US with cruddy ARVN allies." It's not 1 vs. 1 but rather 1+1 (but actually 1v1) vs. 1+1 (also actually 1v1). It's going to be hard to play this solo but I think that's all I have for now.

Overall I'm very pleased with my purchase and I plan to play this ASAP. That won't be too soon, but can't be soon enough. I'm very impressed with what I've seen so far, and I came in with high expectations.

Friday, October 28, 2022

Assorted Links & Thoughts for 10/28/2022

- There is a Kickstarter up for a (the?) Blackmoor megadungeon. There doesn't seem to be a PDF-only version, so I'm out.

- In the end, on that Baldur's Gate bundle, I chucked in $1 for Icewind Dale and Planescape Torment: Enhanced edition. I'm still waiting on the latter, as they're out of Steam keys.

- I will unbox Fire in the Lake this weekend, I hope. I also took Fire in the Lake out of the library - the history the game's title (and spine illustration) was taken from. Because why not?

- There is still a Backerkit crowd-funding going on for Nightmare Fuel. I'm in for the PDFs and VTT tools. I'll skip a hardcopy, after all. I won't need it.

- Next Felltower is in another two weeks.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Revised GURPS Retreat?

Well . . . I'm up early and posting. I don't know if I'll do this for Felltower or not, but if I did, here is what I might do.

My issues with retreat are largely gamist and meta, not based on realism.

Retreat causes a few issues in a game, especially a tactical map-based game with a large number of combatants:

- it adds to the D in the OODA loop of each turm. That's Observe-Orient-Decide-Act. It's just one more part of "Decide." It comes up when people move - they want to ensure they can retreat. They ask about which hexes are clear to retreat to. People choose where to move to give their friends room to retreat. The additional layer of "Where do I move so I can Retreat?" comes up every turn on everyone's turn, and people consider the past and future moves of their allies when they do so.

- it adds a weird gamist element where people want to get hit, because they want to Retreat to get an additional hex of movement.

- it adds to the whiff factor, as an additional percentage of attacks just flat-out fail to connect due to better defenses.

- it adds to calculation, as people stop to decide if they need the +1 or +3 to defend before they defend.

And this is with a group of players who have played in the same 4e campaign, with the same rules, for over 10 years. The more people know, actually, the longer they spend thinking about Retreat.

Here are some options to deal with it.

Option 1: Remove it.

Just get rid of it. No one gets to take an extra hex of movement to avoid an attack, and no one gets a +1 or +3.

Pros: Easy! Speeds up play. Increases lethality so fights will end more quickly.

Cons: Lethal! Players will hate it, because no one likes losing something they "need" for fights to be "fair" because "we need it more than the NPCs do."

Option 2: Restrict it.

Limit when it can be used. For example, allow Retreat only to Dodge and Drop against explosions, and/or only when using All-Out Defense and then only on the selected defense(s).

Pros: Easy, and comes up way less often as you can only use it when you aren't attacking.

Cons: As above, except when using All-Out Defense.

Option 3: Limit it - Step.

Another option is to only allow it if you haven't take a Step. You need to reserve a Step in order to pull off a Retreat with a full bonus. If you've already taken a Step, you Retreat but at a -1 to the effective defense - a +0, in most cases, and a +2 for Dodge or Fencing parries. (This matches the cost of an extra step in Committed Attack, GURPS Martial Arts).

You can also impost a direct penalty if you use Retreat - your next turn's DX-based actions are at -2.

Pros: Limits Retreat in a useful way, but doesn't nerf it, regardless of the options you choose. Players will like this. Very much rules consistent.

Cons: Doesn't limit Retreat much. Probably adds more decision-making to the process and a cross-turn penalty to rememeber.

Option 3: Limit it - Effect.

I'd consider making all Retreats +1, no exceptions for Fencing or Dodge.

Pros: Very easy to implement. Limits Retreat without totally limiting it.

Cons: Doesn't limit it very much.

Those are the broad options as I see it. A fifth option would be "Costs 1 FP to Retreat" if you did Extra Effort in Combat, but for some reason my players always vetoed that so I don't use it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Ogre on Sale on Steam

The Ogre video game is on sale for $4.99.

It's also been updated, apparantly.


But since I just got some more games, I'm going to pass for now. Maybe when it's 90% off . . .

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Notes on DF Session 173

Some extra notes on DF Session 173.

- My players remarked on how much they enjoyed the twist of fighting on the same side as their enemies - especially skilled and tough ones like the golden swordsmen. They did express some disappointed when they suffered some damage right away from the mindwarper, because you know, foes they can beat one on one should be able to take on a boss-level monster without significant harm. It says something that they see a foe whupping on someone to mean the someone sucks, not that the foe is tough. It's a tough crowd.

They did realize that the golden swordsmen weren't fighting to save them, but to win the fight, which made sense. I was please to see them notice this . . . I was expecting some moaning about cowardly golden swordsmen who wouldn't sacrifice themselves for the PCs. It's not about them.

- I need to spend some time between now and next session noodling around with Foundry to get the injury tolerances and DR right. It sucks when I have to manually change the damage every time and uncheck the "use injury modifiers" box.

- Someone asked me if you could change facing as part of a defense, like a Retreat without changing hexes. NO. Categorically no. Retreat causes plenty of problems now. Opening up a "but I don't move" Retreat or "I just change my facing" Retreat would be extremely abusable. It would especially allow for people to start flanked and having a foe behind them, but then use a defense against one foe to prevent a back shot that would otherwise come from the foe behind.

- This was the first time my players encounted void brutes. The original idea for them was from a prior campaign - they were the physical hosts for symbiotic critters that rode them. I didn't get to use them in that game, so I converted them for DF when Sean and I wrote Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 1.

The picture of them in DFM1 matches the description pretty well. But that's not really what they're based on. They're actually based on this guy - and specifically his action figure:



I should have mentioned they wear wrestling singlets. Heh.

Fire in the Lake - Arrived!

Well, hurrah! My copy of Fire in the Lake arrived!

I'll put up some pictures and such when I get a chance. But after all of those posts bemoaning the delay wait, it's here! And naturally I'm busy and can't even open the box until tomorrow. Heh. And due to some living space arrangement issues I don't have an open table to play on just yet.

Coincidentally, my local library finally got my reading copy of the book Fire in the Lake today, so I'll pick that up so I can read one as I prep to play the other.

Monday, October 24, 2022

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Session 173, Felltower 124 - Mission for the Masters

Back to the "A-team" of Felltower.

Date: 10/24/2022

Characters:
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)

The PCs found themselves on a balcony facing a number of "Gith," norkers, thorkers, and golden swordsmen. Each of the PCs in turn was levitated down off the balcony, into a cave with salt-crusted columns floor to ceiling and a dusting of snow-like salt crystals covering the floor. Their equipment was also sent down after a half-dozen golden swordsmen were lowered with them. One of the "Gith" told them in accented and oddly phrased commen that they were to follow the golden swordsman "to your quest" and they would be given a reward after they returned from it. Gerry asked for his power item back, and was refused (it's a valuable necklace). Wyatt asked for some of Aldwyn's gear, since he could use it and that would make their success more likely. Possibly already put out by Gerry's request, the Master agreed that they'd consider such a request after they returned. (The PCs noted that the golden swordsman were in fact called golden swordsman, and marked that as an official name. I noted the Masters never seemed to use any terms the PCs didn't alreay know except for the unimaginative "thorkers.")

The golden swordsmen, sadly, are mute, and so they signalled the PCs along with gestures and pointed bone falchions. The PCs grumbled at being sent on a mission without full equipment, some of the best stuff missing, lots of useful consumables taken, no food (just water), and with mute guides. You know, how PCs would send people on a mission, including themselves.

They were led down a sinkhole and through a narrow tunnel into wider, cavern-like tunnels. From there, they were led by one golden swordsman and trailed by five more, who chivvied along the wizards who wanted to hang back. They reached a fork in the tunnels but were moved towards a wall - which naturally turned out to not really be there, but was persistantly hard to look at or engage with. The golden swordsmen dragged them through one at a time, and then drew their weapons.

The leader (seemingly) started to gesture, not the subtle sign language of his people but wide gestures, mostly indicating an area and a throat-cutting motion. Bruce said, "Kill something in the area?" and the swordsman nodded and repeated the gesture with a wider area and more throat-cutting, and Bruce said, "Kill everything in the area?" and got an emphatic nod (a gesture they don't otherwise seem to use.)

They got to it, fanning out and moving along. Three golden swordsman hung back, directly behind the wizards, prodding them along when they tried to hang back. Only Gerry, who turned Invisible and Levitated up, was spared that.

Once in the cave, they heard the sound of crab-like claws scuttling along stone, and the whole turn rounded to their right. Waiting for them was a pebble-skinned noseless humanoid with vertical slit eyes with white eyeballs and sucker-like arms and legs. It was a legendary mindwarper! They felt a wave of terror hit them as, with a weird soundless scream, five bolts of color-that-isn't-a-color lightning-like force lashed out at them. Crogar tried to block and was lashed, a golden swordsman parried one and was hit by another, and another golden swordsman dodged back around a corner to safety.

They moved to attack it, and closed in with it as it continued to plays its strange attacks across them. Gerry put Great Haste on Wyatt as he moved by. And as the mindwarper lashed away, a dozen void brutes charged out of the darkness from the PC's left and attacked!

One of the golden swordsman, facing the mindwarper and unaware of the charging void brutes, was brained and knocked out cold, possibly slain outright. Varmus threw a 4d Fireball which was dodged, and Ulf threw a Sunbolt with wounded one void brute and sent it into a berserk rage.

The void brutes crashed into the PCs, who were scattered out as they fanned out to try and advance on the mindwarper. Crogar, Bruce, and a golden swordsman were near the flank and took the brunt of their charge. The void brutes quickly started to go berserk, and thrash away with their clubs. Meanwhile, out of the darkness a pair of death brains - weird brain critters with hard-shelled legs - ran out and amongst the casters. Varmus found his magic went away - Gerry, with Mana Enhancer, was effectively in a LMZ instead of a NMZ, and was able to keep his spells up. Wyatt was able to slay one, but even dead it was able to surpress mana around it.

Wyatt repeated dashed about the fight, stabbing void brutes in the eyes over and over, often taking as many as six or more hits before they'd drop. Crogar hacked down a number of void brutes, at one point nearly getting surrounded and still managing to stay up and fighting as he cut around him. The golden swordsmen were a little cagey, and hung back, waiting for berserk void brutes to rush them and then pairing up to cut them down. The PCs, unused to dealing with foes lacking a head or neck, had to resort to just body shots and the occasional random location strikes to try and put them down.

Meanwile the mindwarper hung out in the darkness on the outside of the glow vials the PCs had for light. Ulf put Flaming Weapon on Wyatt's sword so he could illuminate the area, but still, the mindwarper only exposed itself enough to lure a charge from a golden swordsman. That one slashed and hurt the mindwarper, but in return was lashed down with its strange colored (colorless?) energy and killed. Varmus was nearly done for the same way, and then Ulf took five hits out of the darkness when he turned his flank to that side.

By this point, there was one death brain and the dozen void brutes were down to 2-3. But then Wyatt critically missed and cut himself in the arm with his flaming sword, and barely avoided crippling himself. Shortly after, Ulf rolled an 18 on his consciousness check and passed out - right after that attack out of the darkness. He fell into a coma. The Crogar rolled a 17 on his consciousness check and passed out cold.

Wyatt rushed the death brain that was still hassling Gerry, chasing him around on the ceiling and Dodging Gerry's attempts to Deathtouch it with his staff. He threw his swords at it, and a handful of knives, but managed to only knick it with a couple of knives.

We left it off there. The PCs finished off the last of the void brutes - a full dozen - and one of the two death brains. The mindwarper is injured but out in the darkness, lashing away with its strange attacks. Crogar and Ulf are out and Bruce wounded, Wyatt running low on weapons, and only three of the six golden swordsman are still up.

Notes:

- The entire session was one big fight, which isn't quite done. I'd be happier if the fight could be done more quickly, but we didn't dilly-dally and the fight was a lot of fun. The PCs got to fight on the side of some usual enemies, against some mostly new foes. That made for an interesting session.

- This encounter is 1/4 Sean Punch and 3/4 me. He did the Mindwarpers, I did the Golden Swordsmen, Void Brutes, and Death Brains. Sean came up with the name "Death Brains" as a throwaway, so I statted some up . . . and nicely Reaper minis did a critter than was close enough to my conception to use. They're sort-of intellect devourers, except more brain than brain-like, and more anti-magic than psionic. The mindwarper is pretty fun but Terror is overrated - most PCs have a 13 or less to resist and it's rare that they don't, and it's one shot.

- There is a lot to like about VTT play, but the fact that monsters get labelled in the turn order isn't one of them. I can't conceal names without giving monsters fake nicknames that will probably stick instead of the actual name, and if I put monsters into the turn order when they are out of sight the players can check what's coming and how many. I had to keep manually tracking their turns until they could go into the order.

- The fight was really going the PC's way in almost all respects right up until a cascade of critical failures - all 18s - messed things up. Wyatt cut himself, Ulf passed out, and Crogar passed out.

- Lots of slowness with Forge/Foundry this session. And weird issues, like Injury Tolerance not working, or suddenly going to Public Rolls from Private GM Rolls.

- Lots of user error with persistent buckets - people would use them for 2-3 attacks (or more) and then leave them on for 2-3 (or more) damage rolls. Instead of manually editing, I just made people re-roll. It's faster.

- I don't love it, but I may have to go to speed-based initiative to save my sanity when it comes to fights.

- And if they survive, Aldwyn's player will likely play Varmus. I'll give him 70 points to bring him up from his 180-point Apprentice status to full 250-point Wizard status. He's been upgraded with that in mind so it shouldn't result in an off-template wizard once that happens.

- MVP was Crogar. Wyatt did the most damage, but he had Great Haste on. Crogar knocked a few void brutes down with sheer damage, and held off half of them at once at one point while doing so. He'd still be up and cracking away if he hadn't rolled that 17 to stay conscious.

- Tune in three weeks from yesterday, when we find out if they can beat the mindwarper and company, and what their promised reward consists of!

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Felltower summary preview

Full summary tomorrow, but . . .

- the A-team was "released" by the Masters

- they were sent off with six golden swordsmen to take care of something

- the something was "kill everything . . ."

- everything included a mindwarper, a dozen void brutes, and a couple of death brains!

- In bloody fight, not quite ended when game ended, several PCs went down, along with death brains, void brutes, and golden swordsmen

Great stuff.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

3D Beowulf

This is pretty cool. Not for me, but pretty cool. A 3-D Class A Free Trader.


I have the SJG Beowulf deck plans in 28mm hexes somewhere.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Random Links for 10/21/2022

A few things for Friday.

- Only two players took me up on my offer to rejigger their characters thanks to captivity. Good thing, because we needed nearly a dozen or so emails back in forth in each case to settle on things.

- My copy of Fire in the Lake should be here Monday! That's good, because it won't distract me from Felltower. That's bad, because I'm busy all next week.

- I backed Nightmare Fuel, because Doug has never made less than an excellent product. I went for the PDF level, because I don't need three softcovers - but now a hardcover omnibus in in the mix, so I might up to a physical copy. I did add in the Forge tokens, because I do recognize my time is worth more than $7.50. With what I charge (and get) per hour, that's a bargain. I need that for the rest of the GURPS DF/DFRPG bestiary, too.

Plus it finally will mean we'll see Charles Saeger's plant monsters. I saw several drafts of them, shared my plant monsters with him, and used bits in the Forest Gate area. I highly approve, and give the Felltower Stamp of Approval to them. I wish I had any graphic design skills so I could create an actual Felltower Stamp of Approval.

- I'm very meh on 4e D&D, but I'm never Meh! on Slaad from my beloved Fiend Folio. The PCs fought a Slaad once, but didn't know it. I'm not so keen on the undead slaad, though. It just seems thematically a mish-mash.

- I still haven't pulled the trigger here - is Pathfinder worth it without being the expanded edition? Is Baldur's Gate II good, because I didn't love BG the original. Decisions, decisions.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Review: Shields Up!

Time for a review of material that I like.

Two notes:

- I received this as a complimentary copy
- I was a playtester/reviewer (the latter), mostly when the book was largely done

By Danny Macfie
24 pages
Gaming Ballistic, LLC

This supplement is for the Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game by SJG produced by Gaming Ballistic. It covers the use of shields in DFRPG through a series of expanded rules options and equipment choices.

Using these rules, you can:

- use shields as cover
- account for shields carried but not readied
- attack with a shield, including throwing, bashing, grappling, and shield rushes
- attack shields, via grappling, hooking, attacking it directly
- attack around shields
- use shields as improvised tools

It also has a dozen new traits and modifications for existing traits, such as Weapon Master, and new kinds of shields.

The book is a very solid expansion. Personally I'd suggest picking and choosing, since shields get a very dramatic expansion in their potential use. Some options make simple sense and can be put into a game without any groundwork - digging with a shield, for example, or evasion or slung shields rules. Others will add some bookkeeping and additional checks - shield damage, for one. And the many additional shield equipment options are cool - but a min-maxer is likely to fiddle around to make the "perfect" shield. It's all well done, however, and really covers the subject of shields in a complete manner. I can't see a thing missing.

Overall: This isn't a supplement you need for the DFRPG, but if you feel like shields don't get their proper due - either from realism or gamist angles - this book will be very useful. It'll work fine for plain GURPS Dungeon Fantasy, too, as much as any other DFRPG supplement will. Recommended.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Arrived: Pyramid #4/4: Fantasy/Magic II

I got my copy of Pyramid #4/4: Fantasy/Magic II today.

This was part of a Kickstarter.

Maddeningly, I had no idea the Kickstarter started. I missed it entirely. I gather there was a Daily Illuminator, but sadly, I don't check the SJG homepage every day. I thought if such a thing happened Kickstarter would alert me. But nope. I get them for TFT Kickstarters but not this one. I'd have promoted it here, and pledged for the other two issues.

Oh well, at least I get to see my completed work, "Tome Raiders." It even got reviewed and I missed it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

GURPS Horror Bundle of Holding

Humble Bundle Hodai! *

There is a GURPS Halloween-based Bundle:


I highly recommend GURPS Zombies. I'm biased because Sean Punch is my friend and not-infrequent co-author. But he's both because we think alike. The "horde" rules alone makes Zombies worth it - even if you hate horror and despise zombies!

I don't really like horror as a genre. But seriously, Ken Hite hasn't written a wasted word in a gaming book ever. GURPS Horror is a delight to read even if you don't normally like horror.

Madness Dossier is a very cool setting if you want reality-isn't-as-we-see-it as a setting and the supernatural mixed with firearms. It has the usual Hitean mix of plausible divergences from reality and the benefit of GURPS being grounded in verisimilitude.

And you can get monster books that Matt Riggsby helped write. He's very inspired and inspirational when he writes.

I can't recommend this stuff highly enough and I pretty much dislike horror as an RPG genre. They make it sooooooo tempting to play.

* Sorry, Japanese reference. 放題 - Hodai - means "to your heart's content" or "all you can . . . " in Japanese. It's stupid and inaccurate alliteration.

Monday, October 17, 2022

CRPG Humble Bundle - Baldurs Gate

There is a CRPG Humble Bundle which might be of interest:

Badlur's Gate & Beyond

For $1 you can get Icewind Dale (complete AFAIK) and the enhanced edition of Planescape: Torment.
For $10 you can get those plus all of the Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights.
For $20 you can get all that plus Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous.

I'm still deciding, here. I've played out Icewind Dale, and I'm not sure I'll want to do it again. I would like to try the enchanced version of Planescape. Those for $1 is fine.

Another $9 nets me the Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights games. I'd like to try BGII. Or maybe try BG again . . . which I disliked back in the day but maybe it's better or my tastes have changed.

I really want the Pathfinder game, but the enhanced version is $20 right now. I'm not sure "Enhanced" is worth +$10 but I'm leery of buying a plain version when there is a better version out there. And while $1 is throwaway, and $10 is a really good deal per game, $20 is actual money.

I'll break down and get one of these deals, and we'll see which one.

Is it worth waiting on the Enhanced Edition of Pathfinder: Path of the Righteous? Or should I just go for it?

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Felltower next week

We orginally planned on Felltower today . . . but issues intervened and made it impossible for me to run game. So we pushed it off for next week.

This has given my players a bit more time to think about how their imprisonment and torture at the hands of the so-called Gith affected their PCs. I have had some questions and requests so far. They're still up in the air, but a few of the PCs are likely to be a bit . . . changed . . . by their time.

I still regard this as a positive thing - they surrendered, and lost a bit of stuff, but didn't lose everything nor their lives. The ones that don't want their PC changed don't need to make any changes - they can come through unscathed, just a bit poorer. The ones who want to have a PC a little scarred by their experience, can. It's an opportunity, not a punishment.

And I am really looking forward to what they do.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Posting Break

I've got some real-life stuff to take care off and will be mostly offline for a few days. See you guys over the weekend or early next week.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Fire in the Lake - Shipping!

So, hurrah, Fire in the Lake is shipping!

I didn't get a shipping notice, though, so I'm not sure what this means. It's been in that status for a full week. I'd love to think they'd ship them in the order they were ordered, so I'd get mine p.d.q. . . . but who knows.

Here is hoping for an October arrival so I can start a November playthrough!

Monday, October 10, 2022

Felltower - Prisoners of the Masters, Part II

Following up on the previous entry, I asked my players to do the following:

Give the following a thought:

- do you think this would have changed your PC's personality? If so, let's swap around disads to reflect that. I'd allow stat drops to accommodate changes, here.

- do you think your PC might have learned something? If so, let's talk skills and traits. Maybe you've developed High Pain Threshold (if you have the points), or upped Will, or something of that sort. Perhaps you've learned Psychology, or Interrogation (not that they questioned you), or something else of that sort.

And you can just say, nope, I take this in stride and keep on going. That's fine, too. It's your guy.

I don't normally give people a chance to change their characters, but they've suffered a big loss, here, and suffered a big event. It's a good excuse to make a big change.

At the moment, there haven't been any negative costs to their characters . . . but not all has been revealed. Got to save some stuff for game time!

In the meantime, Aldwyn's player will run Varmus. Varmus will eventually either become a recruitable NPC from the pool of NPC delvers, or Aldwyn's player can promote him up to 250 points and make him a full delver. He'd essentially just finish building his stats and advantages and spell pool out to reflect a starting Wizard instead of an experience Apprentice.

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Felltower - Prisoners of the Masters

The PCs surrendered last session to avoid all dying at the hands of the ones they call the Gith.

That was six months or so ago in game terms.

What happened in the meantime? Here is what I sent to my players.

Prisoners of the Masters

After your surrender, you were all quickly shuffled aside and surrounded by the norkers and the norker-alikes, which you later find out are called “Thorkers.” You were separated, blindfolded, and brought to a 20 x 20 room with no doors, guarded constantly by a mix of norkers and thorkers. Aldwyn’s corpse was left in place, and you don’t know what happened to it.

After a short time, one of what you call the Gith came in. He (?) was one of the more ornately armored, sword-carrying kind. He paced back and forth, speaking in some language you didn’t understand, gesturing accusingly. He didn’t seem to be asking any questions, just talking and often pointing at himself and speaking in a self-satisfied sounding tone. He rapidly shifted back to accusing gestures directed at you, and then back again. After a short time, he left. A little while later, another came in and did more or less the same. Once, one came in and spoke in oddly soft and accented Common and told you that any attempt at escape or resistance would result in the death of your companions, but cooperation would mean freedom and life under the glorious Masters.

After that, several norkers came in and held you while others beat you, or the thorkers held you until eventually you were paralyzed and then you were stabbed with one of the swords and your blood collected in a bowl and given to one of the Gith. Sometimes one of the Gith personally tortured you, with delicate sword slices or stabs while you were held down by norkers. It didn’t seem to have any purpose at all, and it was hard to read the expressions of the Gith behind their helmets and face veils. Ulf and Gerry, you were kept continuously gagged, and warned that any use of magic would result in the death of a companion. Not that this mattered – Gerry, your room was a Low Mana Zone and you were constantly watched, and Ulf, yours a Low Sanctity Zone. That plus Sense of Duty and the threat to your friends kept you from attempting a serious escape.

The next few months were a parade of the same thing – parades of different Masters lecturing you in their language, beatings and blood-draining. You could often hear the sounds of similar tortures going on in nearby areas. You slept on a cold stone floor. You were fed a diet heavy in meat, which clearly the norkers ate as well – rat, stirge, some odd worm-looking things, and other weird subterranean things. The norkers took care of your wastes, bringing you food, and supplying you with water. You felt less like prisoners and more like . . . a resource to be exploited. Most of the time you were weak and tired and low on blood and heavy on bruises.

In the last few weeks, the beatings, torture, and blood drain ceased. You were checked for injuries, your food supply increased. Finally, one of the Masters came and told you in accented Common that you were to be freed, to complete a mission for the Masters, after which you were instructed to return if you survived for your reward. You were not asked if you accepted or not . . . the Masters don’t seem to understand non-cooperation. You find yourselves together on a balcony overlooking a lower cavern area, guarded by Gith and norkers and thorkers plus a handful of golden swordsmen. Your equipment sits out of reach behind them, in a big pile.
. . . And that is where we will begin the next session.

Notes:

- Aldwyn is dead. There wasn't a way to avoid that as he was dead already.

- As promised, any PCs who weren't already dead were neither mained nor killed.

- This will lead to more adventure, because it always should.

- Players hate to lose equipment, so I didn't take it all from them. They're losing some stuff, but not all of it.

- It didn't take much to make this happen. The six-fingered guys they call the Gith and whom their servants call the Masters have their own needs and wants and Disadvantages, and that dictated a lot of what happened.

- It didn't take much to keep the wizards and cleric from using their magic . . . careful watch, Sense of Duty with a credible threat to their friends, and a -5 to their rolls means it was a stretch to try to escape and likely to end very badly very quickly for all of them. I just needed to justify it, too - surrendering was an acceptance that they wouldn't be all like "But I would have escaped!" or "My guy would have died first!" - we're past that, and agreed tacictly that this was going where it went.

Overall, I'm pleased that my players were willing to take the risk of surrender, instead of playing chicken with the dice and trying to win a fight that was clearly getting less and less winnable. This should lead to a lot of fun, especially when they find out what the mission is!

Saturday, October 8, 2022

More random links

So it turned out that I was out and about much longer today than I expected. But there are a few links I forgot to include yesterday:

- I've placed weird magic treasure that never got used, too. I don't think as highly of them as Monsters & Manuals does, but your milage may vary.

- This sounds like an awesome campaign.

- DF Novices session 1

Friday, October 7, 2022

Links & Thoughts for 10/7/2022

- I finished reading the original story behind Queen of the Black Coast. It has been a while since I read it. It's good . . . but not great. It shows its age and time. It's got good gaming potential but it was a bit of a chore to finish, unlike some other of REH's work. I'll get on playing this weekend if I have time.

- I've queued up Blackbirds as my nighttime reading. Hurrah!

- Since we're actually playing Felltower again, I've spent a lot of time writing and reading about gaming. I need to play to stay connected these days - the more I play, the more I have to write and think about.

- I haven't told my players what happened to their captured guys yet. I'll get to that this weekend. I won't lie - I got distracted by some non-gaming stuff this week, both work and fun (aka, martial arts and ice hockey.) I did do my preliminary notes and I need to just fill in the details.

- I always liked Ogremoch. This version is very alien to me, but still, it's Ogremoch.

- I saw a preliminary version of Shields Up! - It's good. If you like shields and want more options for them, get this.

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Felltower Bard power-up bonus

We discussed a possible power-up for Bards in Felltower and I thought of another . . . and although we haven't had any, if we do, they'll get these.

- Bards may add a spoken language at any time, at Accented (2) or Fluent (3).

- Bards may add any musical intrument skill or Song power at any time in play.

We rejected Broken level as it didn't seem very impressive to suddenly know a few words in a language.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

A non-religious fanatic priest of the Good God?

I've noted before that religion in Felltower has tended towards the less and less tolerant.

Even the more tolerant Ambassador Durinn has expressed an interest in destroying materials found in the Elder Tongue. Better safe than sorry, presumably.

It's very easy to make a cleric in DF that is intolerant of all other religions (which includes druidism, by the way, and not just the older religions to older gods) or just "evil" religions . . . which usually ends up including anything with even a passing connection to evil (so, magic in general.)

Is it possible to make a cleric of the Good God who is faithful to his religion but isn't a foaming fantatic ready to destroy everything that could be construed as evil? Can you support the Good God and those who worship the Big G, delve for loot and glory, and not feel compelled to trash anything not provably lilly-pure? Let's try.

We'll use a DFRPG Adventurers cleric template, since I have Adventurers handy.

The core three disads don't require a book-burning attitude - Honesty, SoD (Coreligionists), or Vow (No edged weapons). Any of those will do. Let's go with the Vow.

-15 points from those or other traits - we'll need to leave off Fanaticism and Intolerance. The Vows aren't really worth -5 in Felltower, so let's skip those. So it's either Wealth, adding a second main trait plus Ritualism (Mysticism doesn't fit most clerics of the Good God.) Let's say it's Honesty or SoD, either will do.

-25 from those traits or some new ones. I think any of these are fine. Stubborness might be used to justify a tough attitude on non-clearly-Good things, so I'd skip it. The others . . . probably go for it.

All together, you could end up with Sense of Duty (Coreligionists), Vow (n.e.w.), Disciplines of Faith (Ritualism), Charitable, Selfless, Truthfulness.

Seems like a nice guy. Nothing in the religion of the Good God demands destroying anything but capital-E Evil. Nothing says that all sources of knowledge, all foes in the dungeon, all NPCs encountered outside of town, and all non-playable-race-created objects are Evil. Even small-e evil can just be smote if necessary and left to (or shown a way to) find redemption.

That said, those same disads can be paired with a quirk-level hatred of all things that could potentially be Evil and then smash everything you see, but at least you're not forced to be a fanatic. It's a roleplaying choice.

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Additional notes from Felltower

A few notes on last session:

- I like our XP system, but it does sometimes seem a little unfair to new PCs that they can't get XP without going deeper. On the other hand, too bad. Suck it, newbies.

- I couldn't coax anyone into using the teleport room, despite proven history showing it's fun. Lethal, yes, but fun.

- We had a long run of purely human parties, or very nearly so. Now we're down to one human and a lot of non-humans.

- We were discussing how a bard might fare in Felltower, and it sparked a rule idea. I'll get that up another day.

- Finally, we do really need to update the maps. I'll need to talk to Vic and see if he can update the ones we have so I can upload them.

Monday, October 3, 2022

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Session 172 (Part II), Felltower 123 - Dungeons & Dwarves

After we finished the resolution of the previous session, we went ahead and played a delve with the B-Team.

Date: 10/2/2022

Weather: Cool, cloudy.

Characters:
Ambassador Durinn Horthrun, dwarf cleric (250 points)
Belmak Battlebeard, dwarf barbarian (250 points)
Desmond MacDougall, human wizard (265 points)
Kaylee Blackwall, half-elf knight (250 points)

The delvers met in town, meeting recent newcomer Belmak Battlebeard - an enourmous (SM +1) dwarf barbarian. Unable to find any volunteers, they set off just the four of them after gathering some rumors.

The PCs headed down the main entrance and then off to the left, and moved into the "apartment area" and then into the big hall with burn marks. They looked for the trap door in the floor their map indicated, which they'd broken before.

It was sealed off, with Shape Earth. They found the right spot (not the one on their inaccurate map) and spent a bunch of time using Shape Earth and Lend Energy to eventually dig a 10' plug of stone out. They ended up fighting 3 wandering stirges (and killed them easily), and then had to toss one to a lurking giant centipede.

They climbed down only to find the rubble blocking the way to the altar is there, and worked stone. They tried another direction, and the same. So they went back up, went down the stairs, and found their way through the long-abandonded lizard man temple. They used Destroy Water to get past the stuck doors.

They made it to the altar and each touched it, carrying 30 sp each time, hoping it would turn to gold. No luck. All of them got substantial but temporary bonuses.

They used a few Seek Earth spells to locate silver (a short distance ahead, past some walls and doors) and gold (back the way they came.)

They walked ahead to a junk-filled room and looked for secret doors their map indicates are here. They couldn't find them, nor any loot.

They went to a rubble-filled hallway and started to dig a tunnel with Shape Earth. It took a lot of time and energy, as they had to eventually get through almost 30' of rock.

They went into a room with bits of broken stone and the remains of a dozen or so humanoids. The room indicated "bricked stone bird room" on their map. They found a small knife and a pouch with some silver and copper coins amidst the long-decomposed corpses.

On the way back, they tried to go through the mold corridor, but they could see floating spores and bailed on that, and reversed their path.

They headed back to the gold. It turned out to be a single coin, along with five silver coins, in the middle of a black handprint on a floor in a room they'd past. Desmond used Apportation to get the gold coin. He then used Levitation to go get the silver coins . . . but as he reached to the floor it disappeared, revealing blackness below.

He pulled back.

They tossed in a lightstone and it winked out. They tossed in a holy lightstone and it winked out. The floor reappeared in roughly 10 seconds. It disappeared whent they threw another lightstone, which winked out.

They tried a torch on a rope. That worked - they could briefly see in, and saw a slimy mass with bits of bone, eyeballs, etc. floating in it. It made a big PFFFFT noise and smashed the torch, but not before they could see the pit was around 30' diameter, and there was bits of loot at the bottom.

Desmond summoned a water elemental, and convinced it to attack the thing in the pit. They sent it in. It went in, the floor disappeared, and it fell in. They heard PFFFFT and SSSSSS and splashing until the floor appeared. Then they heard nothing.

They torch trick again revealed the slime, no elemental, and then the floor reappeared and cut off the rope.

They decided to toss in an explosive missile (I can't recall which) but after triggering the floor and tossing it in, it disappeared silently as it entered the pit.

They decided to head home with their almost non-existant loot.

Notes:

- That pit with the slime has been sitting there for 11 years, now.

- The inaccurate map of the PCs haunts them very often, as they search for things they aren't there, search in the wrong place for things that are, and get lost when there are doors where they don't have them and vice-versa, or taking a hard route instead of an easy open one because their map doesn't show the easy, open one as easy or open. They really need to update it, but it can't be done on the fly in the VTT.

- Having to figure out what the closest supply of X from every given point in the dungeon sucks.

- So does people figuring out the volume of stone and distance it needs to move over time. I made Felltower a really hard place to do this, but it still happens as people want to brute force through. Yeah, I caused some of this with the orcs blocking areas, but how else were they supposed to deal with adventurers coming in and killing their guards and raiding their quarters, just keep letting people walk in or block off the areas they don't need to get to? Still sucks to deal with.

- Going to the Black Library came up but was shot down because taking Ambassador Durinn would probably result in the library being destroyed by him. It's an ongoing issue - it's essentially off-limits as the clerics all want to go there and destroy the place, and the wizards want to exploit it, and no one has the tools to exploit it (fluent reading in Elder Tongue) since no one wants to loot but but rather exploit it in place. Getting all of those together - no cleric, wizard with Elder Tongue, and time to sit and read (if that's even reasonable) - hasn't been done in any game session since it was first reached.

- Blind GM Rolls in Foundry are excellent. I have people roll their own Perception rolls and Seek spells and I just see the results. I don't need to secretly roll. Love this.

- Everyone got 10 sp. XP for loot and exploration was 0 xp, MVP was Desmond.

Sunday, October 2, 2022

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Session 172 (Part I), Felltower 121 - Second GFS - Part IV

We spent the first part of our session today resolving the rest of the A-Team's session from back in June. You can read that previous session report.

Actual Date: 10/2/2022
Game Date: 4/10/2022

Characters:
Aldwyn, human knight (360 points)
     Varmus the Hanged, human apprentice (180 points)
Gerrald Tarrant, human wizard (420 points)
     1 tough skeleton (105 points)
"Mild" Bruce McTavish, human barbarian (349 points)
Crogar, human barbarian (375 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (366 points)
Wyatt Sorrel, human swashbuckler (379 points)

We picked up in combat. The norkers and others attacked, wounding Bruce again, and hacking down the tough skeleton - crippling its left leg and right foot.

All of the PCs except Gerry started to surrender, dropping their weapons and raising their hands and calling out their desire to surrender.

Gerry spent a couple seconds trying and eventually succeeding putting No Smell on himself. He then hugged the ceiling and used Levitation to slip out past the norkers and norker-alikes. He made it past them and saw a lot of the so-called Gith. A couple of them moved to cut him off. One lunged at him with a sword and rolled an 18 and the sword turned in the thing's hand.

Gerry assumed that was because they couldn't see him but heard him. He kept moving . . . but then a wizard - it had Mage Light going - and a swordsman moved to cut him off. He realized the game was up . . . and surrendered.

We ended it there.

Notes:

- the hardest place to surrender, historically, seems to be in close combat with the enemy. It's likely to get you killed. Here, this wasn't the case. The moment the PCs called for surrender, the norkers were clearly ordered off. So the PCs were lucky their foes were under strict and effective control here.

- the Barcas would be happy. Gerry refused to surrender except to a wizard.

- The battle went 56 seconds, which is a lifetime in GURPS.

- I forgot to hand out XP. Everyone is due 2 xp for exploration, as they did go a number of new places last time. Loot was 0 xp. No MVP, since it's per-session not per-delve and we played a second delve right after this.

- In the next week I'll inform the players - and maybe the blog readers - what happened. I did state that no one not already dead would be killed.

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Quick Felltower Preview

Way to busy for a real post today . . . but tomorrow is Felltower.

It'll be the A-Team escape attempt - Gerry wants to go for it.

And then it'll be a B-Team adventure, regardless. If Gerry escapes, great - the session after can be a rescue attempt!

If he doesn't, they'll be captured . . . and we'll play a B-Team adventure and then I'll update them on captivity in between sessions.
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