Monday, October 24, 2022

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Session 174, Felltower 124 - Mission for the Masters

Back to the "A-team" of Felltower.

Date: 10/24/2022

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

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.


- 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!


  1. I'm really looking forward to the conclusion here! I did not expect that many foes!

    1. Five PCs and six allies vs. 15 foes is actually kinda a small, even-strength fight for Felltower. That's a mere 26 combatants! Heh.

  2. "...what their promised reward consists of!"

    I bet it's an extra helping of gruel.

    1. They got seconds already getting ready for the mission - maybe they'll get extra gruel for afters!

  3. For those of us without the benefit of playing the game can you define the monsters in terms of what they are similar to (in D&D as that's probably the standard origin for most monsters apart from mythology)? I was thinking Mind Warper ~ Mind Flayer, Void Brute ~ Umber Hulk, Death Brain ~ Intellect Devourer, at least as a base since there are clearly differences in powers being employed.

    I agree with you on the (it seems) universal problem of VTT initiative trackers. They are visible to everyone when they really should only be shown to the GM. Players shouldn't have awareness of who will be acting in the future unless they are prescient, and they definitely should not know there are unseen opponents from the fact that they have initiative, nor should they be given the names of those opponents. Exactly the complaints you have, I think, and the problem is that every single VTT seams to implement initiative tracking in exactly the same way, like nobody gave it any thought, they just copied the first VTT to implement it. I assert the tracker should only be visible to the GM, with the players only getting a "be ready to act" notice when the tracker ticks up to the actor immediately before them in the turn, then "your turn" when they have initiative (both tied to a tone--different from the tone of chat notifications--that plays for catching attention).

    1. Mindwarper - humanoid elder things with great intelligence and a physical-damage ranged attack (well, 5 of them). They radiate terror.

      Void brutes - former humans turned into hulking dumb berserkers. Big, strong, literally no head or neck - just a face on the upper part of their chest. Name is a misnomer - they don't live in voids - but they are brutes.

      Death Brain - walking brain-looking things with an unstoppable psi attack that can stun which reduce mana (magic) level around them. Usually to zero, but Gerry has a (tremendously expensive) trait that raises the level one for him.

      They're adjacent to mind flayers, umber hulks (kinda), and intellect devourers in terms of a niche, but I make sure not to tell people they're equivalent as that will lead to confusion, weird cross-assumptions that aren't accurate, and a lot of frustration when they aren't like their similar niche-holders.


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