Monday, November 28, 2022

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Session 176, Felltower 124 - Mission for the Masters III - Beholder

Date: 11/27/2022
Game Date: 11/13/2022

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)

We started off in the dungeon, with the PCs in a dark cave, with Wyatt getting injured with some invisible attack from presumably off in the darkness.

Wyatt and Bruce headed that way, while Varmus, Ulf, and Gerry hung back and cast spells. Crogar hung back with the casters and waited.

Wyatt ran far enough to see a half-dozen Eyes of Death in the darkness. (To be accurate, he knew roughly where they were because of our lighting/invisible icons being visible issues with Foundry last time.) They were roughly 5-6 yards off the ground. He just kept running at them. Gerry and Varmus readied explosive spells.

Wyatt suffered a lot more damage, until after Ulf put Protection from Evil 5 on him. The Magic Resistance 10 did nothing but the DR 5 helped. He ran up and swung at one with AOA (Long) and forced it to retreat up. A second later, Varmus put an Explosive Fireball into the ceiling near it. It dodged down, taking only 3 HP of damage. They're weak, but not that weak. Wyatt later finished it off with a jumping attack. He forced others to the ceiling, but they kept moving up to avoid the sword swings and away from the wizards. Gerry took a shot at one but it dodged completely out of the blast area of his explosive spell.

Bruce moved up as well, as Wyatt fell back briefly, and the eyes turned their damage on him. He has a good HT and a lot of HP but they were wearing him down steadily.

Then, as they felt like they'd figured out how to deal with the eyes, Gerry put on Dark Vision. He saw, off in the distance but closing in, a beholder. (He must have told them over lunch, because before lunch no one noticed it was there, and after lunch break the first thing people did was start doing stuff to deal with a beholder. Talking is a free action so clearly that includes when it's between people's turns. I should have delayed lunch break until the reveal occured!)

They found their magical enhancements - basically Wyatt's Great Haste - just ended. Colored rays came out of the darkness and hit them all, one each. That kept upf for a few seconds, costing some Luck to resist and lots of consternation - and more Protection from Evil spells. The eyes of death floated off to the side, either fleeing Wyatt quickly, or, when far enough, slowly backing up and higher and using their invisible gaze attacks. Varmus took damage from a couple of those, and then from a black ray from the darkness. Then the PCs saw the multi-eyed orb float into view.

From here the PCs kept up attacks mostly on the eyes. Varmus was charmed, and threw a 4d Fireball (he'd rolled a 4 casting!) at Ulf but missed. He passed out a second later from accumulated injury. Crogar was put to sleep as he ran over to grab the fallen Varmus (I think the plan was to try and run somewhere.)

Shortly after, Gerry was first slowed, and then petrified, after resisting multiple ray attacks.

Bruce was hit with fear and charmed, at the same time. He finished drawing a potion and drank it down, healing himself all the way from the low single digits to his normal 41 HP. (He readied his sword after this, presumably, or just forgot it wasn't in two hands anymore.) He swiftly ran up and did an ineffective Move and Attack on Wyatt. A second later, Ulf was paralyzed.

So Ulf prayed silently in his mind, sacrificing 11 xp for a +11 on the roll, asking for the Good God to unparalyze him. He made the roll (exactly, I think). The Good God removed all of their afflictions at once. Gerry was un-pretrified. Varmus had the charm removed. Crogar woke up. Bruce was no longer subject to a -1 from fear and was no longer charmed. And Ulf wasn't paralyzed.

The PCs went back into action. Crogar gathered up his axe and headed towards the eyes of death and away from the beholder. Gerry went back to casting spells - Great Haste, first, and then I'm not sure what next. The eyes of death focused on Bruce after it was clear they couldn't really hurt Wyatt or Ulf reliably.

Bruce rushed the beholder with Wyatt, but Bruce eventually failed a HT roll to stay conscious from his bewildering array of wounds and fell unconscious. Ulf went shortly after from eye of death attacks and the beholder's rays. Gerry after that from a black ray from the beholder and a failed HT roll put him very negative and then dropped him, mortally wounded.

Wyatt rushed the beholder alone. Crogar tried a running jump attack on an eye of death but missed. After that, he turned away from a new exit visible to him - which the eyes were close to - and moved back towards the way the PCs came in.

We ended up with two fights going on. Crogar was hit with a fear effect, and was at -8 to all non-fleeing actions for 8 seconds. He spent all of those running towards the Master's area. He reached it, only to find the way blocked by four obsidian golems (guardians they'd passed on the way in last session.) He Evaded but failed. He tried again and succeeded, and ran past them. One spun and punched him twice but he parried their attacks. He ran past them and out of the room into a new area and stumbled into six humanoid figures consisting of dark, tattered robes with ghostly hands clutching scythes. They formed a semi-circle blocking the only way out. He decided not to try to run past them, too. He ran back to the obsidian golems, who now blocked his way into the octagonal room from this direction. So he did a shield rush on one for 15 damage. It stood its ground (they're strong and heavy), and they all swung at him, injuring him with a hit or two. A second later, he tried to get by and failed, and they all launched their paralytic eye rays at him. One, two, three, four. The second succeeded, and we didn't resolve the others. He was paralyzed. One grabbed him by the neck and proceeded to try and Neck Snap him. We drew the curtain on that fight.

Wyatt kept after the beholder, running in and throwing a knife at it - a meteoric one, hoping it would try to disintigrate the knife like it did Hjalmarr's axe back in the day. It dodged. He kept after it, throwing knives and then his swords, as it kept dodging and playing various eye rays over him to no avail. The eyes of death kept after him, all four that remained (they'd slain 4 of the original 6, and then 2 more joined them.) They could only hurt him on a failed HT roll (most of the time) and then by rolling max damage (1 in 6 times, statistically.) But they began to slowly wear him down. Eventually, he was Slowed by the beholder, but not before it blew a Dodge and took a thrown sword in the body. It hurt, but its hard hide/shell protected it. Even slowed, Wyatt just kept slogging over to his weapons, kicking them into his hands, and then throwing them, once ever four seconds. Eventually, he scored another hit, putting out the main eye with a thrown dagger. But before he could do any more, his luck ran out - he eventually failed to resist a sleep ray, and fell asleep.

That was second 69 of the fight. He had five more seconds of Protection from Evil, after which the eyes and beholder would have just finished him off easily once his +10 to resist and 5 DR went away.

And that was that. TPK.


- Not much to say overall here. Second year-end beholder massacre in the campaign. I'll follow up tomorrow with a post about what's on tap.

- Gerry's player opined that - even before the beholder showed up - that this was going to get them killed, uselessly. No power items, no time to recover energy after castings, etc. He didn't see the point. Wyatt's player argued that getting them killed off in the process of killing some enemies probably was the point. I know who is closer to accurate, but I also hold the Masters' cards close to my chest.

- My beholder isn't exactly an AD&D beholder, but it's not one of the later ones, either. It's very much based on the AD&D version but scaled to GURPS better. So it isn't incredibly slow, and its rays don't have crazy ranges, and it does have some weak points. It's dangerous and it's a boss monster but they aren't invulnerable. They can be lethal.

- Magic Resistance - in fact any non-HT-boost - has no effect on the Eye of Death attacks. I think my players were disappointed but I wrote the darn things up, and I know I'd have mentioned MR if I'd meant to mention MR. Beholder writeups do. Cosmic ignores all DR didn't seem sufficient when faced with DR 5 vs. supernatural evil attacks, which this clearly is. So that's one way to fight them . . . PfE 6.

- I'm taking over charmed PCs in the future. Varmus was going to throw his fireball at Wyatt, who was facing him, instead of back-shotting a helpless caster (Ulf.) I overruled that. Bruce did a Move and Attack on Wyatt from behind while within easy Committed Attack range. We've had dedicated eye snipers go for limb cripples, vitals-hunters shoot extremities, and so on. People can't help but kid glove their moves when it is a PC. Nice to know, but it means Charm attacks are a waste of time for the GM and I'll need to replace them with save-or-suck attacks that just take you out. Otherwise it's a foolish move - "Makes the victim completely loyal to the caster, except if he has to do something he wouldn't do without having been charmed, in which case he'll do the least efficient thing that kinda-sorta helps the caster" = a waste of time.

- I'm not sure what Crogar was going for. He was under a fear effect, and so at -8 to do non-fleeing actions for 8 seconds. But he was trying to get away before that, and was just cut off by the eyes. He ran into some new monsters, ran from them (probably a good idea), and then shield-bashed the obsidian golem. They finished him off quickly after that. Servants of the masters, sure, but the golems aren't smart enough to deal with "Defend yourselves, but don't kill other servants." I think he was concerned that lacking Protection from Evil he couldn't risk the eye rays or eyes of death, but I'm not sure what the plan was. As always, I don't really ask, I just referee.

- Prayer worked - and it had better, with an 11 xp sacrifice to do it. The ask was very small - to free Ulf from paralysis. The Good God did him a bit better, and just wiped out all negative status effects (and one Great Haste, too) and left the PCs all ready to restart the fight.

The issue with asks from prayers and wishes is that I often find them disjointed - people don't ask for one thing, but 2-3 vaguely related things, or they ask for something so constrained that I'm not sure what they really want. I figued this was close to what they wanted. On a critical I'd have just restored the whole party to fighting shape and HP and FP, but it wasn't a critical. I think he made the roll exactly even with that +11.

In the end, it didn't matter. It gave them another chance but they weren't able to capitalize.

- I'm bummed. I wasn't expecting this to go easy but I didn't think it would be a TPK. I was hoping they'd have won the fight and/or found a way out, to come back and get revenge on the Masters in the end. After the last beholder battle that they'd realize the best defense is a good offense. That, and when they discovered its real weak points - it depends heavily on its anti-magic ray (and Gerry could ignore that, albiet at a -5) and non-magic resistant targets for its eye rays - seemed like a turning point. But ultimately, it was not to be. They couldn't coordinate the melee attacks with ranged attacks that would force their foes down from the ceiling, and mostly ended up fighting one-on-one battles or piecemeal attacking. No one with thrown weapon skills aside from Wyatt even had throwable weapons, and the lack showed here.

MVP was Wyatt's player, for basically almost making this work somehow.


  1. The eyes of death were floating 5-6 yards above the ground. That's 15-16 feet up in the air. Even with a 3 foot sword I can't come close to hitting the lowest of those with my best jump (but I'm not an adventurer). Of Wyatt you only said "He ran up and swung at one with AOA (Long) and forced it to retreat up." What is the missing description here that he could potentially hit something up there? Is Wyatt 8 feet tall, an Olympic jumper, or using a spear? How does this attack look to you?

    Last session because of the visibility issues we knew about the coming beholder and I expected a TPK. I'm sad that it happened again but the first group to lose to one was much more capable and experienced so I didn't expect this group to survive. I was wondering why your players were still casting spells, don't your beholders negate magic like AD&D beholders? Then you commented that Gerry could ignore that, with a penalty. What allows ignoring the magic-negation power of a beholder? I'm also not sure what you mean by "My beholder isn't exactly an AD&D beholder, but it's not one of the later ones, either." All the beholders I've seen in D&D are the same, from the OD&D version in Greyhawk all the way through to 3.5E. What are "later ones" and how are they different from AD&D? I won't ask for secret info about your own GURPS beholder because I know your players don't have that info and you wouldn't share it.

    1. So, Wyatt is 2 hexes tall, has a Reach 1,2 sword (spears are also 1,2) . . . so he can reach out to 2 yards away from him around, or 3 high. Add in +1 for All-Out Attack (Long), and +1 for a high jump. GURPS is pretty generous in jumping, and even with encumbrance, Wyatt could get better than 36" of vertical jump.

      The beholder is based on the AD&D stats, but lacks a lot of the weird background stuff added later to make them into some kind of odd natural creature. I've normalized a lot of the ranges and effects, instead of it using a mish-mash of spell and spell-like effects. Looking at beholders in 5e, which I have handy, mine are a bit less end-boss monster and more really nasty mid-grade boss.

      The spellcasting was simple - Gerry had a (very expensive) advantage called Mana Enhancer. For him, the local mana level is also +1 higher. The beholder made it a No Mana Zone. Gerry pushed that to Low Mana Zone for himself personally. None of this affects clerical spells, so Ulf could cast away. The only thing I missed, and I realized it later, was that their healing potions shouldn't have worked in NMZs. I'm sure they'll say they thought healing potions were clerical magic but that's not how it works. I didn't help, anyway, it just prolonged the fight.

    2. Sorry, that should be 4 high, +1, +1, so he can hit something 18' up with a running jump into an AOA (Long).

    3. For the record, regarding the healing potions: that’s EXACTLY what we had assumed.

    4. Good note, then, for the future - they don't work in NMZs, any more than a potion of invisibility or strength or haste would. If Magic Resistance works against potions, then NMZs must, too.

  2. Why didn't they all have throwing weapons?


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