Friday, December 8, 2023

Links for 12/8/2023

Just a few things I read in the past week.

- Doug's got a setting Kickstarter for OSE.

- Doug also has a sale going.

- And that's about it. Crazy busy week folks!

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Notes on the Magic Items in Felltower

I noted in the comments on my magic items post that the PCs need to delve deeply, boldly, but cautiously to find magic items.

I'd like to expand on that.

The reason why this is the case is simple:

The upper levels have been largely scoured for magic items. Not everything has been found . . . but for the most part, the major magic items have been found.

If the PCs want the stuff that hasn't been found . . . it's deeper, or beyond gates.

Agar's Wand? It's out there.

Atregex's items? Go deeper.

Frenzy? It's not hidden in some nook on level 1, I'll say that for sure.

Grimslaughter? Same.

The PCs have missed items, behind the Unopenable Doors, in the Lost City, in the Cold Fens, and in Felltower. But mostly, they're deeper than people are willing to go. If they want better stuff, especally epic, unique stuff . . . it's going to take some deeper delves.

I have restocked the upper levels, so there are things to do up there, but it's not going to inclue too many unique, powerful magic items. Those are down deeper. With the nastier, more formidable monsters.

Have fun . . . the only way your paper man is getting more powerful magic items in GURPS in by risking their paper lives.

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Admin: Disappearing Comments

Just an admin FYI - if your comments disappear or don't show for a while, Blogger is being stupid again.

For whatever reason, numbers of comments are being flagged as spam - even very old comments, even my comments - and won't show up. I don't get a notice but I can go into the spam folder and one by one approve them. Some I have approved before and had re-marked as spam.

No idea why it's being stupid, but here we are. Sorry about that - the downsides of using hosting I don't have to pay for.

Monday, December 4, 2023

When Orcus isn't enough, add friends?

This post over on Old School FRP Tumblr caught my eye:

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

They're actually the four horsemen of Orcus.

Just eyeballing them vs. AD&D 1st edition's Orcus . . . I'm pretty sure they're a very serious threat to him. He's got 85% magic resistance and excellent combat abilities . . . but a 23rd level magic-user and everyone with weapons that can hurt him, even the summoned minotaurs . . .

Good thing they're Chaotic Evil, like him, so cooperation isn't likely to go very far.

It's interesting when you beef up a powerful unique monster with a coterie of allies who are also seriously powerful. I think in a way it diminishes the main monster, though. Instead of Orcus being a boss fight you can just have, there is this other layer of guys you have to get through first. So now it's a bit of an extended encounter. It can be another excuse to push off a fight like that later and later in a campaign. Put it off long enough, and you won't ever get to the big demon. And if it goes from "very tough encounter" to "campaign culimation" than they can't have 85 HP and go down in a 10 round melee. You need them to have hundreds of HP, piles of allies, more powers than can be handled . . . and the PCs need to escalate to match.

I've been trying to front load the scary stuff and even then it's tough to get people to engage. So while I like the idea here, I worry that it's just another way for the PCs and the GM to back off from using the cool unique monster that is Orcus.

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Where is the magic treasure in Felltower?

Following up on my post about treasure in Felltower . . . let's talk about magic treasures in Felltower.

Note that in my previous post I didn't really talk about magic vs. mundane treasure.

That's because my treasure generating system - displayed in DF21 - is a total value of a hoard. It's not the mundane value, just the value.

What does that mean for magic loot?

Short version, magic loot is more likely to turn up in big hoards than in small ones. Look at the previous post - the bigger sources of loot are also likely to be the bigger sources of magical loot.

Longer version?

It's complicated.

Big hoards often have magical treasure.

Intelligent monsters will use magical treasure actively.

Abandoned loot might include magical treasure . . . but it's generally consumables and the odd minor item.

Wandering monsters actually have a higher chance of magic loot than non-magic loot. In that there have been a few special wandering monsters - the original Sword Spirit, Valmar, carried a significant magical sword, for example, and Durak has some magical items he uses. There might be others. But these are also especially lethal encounters and aren't the norm.

With those caveats, what I said last time on treasure still stands.

I think I've said this before, but:

All of the magic items in DFT3: Artifacts of Felltower? They're in, or accessible from, Felltower. Every single one.

DFRPG Magic Items? The unique items are all in, or accessible from, Felltower. All of the new consumables, too.

Other magic items books, like DF6 or Doug's excellent books? Some of the items are in Felltower.

More I cannot yet say. Hopefully, deeper delving will unearth more of these items.

Saturday, December 2, 2023

More random links!

I totally forgot these yesterday!

- Stocking monsters with In Places Deep.

My Stocking Procedure

- Great random village ideas for a peripatetic party.

What's up with this village

- Discussion of the front-loaded benefits of being demihuman in AD&D. This is where point-buy is really sweet. You don't get anything you didn't pay for.

Friday, December 1, 2023

Friday Roundup for 12/1/2023

Random links to end the week.

- I missed a GURPS post yesterday for Thursday; I was just solidly busy until late and forgot. I generally don't like to miss posts, but it'll have to wait. It was conceived of but not written so it's not as simple as hitting "post." Next week.

- I pulled up my copy of Polyhedron #12 thanks to this post on Grognardia. I was intrigued about the "how to describe maps to mappers" article by Frank Mentzar, author of D&D and one of my favorite articles to talk about. I was . . . underwhelmed.

Pretty much, he describes how to walk through a map, using some shared vocabulary, to very exactly describe the room for mapping. So detailed, in fact, that my first thought was, why not just show them your map? It's really, really detailed and very exacting. If you're not going to be hitting the basic description so they can visualize it, just show them the map.

Oh well.

- Logic. Liches must be able to taste ice cream, otherwise, what's the point?

- Known Lands of Labrynth Lord hexmap.

- Maybe one more game in 20023. Feels like it was a very thin year for gaming.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

My Black Friday purchases . . . weren't

This year, I made all of one purchase on Black Friday (well, Cyber Monday) that related to tabletop gaming.*

It was barely even a purchase. I took last-minute advantage of a Forge sale to get 10% off my yearly subscription to Forge's hosting of DF Felltower. I was able to move my renewal date ahead, get pro-rated on the price, and knock 10% off. So I saved a bit less than $5.

$5 as a gaming purchase on the biggest sale weekend of the year here in the US.


It's not like my gaming discretionary funds went down any - people still buy my books and SJG still pays me for writing work during the year.

I think it comes down to a bit of purchase fatigue and a growing lack of need.

I bought a few things over the year - DCC #100 and DCC Lankhmar, and How to Defend Your Lair. Maybe one or two other things I'm not thinking of. Even just those have given me a few things to read that I just haven't had time for. Some of the lack of time is from another purchase, Fire in the Lake. All good stuff.

I don't need minis since I haven't been painting, thanks to a decline in my ability to paint those small details effectively.

And there hasn't been a flood of new GURPS titles, has there? A few things here and there.

Plus I just don't need a lot.

The longer I run DF Felltower, the less published materials really help. I play with a smaller and smaller set of rules - not always simpler rules, but less of them overall. I don't need more. Generally, I start with "We're not using any of this, unless explicitly included." Most material stays that way. I just don't need to add a lot. We modify the living hell out of most things, and come up with our own rules for things to speed play along or provide versimilitude or enjoyment.

I have less time to digest and understand and incorporate what I read, too. So plunking down money on new gaming books takes away from what I value the most - having the time to play, or engage in my other hobbies, interests, and work.

It's kind of sad . . . but at the moment I feel a little disconnected from the creative work going on in the field. I do feel very connected to the creative work going on in my immediate circle. We'll see if that's a blip or a trend.

* I did buy some non-gaming stuff - replaced some worn-out footwear, replaced a piece of broken exercise equipment, and spent a wee bit on grappling. I bought a video game, too. I'm not against spending in and of itself.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Where is the treasure in Felltower megadungeon?

There is a lot of treasure in Felltower, but it's not evenly distributed across rooms or encounters. Where can you find it?

From most to least, here are the places - roughly - where you will or will not find treasure.

Dedicated treasuries. There are few of these in Felltower, but they exist. These places are usually guarded, trapped, hidden, or all three. They're loaded with treasure. The PCs found one of these after solving the "rotating statue" puzzle, and took home some serious loot - piles of coins, so much so that they missed some of them in a hidden compartment of a chest, a ring with wishes, and a few other significant magic items. Such places aren't terribly obvious, and are hard to blindly seek out, but they are out there . . . and have piles of loot. While not universally true, a well-hidden and (passively or actively) well-guarded location can be a sign of a potential hoard. Not always - some are just hidden and unguarded, other places aren't full of treasure but are guarded for other reasons . . . but the odds are in favor of loot behind loot-protecting defenses.

Hoards. Intelligent or otherwise treasure-hoarding monsters tend to have the biggest hoards. They may in fact exceed the dedicated treasuries - but they fall to second on this list because the amount of treasure can vary a lot more. The smarter, and the more powerful, the monsters, the bigger the hoard. It's almost directly linear because of the roll bonuses and penalties included in the treasure system I use (see DF21: Megadungeons.) These will be protected, and may not be with the monster itself - the loot might be hidden nearby. Do not expect an intelligent monster to carry its loot with it unless that's the only way to protect it. Sufficiently nasty monsters might feel free to leave their treasure out in the open, and even wander off away from it without fear of theft - knowing that the other dungeon dwellers won't molest it out of fear of the consequences. Most others will either need to stay close by, or leave it guarded - much like a dedicated treasury, with traps, concealment, and possibly guards.

Finding the "lair" of an intelligent or otherwise treasure-hoarding monster is a good way to increase your odds of finding loot. Expect that they'll want to keep you as far away from their loot as possible in many cases.

Unguarded, Hidden Treasure. Some "empty" rooms and "looted" areas have loot. It's a relatively small proportion of them - less than 1 in 6 of them initially, and many have been looted over the decade of play. But one way to secure treasure is to stash it somewhere that people will either avoid, or just bypass. Expect such to be carefully hidden, and hard to find - simply wandering around with See Secrets making Per checks isn't likely to turn it up . . . although it's a good start. What you can find will vary, but generally is small compared to guarded loot.

Believe it or not, "empty" rooms with unguarded but hidden loot will generally be more valuable than wandering monsters or patrols out looking for, or responding, to trouble.

Wandering Monsters. These are the least loot-worthy foes and have the lowest amount of treasure as a group. This has come up pretty consistantly since we started playing, with players new to the group and old, veteran and new to game. It's the idea that adventurers should welcome wandering monsters, as they'll be something to fight and have treasure. This is almost 100% false. Occasionally, some wandering monsters will be intelligent, armed foes that can be defeated and looted for their gear. But they're the minority. The majority of Felltower wandering monsters are unintelligent predators or scavengers - rat swarms, stirges, puddings, oozes, spiders, and similar nasties. None of them carry loot and not a person in the game world is willing to fork over money for their remains. Some wandering monsters are made of valuable bits, but you're taking a high-risk low-reward approach here; fine if you just want enough XP to hit the threshold for low-point PCs but even then the odds aren't in favor of this working out for you.

Even when intelligent, armed foes "wander" up, they're likely the sharp edge of a larger group, they usually don't fight to the death, and they almost never carry their loot with them into combat.* They're the "wandering monster" you least want to encounter unless your plan is "let the enemy set the objective." The PCs have often done exactly this, but it's always ended up with a bigger fight, for less gains, than penetrating to a superior loot location would gain them.

Good luck, and good looting. And stop banging on doors hoping to attract treasure-bearing monsters. It's a shell game.

* Like Colonel Bat Guano.

Monday, November 27, 2023

More notes from Session 187

More notes from last session, DF Session 187.

Foundry VTT GURPS Package Problems:

- Silver-coated weapons do x1.5, not x2 like solid silver weapons, to werewolves. x1.5 is not an option on the wounding screen. Couple that with x1.5 for cutting and I need to be doing x2.25 . . . not an option. I ended up having to figure the damage and then add 10% to wounding. Annoying.

- it's nice that we can set certain statuses - reeling, fatigued - to automatically show up. It's bad that they show up for NPCs so PCs can see at a glance how harmed a foe is, even when they shouldn't know. I don't think I can fix that.

I kind of wish I had time to learn to code well enough to go fix this, but I have a lot on my plate professionally and personally that doesn't leave the room I'd need to put the work in that would help. Learning two other skills simulatenously as it is has been tricky enough.


Regeneration seems powerful. 1 hp/second is 100 points. It's almost irrelevant in combat in DF. In AD&D, a troll healing 3 hp/round is massive, as rounds can go by without it getting hit and HP range from 12-54, average 33 HP. That's healing 9% of its HP per round. 1 hp per second in DF? Damage ranges from 2d-4d+ per blow, you can get hit with multiple blows per second, and even HP 20 is only 120 injury from instant death. It can take 10 seconds to undo one hit's worth of damage.

It's basically just one more thing for a GM to track.

Speaking of Regeneration, Kevin S asked if a troll werewolf would not regenerate from silver, fire, or acid, or it would regenerate from all of them. The answer is: find out when you fight them.

Power Ups

Hanari's player asked about buying Breakfall, but DF and DFRPG don't use techniques. He did find Tuck and Roll! in DFD: Thieves. I think they're both appropriate Power-Ups for Martial Artists. That said, I'm not sure I'd allow it as it conflicts very heavily with Catfall. In fact, cost-wise, it probably makes Catfall a poor choice. I'd rather not use it and essentially undermine a simpler but more expensive advantage; especially since it would also require a roll and a margin-of-success mechanic instead of a simple yes/no effect. I can see allowing Catfall for Martial Artists as a Power-Up.
I think our Bard will eventually want this, which is probably not something I want to deal with:

Artifact Lore. I think I just don't want to deal with this in Felltower. I'll constantly be rattling off values of items, even in combat (it's instant and on sight), list exact coin amounts in glimpsed hoards, explaining the powers of magic items which mystically everyone who can hear what I tell the bard knows (or he'll say it as a free action on his turn anyway), etc. It's not very old school, and DF Felltower aspires to an old school feel with new school rules. We don't have Analyze Magic spells and sages for nothing. I don't mind a bard recognizing storied artifacts, but that might need to be something that takes more time and closer examination.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Revised DRFPG Shield Rush

Let's fix shield slams for DF Felltower.

A Shield rush is a slam with a shield (NOT a buckler) does slam damage, plus 1 point per point of shield DB, and the opponent subtracts 1 point per point of shield DB from their attack.

Got that? If you have ST 13 (1d thrust) and a Medium Shield (DB 2) you slam for 1d-2, +2 = 1d+1. Your ST 13 opponent does 1d-2, -2 = 1d-4.

I find that iffy for a couple of reasons:

- your shield should help, but I don't see why it should help based on size. Weight, construction, etc. yes, but just size? Eh.

- I don't see why your shield should provide DR for you based on size.

- I don't see why your shield makes you more likely to knock a foe down or overrun them - remember, the one who inflicts less damage can fall, and automatically falls if the ratio is 2:1 or more.

Here is what I prefer:

- Your shield provides DR 3 to you from the slam damage.

- Using a shield adds +2 to slam damage, +3 if spiked or dwarven, +4 if both.

- You opponent inflicts damage normally. If your opponent tries to block the slam and the DB of the shield matters, it provides DR 3 for them, too.

And that's that. You still can't shield rush with bucklers.

Oh, and by the way, shield rush, shield bash, whatever - you can still Block with your shield. Having consulted with shield users, it's odd that they can and can't in circumstances that seem otherwise the same.

Editing Later: Optionally, you can allow both bucklers and shields to shield rush. In this case, apply the damage from a shield rush with a buckler to the attacker's hand (since you can't as easily brace it with your body), that of the shield using attacker to the body (since you brace your arm and shield with the body)

Saturday, November 25, 2023

DF Session 187, Felltower 125 - Fighting the Werewolves

This is finishing up a fight started in a previous session.

Actual Date: November 24th, 2023
Game Date: October 29th, 2023

Weather: Light rainy, cool.


Chop, human cleric (298 points)
Duncan Tesadic, human wizard (297 points)
Hannari Ironhand, dwarf martial artist (290 points)
Persistance Montgomery, human knight (298 points)
Thor Halfskepna, human knight (297 points)
Urbaine Fabre, half-elf bard (298 points)
Vladimir Luchnick, dwarf martial artist (250 points)

We picked up in the middle of a fight with werewolves.

The PCs rushed forward, finishing off the badly wounded werewolves in front of them and moving into the room ahead.

Vlad saw three werewolves down the hallway were he'd seen a wounded one fleeing. He saw that one and two others - a human and a werewolf.

Persistance and Thor rushed over, only to find a Grease spell across the hallway. Persistance fell, and ended up crawling across the floor to reach the enemy. Thor slowly worked his way across the floor, blocking a fireball from a wand held by the human! Persistance took a couple of fireballs himself, getting badly burned and lit on fire despite his armor.

Another werewolf attacked from behind the PCs, and reached Chop before Hanari attacked him. Hannari slashed at him with his kamas, Duncan put 2-3 6d Stone Missile spells into him, and Vlad doubled back to try and hit him with an arrow. It took a while, but they eventually put him down, but not before sinking his canines into Hanari's left leg.

Meanwhile on the other end Chop eventually put Resist Fire on Persistance, Urbaine used Rapier Wit to stun a werewolf, and Thor used his sword to ct them up a bit.

Just as they were about to break through against the werewolves, Duncan put Flight on Hanari. Hanari flew up and into the fray and helped end it quickly. The two werewolves went down, and the "regular human" with the wand bounced Thor off of him when he was hit with a shield rush. He turned into a werewolf, dropping the wand and slashing away with his claws. Hanari cut him a few times from behind and Thor from the front and he dropped.

Chop went around and pressed silver coins into each and every eye (so, 16 sp) and Hanari gave all of them a finishing slash with his silvered kama. They looted the bodies and headed back home.

Back in town they paid $100 per injured person to cleanse their wounds from the werewolves, since they carry their curse in their bite and claws.


- I need to do a revision of the shield rushing rules. We've used the rules as written because our new player knows them by heart, but I think they're actually kinda bogus. I'll explain in another post what I dislike and how I'll run them. I'm 99% sure Thor's shield is a buckler, not a shield, so we can add "knows them by heart but doesn't know Doug's PC's equipment by heart." Forgivable, but annoying to have yet another example of "forgot the rules that hurt me."

- Does it take 1 second and concentration for a werewolf to change forms? Eh, probably by the rules. Here? No. I don't think it's a big deal.

- Vlad wanted to take prisoners, again. No one listened, and I'm not sure why. Taking prisoners is tough when it's easier slightly delayed execution, or being brought back to town and killed there.

- Most of the discussion about the wand was about selling it and its value, and the importantance of getting the user before he used up more of the value of the treasure. Not, you know, the value of a Wand of Fireballs as an item. Same with the potions found a while back - luckily potions has a standard sale value so they're at best worth $100.

- XP was:

4 xp loot
0 xp exploration
1 xp first time on level 2
1 xp first time on level 3
1 xp first time on level 4

7 xp each.

No MVP on the final session because it was just 2 1/2 hours of a fight.

XP was good but it took 2 1/2 sessions for it. Had the party done the same stuff, but left after each session, I think the XP would have been 2 xp, 5 xp, and 5 xp. So pushing for maximum bonuses and delving until they found lots of loot really didn't pay off in a meta-game sense. Not that I want people delving solely on maximizing XP but it's a little frustrating to spend multiple sessions in the dungeon for sub-maximal gains, and then hear about how there needs to be easier areas to "level up."

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Monday, November 20, 2023

Uniform Range and Acc for Missile spells?

Would it harm anything to make all of the missile spells range 40/80, Acc 2? Even Curse-Missile?

I'm thinking no. It slightly nerfs a few (Lightning, with its 50/100 Acc 3, for one) but smoothes it all out in terms of rules since we'll never need to look anything up. Acc 2, 40/80, effects as listed.

You could potentially sweeten up one of the weaker missile spells - like ice dagger - with more Acc. I'm inclined to sweeten that one up with a (2) armor divisor, but whatever, you can note that in the spell description instead of needing a table.

Unless my players have a reasonable objection, I will make this change to the basic Acc and Range of Missile spells for DF Felltower.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Missile spells in DF Felltower - Are they effective?

Combats in Felltower very, very often feature Missiles spells. Probably 50/50 regular and explosive. Combats in Felltower often feature table discussion about how Missile spells are underpowered, hard to hit with, too easy to defend against, not cost-effective, and really unfair to wizards because they should be able to do some damage-doing effect every turn.


I'm totally serious about both. We see a lot of Missile spell use. It's almost every combat.

We do have some or all of that discussion of Missile spells, even as people are using them.

It's odd but true.

I think the "Missile spells are weak and not cost-effective" opinion has a lot of validity to it. I don't think it's true in Felltower.

Underpowered: Missile spells do 1d base damage per 1 point of energy, or per 2 points if explosive. A 3d spell does about as much damage as a front-line fighter's hit, but often less. It's a little weak compared to fighters. In DF Felltower, this is the same . . . but I feel like it's mitigated by two factors - the ability to hit multiple targets or single targets with the same spell (since Explosive spells aren't a different spell), and that they are often coupled with an effect melee weapons don't get - electrical stunning, armor divisors, burning, or even high-damage impaling. It's not a 1:1 matchup but I don't think they should be, nevermind need to be for fairness.

Speaking of underpowered, the rules for blast effects for explosives in plain GURPS (and even DFRPG) are a bit underwhelming. DF Felltower makes all explosive spells area 3 (so diameter 5). Damage in the center hex is full, in the next ring out it's 2/3rds, the third ring 1/3rd. That makes big explosive spells less fratricidal and smaller ones have more utility in hitting an area. It's also faster to play.

Hard to Hit With: Hitting with a Missile spell takes an attack roll, which is a DX-based skill, and wizards aren't always good with those. But DF takes care of that in two ways. One, even wizards routinely have a 14 or 15 skill in it. And by the book, you can buy the Psychic Guidance perk to let you use your spell skill instead as your attack skill. DF Felltower uses Mystic Guidance, instead, which rather gives you +1 per level of your spellcasting talent as a plus to your attack roll. I just find that a better solution, but either way, in DF Felltower it's only hard to hit with missiles you don't put some of your available spellcasting perks into improving with.

Too Easy to Defend Against: This one I just disagree with. They're not harder or easier to deal with than any other missile, and the explosive ones are usually thrown to hit with the blast effect so it's hard to avoid damage altogether. Just no to this one.

Not Cost Effective: In standard GURPS Magic, it's 1 for 1d and 2 for 1d explosive. You can save 1+ energy per spell for a high effective skill. A Magery 6 wizard can throw an 18d spell for 18 or 36 points . . . with skill 15 that's 17 and 35, with skill 20 that's 16 and 34. In DF Felltower, it's 1 for 1d or 2 for 1d explosive as standard, but you can subtract for your effective skill each turn. That 18d spell costs 15 or 33 at skill 15, 12 and 30 at skill 20. Still expensive, but much more doable. A 9d - the cap for Magery 3, and still a very nasty attack - would cost 6 and 15 or 3 and 12 for skill 15 or 20, respectively.

The damage you can cause to a packed formation of foes with effectively 9d/6d/3d attacks, especially with a Fireball (3+ ignites fires, 10+ ignites everything on a target, and average damage will do 10+ at all three bands), is terrific. It's not going to cause all of your foes to char and die . . . but it can make all of them combat-ineffective. Not bad for 12 or 15 points, given that most save-or-die type spells cost around 10 per target and are resisted.

Can't Do Something Every Turn: Well, fair enough. It takes 3 seconds to pump up a spell to the most powerful level, and 1 second to throw. So they're 4 second spells. Seems a bit much . . . or does it? Personally I disagree with this one. I don't think you need to be able to do damage every secod in order to be combat-effective. Wizards are critical for combat - ask any foe who confronts Missile Shield or Levitation or Panic spells with no way to counter them. They just aren't pure damage engines. The Heroic Spellcaster advantage from Delvers to Grow can help make them so . . . but I feel like the changes I've made make that less necessary. The author may disagree, I'd have to ask, but I think the many changes we made for DF Felltower make for better Missile spells without needing to add this advantage.

I don't think you need to deal damage every second to matter; I actually think you gain a lot of non-combat ability and combat flexibility by choosing to use magic but can't also effectively deal damage every second.

And I think the constant use of Missile spells in my game says something about the value of them, modified as they are.

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Addendum to the DF Felltower Explosive Missile Spells FAQ

I've added this to my explosive spells FAQ:

- While full cover does block an explosive spell, it has to be strong enough to resist the spell (sliding paper doors, for example, wouldn't help much), otherwise it merely acts as DR. A target's body doesn't provide cover unless it completely covers the potentially shielded victim. For example, a child or pet covered by a prone adult, or anything beyond a dragon larger than the radius of the fireball so nothing can "leak" past. Generally, assume everything in the covered hexes gets hit.

Friday, November 17, 2023

Random Links for 11/17/23

Random Stuff For Friday!

- This is months old, but still. It's a (very) short film on Fiore de'i Liberi, an Italian fencing master.


It's well choreographed and solid attention to historical detail, as seen in this behind-the-scenes which is almost as long as the film. It's a shame they couldn't make a longer feature.

It has that Black Angel feel of, I wish this was longer because it's all so good.

- I'm a sucker for Space: 1889 and Cloudship battles.

- Underwater magic items for GURPS DF! The underwater breathing one should be admistered . . . differently, though, in Professor Farnsworth's opinion.

- Dark Greyhawk. I have to admit this is pretty cool.

Dark Greyhawk

- It's been too damn long since I played Chrononauts. I used to play it at school with students, with my gamers, and with my family. Fun stuff. I have the American history one, too, but it's not as fun for whatever reason.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

What ends a Curse?

The spell Curse has an endng clause:

"lasting until some notable success is rolled . . . but any critical success suffices."

I'm thinking of possibly lowering the bar a bit, potentially making it less lasting but more combat-effective.

What if the Curse ends on:

- any critical success

- any successful hit by the cursed fighter that could cause damage if the defense fails

It's a bit of an expansion, but it would mean the spell at the -1 level is very combat effective - you've essentially neutralized the next attack by the victim. I'm not sure about this - it might a little weak, especially for a more powerful Curse. But it also might make the spell more useful . . . something I'm thinking about as we see a lot of these in play these days.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865)

I broke down and got Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865) when it went on sale for Black Friday at GOG.

I fired it up and played around a bit.

- it's really attractive

- the default font is tiny. I was sitting about 15" from my 15" laptop and needed to squint

- the tutorial is pretty helpful

- this is pretty much the game I wanted when I was sitting around playing SSI wargames like Antietam and Gettysburg: the Turning Point.

- I'm still concerned about the A.I., since I'd rather play as the Union than the Confederacy and I think a solid A.I. is needed to make that fair.

- this is going to suck hours and hours out of my life, help!

Just kidding, don't help. I'm reserving play for when I have a bit of time this weekend. I do have some other goals besides winning the Civil War for Mr. Lincoln. But I will spare some time to play and post about it!

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Next Game set & Ruling from Last Session

Looks like our next game of Felltower will be Friday, November 24th.

The plan is a short session to finish the fight and then - hopefully - they'll finally go back to town.

One ruling of note from last game:

- Does a foe with Loyalty on them still count as a foe for cost multiplication purposes? No, in that we don't cost Loyalty based on hostility in my revised system. You can cast it temporarily, and then order them not to resist a lasting version, though.

That's it for today. Not a lot of rulings to make based on the previous session.

Monday, November 13, 2023

DF Session 186, Felltower 125 - Return to Felltower Part II - Gnolls & A Level Too Far?

This is a continuation of the session started on 10/29/2023.

Actual Date: November 11th, 2023
Game Date: October 29th, 2023

Weather: Light rainy, cool.


Chop, human cleric (298 points)
Duncan Tesadic, human wizard (297 points)
Hannari Ironhand, dwarf martial artist (290 points)
Persistance Montgomery, human knight (298 points)
Thor Halfskepna, human knight (297 points)
Urbaine Fabre, half-elf bard (298 points)
Vladimir Luchnick, dwarf martial artist (250 points)

We picked up midfight. The PCs were caught, halfway between falling back to hold the hallway to the stairs and holding the hallway ahead. A dozen gnolls charged in, wielding shields and morninstars.

The gnolls rushed towards the PCs, and the front two were quickly cut down by a combination of an arrow from Vlad and blows from Thor and Persistance - and both rolled 17s on Dodges, putting them down even as they got cut apart. Urbaine followed up with a Panic spell to block the hallway. The gnolls kept rushing in, but more than half of the remainder panicked from the spell and ran off. The remaining four charged in.

They didn't last long; they managed to rush through the wide-open "front line" of the PCs. A rash of critical failures frustrated the PCs here. Persistance swatted a gnoll and then dropped his flail with an 18. He rolled a 17 when attempting to quick-ready it, and knocked it across the floor ahead of him. A gnoll bypassed him and hit him twice on the skull with a morningstar, severely wounding him and knocking him cold.

Thor swung around chopped at the gnolls as another rushed Urbaine and slammed him back, crippling his arm. Hannari engaged that one, and sliced him up a few times. Vlad shot him with an arrow and Urbaine stabbed him, as well, eventually putting him down. Thor broke several gnoll shields and carved up the gnolls carrying them. In short order, the PCs killed the four gnolls, but not without lots of damage. As the last gnoll was going down, Duncan threw a 6d Stone Missile and rolled an 18 and hit Thor from behind, wounding him heavily. The fleeing gnolls got away, although the PCs heard a different voice barking out angrily down the hallway.

They decided to cut their losses and end the fight there. Duncan used Create Earth and Earth to Stone to create a pair of walls to block the hallways. He left a small hole in the one facing the gnolls in case they needed to shoot them.

They finished off the wounded gnolls, looted them of a bunch of coins and their remaining shields and their weapons, and headed back up to level 2.

There, they recovered a little FP with scrolls of Lend Energy and began to explore. They found their map indicated a blockage but there wasn't one, but decided to check some rooms near where their map indicated stirges.

The group found a couple of hallways lined with rooms - more rooms than their map indicated, many of which had notes on them that didn't match the actual contents.

Thor bashed the doors open, and using See Secrets they searched them all. They were mostly empty, but they found:

- a secret compartment, long overlooked, with five potions - Duncan froze his tongue taste-testing one . . . they turned out to be 3 Liquid Ice, 1 Perception, and 1 Fire Fountain. (Someone said, "Saleable loot" but I pointed out they're all $100 base value in town, not list price, per DFRPG Exploits, p. 76)

- an old, water-filled pit. Sending a servant down, and then Vlad when the servant got killed after grabbing . . . something. Seek Earth detected steel . . . and it turned out there were just bones and rusted old spikes. There was a human skeleton, in old bits, and the skeleton of a long-dead razor fish.

- a trapped chest full of rocks. They disarmed the traps and dragged the chest out and bashed it apart only to find the rocks. "Why trap a box full of rocks?" Because you don't trap the chest you actually use, you trap the trap.

- an empty old small wooden chest, which they took as loot despite its poor condition.

- an old child-sized broken cot.

- and a whole lot of nothing.

It was getting late, and they skirted the stirges and headed to check the "Orc Hole."

The group made their way their, bashing down doors and checking places as they went. In one area near the base of the pillboxes, they found a room with 18 2-man bunks. A second door in that room led to a common area . . . full of dead women and kids, all goblins of some kind, long dead and dessicated. A few near the door were clearly cut down with bladed weaponry, but a few just behind the door were not. The corners, especially the far two, were packed with bodies . . . there were a few dozen. They showed signs of having choked to death, with hands over mouths or holding throats, kids under females. The inside of the door was badly scratched, as if if they tried to claw their way out. Gruesome.

They headed from there straight to the orc hole, insisting as they went that it was the main goal, they were just about out of time, and it was important to not get distracted. They immediately turned aside to check out some stairs on their map, from the wholly meta reason that if they went down and explored a bit they'd get +1 XP. So they did that . . . and walked straight into an attempted ambush by a trio of werewolves!

Lucky for them, the sharp-eared Chop and Vlad heard them coming and prevented surprise. Hannari has a silver-coated kama and Vlad some silver-coated arrows, and their fighters do enormous damage, so they managed to wound and chase off one werewolf and put another one down. Naturally, Persistance dropped his flail on a critical failure.

We had to cut the session there, with a total of five werewolves attacking them, because of real world hard stop time constraints.


- So much for not ending the dungeon. It's amusing because had they just left after they found their loot, they'd have sufficient loot to get 4 xp and +2 for two new level touches, for 6 each. Instead they're spending another session in the dungeon.

And so much for the exploration bonus. The PCs have gone to all of the "easy" levels for +1 XP, so that's all done. They don't get exploration XP for mapped areas. Urbaine said they shouldn't have gotten the map, as they'd get exploration XP. Kind of. I'd delete the maps entirely, and let them explore, but not count empty, looted areas as exploration . . . and not allow player knowledge about the levels. So it's not a realistic option, and even more stupidly gamey than "let's do one room on level 3."

- Werewolves are pretty tough, but 4d+10 is also really tough.

- Vlad wanted a gnoll prisoner to take home. The plan was to bring him to town and question him there, after hiring someone to cast Borrow Language. The issues with this were legion. Getting a wounded gnoll home, getting it into town (probably requires a bribe), hiring the someone, questioning the gnoll, and then probably killing the guy all in town. Not impossible, but literally getting away with murder would cost resources. It's only legal to loot Felltower and kill to do it due to a legal loophole. You can't murder folks you found in Felltower in town.

- MVP was Persistance as a consulation prize for a long list of 17s and 18s whenever he tried to do anything.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Felltower Game pre-summary

Today we delved!

We had a shorter session, because of a hard stop because of a family event for a chunk of our players.

- the PCs fought the gnolls, scaring half off with Panic and killing the rest

- they walled off the approaches, looted, and ran

- they searched a section of level 2 long left alone

- they bashed open many doors, and smashed a few chests along the way

- they found some loot

- they decided to "check the Orc Hole" as time was running out

- not wanting to get distracted, they insisted on sticking with the main goal of going to the orc hole and not getting distracted

- which didn't preclude a side trip down some stairs to reap a +1 for going to a level for the first time

- and blundered into a big fight with a pack of werewolves.

We had to cut it off there, in combat, since we had a hard stop.

Bwahahahahahaha. A session's worth of XP potentially lost to get a +1. I should have known the +1 bonus points would have meant the first delve would be, "get loot and as touch as many levels as possible."

Ah, fun times.

Because of upcoming scheduling crunch situations, we'll try to get a short off-Sunday game to resolve the fight and end the delve. But still, so amusing.

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Game tomorrow!

Tomorrow we continue the delve in Felltower started almost two weeks ago.

To save my sanity, I'm not going to split-session the delve; that is, the PCs can't finish the fight, run back to town, sell/spend/recoup, and then come back. We've done that before and, on reflection, it's the worst of both worlds. I get most of the downsides of in-town dealings and all of the downsides of not finishing in town. Those town downsides? Rulings, rolls, more rulings, endless "Are we using the rules for X and can I order 10 of them?" but admittedly not the daily emailed questions I answer instead of working on the dungeon or non-gaming things. The downsides for ending in the dungeon? We either need the same set of players or people need to play other players' characters and sorting out the XP is weird.

The VTT seems to be stable so I think that should speed up the fight compared to last session's endless issues.

And hopefully "stay in the dungeon" pays off for the delvers.

We'll see tomorrow.

Friday, November 10, 2023

Links & Thoughts for 11/10/2023

End of the week links!

- Place names are weirder in England than in the US, it seems. We just have lots of places named for people and Native American words, and the occasional "New" with something after it.

- An example of play with The Last Gasp.

Looks interesting but it's a system that isn't for any of my current games.

- Caveman Dicechucker points out how disorganized the DMG is.

- The week before a game is very busy for me, with player emails and uploads to the VTT. Ones between cross-session delves? Quiet. Peaceful. Why is it that I want to end in town again?

- Nothing wrong with a toilet mimic.

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Quicker Combat - Some of My Ideas

Following up on my post on Monday, here is some of what I'd do to speed up DF combat.

Range Bands

This one is a no-brainer. Mapped can use hexes, if people really want to, but it and mapless can use range bands based on those in GURPS Action. I have specific numbers in mind, but I'll save those for once I've been able to better test them. But skipping hex counting - people trying to imagine the map when we don't have one to maneuver to specific ranges - will speed things up.
Ramming Speed!

All slams use your maxium move to calculate damage. You must move at least 2+ steps for this, otherwise it's just a "punch" with your shoulder, shield, etc. Another way to reduce the importance of counting hexes.

No Retreat

As I discussed in an earlier post, no Retreat. Optionally you could just allow everyone a free +1/+3 to one defense, without any movement, which was suggested by Angon on this post in the comments. Either way, removing the movement aspect makes for a faster game.

Fixed Feints & Deceptive Attack

I've talked about this endlessly. Feints fixed at -4, -8 if you roll a critical success and your opponent does not, Deceptive Attack fixed at -2 and -4.

Cuts down on decision time and calculation.

This next one is very optional, but I think it shouldn't be overlooked as a possible way to speed up play in general.

Wider Use of No Nuissance Rolls

Treat anything that has a 16 or less to succeed other than combat rolls and consciousness/death checks as an automatic success. Have Acrobatics-16 after modifiers? You succeed. DX roll not to fall is 16+? You don't fall. Etc. This is a small class of rolls, but say you have HT 13 and Resistant to Poison 5, and get hit with a poison resisted at -2 or less - you don't roll, you just resist. Speeds things up for sure. Only roll if the roll would otherwise change things - Lockpicking-22 vs. a -6 Lock is still rolled, because every point of success shortens the amount of time needed to pop the lock, if time actually matters.

I have another idea or two . . . but I'll keep them close to my vest to avoid my players reading this post, arguing against them before trying them, and then not letting me try them. Heh.

The others? I'd like to give them a try and see if it speeds things up.

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Weird VTT Glitch - fixed

I figured out the weird problem we were having:

Weird Foundry VTT Glitch

It was the Your Turn module. I went ahead and deleted it . . . and didn't see the glitch come up again. Hopefully all of the module swaps I did didn't mess up anyone's characters . . . I put them back after clearing out the problem module.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

More Lost Items of Felltower

I was just thinking of lost items of Felltower.

- Rangol Grot's mysterious stuff. The PCs kept trying to summon the lost spirit of Rangol Grot to get more loot out of him, but that's pretty much over. I can't see a plausible way for new PCs to try to pick up this thread. I'm sure one of my players will object, and point at the blog, and say people know about it. Which isn't ludicrous, but it also justifies other wizards in the world doing it, too, and then what? Will the new PCs win this race? Unlikely.

I think we can call Rangol Grot's spirit largely safe from summoning and interrogation.

- Dryst's key. Dryst's player shows no sign of wanting to play online, even almost 4 years into a drought of games. He's got the key to the otherwise-inaccesible door in the dungeon on level 2. It's not clear there is anything there worth getting at, but he's got the only way it and it's effectively out of play.

That also goes for the bone sword, Belt of Power, Staff of the Woodlands, Magebane, and a number of other items wielded by PCs whose players don't seem likely to make a comeback.

- the Black Library's books. Not actually lost - they're still in the dungeon. But the players aren't inclined to delve without a cleric. Not a single cleric anyone has run is willing to visit the library without attempting to destroy all the books. So, the books stay inaccessible. Not lost, but blocked by changed character approaches. We'll see if what's in there is ever really accessible.

Monday, November 6, 2023

Quicker Combat - What Rules to Cut?

If you had to make GURPS combat run faster, what rules would you remove?

Not add, but change to another official rule, or rip out entirely?

I have a list myself, but I want to get some ideas from my readers before I reveal my plans.

Okay, okay, I'll give a starter. Range bands instead of per-hex range penalties.

You're next, what's on the chopping or changing block?

Sunday, November 5, 2023

Felltower Maintenance

We're still stuck mid-fight in Felltower, but that doesn't mean I can't get ready for the following session.

- I updated the rumor table, based on the current delve and some rumors/events I had planned for ahead of time.

- I updated the VTT and its modules; I didn't get to test it to see if it's still crapping out but at least there is a chance it is better.

- I looked at a few "restock" areas and made sure they're ready to go.

- I dug deeper into the dungeon and fleshed out a couple of areas that were very sparse notes. While "Tough Worthy, $10000 + trap" is enough for me to start with it's a bit light for actual play. Heh.

- I realized I need to re-copy my maps at some point . . . I have to get out to Staples or something and re-photocopy the bigger maps; some of them are 11 x 17, which makes it tricky for home printers or scanners to do much with.

Saturday, November 4, 2023

I miss playing

I played in a few games in the past decade or so. Mostly, I GM'ed. But I played in a few games.

That I recall, I played in:

- Monteporte

- Vic's Felltower Adjacent DF game

- Tenkar's B-Team

- Gamma Terra

- Doug's Alien Menace

- GURPS Midgard

- Vlaclavs' GURPS Martial Arts: Gladiators

I don't think I missed any. I really don't get to play in a lot of games.

I enjoyed getting to play in them all to some extent or another.

This post is occasioned by the fact that I was thinking about what we left unfinished in Gamma Terra. I really enjoyed that game. Hillbilly is just a ST 17 exaggerated version of me, in so, so many ways. That made him a lot of fun to run . . . and often left me with regrets because Hillbilly did things that I would do, which aren't always the best things to do.

I'd like to play that game again, but I'm not sure andi jones is up for it at this point. He may have moved on. It's too bad.

We might get to play Vic's game again, because surely there will be days we can play but I'm not up to running game. Handsome is ready to lead whatever B-Teamers show up for those sessions.

The actual B-Team is likely over . . . but I had so much fun playing with Tenkar GMing, and usually Doug, Joe the Lawyer, and Tim "I roll 1s" Shorts playing alongside me. Such a fun, fun time. The dungeon was so goofy but Tenkar added a lot of charm to it, and the S&W rules made for simple fun.

The other games . . . I don't miss them so much. They were fun but didn't last long enough to really get a bite into. I liked my PC for Doug's Alien Menace game, because who wouldn't like to play Animal Mother? But like some other games, we didn't play that much. It's okay, I'm sure I'll get to play a game GM'ed by Doug using lots of guns.

I really would like to play more but I dedicate so many nights to non-gaming things that I can't fit too much in. But I'd enjoy getting to take Hillbilly or Mirado out for a ride again.

Friday, November 3, 2023

Random Links for 11/3/2023

It's Friday, what links have I been waiting to link to all week?

- Non-exploding cannon. Surely such wonders cannot exist!

my final battle of the day was against Colin who brought along an Italian army which had some interesting technological advantages compared to armies from a slightly earlier period like my Burgundians - like a non-exploding cannon! Unfortunately I did not have such technology and my cannon exploded in the first turn!

Never Mind the Billhooks

- Sometimes, you expect the PCs to talk, and they fireball instead.

Just kidding. An NPC lied to the PCs, so the smallest reaction you can usually expect is total, violent, unrelenting revenge. I once had an NPC kill off some friends of the PCs. I don't think the players remembered. One other NPC made fun of them. They desperately wanted him dead.

Stonehell: Auntie Ethel's Hut

- So an OSR-like, 5e-like, rules-light minis-heavy RPG from Reaper? Okay. I can't get excited anymore over new dungeon bashing RPGs. I own more than I'll ever play and that's a fraction of what is out there. But if it's for you, $49 will get you the PDFs.

Reaper Minatures Dungeon Dwellers

- Vetting the rules behind a comic joke. +4 to backstab

Sound Tactics & a graps of the rules carry the day

- What's up at Gaming Ballistic.

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Still thinking on Shield Damage

Back in 2020, I came up with some simplified rules for shield damage for DF Felltower.

Simplified Shield Damage for DF Felltower

They didn't last long, because I still don't feel like keeping track for NPCs and I noticed players don't really keep track for their PCs, either.

Vic suggested the damage rules from Shields Up!, and ran them in his last session of play. I didn't notice them making it much faster or easier to track.

Here is another possibility:

- Shields have DR per my post above.

- Shields have 1 HP per base pounds of weight; damage in excess of DR + HP in one blow breaks a shield automatically; shields are either fine or broken completely.

- Cumulative damage may break or weaken a shield; GM's call based on particular types of damage - usually corrosion or fire. Such attacks can drop a shield to 0 HP over time and break the shield.

- Shatterpoof, metal, etc. work normally. Lighten makes a shield lighter but not weaker.

Seems like this could work. It makes shields fragile to an extent but dealing with giant monster blows should be risky to weapons and shields alike.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Weird Foundry VTT glitch

Sunday's game was heavily disrupted by a VTT glitch.

This didn't happen to everyone, but happened to a number of us.

Whenever the combat tracker went to the next character, it would "zoom" in a little bit and move the UI off the top and side edges of the screen. Only reloading the screen would help.

I took a screenshot to show what I mean.

I tried turning off the combat-related modules, but to no avail. We couldn't seem to turn off the GIANT BANNER displaying who'se turn it was, either. If there is a setting for that I don't know what it is. It's not the banner that's the issue, but it did seem to be a new thing that was also tied to this new problem.

Anyone encounter this before?

It happened to a few players, using both Chrome and Firefox. One guy with Safari didn't have a problem, but we had a guy on Chrome without the problem as well.

No clue here. Anyone?

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Rules & Rulings from Session 185

Some rules and rulings from Sunday's game session.

Throwing Art & Damage Bonus

This was a sizeable issue. I believe Vic ran this as follows:

- allows you to throw anything.
- weapons without a stat line get to use a similar weapon with no penalties.
- Range bonus and damage bonus apply to any actual weapons even if not normally throwable.

That's not how I read DFRPG Adventurers, p. 34. I read it as follows:

- allows you to throw anything.
- actual thrown weapons with a ranged weapon stat line get a range bonus and damage bonus.
- weapons without a stat line are improvised and are thrown like a similar ranged weapon, but do not get a range bonus or damage bonus.
- said weapons usually have a -1 to -3 penalty to hit, which Throwing Art ignores.
- said weapons use whatever the similar weapon's attack types (see below) but if their own similar attack does less damage, use that instead.

So a thrown kama has the Acc and Range of a hatchet, and does sw/cut. I allow sw/imp because I've played around with actual kama and that's a more plausible missile attack than the cutting, but letting it manage to cut isn't crazy either. Again, I've played around with actual kama.*

Now, I did argue duing Vic's game that Hanari should be able to throw his katana and inflict cutting damage, because I thought that would be awesome and it wasn't my call. He allowed for it. Would I? Generally not. A spinning sword is going to do crappy cutting damage, if any, because all that spin around a balanced blade can't be good for preserving any kind of force or impart it to the target. Their is a reason that sw/thrown weapons are all top-heavy weapons. Anyway, in my game, no. Throw your sword point-first; I may allow "tip slash" damage if you want to crease the edge along a target, though. Ask when it matters.

So I had to put my foot down and not allow a thrown Long Knife to do sw-1/cutting; it's thrown like a lowsy large knife. I understand the logic - it doesn't have an entry for throwing, it's thrown like a similar weapon, and if he could throw a katana for cut in a related game he should be able to do so here. But I intend to be strict on my stance.

FWIW I checked with Kromm, and his response is consistant with my interpretation for DFRPG, our base rules set. GURPS Martial Arts, p. 220, has different rules, but DF Felltower is cored by DFRPG at this point, with expansions, and the simpler rules in DFRPG win out here.

My player took it very well, but I know he put a lot of work in making weapons stat up nicely in GCS and then in Foundry and now those stats are inaccurate.

Balanced and Throwable

Does the Balanced prefix make a normally non-throwable weapon into a throwable weapon (and thus able to get those range and damage bonuses)? No. It provides +1 to skill. The name implies "balanced for throwing" but the name isn't the game effects. I mean, "Fine" means "+1 damage and harder to break" for swords but they aren't ornate, which is what "finely made" might mean in reality. Names are just names to imply a game effect.

I don't allow a different prefix to make weapons throwable, nor do I allow a non-prefix cost change. Stick with what's on the charts, there are plenty of weapons there. The game is about delving and exploring and killing monsters and finding gold, not optimizing custom weaponry to add options to an already broad list of effective weapons. My player's spending habits for their PCs disagree but here we are.

FWIW, one important caveat - Weapon Master matters. That's per weapon, and it doesn't matter how you use that weapon. Damage bonuses from WM do get included for throwing normally non-throwable weapons if the WM advantage covers it.

Shoot it off your own face

What's the penalty to shoot a spider, or stirge, or whatever, off of your own face?

-10. Only a critical miss will result in shooting yourself.

How did we come up with that?

Because reversing your bow so you can shoot something on you, in such a way that overpenetration or a miss has a minimal chance of hitting yourself, seems really hard. Stupidly so.

Does Heroic Archer reduce the penalty? No. It makes it possible. I won't even allow someone without it to try. It's stupid and illogical and makes no sense to even work, nevermind hit with full damage and be doable on a 1-second time scale with no special moves to ready anything. Heroic Archer means you can try.

That ruling makes me happy, and the couple times this has come up Scouts haven't hesitated to try. So I think that's a vote in favor!

* You can literally buy one out of a bin in Japanese hardware stores. Weaponized kama, no, but tool ones, sure. I didn't buy one, I grew morning glories and they didn't need much pruning.**
** My job successor threw them out, because she was a late riser and said the pots only had vines and never flowers. Timing matters. RIP flowers.

Monday, October 30, 2023

DF Session 185, Felltower 125 - Return to Felltower

Sunday's game was day one in Felltower proper for all of these PCs, and for two of the players. It was nice to get back to the tangle of tunnels that is Felltower.

Date: 10/29/2023

Weather: Light rainy, cool.


Chop, human cleric (298 points)
Duncan Tesadic, human wizard (297 points)
Hannari Ironhand, dwarf martial artist (290 points)
Persistance Montgomery, human knight (298 points)
Thor Halfskepna, human knight (297 points)
Urbaine Fabre, half-elf bard (298 points)
Vladimir Luchnick, dwarf martial artist (250 points)

On October 28th, the group arrived from West Adventurewood,* where they had put down some weird monsters not actually appearing elsewhere in Felltower or its environs. They quickly found places to stay in town, placed a bunch of special orders. They heard a number of rumors - the orcs are gone, a cone-hatted wizard took a bunch of animals up the mountain and didn't return, and that things have been quiet since the adventurers weren't around . . . that kind of stuff. The next day, the 29th, they headed into Felltower.

They carefully scouted the ruins, and found the way down. They created a bunch of light stones, and then Duncan buffed up Vlad with lots of Keen Senses spells and then Invisibility. He rolled an 18 on the Invisibility spell . . . he was sure he'd messed up, but gotten lucky because the spell clearly worked. Hurrah! No worries then, time to move on.

Vlad scouted the entranceway, and checked the pit - nothing dangerous, just the usual dirt, leaves, bones, and bits of damp junk. Unable to jump across, he came back. They tried the trapdoor, but it was closed and zapped Urbaine's Created Servant, destroying it. They headed into the main entrance.

After some discussion, they pitoned in two ropes on the left side, Hannari jumped the pit, and hammered in two more. They they crossed; Urbaine almost fell but was dug out by Levitation, which Duncan pulled off only after a 17 cancelled all of his Movement spells. Oops. A couple walked/climbed over (+3 for the ropes, minus encumbrance) and the rest were brought over with Levitation, including their servant since it carries Urbaine's backpack.

They checked the portcullises and found them all down. The right one was down, the left down but badly bent, as if something strong spread the bars to squeeze through. They spent about 30 minutes or so of time on the right side, first lifting the portcullis, then nailing it up, and then working on the door beyond. The door is metal, without visible handle, lock, or hinges, and meshes well with the metal wall it is mounted it. The stone around it is worked and -10 to affect with magic. They tried their best to crowbar it open, and failed. So Urbain cast Create Object and make a pickaxe. One solid whang from Thor did about 12 or 13 damage or so and didn't even mark the metal.

They have gave up and checked the other side. It would be a tight squeeze (Escape +5, minus encumbrance) so some squeezed by. Urbaine wanted to bend it further apart since it was too warped to lift anymore. Thor tried a pull or two but didn't manage much; Persistance was too weak do bend it at all. They gave up when it became clear this was a bit of a project.

They forced the door beyond open - it was much more loose in its mounting, clearly having been heavily battered by something strong. It was still a working door but a crowbar fit in easily. They opened it and moved on.

They avoided the nearby sunken temple, and smelled spoiled meat and cooking smells in a nearby room . . . or close to it, anyway. They moved on quickly, reasoning that it was long past and anyway nothing on the upper levels would be worth looting since it had been cleared many times in the past.

Next it was down a long hallways, passing mostly closed doors. One door was open, so Vlad peeked in. He saw a child-sized figure huddled in a corner wearing a cloak pulled up to its head, as is sleeping. He looked in . . . and rolled an 18 on his Per check and a huge spider jumped on his face and started to bite him. Despite his dwarven resistance to poison he suffered pretty badly from its two bites. He tried to shoot it off his own face (we call this a -10, per prior rulings, with the extra penalties coming from having to reverse the bow draw and shoot in a way to not hit yourself except on a critical failure.) He just missed. His buddies ran up and saw a spider biting an invisible target. Thor burned it off with his flaming sword, and Persistance smashed it to bits.

The child was a halfling adult, long dead and dried to a husk, possessed of nothing of value. Realizing the Invisibility spell was still on, but clearly not working right, Duncan waited until he needed to maintain it and let it fade. But it wouldn't; he paid his FP and it was still going against his plans. So he concentrated, spent 1 FP, and rolled against his original skill to cast it. That worked, and he was able to force it away. It was clear that only they couldn't see their scout this whole time. Sigh.

They moved on, setting off an alarm by passing through one room. They hurried on, and briefly looked at the painting and mosaics in the hallway ahead before someone noted the map said "pits." So they pulled back and went around.

Soon they found webs in a hallway, so they cleared that with the flaming sword, again.

Another hallway they passed was full of webs, which means spiders and treasure (I think this was the logic), so they moved in. They cleared the webs with the sword, again, and ran into two humongous spiders. They killed them in a crisp fight, which went poorly for the spiders because they didn't gain surprise and faced armed and armored Thor. Hannari wanted them preserved for draining their venom as loot, but that didn't happen. One was mostly intact after an eye shot from Vlad, but when they moved on past it, it woke back up. Persistance (I think) bashed it to pieces.

They found a large room full of webs and hundreds - call it 300-400 or so? Spiders ranging from quarter size up to fist sized. Duncan used Create Fire to fill a 9' diameter circle and Shape Fire to sweep it back and forth across the room, torching most of them. They found no loot.

Further on, they explained to the newbies (Aren't they all newbies?) that there was no point in investigating the room of pools because all the good stuff was done, and the pool of dreams was a distraction. Then they ran into a patrolling back pudding. They pounded on it until it stopped moved, with Thor facing it down with his shield so it couldn't reach anyone. He dropped his sword in the fight, which has happened enough that he renamed the sword something like Slipgrip.

Eventually they found their way to the second level, and found the hidden room with the red six-fingered handprint. A few of them touched it - Urbaine, Vlad, Thor, and they suffered the usual damage, FP loss, and DX and HT penalties. Past this they listened (presumably for the stirges mentioned on their map), and heard nothing special besides the usual rat noises, distant clunks and echoes, etc.

Moving up the hallway to the right, they spotted a black hemisphere on the ceiling of the room ahead, marked with runes. They backed off, explained that these shoot black fire, and shot it apart with Vlad's bow.

They worked their way to the GFS, passsing the room marked "Teleport Room," despite a couple guys with Curious.

Next, they headed to the magic altar, planning to have everyone touch it hoping to get some silver turned to gold. Getting there was tricky - part of the way was blocked by plugs of shaped stone, and another by mold. Brown, nasty, sharp, jagged, spore-spewing disease-spreading mold. They spend some time trying to figure out how to clear the mold, set it all off and Purify Air to pass by, and so on. In the end they gave up, created a few shovels, and cleared a nearby plug of rubble with the help of Shape Earth. Beyond it they found a hexagonal room with a rotating six-fingered statue. Thor touched it, but it didn't zap him, which they ascribed to his touching of the red hand print. Urbaine turned the statue and was zapped, but doing so didn't do anything. ("Because it's for a puzzle treasure room and we looted it," said some PCs who didn't loot it.)

They touched the altar when they reached it - at least, everyone except Chop, who was suspicious of anything not of the Good God. A couple of them had their lost health restored, Thor and someone else got Danger Sense, Duncan's weapons are all Puissance +2 - all for the next 24 hours. Hannari had 42 silver pieces turned to gold pieces; they'd hoped for more people and more coins.

They headed to the staircase and down, carefully checking for traps, and trying the door on the middle landing to no avail.

At the bottom, they opened the door and discussed where to go; they had only one immediately option, which was forward. Ahead was a square room with four exits including theirs. In it were a trio of ratmen! Two hurled crystals out of their bodies at Vlad, slicing his arm and foot. He shot one, badly wounding him, and called for help. The PCs rushed forward.

In a brief but blood combat, they cut down the two crystal-studded ratmen and a fritzing, fading, phase ratman, but not before the armor-piercing crystals and armor-bypassing blunt claws of the ratmen did some damage. The ratmen went berserk when injured, which kept them fighting furiously even in the face of piles of damage. A fourth ratman, with an electric aura, zapped Persistance and Thor as they tried to cut it down. It had called an alarm before running into the fray, however, and they heard barking and growling.

They quickly started to try to form up to fall back to the doorway as they saw a dozen gnolls rushing them.

Duncan quickly asked if they wanted him to end the fight with a wall of stone. They demurred, wanting to fight the gnolls and grab their equipment for sale.

We ended it there, as it was late (around 8 pm, we started at 11) and the fight was bound to be long.

* From the town of D'Andy Fortheditionburg. They do things differently there.


- I told everyone to pay upkeep. I'm pretty certain no one listened, but I'll need to double check. At least one of my players just does those things automatically, but I think some people just overlooked it in the excitement of the switchover. Same with special orders - I know people made them, but I think I saw literally one roll made in Foundry, so I suspect people have a bunch of back-rolling to do for their orders.

- Lots of VTT problems today. One very big one.

- The delve was interesting. It's been ~15 months or more since any PCs delved into Felltower. All of the PCs were new. But it pretty much went exactly like any delve prior to the last TPK. Scout the main entrance, try the spiral staircase trapdoor, try the shortest route to level 2, argue about the importance of staying on target but getting diverted by small stuff, touch the hands, touch the altar, and down to the "apartment level" aka "level 4" and a rush at the end of the session to get into a fight because maybe what they fight has loot. The only difference were the PCs, not the delve. It was purely institutional memeory driven. Everything was even expressed as, "We've done (this and that)" not "We've heard . . . ," which was somewhat disconcerting. I won't say it was wasted time, but there was a lot of time warning new players about Durak, the Lord of Spite, and his warning sounds, how previous fights went against him, the story behind the orcs, how the red hand marks on the walls work, etc. I have zero problems with institutional memory, but it did take some of the game time up going over history. And it felt pretty ridiculous to have new PCs lecturing new PCs as if they did all of the things.

- bending the bars was a good demo of how I GM. Urbaine's player pointed out the bars had DR 9, and some HP, and Thor did 2d damage, so eventually he'd manage to bend them further, so did we need to game that out or just move on? Game it out. Make the rolls, or do the math on how long it'll take to inflict damage based on 2d vs. 9 DR and the HP I'd track and spend the time while I roll to see if anything happens along (and likely from outside, not inside the doors they wanted open.) That's how Felltower goes. I wasn't terribly sympatheic because they could already squeeze by, they just wanted to remodel the dungeon for better fleeing potential, and I don't handwave dungeon remodelling as a campaign style decision.

- Create Servant and Create Object are extremely useful spells in megadungeon delving.

- I can't run fights in the VTT without putting down tokens for enemies. When I do so, no matter what, someone will move their token, make sure of the facing, base their range or reach based on the tokens on the page, etc. They just can't help it.

- Once again the mold was a problem. No one has an easy way around it, and the hard ways are all time consuming and resource expensive. There was talk of taking a specimen home to get fungicide made for it, but - importantly - no one actually made the rolls to do this.

- Duncan offered to end the delve with a wall of Created Earth so they could escape. They have enough loot for 20% of their threshold, or 2 xp, +1 for each of touching onto levels 2 and 4, for 4 xp. Instead they wanted to reach their loot threshold, gaming on a quick win for 3 xp more. Probably not the worst move, but with so many items on special order (armor, weapons, ammo) I was actually a little surprised they didn't just go for the quick exit and back to town to return more prepared.

- MVP was Duncan for that amusing 18 on Invisibility. Heh. I love 3-4 and 17-18, they're such a fun chance for me to unleash creative nastiness - either pro- or anti-caster, when they occur.

Rules & Rulings Post

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Felltower game pre-summary

We had part 1 of a delve today.

It featured:

- seven PCs

- a bit of exploration of level 1

- a spider

- many spiders

- a pudding

- breaking stuff

- and a big brawl with ratmen and then gnolls.

. . . and a metric ton of old-timer explanations coming from the mouth of PCs on their first delve. Heh.

More details tomorrow.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Random Links for Friday 10/27/23

The usual collection of posts I wanted to share but had little place for.

- I always liked the Cromwell tank, because they were pretty effective in Panzer Leader. So I like this mini and this post.

- Starships, usuing the GURPS Starships system, for players who probably won't use starship combat. I know the feeling.

- I'd like to read these books, but 55GBP is pretty pricey.

- Game is Sunday. Naturally I have some game prep to do, but mostly I answer player questions and wait on players to update their guys and their tokens. I think people are largely Felltower compatible but I'm 100% certain I'll find weirdness or issues when we start play.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Felltower Rules Questions: Rapid Throwing & Throwing Art

Two rules questions came up.

Rapid Throwing

We're not using the handfull of missiles Rapid Fire with Thrown Weapons rules from GURPS Martial Arts, p. 120.

We do allow the rules under Rapid Strike with Thrown Weapons . . . sort of. You can use a Rapid Strike with the usual penalties, but not Fast-Draw or otherwise ready a weapon in the middle. So you can't thrown, draw, throw unless you have Extra Attack.

You could carry two thrown weapons, one in each hand, and throw both. Or carry multiple smaller weapons in one hand and throw them as a Rapid Strike.

I don't have anything against the rules in my book, I just don't want to deal with the complexity for this game.

Throwing sling bullets?

Can you throw sling bullets with Throwing Art? Yes. It's basically a metal pebble of the specified weight, and is thrown as such. They do thr+1, as a small stone would, piercing because Throwing Art makes that kinda make sense for a metal bullet (remember, we do crush for stones with slings, not piercing, because GURPS got that wrong IMO.) Range is STx2.5, per Exploits, p. 22.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

More VTT notes

The /mook generator in Foundry is pretty nice. It's also completely maddening.

I struggle to define some of the odder attacks my monsters use. Often, simple english is easy, say, "Flame touch. Does 1d-3 burning damage to everything it touches or which touches it." Fine. But /mook wants to know the skill level, doesn't recognize the syntax, etc. So I end up basically fumble around for a while trying to word and re-word every attack until something works. Or I just pull everything that isn't a basic attack out of the attacks, stick them in notes, and hope I remember to check the notes in play.

I have a similar issue with pictures and tokens. Token Stamp 2 is fine, but I do need to find a picture for everything, edit it, stamp it, download it, upload it, ensure the token actually shows up, etc. It's a lot of programming work, essentially, and grunt work, to get a monster in.

Meanwhile I get my players sending me their paper men, updated, now with a new piece of equipment, now revised with a new token to reflect their new armor, etc. etc. Those are easier to put in, but still takes work.

If I have time after all of that, I can do some actually maps to play on. I can't do as many as I'd like, so I have to find some more time.

It's the technical stuff - instead of drag-and-drop monsters, even a slightly odd power and a lack of a good image to upload turns it to 15-20 minutes per monster.

Fun, fun, fun. Not the good kind of fun, though.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Nothing much, just VTT work

Little to post today - I'm just loading up monsters in Forge for Felltower. It's kind of a pain, although I'm grateful for the GCS files for many monsters out there. I need to make pictures, tokens, etc. for everything. It's just a royal pain. I envy people who play a system that has official, thorough VTT support!

I have some PCs to upload, too, but I keep getting "revised" guys, so I'm going to put them all in the morning of the next game.

A one-roll hoard generator and VTT support would make my job so much easier; much of my work is not updating Felltower but ensuring I don't have to halt game to make tokens and monsters.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Noble Knight Clearance Sale

Noble Knight is having a big clearance sale. Some of the items are mildly discounted, but many have pretty steep discounts.

I've found there sheer volume of sale items makes it hard to browse, but still . . . sale RPG items.

There is basically no GURPS stuff, but still . . .

Here is the main sale page:

Clearance Sale

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Felltower quick update - items on the move?

I had a short window to do some work on Felltower today.

I found this list of lost items helpful:

Lost Items of Felltower

There are a lot of items just sitting the in the dungeon, too. The PCs gained - and lost - and in some cases re-gained and re-lost - dozens of significant magic items and interesting non-magical items in the dungeon.

The changes in the dungeon also afford a chance for items to change locations. Some of what was lost might end up with someone or something else. The dungeon doesn't stay static. There are a few ways that come up.

Long Overlooked

Some long overlooked items move around. What this can mean is that items long overlooked sometimes get discovered by new or old inhabitants. That's pretty rare, though. Generally, if something is so well hidden that PCs wandering around knocking on walls, casting See Secrets, casting Seek Earth for valuable metals, etc. couldm't find it, it's probably so well hidden that inhabitants and NPC delvers lacking this kind of perserverance are less likely to find them.

But it does happen.

Lost and Found

More commonly, items that the PCs just dropped - usually when dead - tend to travel around a bit. Many stay right where they fell. Most, even. But not everything that butchers a PC party keeps treasure. Sometimes, they leave it for scavengers. Sometimes, they take it and use it. Sometimes, even, they trade it for something else (goods, different items, as tribute in return for diplomatic gains, etc.)

Long Gone Lonesome Blues

Some items are loooooooong goooooone. Sold in town, dropped in the dungeon in places unconducive to their survival . . . and sadly, yes, in the clutches of retired PCs (or non-retired PCs run by players who aren't interested in coming back.)

Having a list of these has helped a lot. I know one of my players does, too, more as a checklist of things to find than my list of things to chuckle over.

Friday, October 20, 2023

Random Links & Thoughts for 10/20/2023

Let's wrap up the week here.

- I'm still reviewing and doing the things needing doing for Felltower. The VTT is the chunk I want to do the least . . . so I'll put that off until last.

- I played big chunks of Fantasy General for a few weeks . . . I have no idea how much longer the game is. Am I on the last island? I don't know. I've maxed out almost all of the unit research, and the foes are pretty tough. It's just weird not knowing where am I in the whole process. Still fun . . . but I needed to take time off after one more big battle this past week.

- Interesting discussions and ideas popped up in the comments of my Retreat post. I'm intrigued by some of the suggestions, although my goal with that system is to simplify decision making. It's always tricky if a "fix" adds a decision fork to replace a decision fork; I'm not sure it helps speed it along.

- I might be unavailable all weekend. If so, see you all Monday.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

GURPS option: Ditch Retreat, or Give the Bonus Always?

I don't think it's a secret that I hate Retreat. I didn't always; in fact I used to love it. I still think it makes a lot of sense. But the longer I've run game the longer I've spent watch it be the be-all and end-all of tactical considerations. Mapless combat becomes "invisible map" combat as everyone wants to take a position where they can't be flanked but also can Retreat without letting anyone break their defensive line.

Ugh, ugh, ugh.

Thinking about this for my DF game, could I get rid of it?

I see two options:

Option 1: No Retreat.

In this option, it's just gone. Delete it, with the possible exception of "Dodge and Drop" for explosions. Yes, you can still dive flat to get away from an explosion. Maybe Duck Behind Cover - something I allow now, which is Retreat if you can fully move behind cover to try to avoid a missile. You could still use Acrobatics for a +2 or -2, because that's not tied to Retreat.

Otherwise, it's gone. All defenses are "flat" - as written, no bonuses, no defensive movement from your hex triggered by a potentially successful hit.

Pros: Simple. Increases the number of effective blows in combat. Speeds up defense calculations.

Cons: Likely to provoke vetos by any and all players who "need" Retreat. Might slow the game down as people claim to need more time to decide where to step or move because they're unable to count on Retreat if they need it.

Option 2: No Retreat but the bonus applies.

In this option, you don't have Retreat - with the possible exception of Dodge and Drop, which only provides the ability to dive a hex away and end prone from an attack.

However, the bonus you would get is baked in to defenses, as such:

Dodge - based on 6 + (Speed * Encumbrance).
Parry - based on 4 + (Weapon skill/2).
Fencing Parry, Karate Parry, Judo Parry - based on 6 + (Skill/2).
Block - based on 4 + (Shield skill/2).

This applies to all monsters, too. All monsters get +3 to their base, figured Dodge (to account for 6+ instead of 3+ base). So a Foul Bat would have a 12 Dodge, but 14 while in the air due to the height advantage (9 + 3, + 2), and a Dire Wolf a 12 (9 + 3). An Eye of Death would have a 15 (12 + 3), potentially a 19 with height advantage and Aerobatics. Your average 10/10/10/10 human now has Dodge 11 - Speed 5, no encumbrance (6 + 5).

You could say that anything that gets rid of Retreat also gives a -3 or -1 to the appropriate defense (say, Move and Attack), to even it out a bit and keep that steep cost for such an attack still the case.

Pros: PCs get to keep their higher defenses, and as a matter of fact routinely have higher defenses more than under the standard rules.

Cons: High whiff factor, and increased need for Deceptive Attack and Feint to hit even fodder monsters. Most foes will Dodge more than 50% of the time against an unenhanced attack. Have to modify every GCA, GCS, and Forge VTT entry for everyone and everything.

Thoughts on these?

If/when I run a future game, Option 1 is going to be the standard. Everyone will have to know that going in. But to get people on board with it for an ongoing game, option 2 might need to be considered.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

My response to Alex's comment

My response to Alex's comment seemed long enough, and detailed enough, to warrant a post.

You seem to have painted yourself into a corner. The majority of the headaches are self-created or player-created.

I agree, 100%. I posted my Felltower Regrets just out of potential utility to myself or to other GMs in the future. I wasn't expecting anyone to show me a way out - and honestly, I'm not sure I want one. I wouldn't do it this way again does not equal I don't want it the way it is now. It's not everything I would want a future megadungeon to be but I do think it's where it should be based on the constraints imposed on it by choices I'm comfortable with.

At least for the self-imposed headaches.

You have a much stronger insistence on ecological consistency and logic than most dungeon crafters, and definitely megadungeon crafters. But because of this you face problems with every proposed change that ripple effects touch numerous clusters of rooms and their creatures.

Yes. It's a constraint based on the original design decision. Many of the reasons I shot down my player's suggestion (and that of commenters) about how to "fix" the problems I built into Felltower were the issue with contradicting the original design constraints. I'm a big believer in the value of constraints and letting those constraints cause emergent results. The dungeon has a strong ecology, and what happens in it - and to it - centers on that. As such, I think it's more responsive to player interaction than it would be had a gone the Prime Mover approach, where a wizard or cabal or god or whatever is in charge of the dungeon. It's a lot more dependent on what the players do, and less easy for a GM to stick a finger in to change things to achieve a specific effect.

That's all deliberate. I chose my constraints, built my dungeon, and I'm hewing closely to those constraints and seeing what happens. I think it's more important to stick to those than choose the easy route just to make something come out the way I'd do it given a chance to start over.

I can't tell you not to do that since it is a big part of how you operate, but I can point out that you're doing this to yourself and many megadungeons work fine with a bit of underlying logic and connection but not sweating every detail and the players are fine with that. It's part of the megadungeon conceit.

I'd argue it can be part of the conceit, but it doesn't have to be. I can sweat endless details and make that work. It limits my ability to keep changing the environment that has already been explored, yes, but it suggests lot of effects that add to the immersive and enduring nature of the game.

I can live with that. I'm not going to avoid talking about where those choices took the dungeon, but I am going to keep living with those choices. Again, that's why I posted my regrets and "why nots" but didn't ask for people to help me dig out of this corner I've painted myself into. I don't really want a reason to change anything beyond what can be sustained within the constraints the campaign is built around.

Now, the problem with players cutting off ways between levels I wouldn't mess with. Try to undo or bypass their efforts and they'll just try harder to break your dungeon. If they really want ways down then remind them more ways were there and PCs blocked them, PCs could go unblock them if that's what they want.

Now, here, I strongly disagree. **** the PCs and their efforts. If it clashes with what the ecology of the dungeon demands, too bad. If they knock a door down because they hate it and there is a dweller in the dungeon that would rather it be fixed, it'll get fixed. They can block stairs and others can open them up if that's useful for that individual or faction. The PCs can do what they want, but so can the NPCs. That's one of the upsides of my constraint-centered approach. It has to make sense . . . and letting the players determine what's blocked or not, without input from the logic that underpins the actions of the NPCs, would not do so.

Some things limit my options, some limit theirs. It's our game, after all, so we all have to live with the decisions we've made . . . and with the undoing of them by NPCs if that fits the baseline campaign decisions.
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