Friday, March 31, 2023

Assorted Links & Thoughts for 3/31/2023

Thoughts and Links for the week.

- So, if different languages wire your brain differently - as discussed here - what the hell do spells do to you? I'm going with my player's comment about "evil traits" - "Only Magery" - and assume they change your brain quite a bit in not terribly good ways.

- No game this weekend. No one can make it. Well, I can, but that's thin pickings since I'm also the GM.

- Writing update - still working on a project idea with Doug. Time to get work in on it tomorrow, I hope!

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Felltower & GURPS rules - questions?

It's pretty obvious if you read this blog that I don't follow the rules as written exclusively in Felltower.

It's not as obvious to me which of the rules I've modified, changed, don't use, or otherwise have played differently than published material would suggest are obvious to my readers.

So, open question in the comments - what rules in Felltower do you have questions about? I'll write a post or posts examining them as best I can. Some things I'll need to hold back because of work-for-hire confidentiality, but I'll do my best.

Ask away!

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

S&W Complete reprint on Kickstarter

Thanks to Tenkar for posting this or I'd have missed it.

I'm not sure if I need a hard copy but I think I'd like a non-OGL S&W, because, well, S&W Complete is quite good.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Felltower, Grapples, and Blink Other

One more post on Blink and grapples.

What about Blink Other?

I have no problem with Blink Other getting someone out of a grapple. The spell is quite limited. You have these issues:

- a penalty for "spells on"
- a penalty for range at -1 per yard
- the need to see the subject
- triggers a Body Sense roll which may fail

and the following benefit:

- gives a wizard a chance to save a fellow delver

I'm all in favor of this. It's not cheap, it's not easy, and yet it allows one delver to help another. I have no issues with that at all.

Monday, March 27, 2023

OSE Best Supporting Actors Kickstarter - funded!

I meant to post this the other day, but here we are, better late than never.

Doug's OSE Best Supporting Actors Kickstarter has funded! $20 for the PDF and quick-reference cards and the usual host of upgrades from there.

It still has 12 days to go as I post this, but if you're interested I'd say go pledge now rather than later so Doug doesn't pull his hair out with worry.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

DF Felltower, Blink, and Grapples

So apparantly this came up as a question to one of my players online, and was related to me.

Desmond was grappled from behind (no defenses!) by a torturer last session.

Why didn't he just Blink out of there? It's a spell, sure, but it doesn't require concentration, and it's an Active Defense, so even if he was already grappled, the very next attack would just let him trigger it and - poof! - be out of the grapple.

In DF Felltower? No. It doesn't work that way.

Allowing anyone with Magery a get-out-of-grapples-free card is not fun. Saying no simplifies all of the rules questions to basically no rules questions at all.

Allowing it would give anyone with Magery to potential to just ignore any grapple, bite, entangle, etc. that hit them despite their defenses (say, a critical hit or an attack from behind.) You could either cast it on your next turn and leave the grapple, no problems, or - even sillier - wait until an additional attack (say, a bite or neck snap or attack to improve CP) came in and then Blink out of there. So either it's leave for a few FP on your next turn, or leave on the next attack. You could even have a friend launch a missile attack into melee, hoping they'll hit you so you can Blink out of a grapple.

Allowing it means you suddenly need to decide if these spells are only defenses - and need an attack to trigger them - or you can cast them on your own turn. Got a grapple that inflicts extra damage every second for free? Great, won't trigger a defense so it won't trigger Blink. Needs an attack roll? Oh, wizard just leaves. Or it's just something you can cast and leave. But then can you Blink out of a pit? Out of chains or rope bindings? Out of your clothes? Away from a cursed ring?

Some of the answers there are obvious, some less so - but they're all potential edge cases. You get a lot of edge cases with yes.

So I could say, "Yes! You can totally do that!" and have a) less fun and b) more rulings to make, or say "No!" and have a) more fun and b) no rulings to make at all.

I went with the latter, because DF Felltower is about simple fun, not complex perfection and rules lawyers trying to out-munchkin each other on rules edge cases.

Your game may vary.

All of this applies to Phase, too. It was be a poorly-designed PC who didn't have either if they had access to them. They'd be mission-critical spells for all wizards. And then we're back to wizards being extremely hard to kill in melee, even if you, say, garrote one by surprise or something. Not fun.

Saturday, March 25, 2023

DF Felltower & DFD Thieves - first note

I posted this in a comment earlier, but it bears repeating in a post:

Until I affirmatively add something from Dungeon Fantasy Denizens: Thieves to DF Felltower, none of it is canon for our game.

This isn't a knock on DFD: Thieves. I just need to decide what to add based on our campaign. I was in the playtest, and I've skimmed the final draft, and I know that some of what is in there doesn't fit the flavor and history of DF Felltower.

Friday, March 24, 2023

Friday Links & Notes 3/24/2023

- DF Denizens: Thieves came out.

- I received my print copies of Castle of the Mad Archmage. I took advantage of that deep sale for DM's day. The printouts look nice - hardback main book, softcover illustration book and map book.

- Not much reading time this week but I read through about half of the DCC Lankhmar boxed set. It's good . . . but I'll see if I can't get a review up and discuss it more fully.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

DF Felltower - Potion notes

Just a few quick clarifications before they come up in play in DF Felltower:

Potions sold in town go for $100 each, flat rate. This is regardless of the type of potion. The buyers don't believe you, they'll test themselves, and profit from their suspicion. This is a guild law. You can try to sell potions on the black market, at a higher rate, but there is the usual chances of running afoul of the law and/or getting ripped off. And if the guild finds out . . . expect that $100 to drop.

Potions from DFRPG Magic Items are not available freely for sale. There may be exceptional cases - the GM will tell you, do not ask or shop for them. It'll be a random opportunity.

Potions from DFT3: Artifacts of Felltower are not available ever for sale. Find them and enjoy the ones you find.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Video Games: City of Gangsters

I always liked Roaring Twenties gangsters, probably mostly thanks to playing Gangbusters when I was a younger gamer. The thing I liked most about it was setting up, running, and administering gangster businesses. Running illegal alchohol production and sales, running the numbers, and so on.

The problem always was getting a group to play. I GMed for a bit, but I was young and not a great ref, and I didn't really have an idea of how to create a city sandbox for criminals to play in. I know from articles I've read that players in the TSR campaigns started as criminals but then mostly shifted to running lawmen. Either way, it only works out if you have a solid idea of how to run a sandbox. And what should be in a 20s city sandbox. I did not.

Still, I loved the ideas and flavor.

So much so that I jumped on Gangsters back in '99. I didn't love that. I found it maddening to play. It was a mix of turn-based and real-time, so I always ended up with guys wasting big chunks of time because I didn't give them enough to do, or guys who had too much to do and never finished. I couldn't seem to keep my business running, or hidden from police. My unarmed bagmen would get robbed and my armed enforcers would shoot it out with the cops on sight, getting killed eventually in the process. I saw more chalk outlines than dollars. And that despite eventually getting the Strategy Guide.

No idea what happened to my copy after I gave up playing. Maybe it's in storage, maybe I gave it away. I wouldn't give it another go unless I got it for free. Maybe not then, either.

Now I'm giving Epic's "City of Gangsters" a try.

The good:

- it's attractive
- it runs smoothly
- it's turn based, so you can take your time as you decide what to do
- you have more to do than time to do it, mostly, but not so much that it feels overwhelming
- the mechanics of setting up businesses are transparant enough to be easy to understand
- it's set not in "Lakefront City" or "New Temperance" but Chicago, Detroit, or Pittsburgh. Having recently take my first trip to Chicago, and having gotten around by map, I feel more of a connection to the city.

The not-so-good:

- the Tutorial is long, and you can't save. So I played for one hour the first time, but still had a lot to go. I played another day for three hours, and still had covered not much more ground . . . I just gave up on it. No idea why you can't save the NPE but you can save any other game.
- the interface can be maddening. It's way too easy to click out of something but not save it, fumble around for the button that does things, etc. It's not the most intuitive interface I've used. I can easily mark favorites with a click but not unfavorite with the same click, close more easily than open, get into conversations I can't seem to get out of without Xing out of them, and other oddness.
- combat is oddly a turn-ending thing you do. If you have 4 action points and 10 movement points and get into a fight, you're at 0 and 0. If you do a bunch first and have 0 and 0 but are in the same area as a rival, you can fight them and end with 0 and 0. I get the idea, but it encourages me to munchkin my time and roll up after everything to fight someone.
- it can be hard to find things. I've resorted to paper notes on who sells what and how many, because I can see "who" and "what" but not "how many" on my interface without going to the location itself.
- as always with resource games, you can get yourself in a tangle trying to make sure enough X and Y gets to location Z to make product A . . . and production is all-or-nothing and resolved at the last moment, so 90% of what you need nets you 0% production.

All in all, though, it's got some potential . . . and I like the era and the topic. I'll keep giving it a go.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

More notes from Session 182

Sunday was Session 182 of DF Felltower.

Here are a few more notes on the session.

- I forgot to list two fine quotes:

"I hit him in the hit points!" - Sigur, while attacking the demon grunts.

"Welcome to the floor!" - Kel's player, when Sigur critically missed and fell down.

The second was my non-counting vote for MVP.

- I really do wonder, whenever I'm lugging an umbrella and a backpack and a door key and a phone to my house, how exactly people quickly grab up 4-5 swords and swords, a bunch of assorted potions, some carefully packed delicates, and an unconscious friend and then proceed to get around places with their weapons out and ready without penalties. Heroic fantasy, indeed.

- I said after the session that had Desmond licked up the potion that spilled to see what it was, I'd have given him 1 xp. He didn't. This is not a standing offer. It would only have been awesome had it been without thought of xp benefit.

It was a Potion of Giant's Strength. Too bad that one broke, eh? The last one I handed out - thanks to a sunk cost fallacy - basically got Vryce, Gort, and others killed.

- I rarely allow a second delve on a day, but this was a case where it made sense. I'll allow it if it makes sense again . . . but it rarely is easier and better than "return to town."

- It was nice to see Hidden Lore get used. Too bad it was used so late - it would have saved some wasted time trying to find the weak point. Demon grunts don't have them . . . just some strong points and then everywhere else.

Monday, March 20, 2023

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Session 182, Brotherhood Complex 4, Part II - Demon Grunts & Torturers

Today we continued our delve from last time.

Real Date: 3/19/2023
Game Date: 3/5/2023

Ambassador Durinn, dwarf cleric (~265 points)
Belmek Battlebeard, dwarf barbarian (~260 points)
Desmond MacDougall, human wizard (~290 points)
Kel Blackwall, half-elf scout (250 points)
Sigur Hondguthann, human holy warrior (250 points)

We picked up mid-fight. But first, we had to do some quick fixing as Durinn had cast Great Healing last session but misread the casting time; so we went back and swapped it to Major Healing. He got back a big pile of energy and Sigur was back down to less HP. That done . . . we started.

The PCs were in rough shape - Sigur wounded and grappled for 9 CP, Belmek with 38 CP per opponent from 4 opponents, and six demon grunts still up.

The demon grunts on Belmek continued to grind away at him - they'd established maximum CP on him, each holding on with both hands. They used their claw hands to grind away, All-Out Attack (Strong), to try to get past his net 12 DR. Over time, they'd wear him down to death checks as the other PCs got on with saving him.

They began to concentrate their attacks, trying to pile all of their damage on one demon grunt at a time. This worked well. The demon grunts were too single-minded to let off what they were doing to respond effectively. They just worked their way around, destroying one demon grunt at a time. They managed to destroy one, freeing Sigur, and then put one down to the ground, letting Sigur move out of the doorway to engage from the side. Durinn stepped forward, only to have to fend off grapples and kicks from the fallen demon grunt.

They found that leg shots worked reasonably well to put them down, but that didn't stop them from fighting - often effectively - while lying down. Meanwhile Desmond remembered to use Hidden Lore (Demons) and was able to report that these demons were just strong, dull, single-minded, and had no brains, no vitals, and no necks - and no special vulnerabilities. With that in mind, they concentrated on cutting off legs and then focusing on just taking out their HP. The demon grunts on Belmek refused to let go. They kept injuring him, as Durinn kept healing him, trying to failing to keep pace. But Acid Balls from Desmond, arrows from Kel, and axe chops from Sigur eventually cut them all down.

The enemy defeated, the PCs immediately started healing the wounded and trying to secure the room. They soon found there were 5 doors to block, not enough free PCs to block them, and a hallway leading out of the room. So they couldn't really block everything. They gave that up.

Once most of the wounded were healed sufficiently, they began to search the room while keeping wary. This slowed them down. The room was full of junk. Junk, junk, junk. A rotted boot and the heel of its missing boot, empty chests, a spear with the butt and half the tip broken off, broken jars, a smashed lantern, more crumpled up wads of old clothes that needed mending before they went rotten, and more. They pried open a big iron-bound crate, but found it empty. They found several fragile glass jars . . . and Durinn unrolled some cotton-like material to wrap them in . . . only to drop two potions already wrapped inside the roll to the floor. One shattered, the other bounced off the floor. Desmond refused to taste the spilled potion to see what it was.

They also found a broken shortsword - most of it missing - with gems in the hilt, and a platinum-wire wrapped longsword - with the center bit of the blade missing. Oh, and burned papers, a book spine with the words worn off, and even more junk. (I described it as an attic full of old junk.)

All of this done, they decided to get out of the dungeon. Most of them were healed up enough to move, so they did so - but they had no more ability to heal anyone that day and were largely out of potions.

With some work, they were able to retrace their steps. They naturally blundered into the evil runes again, after arguing over where to turn.

Outside of the dungeon, they decided to camp out for a day a safe distance away, and come back the day after - they'd be able to take advantage of the damage they'd done, before the cone-hatted guys could muster up reinforcements. If they headed back to Stericksburg, they could re-potion up . . . but might need them even more. So they went back in the next day.

Second Delve:

This time the entrance was deserted. They were able to find the stairs down to the third level without too much trouble, and went back to the junk room. They'd search it more "on the way home." They checked the corridor out, and saw it went pretty far . . . and then decided on the doors. They forced all four open. Three led to hallways, all alike, and one to a dead end. They took one of the corridors and followed it along, based on their sense of where things "should" go. Sadly, the hallway looped around and back and around, taking them in a direct they weren't thinking it would go.

At the end of the hallway there was an intersection and, ahead, a door. They chose the door. Belmek forced it, and beyond it was an odd-shaped room full of torture devices. An old man was strapped to a chair, badly beaten. Standing to either side of him were robed cultists, only with leather hoods, in the style of an executioner's hood.

At the sight of the PCs, one yelled, "Kill him!" and ran out of sight. The other readied a sword as Belmek charged him, pausing only to ready his axe in the middle as he failed a Fast-Draw roll. The torturer stabbed the old man in the heart, and he went limp with a tired groan.

The other PCs moved in - Sigur in the front, Durrin up the middle, and Desmond to the left and Kel to the right. Kel shot an arrow at the torturer and was mystified that he somehow dodged. Sigur took a shuriken to the face, but it did minimum damage - and he was able to resist the poison on it.

Unfortunately, there were four, not two, torturers. Two stood invisibly to either side of the door, out of immediate danger of PCs moving into them. One grappled Desmond from behind, left arm around his neck and shoulder. Another threw a garrote around Kel's neck from behind.

The one behind Desmond began to stab him over and over in the vitals, aiming for Chinks in Armor. Kel was choked by the garrote. Desmond tried to dodge or break free but was helpless to do so. He was able to resist the Bladeblack poison on the blade, but was still hurt by it. Kel tried to ready his bow and shoot over his shoulder at the cultist but, despite a few tries, kept failing. Sigur turned away from helping Belmek to get the torturer on Kel.

Belmek closed with the torturer but was hit with a Fear spell, and failed to resist. That gave him a -3 to rolls against any of the hooded torturers. The one who yelled - the master torturer, had ducked out of a door.

Belmek kept after the torturer, who kept moving away, stabbing at at his right eye, and wounded him - but rolled minimum damage. Belmek was blinded in one eye, but he was able to shrug off the poison, mostly, but was still hurt - like on Desmond, the poison was Bladeblack.

Meanwhile, the master torturer, who'd ducked out of the room, ducked back in . . . invisible. He began to work his way around Belmek's back, as the torturer in front kept Belmek's attention. But somehow, no matter how he moved, Belmek took steps that just wouldn't expose his back. He fought in a cagey fashion, keeping his front to both of them.

BECAUSE THE MASTER TORTURER WAS ONLY INVISIBLE ON MY END and all the players could see him the whole time. (I only found this out when the master torturer managed to get within a 2-step reach of Belmek's back and used Committed Attack to get there, and before I could reveal him, the players bemoaned that the guy got behind Belmek somehow. I literally was the only person who didn't know he was visible . . . despite using a Potion of Invisibility. See below for more.)

Belmek was stabbed in the vitals from behind and hurt badly. He managed to strike down the torturer in front of him. He turned on the master torturer but was hit with Death Vision. He failed to resist and was stunned, but managed to recover before he could be hit. But he was hit anyway, took a massive brain hit as his left eye was destroyed, and dropped unconscious.

The master torturer moved towards the rest of the fight.

But in the meantime, Durinn tried to help Desmond. But Desmond was knocked out by a heavy stab to the vitals. Sigur managed to get his axe around the garrote wielder's arm and pull him off. That torturer drew his shortsword and stabbed Kel and knocked him out.

Sigur kept after that torturer, but couldn't land a good blow. Durinn cast Awaken several times and was able to wake Desmond up, but the torturer kept stabbing him - he was too clever to leave a knocked out wizard near the cleric who keeps healing said wizard. Desmond went right back out. Sigur fell down trying to take out his foe, who backed away and left his back to Durinn - who kept trying to heal Desmond. Sigur fell down on a critical miss, then rolled over to the torturer and tried take his leg out - and hit! But he rolled minimum damage . . . just short of enough to cripple the leg. Durinn kicked him the groin from behind, wounding him, but short of a major wound and not enough to stun him. It did send him Reeling, and the torturer hobbled off. They let him go.

The one on Desmond dropped him and readied a knife in his off hand. Sigur dropped his axe, and stood up, and readied his long spear and stabbed the torturer. He wounded him badly, in the vitals, but eventually the torturer fell unconscious.

Sigur turned and lengthened his grip on the spear. The master torturer saw this, saw he was now on his own, not rushing to make a two-on-two into a three-on-one. He escaped as well.

One Kel was awakened, he got up and walked around putting 5-6 arrows in the vitals of the fallen. They checked the old man, and found him dead.

They healed up a little, had someone - Durinn I believe - pick up Belmek, and headed out. They ran back to the entrance.


They got lost several times - once on the third level, for a few minutes. After that, on the second level, for maybe 20 minutes or more of real time. Even with a map . . . they just got turned around.

They did finally make it back and out of the dungeon. They healed up the wounded and headed back to town.


- F-ing VTT. I marked the Master Torturer invisible. He showed invisible to me. I marked off his Potion of Invisibility. And he manuevered very carefully to get behind Belmek. And couldn't. BECAUSE HE WAS ONLY INVISIBLE TO ME. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!


I had problems with Fog of War leaving exploration visible behind them - it took some work of turning things off and then on again in a certain order to fix this. I ended up with identical settings to how I started but different results.

I also found that any notes put down are visible even if the area they're written on is not visible. Not good. I deleted those. I need map objects, badly.

- I need to figure out how to paint hexes with terrain. No one - not one player - nor I, to be fair - remembered that ever hex in the room with the demon grunts was bad footing. They just moved around, attacked without a -2, defended without a -1, and so on. I remembered after.

- I'm always amused by the confident pronouncements of the players when they aren't based on reality. "We're so dead." "I already hit that guy before." "THAT guy took 12 corrosion damage." "They can't move that quickly." Etc. I trust my notes - and the VTT - more than "I'm sure I hit that guy." Well, you're sure, but he has full HP. Some other guy they think they didn't hit has more. Or they extrapolate the wrong info. "I did X and he's still up" but did X to hit location with Y DR, not to the one with Z DR, and Y and Z do not equal, so neither do the injuries. I don't provide a lot, to be fair, but I'm glad I'm not using their notes to run my game.

- The annoyance of the Repair spell is that I needed to know the value of most of the broken stuff in case people want to bring it back to town, buy steel/cotton/leather/whatever, and have it cast to fix the broken stuff they found if the cost of doing so is less than the price they could get it to fetch. Ah, brave delvers in mail and plate and wielding magic doing junkyard repairs for low-margin profit. I'd do away with Repair or limit it severely if I could.

- the broken potion? Potion of Giant Strength from DFT3: Artifacts of Felltower. The danger in the place is high, but you're not going to find a dinky minor healing potion or some coppers as loot.

- the found potions were Super Hero's Brew and Eternal Rest. Nothing else was of special value. XP was 4 for loot, 1 for exploration (lots of empty hallways is not 10+ significant areas), and MVP was Sigur for kicking ass the whole session.

- Belmek's lost eye took so much damage he'll need Regeneration. They can do that with a start date of 3/19 even though we won't be able to resolve that for a few days. No, not the in-game date of 3/10 or whenever, time lost due to split sessions is time lost.

- Here is Doug's summary.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Felltower pre-summary

Full writeup tomorrow. But for now:

- the PCs finished their fight with the demons, and didn't all die.

- loot was looted.

- the PCs took a break near the dungeon, and came back in.

- they blundered into an encounter - and then blundered, and blundered, and blundered.

- things went pretty bad for the PCs but they managed to get out . . . while getting lost.

Full summary tomorrow.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Felltower - er Brotherhood Complex - tomorrow

Game tomorrow!

Will the PCs all die horrible deaths?

Will they finish off the demons that rip at their very souls? Or at least establish lots of Control Points on them?

Will there be any money out of this?

Tune in tomorrow to see!

Friday, March 17, 2023

Random Links for 3/17/2023

A few links for Friday, of things that I like:

- Painted squiqs. I don't know what they are, either, except that walking hungry mouths are useful foes for a DF game. I tend to make my flying but to each their own.

- James Mal on the reasons his campaign has lasted so long.

- Dave Arneson's time keeping in game. Ah, the old, "we got your character killed while you were away." Been there, done that.

- Doug's Kickstarter could use some love.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

GURPS with more complex Retreat

I posted about getting rid of Retreat. What if you want more options?

Here are some ideas, mostly in brief. I haven't playtested any of them. I have no intention of adding any of them to DF Felltower.

Retreat without Movement - Allow for a +1/+3 defenses, but you don't move a hex back. You simply sway, give up a few inches, etc. without a full step back. This can entirely replace, or supplement, Retreat.

Followup Step - If a foe Retreats from you, you may add an extra Step to fill in the opening they create, even if you've already used up your Step or all other movement. (This prevents the 2-man shuffle, where PC A Retreats and then PC B steps into that opening using a Wait or just regular turn order.)

Retreat Upon Threat - You can Retreat even if your foe misses - as long as they attacked you.

GURPS Martial Arts has rules for forward slips already.

I think these all make for even more decision-based paralysis, but they're potential ways to expand Retreat if you feel it is good to do so.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Video Game Update - Pathfinder: Kingmaker

I've been busy most of this week, but I was able to get in a tiny bit of Pathfinder: Kingmaker this week.

I am stalled out on Lawful Evil Monk Molly's playthrough. I'm at "final dungeon" time. There are numerous state changes - navigate within one dungeon but transit between versions of it. Cool, but a little tiresome at times.

I got quite a bit done with Lawful Good Paladin Holgar Carlson. I'm mopping up some side missions before going for the Stag Lord. This one I'm aiming for the best possible ending for the game - there is a way to pull off an unlikely romance and potentially change the whole game. That's the plan. I'm using two different walkthroughs to make sure I don't miss anything, but playing with my own flair to it because of experience with two prior playthroughs.

Both are backburnered because I have real work to do so it's maybe 30-60 minutes of playthrough while I need a break from something else.

Still fun. Next up will be a try at a non-RPG gangster building game. Maybe it'll be fun.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

No, seriously, don't buy me things not on my wish list

Weird gripe, I know . . . but I received a gift order from DriveThruRPG a day or so ago.

I didn't want either item. They weren't the usual "gift" of a free item, from the writer or publisher of the item. They were for-real paid RPG supplements, for games I'd never play, from someone I didn't know.

I contacted DriveThruRPG and asked them to refund it and take it away. They did so, very quickly and efficiently.

I have no idea what was up with this. I don't know the gifter. I didn't get a message, just the "thanks for your order!" I wasn't charged for these, either, that I can tell. It was just a flat-out gift from someone I don't know for something I don't want - heck, one was for the Aliens RPG. I don't like "Aliens."

What the heck is it with this? I mean really.

I just don't know.

Monday, March 13, 2023

GURPS combat without Retreat

After a few decades of playing with the current GURPS iteration of Dodge (1 hex away from a foe, +1 Parry and Block, +3 to Dodge or specific Parry types), I know one thing:

If I was designing a hex-based combat system from scratch, I wouldn't include Retreat.

My reasoning has come up on this blog a lot. Suffice it to say that I don't like that it:

- imposes multiple calculations on your best defense choice (a decision-based pause)
- imposes a decision based on movement on the map
- forces map-based combat even when it is inappopriate to the game as a whole for fear of losing that bonus
- encourages people to design characters around a specific situational bonus and then play based on making that bonus come up

And there are other reasons as well.

What if Retreat was gone? What would happen?

Setting aside, here, the lamentations of the players, whose paper men will absolutely unfairly die if this is removed. That's the first thing that would happen, followed by the second - "I wouldn't have gotten hit here if we were using Retreat."

- All defenses would be base defenses. PCs and NPCs alike would lose out on a +1 to +3 (or more, in some special cases) on defenses. This would make Dodge-based defenders a little more vulnerable, and Block-and-Parry based defenders a little less vulnerable than that.

- You'd lose out on "attack and fly out" as the standard attack method. You wouldn't have Step and Attack, followed a Retreat before your turn. This would make two-hex-reach fighting still viable but not trivial. You'd have to back up, not assume you can move up and then move back.

- You'd have to consciously maneuver to keep out of close combat. You couldn't depend on a Retreat to take you out of it, followed by an Attack and Step on your own turn to open up space. You could still keep out of close combat, but not assume that if someone steps into CC as part of a Step and Attack that you could easily establish the need for 2 steps to get into close combat with you again.

- Keeping formation would be easier, because no one will be falling back for a transitory defensive benefit.

- You'd need to do something to allow for Dodge & Drop / Diving for Cover to deal with explosions. This could be as simple as just saying you can do that as part of a Dodge, but it doesn't give an additional bonus.

- It would make a spell like Blink have special extra effects - it lets you move as part of your defense!

- It would clear up questions like, if I've been Feinted, can I Retreat because I thought it was an attack? (This is usually done because the step, not the bonus, is what someone seeks.)

- It would make Theatre of the Mind/mapless combat an option because suddenly "I can fight safely at Reach 2 on a map" or "I need to know if I can Retreat" or "I move to where I can Retreat" aren't an issue.

Optionally, you could allow for a retreat as a FP-costing Extra Effort in Combat option, if you play with those.

Overal, I think this would be a big change but that the net positives would outweight the negatives. I know I'd never even have close to a majority agreeing to do it in DF Felltower, but if I was designing a combat system from scratch, this wouldn't be in it as written. Even the old-school 1st edition GURPS +1 to any defense opens up more decision-making and counting once you have multiple defenses and/or want to have mapless combat.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

DF Felltower & monster slogs

Some monsters in DF Felltower - and in DF in genral - take a bit of killing.

Why is that? Why are there so many monsters you have to slog through?

In my experience, there are a few ways a monster can be tough:

- Offensive firepower

- Defensive prowess

- Damage absorption

In a little more detail:

- Offensive firepower means they can harm PCs. This can take a lot of forms, but generally is high damage (as PCs in DF Felltower tend to high DR . . . 8+ DR is common and 12+ DR is not rare at all.)

- Defensive prowess means the opponent has good Parry, Block, or Dodge.

- Damage absorption means the opponent is hard to hit, hard to hurt, or can repair or ignore hurts.

I find I need to make monsters either a glass cannon (high damage, low defenses), or hard to kill. There isn't really anything else to do to keep them worth spending the time on. Low damage, low defenses = fodder at best. Low damage, hard to kill = time killer. High damage, easy to kill = brief encounter, especially since actually landing a hit on PCs is hard. PCs, conversely, strongly emphasize reducing enemy defenses or swamping them. High damage, hard to kill = slog. The foes can take out PCs, but also need grinding to wipe out.

As a GM looking to make fights a challenge, not just an excuse to hand out XP and loot, means I need either the glass cannons or the slog foes to threaten PCs. I don't love this, but it seems to be how it goes. Every time I've used the other two quadrants of the diagram, it's just taken time and cost the PCs nothing . . . maybe a few FP they recover in a few minutes of game time as if the encounter never happened. The drive for PCs to make themselves incredibly hard to land a blow on - high defenses - and hard to hurt - high DR - and hard to deal with otherwise (high HP, HT, and Hard to Kill and Hard to Subdue and Fit and high Will) - means the only threats are those who can hit really hard and stick around when hit back.

I think that just means the style of a game centered on combat-as-challeneg pushes toward a slog.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Vague musings on simplified healing spells

I've thought about this in the past for GURPS DF. What if we simplified healing spells down to these?

Minor Healing - 1 HP per 1 energy. Limited to PI.
Major Healing - 2 HP per 1 energy. Limited to PI.
Great Healing - 100% of HP loss for 20 energy.
Stabilize Injury - Stabilizes a Mortal Wound for 10 energy.

And that's it. No Lend Vitality, no bandaging effect on Stop Bleeding, bleeding is a rare effect anyway so why do we have a spell for it. You wouldn't even need to limit Great Healing to once per day; just inflict -3 cumulative for multiple castings.

You can also make this even simpler:

Healing - 2 HP per 1 energy.
Great Healing - 100% of HP loss for 20 energy.
Restoration or Great Healing will stabilize a Mortal Wound.

And done. You can't heal as often, since you have a -3 cumulative on Healing spells, but you aren't limited on how big of a spell you can cast. Great Healing is a better deal on badly wounded victims, especially ones who are dying.

It would greatly simplify the whole thing . . . less to track, encourages whacking big spell casts instead of dinking away with the most cost-efficient combo, and you don't have to spend a lot of time thinking about what spell to cast or learning the ropes of a multiple-casting system.

It might work.

Friday, March 10, 2023

Random Thoughts & Links for 3/10/2023

Just a few things today.

- I picked up the DCC Lankhmar boxed set, finally. I passed on the Kickstarter but the final product looked good enough for the price, and I had some gift cards to burn. So I did so. I'll take a serious look at it after I finish two work projects.

- I haven't really had any time to do game prep or updates or much this week - it started busy-ish and got busy-er. Even so, I did manage to check on the stuff I needed to double check from last session. I always like to review what happened and how we resolved it so I can do so better next time.

- I put up a card for Doug's latest Kickstarter. I don't play OSE but if you do, take a look at his new product for it.

- A fun look at Otzi the Ice Man as an adventurer.

Enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Revised Magic for DF Felltower - Stop Bleeding clarifications

"Ah, the life of an adventuring cleric. I remember it well. A perpetual stuggle to maintain the hit point totals of four or five nigh-suicidal tomb robbers determined to deplete them at all costs. Like bailing out a sinking ship with a thimble, most days."

Minister Malack, Cleric of Nergal, OOTS #735

The main role of a DF Cleric in DF Felltower is healing. Oh sure, we've had the occasional, "I'm the fighting kind of cleric!" idea come along, but fighting clerics who can't heal are better off as Holy Warriors. You need to do the thing your template does that no one else does, or else you're not really pull your weight.

Anyway, healing. There are four basic ways to quickly heal up a delver in DF:

- Healing spells (Minor Healing, Major Healing, Great Healing)
- Potions
- Bandaging (which only heals 1 HP of injury)
- First Aid

Additionally, there is a stopgap:

- Lend Vitality can temporarily heal, for 1 hour, at a much higher than usual cost (1 energy per 1 HP, no reduction for skill, no multiplier for higher HP.)
And there is a swap:

- Share Vitality lets you take another's wounds on yourself. Always a toughie for a caster, because healing yourself is really hard. Proportionally harder the more injured you are.

But back to First Aid.

First Aid - There are two ways to do First Aid - using the skill, or using Stop Bleeding. Per Magic p. 91, it heals 1 HP, and per DFRPG Spells, p. 39 it acts as "bandaging," but as it heals 1d-3 HP (min 1) in DFRPG, it means first aid.

Several clarifying points on Stop Bleeding in play:

- using it replaces First Aid usage for a newly injured character, as written in DFRPG Spells.
- because "newly injured" means new injury, and we don't track individual injuries, you must have been fully healed before a second Stop Bleeding spell will have any effect.
- it is affected by the multiple for higher HP.
- it is a healing spell for purposes of use on yourself, as written in DFRPG Spells.

I think that's all of the questions that have come up so far.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Notes on Session 181

Here are some followup notes on DF Session 181.

- the changes to Higher Purpose, as I mentioned, were good ones. The per-die bonus to damage made a significant jump. Instead of holy warrior just parrying really well against evil, Sigur was able to be a significant damage engine.

- I clarified that using knowledge skills to figure things out about foes - Hidden Lore, etc. - is a Concentrate action. It's not a freebie.

- Turns out that Durinn's player made a spell casting time mistake. He threw a Great Healing spell in combat, which, with a base 1 minute casting time, is not a thing. It's easily fixed, though, because this is an ongoing fight. We'll change Sigur from fully healed to just getting 8 HP back for Major Healing, and restore the difference in FP/energy used by Durinn.

One player suggested that, well, it must just have been a miracle. Yeah, maybe, if the fight was over. But it's ongoing and fixable.

This does poke yet another hole in my policy of letting players resolve their own actions without much oversight by me. We had a scout who didn't know the rolls needed for Heroic Archer, a spell miscast due to a big error in casting time, and I need to check out Stop Bleeding again to see if it was resolved as intended, too. I suspect there is a loophole in there that might need closing.

I'm fine with trusting my players but if people just end up kinda winging and going off of inaccurate memories of their abilities, someone needs to check it and that will fall to me. I'd been hoping not but I think I need to drop "No rules lookups" and double-check everything again for a while. Cast a spell? I'll check the casting time. Use a move? I'll go read the move. I'm not sure I have much choice . . . and leaving this one as a miracle that cannot be explained is just rewarding rules errors and punishing rules adherence. That's just not fun for me - why have the rules in the first place?

And it's worth noting that my players generally vote in favor of more detailed, not less abstract, rules. So it's not a secret push to make everything more abstract. It's just errors.

- I need to have firmer times down for some actions. In a multi-encounter dungeon where the PCs loot each foe as they go, times for things like stripping armor, skinning monsters, tying off looted weapons to carry them without a DX penalty for loose gear, etc. are useful and important. We can't just say, "It's done in non-combat time." Even then, people with a mix of 2, 5, and 10 minute FP recovery times and multiple energy sources coming back means that "It takes a couple minutes" is not helpful. Even "It takes 4-5 minutes" is the difference between a few FP points of recovery. Suddenly, a Vancian magic system makes so much sense for this kind of game.

- Why are character point totals approximate?

My GCA 4 died, and reinstalling it isn't working. I just can't modify equipment or advantages or anything without a crash. I should upgrade to GCA5, but it's not a simple task to import the PCs. It seems like I'll need to rebuild them from from scratch.

Meanwhile, almost all of my players use GCS. One or two still use GCA4. So I either need to upgrade to GCA5 and rebuild everyone, or swap to GCS and rebuild the GCA4 guys, or give up having an authoritative copy of any PC. I went with the last. I just don't have the interest in spending the little mental energy I have to get on top of this. I'll just have to trust my players to make sure they do their guys right. Considering the rules thing above, I'm not sure this is a great idea, but it's all I have time for.

- Oh, yeah, we're keeping the new guy. He was pretty good.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

GURPS Combat Action Bundle of Holding

There is a new Bundle of Holding up for GURPS that includes two of my books:

GURPS Martial Arts
GURPS Martial Arts: Gladiators

Click here for the Bundle.

Monday, March 6, 2023

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Session 181, Brotherhood Complex 4, Part I

Date: 3/5/2023

Ambassador Durinn, dwarf cleric (~265 points)
Belmek Battlebeard, dwarf barbarian (~260 points)
Desmond MacDougall, human wizard (~290 points)
Kel Blackwall, half-elf scout (250 points)
Sigur Hondguthann, human holy warrior (250 points)

Desmond brought some youngster he met at church and brought him along to adventure with them. Kaylee, still out with a healing broken leg, sent along her brother, Kel, a scout.

They all hiked off to the valley where the cultists have their complex.

Kel checked for traps and found none, so they headed in and past the massive doors.

The headed down the stairs, checking for traps as they went, and moved with their scout in the lead. He looked around the corner at the bottom of the stairs and saw, in the fringes of some torchlight ahead, a shield-toting cone-hatted cultist. He took careful aim . . . and the cultists ducked around the corner. (Carrying your own light source makes it impossible to sneak on targets looking your way, really.)

The PCs rushed up as they heard someone call out that they should sound the alarm. The reached an intersection and ran into an ambush by three cultists with crossbows - two left, one right. Belmek blocked one from the right but was hit from the left, and the bodkin point left a mark. Desmond put Missile Shield on Kel. Kel shot the cultists to the right, wounding him, but then moved left.

Belmek rushed left, backed by Kel, who followed while shooting. The two cultists dropped their crossbows and readied shields and swords. Belmek followed them, hurling an axe, but it his foe's half-ready shield. The two cultists fought Belmek and Kel, backed by Desmond and Durinn, and quickly cut them down.

Meanwhile, Sigur moved to the right. His foe was quite a ways down the hallway, so even at a full rush - Move 3 - it was taking a while to get to the cultist. His foe backed off slowly, and then eventually took off, leaving Sigur behind.

They PCs dragged the bodies off to the "barracks" and stripped them of coinage, crossbows, quarrels, quivers, and (cheap) swords. They moved on from there. Accompanied by a lot of squabbling over which way to go and how, they headed towards where they were ambushed last time. They eventually reached a door and forced it open, and found an empty small room. They carefully searched and tapped the walls but didn't find any secret doors.

They found and forced a second door open, and found the same. Again, a search found nothing. They noted that the cultists weren't really using the complex that thoroughly.

They passed the last ambush area, and went through an open door to a larger, roughly six-sided room. In the center of the floor was a 6' x 3' six-fingered hand print in black. They avoided that and forced open a door to the right . . . but then Sigur noted that doors that opened easily probably were used more often. They found one of the other doors was like that, and opened it. Someone suggested that the stuck doors were probably the way to go - Sigur again, I think - because those areas were less likely to be looted. Durinn surmised that the complex probably had loot the cultists didn't find, and that would likely be behind stuck doors.

All that said, they went through the easily-opened door. They moved along, mapping now, taking their time and forcing doors as they found them. Soon enough, though, they rushed forward into a hallway to a door . . . and took crossbow bolts from their left. Three cultists stood around on the fringes of a flickering circle of torchlight. Kel was narrowly missed by one bolt but two hit Sigur, causing a minor leg wound and a major body wound. He dropped, stunned and knocked down.

They rushed forward, led by Belmek. Kel and Desmond enaged with arrows and ice daggers, respectively. In short order, Belmek caught one of the cultists and cut him down. The others started to run. The party pursued, Belmek slowing as the cultists got away because he didn't want to go running off into the darkness alone. But then Kel caught up, and shot down the cultists one by one. The first was shot down fairly close to the fight encounter. The second was run down much further down a hallway.

They dragged the bodies back and took their crossbows, quivers, quarrels, and coins. One had mail, though, so they dragged him aside. They forced open a nearby door, hoping to find a place for Sigur to change into the cultist's superior suit of armor. They found stairs down. Desmond declared stairs a bad place to change, so they moved into a new area and forced another door open. They found a small room with a door on the far end. They just stayed there for the 10 minutes it took from someone to strip the cultist, Sigur to take his armor off, and then mail himself up from head to toe. Well, almost - he took the mail coif but didn't put it on, sticking with his segmented helmet, because of encumbrance. They left his old mix of mail and leather (Guard's armor from Delvers to Grow).

They headed downstairs. They made their way around some corridors, poking at the dead end they found in one, finding nothing. Eventually they reached a door and forced it open.

Beyond it was a junk-filled room with bits of more junk underfoot (I said, think of an attic - all hexes Bad Footing.) In it were a handful of hooded green-skinned humanoids with big crab claw left hands. Belmek threw his crowbar (and missed), fast-drew his axe, and ran in. (He didn't realize he was shieldless - I'm not sure why, since you can't reasonably force a door with a crowbar with a shield readied, not without a penalty he did not take.) Sigur followed.

The hooded figures were identified quickly by Sigur as demons - and Truly Evil! He moved to block the door. Belmek, however, was quickly surrounded and grappled. The Demon Grunts clamp down with their claw hand, hold on, and grind away. It took only a few moments for Belmek to be grappled by 3-4 of them and rendered helpless.

Sigur blocked the door, as Durinn put Protection from Evil 5 on him. He slashed at a demon and connected with the neck, inflicting a massive wound - which the demon largely ignored despite the splash of black-green ichor and torn flesh. It grappled at him and he defended. He slashed it another time, but then two managed to grapple him in quick succession. He cut the hand off of one that did so, as Desmond put Shield 5 on him. Sigur slashed another again, with help from Kel and Desmond (mostly Kel - see below) and it POOOFED! away in a cloud of greenish, sulphurous smoke. But another stepped up and critically hit him and grappled, rendering Sigur helpless.

Kel and Desmond supported from behind, each picking a demon and attacking it. Desmond threw Acid Ball after Acid Ball, hoping to kill the demons or wear down their DR with corrosion attacks. Kel shot another in the vitals over and over, or at least where vitals would be if it was a human (aka, -3 for a maybe.) It didn't seem bothered overly - they'd get hurt but not reach to the injuries. So he switched from his Cornucopia arrows to cutting arrows he'd brought along. They didn't provoke any better of a reaction, and his damage was insufficient to cripple an arm and his position behind Sigur made it impossible to target a grappling claw directly.

Durinn put Protection from Evil 5 on Belmek, who was being ground apart by the claws, which helped considerably. He also cast Lend Vitality and Stop Bleeding on him, too, to keep him up.

Sigur was helpless, so he decided to pray to the Good God to help free him. He has a 7, and rolled an 8. Nope. Meanwhile he was being badly mauled - his DR (4) plus his protection spell (5) adds up to a nice 9 DR, but the enemy would routinely exceeding that. He was making death checks.

Durinn prayed a moment later, asking for the Good God to free Sigur from the demons grappling him and also heal him if possible. He had an 8 and rolled an 8. One of the demons - the one with the most CP - let go. The other held one.

But that was enough for Sigur to cut down another demon, getting himself mostly free of grapples - only one is holding on for 9 or 10 CP. Durinn followed with a Great Healing spell, fully healing the horribly mauled Sigur to full HP.

We had to stop there for time - there are six of these demon grunts left. One missing a claw, another badly hurt, four more with no injuries at all. The PCs decided they need to gang up, but we didn't have real world time to resolve that.


- point totals will be approximate, now. More on that another day.

- So Douglas Cole played today, remotely. He blogged about it. I'll read that after this posts. He fits in well, but I knew we gamed well together because we've gamed together before.

- We just ruled it took 10 minutes to un-armor and re-armor. There are no guidelines handy for that in DFRPG, or elsewhere, really. Luckily Doug wears mail in real life and said that seemed reasonable. I'm pretty sure his guy spent 2 character points on the cash for his armor and then promptly replaced it with a foe's armor. It helped once against some bolts, though.

-Sigur had a tough time in some fights, running off the wrong way with Move 3 which didn't make it easy to get back into the fray. This is a dungeon which rewards mobility in the hallway fights. There are a lot of hallway fights.

- Amusingly after the big first fight, the alarm being raised, and then loud inter-player bickering as they moved along, someone said, "Let's move quietly to this door." Uhm, why?

- A VTT is very useful for lighting penalties. Since we go the lighting down, I haven't had to tell anyone to apply darkness penalties for shots. They just do it. Before? I could tell them every turn and they often forget them by the next person's action rolled around.

- Demon Grunts are a homebrew monster of mine based on an old mini. They're not clever or especially versitile but they're terrible foes if they get you with their claws and establish a lot of CP. Guess what? They did that. It's kind of ironic fun to inflict piles of Control Points on Doug's character. It's also interesting that the most common way to deal with CP are Spasm spells, killing the grappler, or cutting off the limb or extremity grappling the person. Attacking to reduce CP is a distant last place, only slightly ahead of - maybe tied with - just hoping the opponent lets go. Attacking to break free when already grappled, and then reducing CP, isn't easy, unless you put some real effort into improving your unarmed grappling skill . . . so I get it. Self-fulfilling prophecies are the most accurate in my experience.

- the fight will likely be a little less of a slog next time, as they PCs have hit on the novel tactic of piling damage on these foes one opponent at a time instead of trying to work individual targets down. Should work.

- Our change to Higher Purpose worked fine. +3 per die made Sigur much more effective.

- MVP was Ambassador Durinn for his healing spells and Protection from Evil spells.

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Felltower Pre-Summary

Game today!

- We didn't finish the session - it was late and a fight was running long. We'll pick up there next time.

- Five entered the Brotherhood Complex.

- Guards were found and slain.

- More guards were found and slain.

- Armor was changed.

- And demons were encountered on a deeper level . . . and are mauling the PCs even as the PCs maul them back.

- And surprise reveal! The new player is Doug Cole.

Session summary tomorrow.

Saturday, March 4, 2023

March Fourth Sales

There are a few March Fourth aka Gygax Day sales going on:

Warehouse 23 has a sale on GURPS, TFT, and other stuff.

Goodman Games has a sale and free stuff.

DriveThruRPG has a sale, too.

If anyone has others, put them in the comments and I'll link them here.

Friday, March 3, 2023

Random Thoughts & Links for 3/3/2023

A few quick notes for Friday:

- I stalled out on Pathfinder: Kingmaker as I just don't have any free time to do anything not writing or prepping for a work-related thing. I'll finish up my Team Evil game pretty soon. It's been amusing - I've executed a lot of people just because I could - but it's not been quite as fun as it could be. Some weird choices had to be made - I actually had to choose a Chaotic Good option to side with my evil undead buddy vs. her foes, a NG option to start a fight with a foe I needed dead . . . sometimes the game is a bit weird that way. I need a generic Lawful Evil "I'm the damn queen and you're in my domain and the law says opposing me is death" option. Heh. But that'll be for later in the month when I have time.

- I made some writing headway and then got socked with a surprise deadline on something else.

- I think we've settled on all of our DF Felltower rules changes, including how to implement the ones we're going with. Even down to the weapon talent - see Thursday's post.

- More Traveller adventuring!

- DF Felltower is Sunday. I'm excited for the New Player Reveal!

I did go ahead and tell my players but you guys have to wait.

Thursday, March 2, 2023

DF Felltower merged weapon skills

After a vote - where my favorite option lost! - we ended up merging weapon skills in DF Felltower.

Shortsword and Broadsword merge into one skill (Broadsword)
Staff, Spear, and Polearm merge into one skill (Polearm)
Kusari, Whip, and Flail merge into one skill (Flail)


Knife Throwing and Shuriken merge into Knife Throwing. Shuriken get a -1 to hit without a Perk (Shuriken Thrower) to remove it.

Otherwise unchanged.

This option will likely include 10-point weapon talents. These have not yet been defined. It's quite likely it'll basically be Master of Arms from Delvers to Grow, without the reaction bonus.

This will retroactively affect existing characters, who will have points in affected skills merged. Useless overages will be saved towards a new level, to avoid the usual "Can I buy a new skill with it?" annoyances.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Writing, writing, writing

Well, outlining, opining, and noting.

I spent a good chunk of time today doing those three things for a writing project.

So did my co-author on the project, and we came up with some cool stuff. We did a high-level look at some things, which naturally meant we got right into the nitty-gritty on things as creativity took us for a spin.

Fun stuff. I like to collaboratively work with a good co-author . . . it really does make 1 + 1 = 3 if you do it right.
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