Sunday, April 30, 2023

Brotherhood Complex pre-summary

After a long layoff, we played DF today.

- the crew headed into the Brotherhood Complex

- used magic to find some gold

- headed to the gold

- ran into gnolls, and had a big brawl with them

- sat around for 30 minutes after the big brawl and more gnolls came

- and we left it there, in a big brawl with the gnolls.

Full summary tomorrow.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

War in the East & operating vs. playing a game

I found the Three Moves Ahead podcast thanks to a link over at ACOUP. They mentioned "War in the East" so I found the episode where they discuss it.

Here is the link:

Three Moves Ahead: War in the East

One criticism of the game by the podcasters was that in a way you operate the game, rather than play it. In other words, much of what's going on in combat resolution is effectively a black box - it's hard to gauge the odds and the possible results. So you don't so much play the game as move the pieces around, try things, and see what happens. In other words, operate the interface.

I don't think that's entirely fair (or that my summation really does the argument justice.) But I can see where it comes from.

In a way, I like that about War in the East. It's resolving individual tank-on-tank attacks, company assaults, artillery bombing of units, and so on. You can turn the highest level of detail on and watch combat take place shot by shot (don't, it takes forever.) But you don't have to do it all. You can make an educated guess if you two Soviet infantry corps and two infantry divisions backed by front artillery is enough to prise a German division out of its fortifications behind a minor river . . . but you could save the game and play that fight out 10 times and get 10 different calculations of effective attack strength/results/etc. as random factors come into play.

And I like that. I like that it's not just some math-grinding of putting X units vs. Y units and getting Z effect 100% of the time. Or even 50% of the time. I like it when I put a single division a little too far forward and it gets mauled, or I put it forward and against all odds it holds out. The AI makes better guesses about what will work than I do, but that's fine - I make better decisions overall. I feel a lot more like STAVKA or O.K.H. when I order a front to attack, move it into place, and then sigh because they couldn't get the job done. Yet I still have enough control to feel like I'm making the good stuff happen - encirclements, reinforcing success and starving failure, implementing my own strategy and operational choices.

It was a good listen - especially on the pricing, actually. But this is what made me fire up WiTE while I was listening and play it. It's because I like the uncertainty and the level of decision making. Thought provoking stuff.

Friday, April 28, 2023

Random Links & Thoughts for 4/28/23

The usual roundup for the end of the week!

- This article on unpleasant history (and present) in games. I enjoyed reading the thoughts of the game designers. As someone who plays games with terrible things in them - murder, mass murder, theft, slave labor, evil of all sorts, etc. - I like to keep that stuff from being ignored and put aside. It might not affect what I do - I play to win as the Wehrmacht in War in the East, kill orcs for no reason other than wanting their stuff in DF, and so on - I like to play without justifying it in some way that sets aside what's really going on there. Acknowledge it but still enjoy the game that encompasses it.

- I received a playtester's copy of Matt Riggsby's new book, Merchants of Venice. I think my contribution, as it usually is, was making it sillier.

- New monster - a hooded hydra.

- I folded a new pudding type into my monster seeds for them.

- We'll try to game this Sunday. Let's see how that works out - generally, it hasn't, but we'll keep trying.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

More Monster Seeds: Puddings

Here are two monster seeds for puddings, as requested by an anonymous poster on my previous post.

A Prince of Puddings: Puddings are smart, but not too smart . . . usually. Rarely, a highly intelligent pudding leader will arise. Such a pudding may be responsible for the sudden appearance in very organized packs of puddings in the local swamps. Not just the occasional lost sheep or traveller, but whole patrols of well-armed soldiers have disappeared along the fringes of the swamps. The few survivors report puddings in packs. Could a green prince of puddings be behind them? The local government has put up a reward to encourage delvers to take care of this problem. Complications can include rival groups after the reward, druids who don't want the swamplife harmed, wizards seeking to capture the pudding, and all sorts of non-pudding swamp monsters.

Nothing is Pudding Proof: Puddings are mostly a wilderness or dungeon problem, but occasionally they get into urban environments. They're quick, they're sneaky, they're capable of squeezing into small places, and they're always hungry. A pudding loose in a big city, preying from the sewers on the most helpless of victims - drunks, crime victims, and the aged or young - could do a lot of damage before being found. A "bug hunt" in the city sewers for a canny pudding can be dangerous and exciting. Smugglers, guild thieves, secret societies, and others use the sewers for their own ends, and would rather have a pudding on the loose than delvers on the loose. Their opposition could be subtle and oblique or direct and violent - and the pudding won't take sides!

Prince of Puddings: As a usual pudding, but with IQ 8, Charisma 2 (Puddings only), and Leadership-12. It's not clear how they communicate with other puddings, but all other puddings immediately recognize them as superior beings and follow them willingly.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

More adventure seeds?

I'm a inspired to do a few more bonus adventure seeds for monsters that don't have them, in support of this quickie Kickstarter.

Which ones should I do? Dinomen? Electric Jelly? Golem-Armor Swordsmen? Slorn?

Let me know in the comments and I'll do a seed or two for the requests that tickly my imagination!

Monday, April 24, 2023

GURPS DFM Monster Seeds

Remember when we did a bunch of monster-centric adventure seeds for DFM1, when DFM2 was launched?

SJG is compiling them into a book. $1 in PDF, $5 in print. Ends in less than 3 days from now!

Pretty neat. I'd back it except as an author I'll get a copy anyway - re-use of materials, you see.

One seed they couldn't include - for space and for we-didn't-pay-for-it reasons, largely the first I'm sure - is this one. The Monster Seed to Rule them All - Draug Race!

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Felltower - the slow times

It's been a tough year for gaming. We play on Sundays, but we've had a paucity of days when we could get enough people for gaming.

The Felltower campaign is designed for a varied group size, so it's not like we need everyone to play. But we do need at least a few. Several days we've had all of three people available including the GM, and not for the whole time we usually have to play. A few days I haven't been available. The add in holidays, and blank out any Sunday immediately after another Sunday session . . . it's a recipe for relatively little actual play this year.

This coming Sunday is possible, but not assured yet. We'll keep trying, but the weekends have been bad for me too often this year and for many players as well. I'm not sure what a solution is - it's not like week nights are any better for anyone.

On the bright side - everything people have had custom made or special ordered will have come in. And broken arms healing in a month after Restoration or Regeneration is not a problem at all.

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Random links & thoughts for 4/22/23

Normally this is a Friday thing, but I was unexpectedly busy Friday and couldn't get to it.

- A4 is a tricky module. Here is some math applied to it to determine what exit you should most prep for. Full of spoilers, though.

Randon Walks in Dungeons of the Slave Lords

- Dropping "bombs" in D&D according to Bruce Heard.

- Next Felltower game is likely in a week. We'll see.

- After this, we're done playing this game, ever - ultimate campaigns, according to James M. Interesting. I felt this was about Pirates & Plunder, by Yaquinto Games, which had such an awesome introductory campaign that it very well could be the one and only thing you do. Maybe Star Frontiers, too, if you folowed through on the Second Sathar War and the adventures that come after it.

- the great Soviet push in War in the East for Bagration is going slowly. The German forces only look hollow. They can still fight. I'll make a post of it if I get a chance. Fun stuff. I really do like this game.

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Quick and Fuzzy thoughts on Fuzzy Turn Length

I often put up odd, untested rules ideas I've had here on this blog just to see the response - yours, and mine.

Bira at Octopus Carnival jumps on board with this approach!

"Two can play at that game!"
- Detective Frank Drebin, as he grabs his own hostage

Fuzzy turn length. Changing the GURPS turn length. It's not a new idea, but it's a thought provoking one as it deals with issues such as Time Spent and not simply multiplying turn length. It's roughly 5-10 seconds, ish, so you can pretty much get in a big action and then move on, or get in a long action given a few turns.

One thing the post says, though, is
These changes make characters such as archers and wizards more powerful in combat, since the number of things they can do over a given amount of turns has increased, while melee-focused character can still take more or less the same number of actions. Note that I have not tested how these changes interact with the magic system, so I can’t measure how much of an impact it’s going to have on spellcasters.

I've played quite a bit with the spell system, and my feeling is you would see the following:

- less concern with getting the breakpoints for speeding up spells. Who cares if Great Haste takes 3 seconds if you can cast it in one turn anyway?

- Missile spells should be unchanged, since for every one turn's worth of sword swipes a wizard gets to build up 1-6d worth of energy into a spell. The balance in unchanged.

- Thanks to sped up casting times, breadth of useful attack spells should be larger.

- Thanks to sped up casting times, people will try to cast Zombie in combat.

- Buff spells will end much more quickly, since their duration is in seconds and minutes, not turns. Changing this to "turns" might restore this balance, but then equally it means you're leaving wizards with second-by-second efficiency but taking it away from others. Some spells will be so short as to be useless (Great Haste), and might need tweaking just to prevent them from being fuzzed out of existance.

- Energy recover will actually occur at a fast enough rate to matter in fights - more so at "10 seconds" than "5 seconds," but it's either +1 FP every 12 turns or 24 turns with Recover Energy-20.

I think it would be interesting to try, but the default magic system is so tightly tied to seconds - and player expectations about spell utility to duration and time to cast - that it might need tweaking in play even as you playtest it.

Still interesting.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Video Game Notes

I've been a bit busy, but I have done a wee bit of video gaming.

I'm still stalled on my two Pathfinder: Kingmaker playthroughs. It's fine - I didn't burn out on it so much as get distracted by other things to do. I'm happy to have two well-along games to play when I'm ready.

I've been slowing playing City of Gangsters. It's a lot of fun, but it does require a lot of micro-managing. I'd really enjoy something a little less detailed. I like the problems with expansion, bribing cops, dealing with rivals, etc. and I dislike having to zip around trying to make sure my beer gets sold and my hops get bought. You can automate that, but it's hard for me to get a good organized distribution path going. Good material, a little too much administration.

War in the East - I've fired up War in the East again. I was reading about WiTE2, but it's still $80 and I'm not sure I have enough free time to justify spending that. So I've been surfing aroun scenarios to find one to play. I think I've settled on Operation Bagration, as the Soviets first. This was the destruction of Army Group Center in August 1944. It's only 9 turns, but it's fairly expansive and involves a lot of units. I think I can play a turn or so every few days, so 9 turns is plenty to keep me wargaming for a few weeks.

I have nothing like the time to play through Planescape again, or finally play Numenera. Those remain somedays.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Castle of the Mad Archmage

Well, it's been like 9 years or something, so I suspect we're not going to play the B-Team in Castle of the Mad Archmage. So I went out and bought a copy.

It's a fun read, honestly. I recommend reading dungeons you've played through. I went and found the rhino I disbelieved in, a pit trap I fell down, a band of skeleton musicians we killed, and more. It's a fun little tour of the GM's side of the screen.

Overall, the dungeon is pretty old school funhouse, but with enough logic and sense to make it work. Much like Felltower, honestly - if you have a sufficiently thick layer of logical stuff on top for people to figure out, they'll put up with the occasional weird nonsense that is fun.

I'm pleased with the purchase and the readthrough. I won't run it - it's hard enough for me to make game time for Felltower - but I'm glad I got a physical copy on deep discount.

Monday, April 17, 2023

Big Minis sale @ Black Tree Design

I'm unable to expand my minis collection but this is where I got my daleks, my entlings, my naga, my golems, and lots of my orcs. Nice sale - 10% off on any items on the sale, 20% off larger orders.

EOE Orbis Weekly Sale

Sunday, April 16, 2023

No Game

Due to weather wiping out flights, kids sports, and GM committments we had to cancel game today.

Friday, April 14, 2023

Links for 4/14/2023

I'm away but I queued up some cool minis and rules posts!

- Minis battle - Elves vs. Hollywood Arabs.

- Adventures in undefined terms of art - an early D&D special feature. In this case, Concentration.

- Amazing Judge Dredd gangs - Barbarellas, Fatties, and the Squid Squad.

Bye for now!

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

AFK for a few days

I will be away from my PC for a few days - I'll be back to updating the blog by Sunday at the latest.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

DF Felltower/Brotherhood Complex: How many bites at the apple?

No gaming stuff done today, except to confirm that - after a hiatus of a few weeks thanks to scheduling issues - we are playing DF Felltower on Sunday. I expect another delve into the Brotherhood Complex.

The team will take another bite at the apple. Many of the denizens of this particular place are intelligent and organized. So how many delves do the PCs have before those they haven't slain or defeated or robbed take what they have and split?

The PCs don't know. I know the center of gravity of everything in the dungeon, but they do not. I'm curious how much they think they've figured out. It's been light on clues since the earliest delves there . . . and I'm not sure what they think. But productive delves aren't unlimited even given the low amount of loot needed. And Sunday looks like it might have be a thinner session in terms of PCs and time. What will they do next? Perhaps retrace their steps and then try to continue on . . . or will they try another part of the complex? Let's find out together on Sunday.

Monday, April 10, 2023

Important note on +2 Staves for GURPS Magic

Important addendum on my post about swapping the penalty-reduction of staves to a bonus.

GURPS Magic: Staves as bonuses instead of penalty negators

As I noted in the comments, "This is +2 to effective skill, not to the skill level of the spell. You'd need still need a base skill level of 15 to get a -1 to energy costs, or a 20 for a -2 and half casting time, and so on."

I figured this would come up from one of my players, but it's worth noting outright. This is an effective skill bonus for using a tool, not a flat bonus to magical base skill. Only base skill matters for Magic Rituals, GURPS Magic, p. 8-9.

Sunday, April 9, 2023

The religious imagery of the Church of the Good God in Felltower

The Church of the Good God (slogan: Good god, y'all!) is the monotheistic church that all PC clerics belong to in the Felltower campaign. It's clearly based on Christianity, especially pre-schism Catholicism, yet lacks much of the social history of the actual church.

Yet it does keep a lot of the imagery from the real world, but changed to suit a ridiculous pastiche world. Anything anyone finds offensive here is probably because I thought it was the funniest way to have a monotheistic church will real-world trappings without real-world meaning.

The Cross - the main symbol of the church is the crucifix. It depicts the cross upon which evil is made to suffer its true rewards! It has great power, if blessed and held in the hands of a holy person with True Faith (Turning). Evil beings really don't love this whole idea of being bound to wood and left in the sun. Vampires especially have issues with that.

The Book - the next big symbol is the Holy Book. The Holy Book contains all that is holy. It contains all of the teachings and wisdom of the Good God and all of His Saints and so on. Some of the teaching and wisdom seems pretty direct, but much of it is couched in words open to interpretation. It's big, it's mighty, it's weighty, and you wouldn't want to get smacked with it. Smacking things with it comes up occasionally in stories held within the Holy Book, and for people who interpret it in ways the various clergy find incorrect. Such stories (and realities) don't end well for the smacked. "Smack" is generally pronounced and spelled "Smite" in the book. So it goes.

The Orb - the last big symbol is a cross-topped orb. These haven't come up much in play, if at all, so I only know they exist but I haven't settled on what it means yet. Probably something about how the Good God Holds the Whole World In His Hands.

That's the symbology, so far.

Saturday, April 8, 2023

Friday, April 7, 2023

Friday Random Links & Thoughts 4/7/2023

The usual roundup for a Friday.

- My cousin distracted me with a book series, damn him. The First Law books by Joe Abercrombie. Good stuff. People say I like gritty fantasy books. But it's more that I like fantasy books with adult characters with adult problems and adult responses. No offense to every young kid waiting to be whisked off by a wizard on a mysterious quest to save the world, but I'm not interested. The audience for a lot of those books are young kids, anyway, and I haven't been one for a while. I'd rather have flawed adults to read about. Not as much flawless heroes, or heroes with flaws that somehow always work in their favor. That kind of stuff. But with magic, and occasionally spaceships - although with sci-fi I'm even pickier.

Anyway so I'm reading them quickly so I haven't been doing gaming stuff as much.

- I read this post about XP and Murder Hobos of Athony Huso's with interest. I disagree with a bit, here - and I think the plain language of the DMG quote on treasure agrees with me on why that gem should count for XP - but I do like the thoughtful approach to the game as a whole. I tinkered a lot with my XP rules until we found ones that drive the game the way we want it driven. And which drive the choices I want made.

- A friend of mine is doing some nutrition coaching with me, to accomplish a difficult challenge*, and we got to dicussing the psychology of success and failure. To quote him, "When we discuss a plan, you execute. And I mean flawlessly. No one does that. Why is that?"

Ultimately it comes down to knowing my actual emotional need to succeed at it. I know why the goal is important, rationally. I know why executing the plan is important to me emotionally. But it's not the first that matters. I know why learning to be a good manager or learning to fly a helicopter or jumping on a 40" box again would be important, too, rationally, but emotionally they don't matter to me. I know what matters to me emotionally. I bring this up here because I think that's a hugely important hook to have for a PC or NPC. If you know what really drives that person - he's still trying to show his dad he's a real man, she's insecure about her wizardry, etc. That's a useful hook. It's why "I'll show my former colleagues at the University - they called me mad!" is a cliche but works. You know what someone will sacrifice if you know what their emotional need to succeed is.

Sorry if this seems like a humble brag of some kind. It's not meant to be. I wrote this and almost didn't post it because it can sound like it that way, since there is some praise in that question. But it's just a great way to think about characters and their character. It's why the card-based system of personality for Twilight:2000 was sooooo good. It was just two cards, telling you the two whys that drove that NPC.

- James Mal is doing a whole series on Gamma World. Start here.
I love Gamma World, and you can see by the number of posts using that post label tag.

* Basically to cut body fat while retaining muscle while not sacrificing my endurance and strength on the mat or while striking. I'd tried before but it's tricky to know what to do next once the current plan needs revision. Yes, even though I do it for other people professional. Coaches need coaches.

Thursday, April 6, 2023

GURPS Magic: Staves as bonuses instead of penalty negators

A Staff in GURPS Magic eliminates 1 yard of range penalties for every yard of length. So you can wave -2 of penalties with a staff, -1 with a wand or short staff.

What if it provided a bonus instead? +2 for a full sized staff. +1 for a wand or short staff. And that's it. A flat +1 or +2 for using a magical tool.

I think this would make things a little easier. Instead of extending reach, you just get a flat bonus. It would encourage a full sized staff instead of a shield and a short staff. The cost probably should be more like $20/point to enchant. $40 for a staff with Staff on it is a little low for a +2. $610 is more like it. But it would be worth it.

Just a thought, I haven't tried this at all.

Note, this is +2 effective skill, not base skill. See here.

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Quick writing update

Not a lot to blog today. The only gaming thing I really did today was some sample writing to show what I'm thinking. I'm not even sure what I wrote will be final product material.

Still, it's fun to tool around with GURPS stuff and see what comes out.

Tuesday, April 4, 2023


Phil Reed will be stepping down as CEO of SJG:

A New CEO For SJ Games

We'll see how this goes, but reports say she's played and liked GURPS, so that probably can't hurt.

Monday, April 3, 2023

GURPS DF Character - by build, by equipment, or by personality?

I posted this reply to a comment on my weapon skills post:

I think the issue is that a lot of players seem to define their characters by what they wield, not by their personality. They don't say, "I'm going to make a curious and friendly knight" or "a swashbuckler who is always making ridiculous boasts and then tries to back them up," they say, "I'm making an axe-and-shield knight" or "I'm making a longsword swashbuckler with heavy armor." The curious and friendly knight could wield anything, and the boastful swashbuckler any sword, but the others are locked to their choices. Opening up the skill options probably seems like it's threatening character design more than expanding your options.
I think this is a thing that's crept along the longer I've played the game. More and more, the default character description I get is not of a personality, but an equipment set. DF lends itself to this, of course. Characters are more disposable, especially given the graveyard listing length for the campaign I run.

As I say above, I think this is one reason for "many skills" winning out over "very small list of broad skills" in our campaign skills change. If you define yourself by your weapon set, then flexibility in the weapon set isn't a useful thing. It's actually threatening your concept, in a way. And generally I hear about a new character by their stuff first, a build next ("he's an elf and will take the Wizard lens" or "she's gunning for Mountain of Meat and 50 HP"), and personality last.

I'm not saying this is bad, or reversed, although I generally go personality first, build second, equipment last . . . but not always. I may have an image of a full-armored knight with a flail and then build out from there. My conjecture, though, is that the rules set of GURPS DF, with the skill mix from Basic Set, helps encourage a focus on the gear and the build ahead of the personality.

All that said, it's the personality, not the weapons and build, that make all of the memorable delvers in DF Felltower memorable. Vryce, the practical mercenenary, who wouldn't kill fallen foes or run into battle. Ulf the increasingly paranoiad and cautious cleric. Dumb, dumb, dumb Aldwyn. Bruce, who'd sooner tear you apart bare-handed than use a weapon, and who was totally blase about battle. Hasdrubel, the ruthless and quick-tongued wizard. Dryst with his big helmet and his servants - some summoned, some PCs. It wasn't the loadout for any of them. So it's not like "I'm going to run a heavy armor knight with a two-handed sword" is limiting. But I do think the skill layout drives some designs, and thus changing the skill layout to a smaller set can see like too many choices - a blank canvas instead of a menu of choices.

Just a thought.

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Brotherhood Complex . . . restocking note

No big notes today - just some writing got done. Not enough to send along . . . but more work on my project. More tomorrow, I hope.

I haven't had much chance to restock/reinforce the Brotherhood Complex for Felltower . . . but I'll get to that tomorrow, based on our next game date. There is a reason the inhabitants stay there, but it's not unlimited. At some point, the place will go quiet and empty out, especially in the face of continued assaults. We'll see if the PCs can gain the loot they hope for, and suss out the connection to Felltower itself, before then.

Saturday, April 1, 2023

Ruby Rohd of Dismissal

Here is a proposed magic item from our Felltower game, from back when Ulf was still alive and had Dismissive Wave.

Ruby Rohd of Dismissal

Physically, this is a handsome ebony rohd with leopard-skin wrapped handle topped with a golden sphere. When waved about, it makes a "bzzzzzz!" noise of disgust and dismissal. This allows the wielder to cast Banish-20, or gives a +3 to their own Banish casting, whichever is better. It also adds +3 to Exorcism attempts. If the wielder also has Voice and/or Charisma, these also add +2 and +1 per level, respectively, to either roll.

Origin: Cosmic, er, Comic, either way.
Price: $100,000 or 1 multi-pass.

I blame andi jones for this.
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