Wednesday, May 31, 2023

DCC Lankhmar Bundle of Holding

I purchased and enjoyed the DCC Lankhmar boxed set. I really need to review it. But it's now available in PDF form in a Bundle of Holding:

DCC Lanhkmar Bundle of Holding

I'm going to pass because I don't need the supplements - I simply won't use them for lack of time to do so - but they are a nice package if you want to jump into DCC-versioned Fafhrd & the Grey Mouser adventures in one fell swoop.

There is also a "Thieves" collection up, but it doesn't seem like quite as good of a deal to me.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Update: KS Status

As of the time I write this, Doug's KS is still not funded, with 10 days to go.

It's not far off - 270 backers, $9486. Needs $13,000. Another 100 backers at Print + PDF would add $4000 and we'd be over the line. So please share the project and give it a boost. I'd really like access to more magic items not made by me, to add to DF Felltower, so the PCs can recover them and then lose them in a TPK fighting eye monsters or gnolls and cultists or norkers or what have you. Help me lure more PCs to their dooooooooom!

Monday, May 29, 2023

What DF guy would I run?

Since we're considering Vic running some game sessions, I've started to think about what kind of guy I'd run.

My tastes tend towards vanilla human fighter types. Hammers in a world of things that need hammering. I've very direct and while I prefer non-violent solutions to problems, if I resort to violence I want to be assured I've brought the most to the fight.

I tend to shy away from complex builds. So clerics, druids, and wizards, while I like them, are probably not what I want to run.

I'm leaning one of two ways:


Martial Artist

The scout would still bring a lot of violence to the table, but it would let me hang back from the front line a bit. That could be an interesting way to play. Plus I don't fear the Galen factor - my guy won't ever have to play second fiddle to Galen.

The martial artist would be interesting because of the special abilities - Light Walk, Body Control, powers like Spider Climb and Uninterrupted Fury* . . . seems like it could be a lot of fun.

I'm leaning towards a scout. Likely human, although, if we're using DF Felltower races, an elf or half-orc could be a productive character. I'll have to noodle around and figure out what I want to run. Sadly, my PC doesn't seem to want to play nice with GCA4 anymore, and I'm not fluent in GCA5 yet, so I might just - gasp! - do it on paper.

* Which, in DF Felltower, will run as normal even with the changes to Great Haste.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Wither Felltower?

Most of the PCs available to play in Felltower and the Brotherhood Complex are dead. The most recent guys are largely burned to cinders, acid'd to jelly, and the remainder eaten by gnolls.

We've got a handful of guys - Galen and Low-Key, run by the same guy, Kel, run by Kaylee's player, and Belmek. That's about it for currently participating players.

So what next?

Vic and I have been discussing some options. One of them is a side campaign, run by Vic, which may have a connection to Felltower. Essentially he'd run a campaign for new PCs, and we'd port them over to Felltower via a gate and go from there. Or just set it in some corner of the same world and have them come to Felltower. PCs would need to be compatible with Felltower during the switchover. There is a lot of work to do on something like this, but it would give me a chance to play, give the PCs a chance to level up a bit, and might be a good change of pace. More on this if we choose to do it.

Another is an entirely unrelated campaign until I have the spare time to get Felltower ready, and for the dungeon to have lain fallow long enough to plausibly gotten some monsters and treasures back. We could alternate over to the other game whenever it's a better match for our player mix and my busy-ness level.

The first is more likely at the moment. But we're considering them both.

And for Memorial Day, I've updated the graveyard. RIP guys.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Friday, May 26, 2023

Random Thoughts & Links for 5/26/2023

Random stuff for a Friday.

- I'm going to be randomly crushingly busy for a month or so. I should keep up a reasonable posting frequency, but I may miss a day here or there with no warning. Aside from this warning.

- Zenopus Archives has an excellent look at Russ Nicholson's artwork.

- Grognardia talks Space: 1889. I love this setting, and I'd happily run a game in it.

I had a lot of Space:1889 minis, actually, but I think I sold off those boxed sets when I realized I'd probably never get to play a game with them.

- Spelljammer happened after I stopped playing AD&D, but I'll admit it is an interesting idea. Here is a look at the tactical considerations that the setting brings up.

- I backed Doug's Kickstarter.

I went print and PDF, even though I really only need PDF. I like to browse magic items and monsters in print even if I don't need to do so.

- Still playing Planescape: Tormemt (Enhanced Edition). Still fun. Still evil. I'm choosing most of the wreck the world options when given them, but basically I just get evil by asking to get paid to do things and talking about chaos. I get the talking thing - it's Planescape, and belief shapes reality - but being mercenary and greedy doesn't seem that evil. At least there is no squick factor here!

- Dreams in the Lichhouse is posting again. His Black City campaign was awesome, so let's see how his Greyhawk game goes.

Thursday, May 25, 2023


Take this as you will.

Thanks to Doug to pointing this out to me. The interview is fine overall, and I played and liked Groo (they talk about it a bit) before I sold it for a lot on eBay. But that's obviously not what perked my ears up.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

My GURPS Module / Foundry Wish List

I'm going to use this post to keep track of the things I see in Foundry with the GURPS modules that I'd like to be able to fix.

- Currently, any status markers float on top of the hex, not on top of the token. If you put two tokens in one hex or square, all status markers show on top. So a healthy, dangerous foe standing over his fallen, stunned, disarmed, and reeling buddy appear for all the world to be a single fallen, stunned, disarmed, and reeling foe.

This means it's hard for anyone to tell who or what is in front of them. It's weirdly reverse situational blindness, where the one thing you don't know is if the guy in front of you is up or down, armed or unarmed, a threat or a footing issue.

Status markers need to stick to the token, and a token on top should obscure the status of the token(s) underneath.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Monday, May 22, 2023

Usual Monday game notes

Here are a few more notes on our game session yesterday.

- The gnolls were somewhat tough, between fodder and worthy. In my parlance, they were "tough fodder." Their offensive was potentially potent, as they're strong, and they have a solid amount of HP and a typical HT score for a combatant foe (11-13.) They weren't skilled, but their shields helped them reach defenses that were above the typical fodder mark of 10 or less. Overall, they'd take a few blows to put down, but not too many, and they couldn't deal with PCs one-on-one.

Of course, there were a lot of them. More than a dozen is a lot, especially for a group of five. They didn't have great morale, except when they were winning. Even then, they were too chaotic and disorganized to press the attack properly. Without the wizards, they have been toast.

But then the wizards came.

- Doug put it the best. The PCs forted up when they needed to move out. They boxed themselves into a known dead end, in an occupied complex, after intelligent foes had escaped them. They stayed there a good 10-15 minutes or so.

The reliance of PCs on post-fight healing and rest - or let's say the expectation of post-fight healing and rest - has doomed a few parties now. "It's okay, monsters will show up and we'll kill and loot them" has been voiced a few times. This generally doesn't work out. I understand the drive. After a solid fight, you might have a few people who need to rest to recover from crippling injuries from critical failures, or your wizard or cleric might be down to a handful of FP, and you might have injuries to your fighters. But rest time is not guaranteed to be uninterupted. It's rarely a good time to rest, right after a big fight.

Still, the siren call of loot - "there must be some hidden here" - and healing - "we need to heal and recover FP" - means people take that risk very often. Most of the time, it works out okay. The times it doesn't are not always fatal . . . but this time they were. No one voiced a, "what else besides gnolls might come?" on this one. All I heard was concern about getting the line overrun by slams and dealing with gnolls in close combat. Those were legitmate concerns. But so was the idea that they'd have some ranged foes, too, and not ones you could ignore thanks to shields and Missile Shield.

- Those missile spells the cultist wizards threw cost a lot - 9d = 18 FP. Even with my generous per-second skill deduction a skill-15 guy needs 15 FP to throw one. It's why the next ones were still big, but noticeably smaller - 6d is only 12, or 9 FP for skill-15. 24 FP! It's not likely there was much, if anything, left in the tank after that. But it worked out - a PC line in a small hallway, tightly packed to ensure they can't be flanked or outnumbered, is a perfect target for explosive spells.

- Modified Great Haste seemed pretty good. It needs some notes on Ready and Change Position. It's still not smooth. Smoother might just be saying you get two of the same Maneuver in a row, but I do like the defensive bonus and reduced attacks (+1 attack instead of two turns worth of attacks from guys who might generate 3-5 attacks already.) It was hard to get used to at first, but I did like how it worked overall.

- Where next?

Up to the players. Their next crew can go for the complex again, or they can go for Felltower. It's been quite a while and Felltower will have some lesser things in the upper levels again. But I'm lacking the time for a new location so it's that.

Or we can take a slight detour from Felltower for a bit and play something else, but that'll take some consideration and agreement across the board.

DF on hard mode rolls on.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Session 184, Brotherhood Complex 5 - Gnolls (Part II)

We played DF Felltower today, picking up from last time. For a player's look at the session, check Doug's blog.

Real Date: 5/21/2023
Game Date: 5/4/2023

Ambassador Durinn, dwarf cleric (~265 points)
Desmond MacDougall, human wizard (~290 points)
Kaylee Blackwall, half-elf knight (~270 points)
Lenjamin Gundry, human knight (~250 points)
Sigur Hondguthann, human holy warrior (250 points)

We picked up where we left off, in mid-battle. The PCs were in a line, facing a number of gnolls. Their backs were to a corridor and a room they'd walled off on either side with magically created earth walls.

Both sides tried to out-wait the other, with the gnolls unwilling to risk Kaylee's superior reach and the PCs unwilling to advance out of their line. Once the PCs decided to push forward, the engagement kicked back off. Sigur moved forward and attacked, and this provoked a general engagement. The PCs put down a few gnolls with leg hits, and the gnolls tried and failed to harm anyone. Two critically failed blocks and had unready shields, but quickly went down after that.

Desmond put Great Haste on himself and then on Kaylee. The gnolls still hanging back began to bark and yip out some kind of sentences. No one could understand them, but the gnolls in back moved to one side and the leg-wounded gnolls began to desperately crawl away from the PCs. One foolhardy gnoll rushed the PCs but was quickly put hors de combat.

But even as the PCs began to push foward, they saw new foes - cone-hatted cultists with staves.

The cultists turned out to be wizards. One threw a 9d Explosive Acid Ball into the group, aiming at and hitting Sigur. Sigur blocked it . . . but the 24-ish corrosion damage demolished his shield. He effectively blocked Kaylee, Desmond, and Durinn from damage, but Lenny took a fair bit and his back armor was corroded down. A moment later, another wizard threw a 9d Explosive Fireball into the group, while chiding his fellow, "Lob it!" He missed by 1 and the fireball landed next to Sigur instead of in his hex. It did 31 burning damage, which even at the most distance ring of damage was enough to set everyone on fire and badly wound most of them. The combo killed some wounded gnolls, and set a few on fire. The gnolls yowled with complaint but their allies didn't care.

Durinn passed out on his turn from the damage. Desmond, scorched by fire, managed to use Create Water twice to douse Durinn and himself. Kayle and Lenny and Sigur just fought while on fire. A gnoll, crazed by the flames engulfing him, ran into the PCs. Sigur turned and rushed him, leaving his back to the wizards. He savagely wounded the gnoll in the head with his axe, but it didn't fall right away (it would, seconds later.)

But the gnolls didn't advance, and the wizards in the back joked with each other and jostled for room. One threw a Stone Missile at Sigur and hit him in the back, wounding him badly - and he failed a death check by 1 and fell, mortally wounded. Another threw a Ice Dagger at Lenny and punched a hole in his shield but didn't manage to hurt him.

The gnolls back off, some anyway, while others tried to fight as Kaylee moved up and stabbed one repeatedly in the vitals, wounding him badly. Kaylee put Might on herself. But the next turn the wizards threw more spells - the first a 6d Lightning spell that Kaylee dodged, but the cultist rolled a 4 on his 9 or less to hit Desmond, who was exposed as Kaylee dodged. Desmond was wounded and badly stunned. Desmond had decided to make a 4d Explosive Acid Ball himself, but made his Will roll to hold it even when wounded and stunned. Then came another Explosive Acid Ball, this time 6d, landed in the group and fatally wounded a couple more PCs. Finally another 6d Explosive Fireball arrived, aimed the clip the wall near Kaylee (since a gnoll blocked the better view) and it lit up a few more gnolls and finished off Desmond, mortally wounding him.

Kaylee considered surrendering, but it was no use - she passed out before she could.

All dead or unconscious before some angry, man-eating gnolls, especially ones who couldn't retaliate against their wizard "allies" who killed a few of them in the process of "helping" them, there was no chance of any prisoners being taken.


Well, that ended poorly. I hoped the players would figure out a tactical solution and could find a way to fight their way out . . . but I pretty much expected this. Last session, the PCs made a big unwise decision, followed by a good tactical decision that made less sense when the situation changed. The big one was staying in place after the big fight last time - this allowed the gnolls to get reinforcements, and their noisy attempts at revenge alerted the cultist wizards. The smart decision to block off their flanks with Create Earth forced the gnolls to either stay put while Desmond harmed them with magic, or rush the blades of the PCs in at best equal numbers and get chopped to burger. The ruthless allies of the gnolls made that choice less helpful - they couldn't run. Couple that an uncertainty of how to deal with the oncoming wizards, the enthusiam for those wizards to open up with the best shots they had, and some high damage rolls made for a short end of the battle.

MVP was Kaylee's player for being the last one standing and pulling off a Might spell with only a 10. It should have been Doug for the name of his blog entry. Screw it, I'll give him a point for that, because it's awful and I didn't think of it first.

Not sure what's next, but we'll play something in a couple of weeks. The death toll continues to mount in "DF on Hard Mode."

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Game Tomorrow

The number of sessions we've played in the past year is downright depressing. It's been a grand total of 6 sessions, and the last one was last month. We're pacing only slightly more than 1x per month. Our actual goal is close to 20-24x per year pace as a goal . . . it's not good.

But we will play tomorow. Huzzah!

Friday, May 19, 2023

Random Links & Thoughts for 5/19/2023

Busy week, but not for gaming. Still, stuff done:

- Played a lot of Planescape: Torment. Still enjoying the enchanced edition of the game. It shows its age, but it's still a great game. I finally got to level 8, shortly after I finally lied enough to get to Chaotic Evil from Chaotic Neutral. I did a couple of nice things that I felt were pretty useful for me to do, but hey, even the worst incarnation of The Nameless One should have something going for him.

- Did a tiny bit of game prep. We're mostly good for Sunday, so I dind't need to do a lot.

- Did a bit of outline revision and writing for a project and ideas for another.

- Tells - Descriptions - for magic items based on what they do.

- Eye monster minis - gazers and spectator.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

DF Magic Item: Woundlicker

Back in 2013, I was playing in my second session of the Swords & Wizardry B-Team with Erik Tenkar. My PC, Mirado, got his two signature weapons - an ogre's head (used as a flail) and a sword called Woundlicker.

Here is the whole S&W description: Woundlicker, a +1 longsword that vampires 1 HP per strike, but sucks out 1 HP on a 1.

How would I make that for GURPS DF?


A fine longsword of no special appearance. Woundlicker is enchanted with Accuracy 1, Puissance 1, and a variant of Steal Vitality. On a hit that successfully deals at least 3 HP of cutting injury, the sword "drinks" the shed blood of the target and gives 1 HP back to the wielder. This can heal wounds; if the wielder is unwounded this effect is wasted. However, on any critical miss, Woundlicker drinks 1 HP and 1 FP from the wielder - this ignores all DR and resistances. Targets with No Blood provide no healing to the wielder; wielders with No Blood instead lose only 1 FP.

This is quite powerful, and it's an easy tool to heal yourself up. You can limit this to a single strike per target healing the wielder, or raise the required damage inflicted. A variant would be Deathdrinker, which heals the wielder 1 HP of injury for every victim personally slain, No Blood or not.

I'd probably allow this. No, M.L., it's not out there for your longsword fighters to find. Not yet, anyway.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Russ Nicholson

I've seen some posts online saying that we lost Russ Nicholson, who illustrated Fiend Folio, amongst many other works.

I assume this to be true but I hope it is not. I love Russ's work. Here is his blog, if you want to look through a lot of it:

The Gallery: The Art of Russ Nicholson

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Planescape: Torment - playthrough update

I am still tooling around in Planescape: Torment.

I'm a 6th level fighter but I picked up level 1 in mage and I think level 2 or 3 in thief. I can only do one thing at a time, so I'm concentrating on fighter until I hit level 9, then I'll sweep through mage and thief for a bit to get some extra HP for the levels, then turn back to fighter in all likelihood.

I'm heading toward evil. Right now, I'm CN, but I keep doing evil stuff. It's mostly petty stuff - demanding payment for favors, lying about my name or when I make promises, and so on. Sometimes I feel bad when I choose those options, since they're basically "bad person" traits and not "servant of darkness" traits. But still. I walk around as if I have a "What would Flashman do?" Basically, I act like a ruthless cad.

Torment is interesting in that it's the rare game where I'll cheerfully have people do horrible stuff to me, or do it myself - dig around in my body, tear my own eye out, let someone chew on me (I'll regenerate!). And where I'll cheerfully equip cursed items because they're pretty good and I can get them removed when I find better. Evil claw-hands you can't take off? Equip them! They're better than my magic dagger!

More recent games have done well with giving you better roleplaying options, and deep roleplaying choices. Torment isn't that deep, really, but it has a hell of a story - you don't remember your past and have to find out, with people who have reasons not to give you the full answer. And oh boy, are they right to feel that way. And plenty of choices about how you go about it, even if the plot itself is on rails. They're good rails. It's like Murder on the Orient Express. It's going from A to B to C, wether you like it or not, but there isn't anything off the rails that is more fun. And how do you argue that your Nameless One protogonist would just abandon a search to find out who he is and why he doesn't die? Someone like that isn't going to say, screw this, I'm going to open a tavern.

Fun stuff.

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Planescape: Torment

I played a bit more of Planescape: Torment (Enhanced Edition) today.

I'm flying through it. I've played it several times before - twice completely, as I recall. The first time, Neutral. The second time, Lawful Good. This time, I'm shooting for Chaotic Evil.

It's a fun game. Death isn't a big deal. It's a weird conceit of the game, that you're an immortal who forgets much when he dies. Or at least sometimes. If you die during the game, you just wake up better, in a mortuary (The Mortuary, HQ of the Dustmen faction.) It clearly takes something other than getting knifed by a thug or having talked back to a wandering devil (er, fiend? It's 2nd edition AD&D) to lose your memory. So you can use death as a tool in the game. I do, so I play aggressively and fearlessly.

I'm like level 6 now, as a fighter - you can dual-class to a thief or mage, and have to pick one to play as in true AD&D fashion. I've put everything I've gained in attributes to Wisdom, because it gives an XP bonus. No reason not to get to Wisdom 25 (!) by level 10, and then I'll fill in STR and CON after that for those end-game battles.

I've forgotten some of the game details - weird characters to talk to, mostly - but I remember most of it. I know the endgame well, and the story well, so this should be pretty quick to play through. It's handy to have something to play though that doesn't take too much thought but is a lot of fun. The Planescape setting is really cool, only marred for me with all of the lingo embedded in the setting books.

It's not the most fun game to be evil in, though - most of the time, it's just being mean and lying when truth might serve better. But what the heck, no reason to play the game the way I played it before. Maybe I don't end up in the _____ ___ like I did with G and N, right? Eh, I probably do.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Planescape: Torment (again)

Very busy day today, so I had basically no time to get anything gaming-related in.

Literally all I did was read one project email, mark it unread so I can reply when I have time, and then go on to other things.

The reason I'm posting at all is because I did a little chargen for Planescape: Torment - Enhanced Edition.

My Nameless one will have:

STR 15
INT 16
WIS 17

Basically, +6 to strength, +7 to intelligence, and +8 to wisdom. I used this walkthrough to pick my stats. I've played the game twice before, and usually I'm more STR and CON. This time I wanted to maximize my conversation options. I'm still deciding if I want to be good - I've done the LG route - or evil. We'll see. I've never played evil as the Nameless One before.

Some notes on the Enhanced edition:

- it's a little faster. Hurrah!

- you can crank up the font size! Hurrah!

- the screen is damn tiny on my laptop. I'd play on my giant monitor (thanks Jon!) but it's playoff hockey time so if I'm at this laptop goofing around on games, it's because it's between periods. I'll try it on a larger screen another time. But damn, the assumptions about what my weakening eyes can see are quite . . . optimistic.

We'll see how focused I stay on this playthrough. Probably for a bit until I break down and buy Grand Tactician.

Friday, May 12, 2023

Random Thoughts & Links for 5/12/2023

Friday thoughts & links:

- I spent a chunk of time reading this AAR for Grand Tactician: The Civil War.

My concern with that AAR, and some others I've seen, is that the AI is:

- strategically aggressive

- tactically stupid

- and quickly and decisively focused entirely on maximizing its military strength at all costs

The three means the Confederacy launches endless attacks into the Union right from the word go, ready or not. But it's not hard to defeat it on the battle map because it makes a lot of basic mistakes (piecemeal attacks, unsupported artillery, ignoring supply concerns.) And that the game turns quickly - immediately, even - into 1863-4 style battles between large armies enabled by a rapid rush to conscription.

Historically, it would be more like:

- strategically concerned with defense more than offense

- tactically brilliant

- unable to focus too much on conscription or large army size due to political weakness by the central government and a weakness in access to arms.

The second is what I'd like to play, the first seems to be what I'll get. But finding very recent AARs and videos has been tricky - perhaps these have been ironed out in the latest patches. It's such a tempting game . . . but if I'll have to play the South to even have a fun game of it and even then the enemy will just march into my guns to die nonstop from the first day of the war until the last . . . I'm not sure I'm up for that. I don't mind a total war grind in 1864-5 but in 1861? Everyone still thought they'd be the next Napoleon and win a field victory and send their 90-day volunteers home.

So I'm undecided. I'd love to hear more about any AI updates that have come along.

- SJG has a kickstarter for POD GURPS books. $1 to get in, pick the books you want to POD in the add-ons, POD through DriveThruRPG.

- FASA's Doctor Who adventures. I owned none of them.

- DIY Bamboo Men minis! Be thankful I didn't have minis like these during the Forest Gate episodes! Just saying, it would have gotten uglier.

- Next Felltower game is 5/21 as far as I know.

- More work done on the secret writing project, but this time by my co-author.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Revised GURPS Magic for DF Felltower: Steal Vitality

Here is a proposed revision to Steal Vitality.

Steal Vitality

As GURPS Magic, p. 150, until the last sentence. Change everything from ". . . or when the subject's HP reaches -1" to "or when the subject's HP reaches -1 or less."

Otherwise, as written.

Rulings: HP do multiply - healing is healing. SM matters - a positive SM multiplies the time taken by 1+SM, minimum 1.

Note that this means healing from foes you've beaten into submission is effectively impossible - they need to have at least 2 HP left to drain. Like poison, draining from bigger foes takes longer. I'm sure of the logic except that it amuses me and makes it more interesting.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Writing Update

Slow work on a project continued today - basically, I edited and handed off my outline to my co-author.

I really didn't do much else, and I didn't make huge changes. It's mostly a case of whittling down the broad outline of what to include to a shorter list of must-haves. It's hard to do that sometimes. You can't always seen so clearly at the start of a project what needs to stay and what's actually optional. The tendency for me is to aim for too much, and then cut too far.

That said, when this project will even shift to writing is unknown to me. It's really up in the air, as far as I can see. It's hard to write in slow motion - I'm a bit lazy without an actual deadline. Still, I want to do this project and I like where it is headed. It's the lack of when that makes it a slow go on the outline.

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

The trouble with magic

Rules provide for a way to resolve situations that come up in games in a consistent way.*

Those situations generally have a real-world equivalent or match that can help you shape those rules

Magic provides a way to get a result that may or may not have a real-world logical underpinning without the usual paths to make that happen.

When magic meets rules, especially over a long enough campaign and enough use of magic, you end up with all sorts of weirdness. Attempts to resolve them can be equally weird - Fireball spells that fill cubic volume, but oddly don't have cover shadowing effects from others caught in the blast. Invisibility spells that don't address what happens to the light from your light source. Healing magic that can completely heal a wound yet leave you with an arrow or pick embedded. These all need rulings* that quickly become the basis for the next ruling. Often, solutions to edge cases beget more edge cases.

In a short game, or one with relatively little ability to fling around magic (so-called Vancian systems, say), you don't end up with too many issues. There just aren't enough situations and enough spells to make that happen. In a long game - my DF Felltower game is one - you just end up with so many layed rulings and cases that it can be confusing. And that's assuming well-written rules with well-written spells that match the rules. For GURPS and the magic system, the system has a lot of 1st-3rd edition legacy thinking with a 4e chassis to run on. It's not perfect. Then you add in the assumptions of DF - which further modifies the system.

So many of my GURPS Magic revisions are just attempts to make the spells match the assumptions of the game, with as little creation of new edge cases and weird uses as possible. I don't mind creative use of magic, but I do mind spells that have effects that have an outsized impact on the game or create loopholes and munchkin toys. "I can use spell X to solve our problem in new way Y!" is cool. "I can use spell X to eliminate probem Y for all time for minimal cost!" is generally not. Finding ways to let spells work well without doing great violence to the game world and the game system can be tough.

That's the real trouble I have with magic. It's providing power but with appropriate constraints on runaway game effects. The lack of a base reality means all of the rules have to be based on in-game effects with the rules consistency. I can't let the description of how it works derail the discussion of how the spell will change the game if the description is followed to the letter.

I won't say it's fun but it is interesting.

* In case someone quotes "Rulings not rules!" here is my take on that. Rulings are just rules you didn't know until they came up in play.

Monday, May 8, 2023

Stupid Tyler Stories

Recently, I met up with one of my old gaming buddies, Ryan V. For those playing along at home, Ryan's the one playing with a bunch of famous people out in L.A. and wrote Blackbirds. We talked about another of our buddies, Tyler, who we hadn't heard from in a while. Ryan hadn't, anyway. I'm basically out of contact with most people most of the time. He said he hadn't heard from him. That had happened before, but he was concerned. I wasn't. Shows what I know. Tyler died in February of this year. I'm sad. Tyler annoyed the hell out of me as a fellow player in everything we ever played. His paper men would do stupid things that messed things up for everyone. More than once, I was the direct cause of his PC's death because that advanced the cause of my PC, or just because he'd done such bad stuff for the plot that we needed himm out of the way. But Tyler? I genuinely liked him a lot as a person. He's gone, now, which sucks. So let's tell some stupid Tyler stories.

Don't Eat the Evil Snow

Setting: Armageddon: The End Times RPG.

We're rebels against the evil Church of whatever the heck the evil church was. We found out that at Tunguska, in the former USSR, they'd done some crazy experiments. For reasons that escaped me, we headed there.

We found a lot of black snow that, for want of a better way to describe it, radiated evil. It was evil snow. We warned everyone off from touching it, did our investigations, and moved on.

But Tyler's guy, oh no, Tyler's guy wasn't done. Tyler's guy ate the evil snow. I'm not sure why, except this totally encapsulates what Tyler did every freaking game. Have a chance to do the right thing by the plot and the goals and your fellow PCs? Or eat the evil snow? You eat the evil snow. Tyler always ate the evil snow. He was a naughty paper man.

We eventually figured out that Tyler had eaten the evil snow.


Years on, I can't remember what eating the yellow snow evil snow did to his guy. But it wasn't good. We were opposed to it all. My character, Bota Khan, wasn't amused. Bota was a hardcore gun running religious fanatic dedicated to keeping his group of anti-evil church rebels going at all costs. He didn't brook opposition or threats, and too everything seriously. We had a talk, and Tyler's guy agreed to part from the group and keep up the good fight on his own.

He didn't make it.

Bota had his trusted aide-de-camp shoot him in the head with a Ruger P99 on the ride away from our current location.

That kind of thing needed doing to Tyler's guys.

My spouse came to talk to me during this post. I explained what I was writing and why - not something I do, normally, since my spouse isn't a gamer. I had to explain why I was sad my friend passed, yet my friend literally was the worst guy to having on your side in a game. The worst. No one was worse than Tyler. He'd sacrifice virgins and bathe in their blood for power. He'd sell out your secrets to the bad guys and rationalize why this was the right move for everyone. He'd steal from the group and explain why it helped. He was the worst. But we always let him play, because we liked Tyler.

One of my friends told a story about Vampire. He said something like, I did X, I did Y, and then I dominated Tyler into doing Z. I said, "I didn't think you had any dots in Dominate." "Oh, my PC didn't Dominate Tyler's PC. I dominated Tyler." Yeah, he was like that. Tyler had a stutter that came out when excited - like when he was explaining how selling everyone out was awesome - or under pressure, like when we'd all go "WHAT THE F---!" because, I don't know, maybe because he sold out everyone.

I'm going to miss Tyler. I'll missing playing with him, and not playing with him. I'd never invite him to game, and I sighed when he'd show up, but he was my friend and I don't regret the times I spent gaming with him. He was good people to be friends with even if he was the fly in the ointment every single actual game.

I'm hoping the others of the crew - Jon, Don, Ryan, Marco, Dok, and others - will chime in on the comments with more Tyler stories. He deserved to pass with a lot more regard from us than he got when he died a few months back. Hopefully we'll have a game memorial for him.

For what it's worth, remember everything is finite. You only have so many times with each person. Even one who's screwing over your paper man.

Sunday, May 7, 2023

DF Felltower - Phase and Phase Other

Recently, one of my players took Phase and Phase Other for his PC.

I know these will be cast with the aim of removing grapples from a PC. Here is what I am thinking for a ruling at the moment. I expect this won't make my players happy, but it is rules-consistent.

Phase and Phase Other are, effectively, a successful Dodge. As such, if the spell is successfully cast the subject will avoid an incoming attack. This will not remove the effects of prior attacks, as the subject will be out of phase just long enough to avoid the incoming attack.

Because of this, both spells will avoid an attack that would inflict CP. However, neither will removing existing CP from another grapple on a target.

Here is my logic: it's a successful Dodge. A Dodge prevents a new attack from having an effect, but doesn't remove the ongoing effects of a previous attack. Allowing it to remove prior CP means it defends against a current attack and removes the effect of a prior attack.

I understand the weirdness of dropping out of phase but coming back to a grapple. But allowing it to do so means Phase and Phase Other can remove any existing grapple. That seems too powerful for what you're paying for. And it means it's effectively a way to avoid the effects of a myriad of other effects in a way that a blocking spell is not originally intended to do.

So that's the ruling I'm planning on going with. I'm open to argument but more rules-centric than effect-centric. "It's silly to 'go out of phase' but not have X or Y happen" is nice, but not necessarily convincing. "Here is why the rules aren't consistnet if you do X or Y" is likely to be more convincing.

Saturday, May 6, 2023

Extra Linky Goodness

A few more links, because I was a bit too busy today to get any gaming or game writing done.

- GURPS Traveller: March Harrier campaign wrapup. I followed along with interest on this one. I'm sad it's over but we'll see what's next. I like after action reports, though, they really help me with my own games.

- This blogger ranked the Dragonlance modules. I've done my own series of mining the useful bits from them - Salvaging Dragonlance.

- I love deep video games, so I've been hypnotised by Grand Tactician: The Civil War playthroughs and reviews. It's probably too big for me at this point, but it's the game I wanted to play as a teenager playing SSI Gettysburg: The Turning Point over and over again.

That's it for today.

Friday, May 5, 2023

Random Thoughts & Links for 5/5/23

Thoughts and notes for this week.

- My War in the East runthrough of Operation Bagration is over. I blew it. Historically, it was a major Soviet victory. In my game, it was a Major Axis Victory. I did a lot of damage to the Axis, and pushed them back, badly in a few places - I took Minsk (you start just outside Smolensk), pinched off and forced a handful of divisions to surrender, broke their lines in northern Ukraine, and pushed into a few other important points. But it cost a lot of casualties to do it - more than twice as many taken as inflicted - and I just couldn't break through and get a followthrough.

I'm poking around with some options - Axis in Bagration might be a tough go. Soviets in a Vistula-to-Berlin campaign, too. Or maybe I'll replay Operation Bagration again as the Soviets. I was a little too cautious early on - too many Deliberate Attacks and not enough MP-saving hasty attacks, and clunky uses of my HQs and support until I got used to doing things properly again. Maybe I can do better the second time.

Short scenarios are the way to go - I can play a short game of WiTE in a week if it's a 10 turns or less game.

- I enjoyed this look at the versions of the FASA Doctor Who game. I have the later release - and it's very attractive. Never played it, never will, really glad I own it.
The second part reviews the game.

- I was hoping that DCC #100 would be done, but not yet. It's slightly delayed, now, compared to the estimated completion date.

- Next game is 5/21!

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Steal Vitality & HP & SM questions

One of the 20+ HP fighters in DF Felltower now has the spell Steal Vitality.

It's a rarely-used spell in my games, and never before in 4e, with has rules for 20+ HP healing rates or for SM.

Plus it has some inherent weirdness. I don't yet know how I'll sort this out.

Steal Vitality and SM.

The issue here is the spell has no cost to the caster. So how does it interact with SM. How does it interact with HP healing multipliers?

Are those drained HP multiplied like other healing? Probably yes by a strict reading of the rules.

Are the HP lost multipled by HP 20, 30, etc.? Nothing in the rules would point to yes. But with a no, when a 20 HP PC drains a 30 HP foe, does that mean the PC can drain 30 HP and get 10 x 2 = 20 HP healed?

Should it take longer to drain a big target, perhaps, much as positive SM causes poisons to affect the SM+ target more slowly?

Dead at -1 HP?

The "foe dies at -1 HP" thing is a brutal limit, but also means you can kill something at -1 HP that wouldn't even normally die until at least -1 times HP. That's 9 HP less than usual for a normal HP. It can be as much as 49 less than usual for a DF Barbarian with max HP. Also, technically, a reading of this means you can't do this to a foe wounded past -1 HP. If they die at -1 HP, how do you drain HP from them if they are already at -1 HP?

I think this is just a bad effect of the spell, and should be removed. You could say "at -1xHP" but that allows for even more draining.

It's a tough call - either way, it means how we ran it this past session is flat-out against the rules - all of the foes were below -1 HP, and further below -1 x HP, so even a revised version wouldn't allow for it.

I'm really not sure how to deal with all of this. For now, listing the issues has to get the ball rolling.

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Melee Academy: Best Routes to Knockdown

What are the best ways to inflict Knockdown rolls on a foe in GURPS via injury? Information from Basic Set, p. 399-400, for GURPS, and Exploits, p. 60, for DFRPG.

If you need to render a foe stunned and knocked down, or unconscious, in a blow, here are your targets, from the best, to the good options, to the rest. All of these are negatively impacted by Injury Tolerance that affects the area - Unliving, Homogenous, and the various No (location) IT variants all make some or all less effective. Be careful. This guide assumes a human-like target with no special immunities.

Best Options

Eye - Major wounds are easier because of a x4 injury multiplier. Unmodified knockdown roll on any injury; -10 (!) on a major wound. Very hard to target (-10) and only certain weapons can injury the brain to get that multiplier.

Skull - Injury multiplier is high (x4). Unmodified knockdown roll on any injury; -10 (!) on a major wound. Hard to target (-7), comes with native DR 2 and is often armored as well.

Good Options

Face - Unmodified knockdown roll on any injury that causes shock; -5 on a major wound. Hard to target (-5) but is less often armored well.

Vitals - Unmodified knockdown roll on any injury that causes shock; -5 on a major wound. Moderate to target (-3) but limited attack options; armored with Torso armor.

Groin - Humanoid males only. Unmodified knockdown roll on any injury that causes shock; -5 on a major wound. Moderate to target (-3), usually armored with Torso armor.

Other Options

The "Other" options all require a Major Wound to inflict a Knockdown roll, but do not provide improved injury multipliers (or reduce injury) or penalties to the roll.

Neck - Major wounds are easier as most attack forms have an improved injury multiplier. Only a major wound, no penalties to Knockdown roll. Hard to target (-5), covered with Torso armor.

Torso - Only a major wound, no penalties to Knockdown roll.

Arm, Leg, Hand, Foot - These can cause knockdown if crippled - the only way to inflict a Major Wound on a limb or extremity is also to cripple it. Reduced multipliers for impaling attacks.

So your best choices? Hit the eye, skull, face, or vitals. You have an increased chance of putting a foe down, lower thresholds to cause major wounds, and penalties on said rolls.
Finally, don't forget that High Pain Threshold and Low Pain Threshold modify knockdown rolls as well. And failure by 5 is a knockout, so any penalties you can stack on - pretty much only the ones above - are critical! It's hard to knock a foe out or kill them in GURPS, so do what you need to do to stack the rolls against the target with your choice of hit locations.

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

More Notes from Session 183

More, as I said, notes from Session 183

Torso - it's the safe but slow way - Kaylee put down a number of gnolls with Torso shots. It took a while, though, as Stunning and Knockdown is almost a marginal effect in GURPS. Even HT 10 foes will only be stunned by a major wound 50% of the time, and HT 10 foes in DF are rare. 11 is low, 12 is more or less standard; a 12 fails only 25.9% of the time and causes a knock out only 1.9% of the time.

The logic here is this - foes defend about half the time, often more - even fodder-types with shields (+1 to +3) or Retreat (+3 Dodge) will stop half your shots. So you want to put on a lot of Deceptive Attack. Rapid Strike is -3/-3 for Weapon Master, which most main fighters have. So you'd rather go two shots with Rapid Strike (-3), at Deceptive Attack -1 (-2), and force two defense rolls on two hits instead of a -5 for neck or -7 for skull.* Folks with Slayer Training always go for the targeted shot, those without only sometimes do.

Attacking limbs works, but doesn't end a foe. That's mostly because it doesn't stun anyone more or less than a major wound of any other kind. Not all foes care about limb loss. Those that do will die if they don't keep fighting, so you need to hit them more to put them down. This is fine with me, but if it takes 3-4 seconds to finish a weaker foe because you have to take out 2 limbs and then put in a finishing move, it's kind of slow.

As a GM, it's actually easier on me if attacks are whiffs or kills, so I cheer the occasional Vitals stabs, Skull strikes, etc. I don't love when they are the only thing that happens, especially if it's an optimized high-damage, high-skill, high-deceptive attack following a high skill Feint, because that makes for balance issues with monster design (and groans and dead PCs if I also play at that game.)

So Kaylee beat a number of gnolls to death, but it's hard to put them down in single turns even with a couple of strikes that do enough damage that, realistically, will cause the eventual death of the foe. It doesn't stop them fighting in the way that a center-line attack (Groin, Vitals, Neck, Face, Skull) can due to the Major Wound knockdown and stunning penalties and higher HP loss that results in more HT checks to avoid death.

GURPS Magic headaches - I have notes on Phase Other and grapples, and on Steal Vitality and the problems with the spell. They'll come later this week.

New Spell: Smell Invisible - Suggested by the ever-inventive Marshall, my co-author on Crypt of Krysuvik. It's the most Professor Farnsworth spell suggestion so far. Maybe his MVP was for that.

* By the way, this is another argument in favor of fixed Deceptive Attack, at -4 to hit (-2 to defend) and -8 to hit (-4 to defend) levels, since the limitation forces more choices. You either take a larger penalty or do not, so you can't hairsplit around combo options to crit-fish.

Monday, May 1, 2023

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Session 183, Brotherhood Complex 5 - Gnolls (Part I)

After a long delay, we managed to get enough people to play DF today.
Real Date: 4/30/2023
Game Date: 5/4/2023

Ambassador Durinn, dwarf cleric (~265 points)
Desmond MacDougall, human wizard (~290 points)
Kaylee Blackwall, half-elf knight (~270 points)
Lenjamin Gundry, human knight (~250 points)
Sigur Hondguthann, human holy warrior (250 points)

The PCs slogged in the rain to the Brotherhood Complex, and after sending their cleric to check for traps, headed in.

They reached the doors and Desmond tried Seek Earth for gold and for silver. Neither worked. So he said the passphrase and in they went.

They worked their way ahead carefully, without lights for a distance, to see if they could see anyone. They could not.

They moved down to the stairs to the next level, and forced them open after a few tries and made their way down. Desmond cast Seek Earth again for gold and detected some 80-ish yards away to the "north." They'd gone "north" before so they decided to go south, then west, then north, to get there.

In a short time, they move into some new territory and saw a glinting light ahead, as they smelled wet dog and burned meat. They moved forward . . . and found themselves rushed by sixteen gnolls!

They backed off into a 10' wide corridor as Desmond blocked off one section with a 5' wall of earth using Create Earth. The gnolls fought them with shields and morningstars, but their strength and ferocity didn't avail them much against Kaylee's greatsword and Sigur's axe. They crammed into close combat to foul them up, which rendered Sigur less effective.

One climbed the wall, and Durinn kept him busy for a second until Desmond could cast Mental Stun on it. He followed it with Panic to scare the gnoll off, then filled the wall up another 5' in height.

The PCs held the line next to the wall - Sigur right, Kaylee left, Lenny behind them both, striking at gnolls who pushed into close combat with either of those. This went well until Lenny rolled a 17 and then a 15, and crippled his right arm for 30 minutes. But not before he knocked one cold.

Despite this, they managed to keep whittling away at the gnolls, crippled the legs of a few and killing or knocking out a few others. Sigur took a groin shot - a lot of that this session. Once the gnolls lost about 7-8 of their number they began to run. One stood challenging them but was quickly knocked out by Sleep from Desmond. They finished the wounded, moved into the room the gnolls came from, and Kaylee killed the panicking gnoll. They searched the room, rested up, and Kaylee used Steal Vitality on the knocked-out gnolls. They found nothing but some refuse, a dying fire, and some burned meat on a spit - a small humanoid torso, in fact. No money, no loot except some morningstars and wooden shields.

This all took about 15 minutes. After about 10 minutes, Durinn saw four gnolls run across his line of sight - over the corpses, and down the hallway. They decided it must be a dead end.

They wanted to delve more, and didn't want to move around with Lenny lacking a good fighting arm. So they set up and decided to wait 15 minutes for his arm to recover.

They made it 10 without trouble. About then, they saw gnolls on the fringes of their lights - "south" and "east" - a couple south, and more east. Desmond created and threw a 3d Explosive Acid Ball and heard a bunch of yaps and cries of pain, but the gnolls merely spread out a bit but didn't back off. A second, non-explosive Acid Ball was blocked by a gnoll.

They considered their options - maybe harassing fire from Acid Ball agains the gnolls until they either rushed the PCs or ran off or Lenny's arm healed. In the end, though, they just waited. The risk of critical failure on a spell vs. the mathematical unlikelihood of causing casualties or significant damage with harassing fire meant they left off that plan.

They moved out after Lenny's arm felt better. Desmond walled off a corridor to their right ("map west") and then to the left, and rushed the gnolls "south" of their position. They found out the gnolls had gotten reinforcements, and perhaps those they walled off came around. They're not sure.

The party advanced slowly. Step and Wait. Step and Wait. Step and Wait. Eventually Kaylee engaged gnolls, who just used Wait and then stepped forward into her arc of attack to hit first despite her longer weapon. Still, she put a couple of them down. Lenny and Sigur finished another - Lenny hitting a gnoll in the groin for the second time in the delve with the hammer head on his pick, knocking it cold, earning the nickname "Ballpeen." Desmond put Loyalty on one and commanded him in Common (gnolls don't speak Common) to defend them. Lucky for him, Loyalty comes with a default effect. The gnoll turned to argue with his friends, then eventually took a swing at one. It was knocked out a second later by a comrade who hit him in the groin (a lot of that going around, as I said.)

We had to leave it there for next time.


Doug's Summary is here.

I'm endlessly amused when players use "left" or "right" not by facing of the characters but by the orientation of the map, and then say, "Map North" and "Map East" like N and E are relative directions. GMs get their amusement in odd places.

30 minute cripples are funny. You can't fix them, but you also know exactly how long you'll be hurt. I should add a random element to it. We already allow Instant Restoration to fix it. Expensive, sure, but these are 250+ point characters who could put more points in ER if they really want to.

Resting for an extra 15 minutes - and it turned out to be 10 - in a dead-end area when gnolls had run off wasn't a good idea. But they wanted to delve ahead with Lenny fully able to fight, and that would take 30 total minutes. He didn't need rest for that; he could have walked it off. But for some reason they felt safer in where they were. It's why they are in a fight where they are now. It might work out but it's a bad situation if anything goes wrong - it's likely win or die in place.

So, so, so many Wait actions. I had Waiting Room by Fugazi in my head the whole time I'd hear "I Wait." "I Wait." "I'll step . . . and Wait." I am a patient boy, I wait, I wait, I wait, I wait. My time, water down a drain.

Doug's summary is up.

MVP was Kaylee for generally being the most effective fighter.
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