Friday, September 29, 2023

Friday Roundup 9/29/23

Links and comments for Friday 9/29/23

- Greyhawk map definitions

What's the meaning of those names on the Greyhawk map?

- A look at Oasis of the White Palm

- "They drain magic items, permanently. It's totally unfair, it's great." - Spoken like GM.

- Next Felltower Adjacent is in a week and a day. Still can't spend Handsome's points, but I'm leaning toward more skill and one of the advantages I listed. Still not sure which, they're all good choices.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Things still to resolve for Felltower

Here are some issues we discussed but never followed all the way through on. I should get to these before we resume play, perhaps.

- shield damage

- weapon talents

- recosting languages

- DB limits

I'm not saying these all will get done, but I should get on some of them, at least. They've all been discussed here to some extent but never fully resolved into a codified set of rules we'll play under.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Felltower: Power Casting

After a quick discussion Sunday, here is a ruling for Power Casting:

Power Casting

As written; one level maximum. A caster with this and 6 levels of casting talent can cast this particular spell as if they had 7 levels of casting talent. This can allow for 21d missile spells, Shield +7, and so on.

I figure, Felltower can always use more magical firepower, so why not?

Monday, September 25, 2023

Felltower Adjacent - Session 5 - Scaring & Murdering Hobgoblins

We played in Vic's Felltower adjacent game on Sunday. I don't have a complete character list, but I should get one and add it.

We started off in the dungeon, having wiped out the undead last time. We headed down to the side second level, called Sir Leonhard's level.

At the bottom of the stairs was a short hall leading to a partly-dug-out level with lots of butte-like raised areas. We tricked a hobgoblin into wandering up to us with promises of food voiced by Urbaine on Splug's provided Goblinian words. We killed him in a Silence area and then rushed forward. We spotted a few more hobgoblins, a couple of dire wolves, and a trio of dwarves. We started killing everything but the dwarves. One said, "Now's our chance, get them!" - we dubbed him Ray, and his buddies Peter and Egon.

We made short work of the enemy, mostly because the hobgoblins insisted on running and the wolves on charging. Thor butchered one wolf with his new magic sword Green Acres, aka Puppyslayer, and Patience jumped next to one off a plateau and smashed it to burger with his two-handed flail. Handsome shot the others in the back.

We moved into the next room, and killed four hobgoblins there. One asked for a passphrase, so Handsome tried to shoot him in the vitals. He blocked and then dodged, before someone else cut him down. We moved into another area and found a caged gladiator ape. Handsome shot it and wounded it badly.

Thor rushed the ape and killed it in its cage, as hobgoblins rushed us from left and right from side doors. Urbaine the bard demolished a few with a Concussion spell at 5d, and the dwarves held the others off. We gave chase to the right.

Handsome shot poorly (shooting on the run with quick shots at targets he couldn't see until the end of his 7 move added up to a -14 or so) and didn't hit them, and as they reached a couple of doors and shouted for help a 17 broke Handsome's bowstring.

The fighters rushed up, led by Hannari, our dwarf martial artist. A dozen hobgoblins or so rushed out, backed by a warchief with an ugly mustache and a powerful hobgoblins wizard (see notes below). Handsome took Splug's bow and plinked away with the little cupid-sized thing, doing a little damage here and there and dropping one or two hobgoblins. But it really cramped his effectiveness.

Thor dropped his sword on a critical failure but bull-rushed the wizard, and missed thanks to Shield. He ended up stranded on the other side of the fight, getting cut up. Hannari tossed an Alchemist's Fire to annoy the hobgoblins, and we fought them to a standstill and started to cut them down as the chief ran up and got knocked down.

Then, just to ruin their chances of getting any of us, Urbaine hit them with Panic and all but the wizard were afraid. As they started to run Hannari and others cut the chief up, Pesistance ran down and killed the wizard, and Handsome shot some poor slob in the back. Then it was over - Urbaine cancelled the spell and demanded they surrender or die.

They surrendered, with their wizard and chief already dead.

We looted them and sent them on their way with only their underwear (Urbaine insisted this was the done thing.)

We stopped there as we had one more place to clear - their boss, downstairs somewhere.


- Sir Leon Hard is totally an adult film star name.

- These were all D&D4 hobgoblins, not Felltower ones (which are resistant to magic) or DFRPG ones. They're remarkably tactically inept and lack unit cohesion, so they sure as hell aren't 1st edition AD&D hobgoblins, who looked like samurai and acted like soldiers.

- I couldn't afford a spare longbow, and I just didn't think to keep one of the goblin bows as a backup. Or to buy a spare bow. Oh well, I paid for it this session. Dropping from a ST 15 longbow to a ST 11 shortbow meant a serious drop in the killing power of my shots. When we get back to town I'll drop everything I have on the best composite bow or longbow I can, and move my old bow to backup status.

- For once Handsome didn't threaten to kill Splug, because someone paid points for him. I did gripe that we found three brave and intelligent dwarves and no one wants them for allies. No, they want the cowardly and semi-useful goblin.

- The rules differences are interesting. I don't run GURPS or DFRPG exactly as written, so there are some differences that have spillover effects. For example, we allow potions to take effect immediately upon being applied/drunk. But we also make you roll for unconsciousness at the beginning of each turn, if on that turn you attempt something besides Do Nothing. GURPS as written makes you roll next time. So if you're within a healing potion of positive HP you can avoid this roll by drinking the potion. Allowing the one benefit - faster potion effects - is a big upside if you play with the less-harsh rules as written on consciousness rolls. Oh, and I don't allow a parry against slams, but GURPS as written does. I use different fear rules. That sort of stuff. It'll be interesting when we swap to Felltower and people have to adjust back to how I play the game.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Still in the dungeon

We played in Vic's Felltower adjacent game again today. summary tomorrow, but we smashed a largish band of D&D style hobgoblins and took some loot, but didn't get to the boss yet.

So we're staying until we do, so he doesn't leave before he gets what's coming to him.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Handsome's unspent points

As far as my records show, Handsome has 16 xp to spend.

I can't spend any yet, as we're in the middle of a dungeon.

That said, here are some things I'm considering purchaseing.

Combat Reflexes [15]. The +1 to defenses would be helpful, as would the bonuses against and recovering from surprise. A surprised scout is a dead one.

Luck [15]. One re-roll per hour would save Handsome when things go bad.

Weapon Master [20]. On the reasonable assumption that we'll get 4 xp before I can spend any, I could just save up for this for my paper man. +2 damage with the bow is nice. He'll need that damage if/when he gets to tougher foes. And it would cut his penalty for a quick shot to -1 from -3.

Perception +3 [15]. Right now, Handsome has a reasonable Per 14. +3 would make that a much more awesome 17. Handsome doesn't need to worry about darkness penalties within a light source radius, even the fringes, so he's able to see pretty well. A 17 would be a very nice . . . edge . . . as a scout.

I'm debating which one . . . but I'm open to opinions and suggestions.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Friday Random Links for 9/22/23

A few links for Friday.

- We're playing Vic's Felltower Adjacent game Sunday.

- Bret at ACOUP takes a look at Baldur's Gate armor, and thus D&D5 armor.

- Random Rumor tables are part of the fun of Felltower. Where did they begin? Lich Van Winkle takes a look.

- A brief look at the World of Greyhawk (1983) boxed set. I had both, and I liked the second one better. It was more useful, in my experience, than the other when I ran games in Greyhawk. Had they come out in reverse order the original would have seemed like a downgrade.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Adding Balanced later?

Just thinking about the various weapon prefixes, it's generally clear that most of them can't be added later. You can't make your bow into an Elven bow later on. Your mace can't become Dwarven through some add-on. It's way to late to make a weapon Fine.

Balanced is a little tricky. Changing the balance of a weapon is possible. I'm not saying trivial, but changing a hilt, modifying the shaft, adding or changing the weight of a secondary point, etc. would probably work for many weapons, given a properly made weapon in the first place.

I'm thinking it's not going to be cheap - not as cheap as one that's been properly balanced in the first place. Probably changing +6 CF instead of +4 CF as a retrofit would work.

I'm going to put that in front of the group and see if it flies.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Fantasy General comments

I was able to get through my tough fight in Fantasy General, and I got my combat groove back. It's a pretty simple game.

It's a good game, but I find with the turn limits given, a lot of units become more marginal. My main killers are Sky Hunters, Heavy Infantry, and Light Infantry, pretty much in that order. I use a mix of everything, but cavalry are useful for ranging around but tend to get mauled by infantry when attacked instead of attacking. Bombardiers are helpful, but they're too vulnerable to enemy Sky Hunters. Archers are great in a support role, but light infantry are faster and heavies can use Forced March and quickly outpace them. You can't just advance in a big wall of infantry backed by archers, in my experience. Healers are so useful as support troops that I don't upgrade wizards past that level because the higher level types attack but can't heal . . . and healing battered units is a good way to keep the pace of an offensive without missing a few turns getting away from the enemy, resting, and then moving back.

I'm enjoying it but I feel like I could probably do just as well with a force more centered on just a few unit types.

I'm rolling through the campaign now, though, after getting past coming back to the game in the middle of a large, vicious battle with a tight time limit. I paid a price in a few units to win that but now I'm rolling solidly now.

Monday, September 18, 2023

DCC #100 arrived!

I just got a shipping notice today . . . not terribly long before I got a delivery notice from the USPS. This will climb to the top of my reading list as of this weekend, when I should have time to open it up.

It was pricey once the shipping kicked in . . . so I better run it to make it worth it!

Looks good so far!

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Felltower Regrets 1 and 2

A big pair of regrets I have with Felltower are as follows:

1) I didn't make the upper levels and surface area a starting area for beginning delvers instead of using the Caves of Chaos.

2) I didn't add a lot more connections between the upper levels and one another, and then to the lower levels from there.

Let's look at those in turn, as a lesson to would-be megadungeon GMs.

1) One issue I've encountered again and again is the need for side areas for starting groups to explore. But I started the game with the Caves of Chaos because it was the fastest way to start.

The downside to that is that there is always a temptation to go look for a "side area." There is always a pull toward going back to the Caves, or the Lost City, or the Cold Fens, or some unknown additional location. It's a fallback, and a megadungeon game works best when the megadungeon is the main pull. Given a chance to play again, I'd burn my ships at the shoreline and commit the group to the megadungeon and nothing else.

That does mean more work - you need to have basic details for everything the PCs can get to in the first session or two before you start and furiously map and prep ahead of them. But in the end it should be a better game.

2) I made the top level of Felltower a little too tight. Yes, it was meant to be a fortress and had chokepoint entrances. But it should have expanded behind that to 3-5 ways to pass between each and every level for the top few levels at least, and a central way down to the deeper levels accessible from the start. I had one for the top few levels, but it would have been better to allow it access to even deeper levels - I could have used magic to restrict access deeper, instead of doing a Wizardry-inspired pair of staircases (although Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord used two elevators.)

Allowing for more too-and-fro access would have resulted, in my opinion, in a better delving experience and less "we can't go there!" b.s.

Just a couple of thoughts on Felltower for today.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Fantasy General - trying to restart my saved game

I gave Icewind Dale a spin, but I wasn't really enjoying it. I had fun back in the day but it's not what I want now.

What I do have, partly played, is Fantasy General. I got stuck on a big, big battle, big enough that getting back into it is rough. I figured I'd just give it a go, starting tonight.

I'm out of practice enough that I'll likely get mauled pretty badly - it's a tough fight. I might lose some of my best veteran units in the process of victory. But I am not playing in Ironman mode. I will just give the battle a playthrough and win at all costs - and then save the results. I'll reserve the right to go back and play the battle again and try for better results. It's tough to take a break from a game that requires a bit of player skill and has long-term costs to pay for errors made today.

Just try to win the battle no matter what seems a good way to break back in, without starting over.

Friday, September 15, 2023

Friday Random Links & Thoughts - 9/15/2023

Weekly roundup.

- I've mostly back on a regular posting schedule. I'll be trying to keep it up.

- Next game is in about a week and change. It'll be Vic's game again.

- HANS posted about Bergmann submachine guns.

- A character for the Psi-Wars game. I'm looking forward to reading session summaries.

- The End of Calidar. I left D&D/AD&D earlier than it came out, so I don't carry a lot of nostalgia for it. I like flying ships and whatnot, but clearly the fanbase isn't large enough to sustain the game. That's too bad - and I know it's something true about some games I like now, too. They have insuffienct critical mass . . .

- I played a bit of Icewind Dale . . . and it wasn't as fun as I remembered. I'll leave it off to the side for now and concentrate on other work.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Oh yeah, I bought Icewind Dale at some point

In this week's feature of "Oh, yeah, I bought that," I was perusing my collection and saw I bought Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition, as part of my bundle with Planescape: Torment. So what the heck, I should install it and play it?

It's been years, and I'm not sure it's going to hold up my interest . . . but I'll try it. Should be a useful way to blow 30-40 minutes here and there when I'm waiting on a process to finish or a client to show!

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

More notes from last game session

- Our wizard rolled an 18 on Invisibility. The critical failure table - which I generally don't like much myself - just had it stun him. He didn't fall down stairs. Huzzah. Not really that thrilling. If it's worth rolling to see if you could succeed, fail, critically succeed, or critically fail . . . then those should all matter. If they won't matter, it's probably just worth saying spellcasting not under stress is just a normal success without bothering to roll.

But if you do roll, a 17 should suck and an 18 should critically suck. Harmless results shouldn't be allowed otherwise it's really just a check between success and critical success.

- It's bleeding odd that you can torso shoot a skeleton with a cutting arrow for full damage. Shoot a rib off? Crack the sternum? I aimed for the skull just because I didn't want that to be a thing.

- Handsome has like a hundred arrows or something laying around for him. I'm probably just going to grab a few extras and toss the rest. I don't even have quivers for them all, or the need for them all.

- Handsome, by the way, still has no armor. I'd expected to loot some by now but then again, having DR 0 hasn't been such a big deal. It might be later, but it's been fun living dangerously.

- I'm enjoying playing but I'm curious how I'll make the transition back to GMing when that comes around soonish.

Monday, September 11, 2023

Felltower Adjacent - Session 4 - Skeletons and Zombies and Draugr, oh my

The group did some stuff last time, and Hannari Ironhand and Handsome wandered up to join them.

They took pains to explain how we're not going to get a share of last session's loot because we weren't there, which is fine with Handsome. I plan to not split loot with people not there myself. We also had a discussion about how, if we happened to find a Very Fine Orichalcum Katana, instead of giving it to Hannari, who uses one, the smart move would be to sell it so everyone can upgrade their weapons and armor and Hannari could buy a not-as-good katana. Seriously. We spent time on this, like there is a VFOK out there and we need to pre-decide this. Or that Hannari won't just grab and use it because holy crap why would you sell that if you found it?

The we headed into the dungeon. They'd slaughtered everything on the upper level, and found three flights of stairs down. Handsome suggested going right down to the next level, slaughtering anyone or anything down there, then coming back up to deal with anything down there that chose to come upstairs.

So we did that. Heading down, we immediately found a bunch of sarcophagi. Naturally, as Handsome walked into the room, they opened and skeletons emerged. Handsome ran back loosing an arrow as he went, and then the skeletons engaged the fighters. They were destroyed pretty quickly, as all they had were sharp bony claws and that wasn't sufficient to bother our fighters. They trashed all of the skeletons.

We amused ourselves by hoping these were Sarcophagi of Infinite Undead but they weren't. We moved on, and found two alters to Bahumet, which is how they worship the Good God here. Meanwhile Handsome stood guard down the hallway to the side. Our bard prayed at the altars. There were double doors but Handsome said, "Listen! You smell something?" He smelled the rot, off an army of zombies!

Before we hit the doors, we headed after the zombies. The intersections were blocked with painted floors of evil runes. We basically jumped them once Walk on Air proved they didn't affect those who didn't touch them (low-rent traps.)

We eventually found the zombies, which came at us from both directions. Handsome was in the back, and missed one and wounded another of the ones from the back with a head shot as they closed in. Splurg or Splink or Spluck or whatever his name is, the goblin they picked up last time, decided to back off (Goblin Cowardice) and leave Handsome facing the zombies from the rear alone. The fighters up front fought the zombies, who used Move and Attack and got butchered.

But Splink was backing off even as Hannari moved up towards us and the zombies. Handsome said, "If you don't engage these zombies I'll shoot you with my next arrow." Someone described that as a threat. For Handsome, it was a statment of intent for next turn's actions. Splik decided to engage the zombies after all.

The zombies didn't last long after everyone was pulling their weight. We mopped up.

We explored more, and smelled more zombies. It was a dead end, though, so Handsome checked the wall . . . and it was an illusion. Thor jumped through, and found four zombies. Handsome and Hannari both rolled 17s and missed their targets but the fighters butchered the zombies in short order, although one destroyed itself by missing a slam and hitting a wall too hard. Handsome voted the wall MVP.

We found a largely empty armory. There was a plaque on the wall and it challenged us with a riddle. Handsome shouted out "Reputation!" to answer the riddle. It could have been your name or your honor, I suppose. Handsome wasn't paying attention (well, I wasn't) and didn't hear the whole riddle but it was an easy one. The success turned a ratty old suit of armor into a new, gleaming suit. Thor took it.

Handsome checked the walls behind the empty weapons racks and found a loose stone. It wasn't trapped, and he found a sack. He gently handled it and handed it over to the bard to check. It was a bottomless purse, with 500 gp in it ($10K). Nice.

We went back to the double doors and through. We met a draugr with a sword who was very chatty. We told him we were killing undead Orcus servants and eventually promised to fulfill the quest he failed. Turns out that the draugr had a job and blew it and killed his whole family as well. Even Handsome isn't that guilty. Anyway, the bard took his sword and gave it to Thor and made him promise to do the thing he'd do anyway.

We took our stuff and headed up to the level above, and found the stairs to the third level of this place. We'll stomp whatever is down there next time.


- Yes, I'm going to link to that Lars Fredericksen song every time I smell the rot off an army of zombies. Deal with it.

- MVP was Handsome for finding $10K and other stuff.

- We got 7 xp, otherwise. The fights were all fodder fights. Zombies and skeletons aren't real threats.

- Handsome legitimately was going to kill that goblin for running. Pull your weight or else!

- Want to know what actually happened in detail? Probably read Doug's blog post since it writes it as we play.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Game pre-summary

I'll put up a better, but not much better, summary tomorrow.

- we headed deeper into the dungeon they explored last time. We destroyed a bunch of skeletons and zombies.

- we found a bunch of loot, and answered a pop quiz. Handsome answered correctly, which is good because Handsome didn't start listening until halfway through the riddle because his player's spouse was walking by and communicating with Gesture.

- Handsome helped find some gold

- we talked our way out of a fight and into some help. I credit the bard. We ended up with a quest from someone who committed worse crimes that even Handsome has been legally convicted of. Impressive.

- next session we'll hopefully complete this quest we've managed to take on.

Friday, September 8, 2023

Friday Random Thoughts & Links 9/8/2023

- I'd only heard a few bits about Yggsburg, a later Gary Gygax publication. I'm curious, for sure.

- I love Grimtooth's Traps, but I sure don't need stats for them as in this upcoming product. They're all comically overengineered and lethal. Stats seem superfluous, if only because that implies you could survive the traps. Dude, if you fall for the Closet of Caltrops or fall down the Amazing Ginzu Chute, just make a new guy and move on. It's that kind of game. But your interest may vary, and you have over 53 days to think about it from today's post.

- Ah, stupid Hit Point Jokes and a great spin on healing - The Order of the Stick at its finest. "So . . . healing just allows for more violence?" That's the basis of dungeon delving!

- Sunday we are playing in Vic's Felltower Adjacent game. Apparantly we've picked up an NPC ally . . . huh. Handsome already covers the "savage violent outsider with a tendency to kill" niche, do we really need another?

- I'm not around Saturday, and we game Sunday, so I can't promise a post until Monday.

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Simpler Language Costs for DF

GURPS splits languages into 2, 3-point advantage levels. Broken, Accented, and Fluent in Writing and Speaking.

For DF Felltower, I've considered cutting down the levels. I've mulled over two options:

Option 1:
1 point Broken, either written or spoken
2 points Fluent, either written or spoken


Option 2:
1 point Broken written and spoken
2 points Accented written and spoken
3 points Fluent written and spoken

Option 1 basically cuts out Accented and cuts the cost of languages by 1/3. A mere 2 points will get you spoken fluency or written fluency.

Option 2 keeps the costs identical, but folds written into spoken ability. This would be unchanged for a spoken-only language, or a written-only language. It's very rare - I can't think of any examples yet - for people to take illiteracy in their native language in DF Felltower. It's more common for people to take spoken-only for other languages. Gift of Letters and Gift of Tongues are a replacement for serious investment in languages.

I haven't decided if I'll do this, but it's been rattling around my head for a while now to make languages more useful and likely purchases.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

D&D on Death Row

My friend Tom shared this with our gaming group. It's an article about men on death row, playing D&D as best they can while locked up and waiting for execution.

It's grim. But it's good. Any they have better handouts and maps than I've made in years. I make no comment here on the justice system or on the death penalty . . . just on the gaming. It's about the only time I've been interested in reading someone's character background.

When Wizards and Orcs Came to Death Row

I love the spinners to replace dice, the game length (9 a.m. until bed time), and the dedication it takes to keep generating material to play with.

Thanks for sharing, Tom.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

OD&D Solo Play link

I have to admit, I have a soft spot for random dungeons with old school delving. Here is an OD&D solo play with both:

Random OD&D Dungeon Solo Play
It's kind of Dungeon Robber but done with dice and pencils instead of a mouse.

Seems fun.

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Random Encounters

Lich Van Winkle posted about random encounters pre-D&D:

Hexmaps and Random Encounters before D&D

I have a love-hate relationship with random encounters. On one hand, they do add spice and a cost for dilly-dallying. On the other hand, it's a lot of encounters to prepare and not necessarily use. They've provided great fun in my Cold Fens and Lost City of D'Abo sub-locations and occasional fun in Felltower, too.

I'm very interested in how they may have come about.

Friday, September 1, 2023

Random Links for 9/1/2023

A few links for today:

- A look at the Combat Results Table.

Oh, and the Panzer Blitz CRT.

- Greyhawk Demons in alphabetical order.

- Yet another person bought me something on DriveThruRPG that I don't want. This wasn't a free thing, but at this point, I'm tired all over. I'll just not read it or download it. Seriously, I don't want unasked for gifts. Consider it wasted money.

- Skill level - experience - matters. Had a door lock failure on a car today - had the keys, but they wouldn't work. AAA sent out a truck but after 30 minutes . . . nothing worked. A local locksmith offered to come by on his way home and got the doors open in about 3 or 4 minutes and showed me the workaround if it happens again. It made me realize how much I like margin-of-success affecting time spent. Not only that, but failure can take extra time all the while seeming like it's fixing the problem.

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