Sunday, March 29, 2020

What disadvantages are mis-priced in GURPS DF Felltower?

Some disadvantages effectively have less disadvantage for their points in my DF game. Others have a significant amount of impact for less points. This isn't exhaustive, but it is a list of ones that stick out to me.

I will have some revision suggestions embedded below, but I'll also be coming up with more. For a further look at disadvantages, check out my new Disadvantages post label.

Less Impact:

Bad Temper [-10]. This one should make for a lot of aggression, and bad decisions based on foes targeting you, or hurting you, or insulting you. Or frustrating traps or puzzles might anger you. In actual play . . . it sits on the character sheet and maybe - if the player really, really feels like this situation is incredibly upsetting in a special fashion - gets the self-control number rolled against. Generally, this isn't worth the points most people get back from it. This should probably have concrete effects, much like Berserk does. In fact, that's a good fix - you must make a self-control roll not to lash out verbally or physically at any foe that insults you, or attacks you, even if you've got better (or other) targets. If you also have Bloodlust, you will not be distracted from finishing a foe before moving on to the one angering you . . . and any that anger you must force a check at the lower of your Bad Temper or Bloodlust self-control roll to stop hitting the foe after its down, even when it's obviously dead.

Code of Honor (Chivalry) [-15]. You must obey your liege lord and faith, protect any ladies and weaker folks, and fight fair if you opponent is also of chivalric background. These come up, respectively, never, never, and almost never in my game. This gains you 15 points and effectively acts as a quirk (save any ladies) and quirk-level Code of Honor (fight fair against other knights with a chivalric background.) This is actually significantly less restrictive in actual play than the Soldier's code, or the Pirate's code. I may just flat-out require a change to the Code, or ban this in favor of the Soldier's c.ode, or put in restrictions about "fair fights" that apply more generally. Perhaps it's against the code to take a flank or back shot against a sapient foe? Perhaps you must accept surrenders except from clearly non-coreligionists? Hmm . . . time to check out the Tales of Froissart again. 15 point Codes shouldn't be an "oh yeah, sometimes this comes up!" kind of things.

Easy to Read [-10]. Given the infrequency of negotiation, and the fact that barbarians aren't ever put in charge of them, means this is free points. It should really be a quirk, or -5 points at most. Unless being "Easy to Read" also means being easy to influence, or easy to trick, or easy to distract, it's really not a whole lot of anything, here. I bet if it gave -2 to resist any influence roll or magical charm attempt people would toss this aside in a split-second. I'm not sure what else would make a good, in-game effect for this in a game where negotiation is uncommon by player choice and it's easy to keep the bad poker players out of the situation. This has had some in-game effects (when the PCs try to lie their butts off to NPCs with the barbarians standing right there, with that look of "I hope they buy this total lie!" on their faces) but not so much that it's worth 10 points to the affected PC.

Honesty [-10]. You follow the law. For the most part, this is only limiting in that characters with it can't sell their loot on the black market, won't traffic in illegal loot, and won't violate the laws of Stericksburg. Otherwise . . . it's legal to kill underground, and what you find is yours. This is probably a -5 point disadvantage, at heart, in a game with broad legal status given to most of what delvers do in the first place. It should probably fold in Truthfulness in this type of game to be worth the full -10.

Intolerance (Urbanites) [-5]. No one is going around reacting at -3 to their fellow teammates, even though the groups is about 2/3 urbanite and 1/3 outdoorsy type. Those urbanites even go shopping for those woodsy loner types and no one seems to mind. Probably should be a quirk.

Vow (Never refuse a challenge to combat) [-10]. This one is entirely on me; I should define what a challenge is. Perhaps it's even the baying of animals attempting to scare you off, or any insult from a foe (say, a draugr) is clearly a direct attempt to get you to fight them and you have to make that happen, etc. Otherwise this has come up only a couple of times in a long campaign full of PCs with it - often multiple ones at the same time. Worth -10 if there are lots of challenges to combat, -1 or -5 if it's a rare but dangerous thing.

Weirdness Magnet [-15]. I had attempted to eliminate this, but a couple of PCs still have it. It just doesn't factor in much in play; it's not a game where outside forces do much to you in particular over and above the other delvers around you. It works for to a mostly-free 15 points, and doesn't even have quirk-level implications. Weirdness Magnet can and should define your life - like Garrett, in the Garrett, P.I. books, who is a bona fide Weirdness Magnet and suffers its effects on his life and reputation. In DF Felltower, nothing really comes of it.

More Impact

Bloodlust [-10]. This has caused a lot of dead foes, including ones who might have been useful alive. It's cost turns in combat, as PCs put in an extra shot on anyone not clearly dead. Not everyone really plays it to the fullest, but many do - it's why you see some folks cheerfully cutting throats after a fight, or putting extra blows in over and above what's needed to kill something. Coupled with Callous, this has caused a lot of dead NPCs.

Cowardice [-10]. This has actually derailed whole session plans, and made some pretty straightforward plans impossible to execute. Well worth -10 and possibly more.

Overconfidence [-5]. Lot of dead PCs with this one, even when they've ferociously optimized to win and survive. Enough said.

Sense of Duty (Fellow Adventurers) [-5]. This is potentially close to worth more than -5. I think it keeps its value mostly because your fellow PCs, when they have it, tend to do more to help you. This one can kill you. On the upside, it's extremely easy to roleplay - take your -5 points, and don't abandon your friends. Many players will act that way anyway.

Vow (Own No More than What Can Be Carried) [-10]. This is very rough in a game centered on loot, with variable climates to be explored, and a need for backup gear. You simply can't own stuff and leave it behind (an exception is made for cash; I'll let you bury some cash somewhere so it's not weighing down your PC, as long as you don't go all Captain Kidd.) Without such generosity it's probably -15, instead, and you can expect to have to sell off your mail armor if you go adventuring without it, or buy winter clothes every winter if you're not toting them to Felltower with you. By the way, this is a quirk in a campaign with Portable Holes.


I'm curious what my players would think are wrongly-priced disadvantages.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Incremental Progress

Today was another day of working on my book - this time, an editing pass. It takes a lot to write a sentence and sometimes even more to cut it down to a better, shorter one. If you're used to my long, digressive sentences, with subordinate clauses and connected ideas, all strung together with commas, then you'll understand what I mean. My basic style makes the Hemmingway App light up the screen like a yellow and red explosion.

Because of that, I spent a lot of hours today basically reading and re-reading, cutting down here and there. Consolidating sentences and thoughts. Making formatting changes (mostly suggested by a fellow co-author authorized to look at the manuscript.)

It's a slow, unpleasant process and mostly feels like you're spending minutes deleting hours of work, or hours deleting minutes of work. The result never feels commensurate with the investment of effort.

But it's necessary. In the end, you'll get a better book.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Writing Update

It's GURPSDay, but I'm hard at work in the multi-leveled mines of my latest GURPS Dungeon Fantasy writing project.

I'm about 85% done by wordcount and 80% done overall by tasks. I'm starting to look for quotes, fill in blank spots, and get ready for a first-pass lookover of the manuscript.

It's due this weekend, so I should have it out of my hands in the next couple of days. Ironically, it's due the day I'm officially furloughed from work, but I think I'll take the time to work on a non-writing project before I launch back into one I've kept bubbling in the back of my head for a while now.

I wish I could provide more details from the depths of my work, but hey, you'll all see it soon enough.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Game prep - online vs. in-person

I'm a latecomer to running game online, but here are my anecdotal experiences about game prep between the two.


In-person:

- I have to prep minis - paint them and make sure they're in the minis trays.

- I have to prep all of my paper books and notes to bring with me to game

- I have to pack lunch and snacks


Online:

- I have to scour lots of images to find "minis" or send pictures of the ones I want to one of my gamers to edit into icons.

- prepare battle maps to save time in session

- prepare dungeon maps & deal with FOW

- assign out dynamic lighting, etc. for characters.


Same:

- I have to restock and review the dungeon areas I expect the PCs to travel to.

- write rumors

- deal with last-minute questions about spellstones, scrolls, skills, and point-spending.

It's a change - I have all of these minis, and encounters prepared around specific ones. I have battles that aren't in setpiece locations, so I can't just pre-prep them. It's taking soem getting used to . . . I can't fly by the seat of my pants as much online without having things grind to a halt. It's a learning curve.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Persistent Changes & Leveling Up Monsters in the Megadungeon

A great strength of a megadungeon is having a single location where delvers can go and effect changes on the environment. These changes can be temporary - unlocking doors, disarming traps, "clearing" a high-traffic room - but they are often going to be persistent - monsters dead, walls knocked down, doors removed. It's a combination of the immediate and the cumulative. The delvers that survive also change temporarily (injuries, fatigue, etc.) and permanently (gained experience, found gear, death).

So the PCs level up.

I asked back in 2013 if anyone had the monsters leveled up, too.

Clearly, Gary Gygax felt that way:

Gygax on Leveling Up Monsters

So it's not a new idea. Some monsters get more dangerous as they repel attacks just as the PCs do. The question is, do they gain experience from fighting and killing delvers? Or do they gain experience from looting the fallen, much as the PCs? Or purely ad hoc like Gary Gygax did? So many good choices . . .

Monday, March 23, 2020

GURPS DF Session 129, Felltower 100 - Lost City 9

Date: Sunday, March 22nd, 2020

Weather: Cool and clear near Felltower, sweltering and rainy in the Lost City of D'Abo

Characters:
Aldwyn Hale, human knight (278 points)
Bruce "the Mild" McTavish, Jr., human barbarian (267 points)
Crogar, human barbarian (294 points)
Gerald Tarrant, human necromancer (370 points)
     3 Skeletons (~35 points)
Hayden the Ebon Page, human knight (307 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (285 points)
Wyatt Sorrell, human swashbuckler (286 points)

We started in town. The PCs gathered rumors and headed out, after snagging some Universal Scrolls of Resist Poison.

The PCs headed to the Lost City gate, via the usual route through the dungeon. They used the trap door, which had stayed unlocked, and took the "shorter path" to the second level. They encountered nothing on their way to the GFS except to note that the webs were missing from the corridor head that allows a "southern" approach to the stairs.

They opened up the stairs and scouted them with a Wizard Eye, and then followed the stairs single file to the level below. Again, they opened the door and scouted with Wizard Eye, and cautiously moved out to the gate to the Lost City of D'Abo.

They sent Crogar and Mild Bruce through. Wyatt's played announced he'd wait 60 seconds and then follow. The rest of the group just piled in past him and joined the barbarians. The city was hot and rainy - not a torrential downpour but enough to cut movement in half. Gerry took a guess at the rain and said it would last 4-5 hours (default Weather Sense), so they sat down to conjure up a Skull Spirit and rest. They did, and with a critical success, the spell was free so there was no need to rest.

They climbed and Levitated down in the pouring rain. Crogar slipped and fell but the damage was minor once you factored in his Shirtless Savage DR and regular barbarian DR and Crushing damage DR. The group marched across town in the rain, unmolested by anything living. When they reached the Path of Kings by the grove of the "monkey men" (the Mowgli), they found one of the trees had been uprooted and blocked the road. Wyatt examined the eye from a distance, hoping to see if it was a natural fall or it was felled or burned. Even his default Survival was enough to tell it was a natural fall. He climbed it, as Gerry sent the Wizard Eye over to scout. They saw nothing, but the road blocked, they headed through the edge of the trees to go around. They noted a lot of webs in the trees, but didn't see any spiders.

They made their way toward the brass or bronze gates and the cave of apes. They couldn't figure out a way to approach the cave over dry land except by passing some of the headless "Kings." Ulf decided he'd shush them and impress upon them the need for stealth, and that they'd come back later.

The talk with the Kings of D'Abo went very poorly, indeed. Ulf kept trying to shush them, and tell them to be quiet, and say "we're getting to that" when they asked questions. Kings do not like to be shushed, or told to be quiet, or told that their orders have been set aside for other business. Ulf started to ask questions about the snakemen, and the Kings demanded to know about the Bell of D'Abo, which Ulf wouldn't talk about. Ulf questioned them about the snakemen, and asked if they worshipped the Good God. One said, "Of course!" They got louder and more vociferous and cursed mortals for being poor subjects and always coming with excuses. The PCs eventually just ran off towards their goal. The task of being sneaky failed, with the booming voices of the Kings echoing around the city. Oops.

They headed out carefully toward the cave in the south-east portion of the Lost City. They avoided the brass/bronze gates, deciding that it was clearly a prison or protective gate of some kind, and whatever demon is cursing the city is likely to be behind it. They headed to the cave, instead, where a previous group had seen evidence of apes. They moved up, and heard howling and hooting from the cave and from behind them. In a moment, as they began to talk about buffing up, a pack of flesh-eating apes charged out. Mild Bruce threw his harpoon and missed, and Aldwyn his axe (which was dodged.)

The PCs fought them in a close brawl as the apes overran the original position of the PCs. Aldwyn stood his ground as they others fell back - Crogar inevitably got unlucky an a critical Dodge by an ape forced him to the critical miss table; he ended up with an unready weapon on a lanyard. It took him several seconds to get it ready, backing up as apes tried slams and grapples. One ape grappled Mild Bruce around the neck, and spent the entire fight trying Neck Snap but never succeeding by enough to inflict damage. Mild Bruce tried to break free, and failed, so he drew a knife and stabbed away at the ape instead.

Wyatt stabbed an incoming ape in the eyes four times, killing it; he'd do the same as he fell back, killing several more apes. Heyden tossed his javelin and wounded an ape, and then drew his sword and butchered a few more. As this all went on, a shorter, weaker-looking ape came out and howled oddly. Wyatt called out a warning about how Ulf needed to fight the "ape shaman."

The brawl took a long time in the real world, but in game, it was short. Gerry put Great Haste on himself and then on Wyatt, who stormed forward as Aldwyn was overrun and was grappled around the neck by an ape Heyden had wounded with his javelin. Aldwyn kneed this ape twice, knocking it out. Wyatt rushed forward to the mysterious ape and engaged him, wounding him. As he did so, it keened in pain - and all the apes, which had by this point started to disengage, went berserk and attacked ferociously. It took a lot of killing to put down the apes, including a massive pair of skull blows on one ape by Crogar (the second did 104 injury, enough to put the already-wounded ape to -5xHP in a single blow from full HP.) In the end the mysterious ape was killed, the others cut down (the one on Mild Bruce stabbed repeated by Bruce and by Heyden), and the PCs could stop and rest.

At least briefly. Already down significantly on FP, the PCs needed to rest. Wyatt was at half move from fatigue loss, and others were close. Gerry decided it was time for a solid 3-area Mass Zombie and positioned himself amidst the biggest collection of fallen apes, after someone (Wyatt, I think) made sure they were all dead. Meanwhile, Aldwyn, Crogar, and Mild Bruce arrayed themselves guarding the mouth of the cave the apes came out of.

As the PCs did so, they were attacked by till-then Invisible snakemen! Ulf was stabbed with a smallsword and poisoned, badly, causing 4 toxic injury and -4 DX. Crogar was stabbed, too, as was Mild Bruce. One stabbed at still-Invisible Gerry, who heard it coming and aborted his spell to cast Phase to avoid the attack he heard incoming. Another snakeman appeared a short distance off after throwing a Concussion spell near Wyatt, Ulf, and Heyden, wounding the three and stunning most of the group. The snakeman nearby was probably hurt but none of them seemed stunned. Wyatt killed the one standing too close to him with four eye shots. He missed one, and the others killed it.

The snakemen parried or Dodged attacks back at them, and then showed another ability - they hissed out seductive suggestions to the PCs. One tried with Gerry to get him to stop casting spells, but Gerry's Will (and Improved Magic Resistance 3) was enough - the IMR was vital in winning the contest. Crogar, Mild Bruce, and Aldwyn weren't so lucky. Alwyn fell for a suggestion to put his weapons aside, which let him get stabbed by the snakeman. Mild Bruce fell to a suggestion to join the snakemen - but his Sense of Duty meant he fought to maim or knock out, not kill. He turned his sword to the flat side and tried to brain Aldwyn. Aldwyn fought back until a snakeman suggested he kill the "invisible wizard." He swung around trying to find Gerry but then Mild Bruce cracked him in the skull, knocking him out cold with 44 injury to the brain. Crogar couldn't resist a hissed suggestion to surrender, and did so, standing there, waiting to be taken prisoner.

Wyatt staggered over to near Gerry, who sent his skeletons and skull spirit after the obvious spellcaster (who someone decided was an archer with a "thunder bow" because of the Roll20 icon we had. Sorry, no.) It took a few tries, but Gerry was able to Lend Energy to Wyatt and get him to full move; Wyatt drank a healing potion in the meantime as did Heyden, who then advanced to engage the snakemen.

The snakemen moved quickly out of the fight, backing off and letting their patsies engage each other. A second Concussion spell hurt the skull spirit a lot, and injured Gerry and the skeleton nearby as well. It stunned a number of the PCs.

The snakemen by this point had turned to run.

Wyatt chased after the snakeman who had cast the spells, as did the skeletons. It used Blink to avoid a hit from the skull spirit, and then turned and "ran." Wyatt stopped and fished out a Haste +2 spellstone, but it was too late - by the time he did it moved off and turned Invisible, right near a lot of cover. (It didn't help that Wyatt's connection dropped, and his text telling me his action came 2 hours after game ended . . . oh well.)

Mild Bruce charged to the attack on Wyatt, who backed off, seeing no way to disable him without killing him. Gerry cast Animate Shadow on Bruce, though, and it worked. Bruce and his shadow fought for five seconds; the first three seconds Bruce parried, as did the shadow. The last two, Bruce missed his defenses and the shadow ripped through his FP badly, dropping him to -7 FP and unconscious and badly woudned.

The PCs had lost track of the snakemen, and were badly battered. Gerry quickly got off a reduced-size Mass Zombie and had eight ape zombies. He had them gather the unconscious, pick up the snakeman Wyatt had slain along with its gear, and with Wyatt and Heyden in the lead, headed out.

The PCs headed back by the exact same route they came . . . which cost them a bit. The snakemen - or at least one snakeman - was lurking in ambush. As the party moved up the Path of Kings, a Concussion spell womped into the hex with the Skull Spirit and detonated. The skull spirit was very badly damaged (but not destroyed), Gerry wounded and stunned, Crogar wounded and stunned, and one of the skeletons mauled. They all became unstunned in a second, and fled. The zombie apes were ordered to pick up and carry Gerry to keep speed up to 4, which was Hayden's move.

They managed to make it back to the gate, and we handwaved the trip back to town.

Back near town, they rang the Bell of D'Abo to clear the mental control they suspected still affected Aldwyn, Mild Bruce, and Crogar. It seemed to clear those effects. They found the snakeman had some gold jewelry, a hollow-cored needle-like smallsword, a hollow-cored needle-like dagger, and a harness for holding them. And that was it.

Back in town, they sold everything. The jewelry was salable for 1200 sp, the hollow smallsword for 80 (it's specialized, illegal, and less useful than a normal one), and the hollow dagger for 10. Heyden argued for keeping the poison-reservoir dagger for Quenton, but they needed the cash from it to get Gerry just enough loot for more than 20% of his threshold; everyone else got exactly 200 to match theirs.

Notes:

This was our first-ever online session of gaming together, and first ever of Felltower. All in all, it went well. Having two GMs - Vic and I were both GMs - did make it tough as I wasn't always the one moving NPC pieces or modifying the map. But it did work. We hybridized rolling - people could roll with the die roller or with actual dice. Some did both - to hit with their own dice, damage with a Macro. That did make it hard to track sometimes but it wasn't a real issue. It did make combat slow, and as usual, when it came time to flee, the players slowed down. And thus flipping back and forth between the maps occurred, which slowed things down, which then fostered indecision . . . the final Concussion spell hit the fleeing PCs at 8:50 and it was 9:08 before we were at the second second of combat. Sigh. So we need to figure something out for hybrid cases like that.

Do Zombies suffer from concussive stunning from Concussion spells? I didn't make them roll, but I probably should have. Undead are immune to so much, I'm not sure they need this, too.

Galen was a last-minute cancel due to illness, which really showed. Having a missile fighter would have made the ape fight much shorter, and may have opened up options in the snakemen combat that followed.

We had a late guest addition of Honus's player, so it's possible Honus might be able to join again. Amusingly it's been 6 years since he played but he's not the lowest point character.

Ulf is probably alive because I can't ever seem to remember poison damage. No one mentioned poison again after being hit. Because that's how poison works in most games - it's a one-time save and you suffer an effect, or not. It's not like that in GURPS, for one, and even GURPS is a lot nicer than reality, where you almost always suffer some effect. So Ulf had a lot of cycles of poison to roll against, and so did Crogar and Mild Bruce. I need to find a way to deal with this, or just convert all poisons to one-cycle instant effects, regardless of SM, and just apply them. Oh sure, the PCs could have cured them, but they didn't have to because there was no followup.

Wyatt recently purchased Ultimate Slayer Training, so now he's routinely attacking 4x (5x on the first turn of Great Haste) to the eyes at Deceptive Attack -5. So anything with eyes is pretty much dead if they're facing him. I'm a little restrictive on eyes - you can't attack the eyes with an impaling attack from outside the front arc, or when your front arc doesn't have a line on the front arc of the other fighter. Otherwise, we end up with guys stabbing into the brain through the eyes from angles like a goal-line shot in hockey . . . all without interference from the skull. In the confusion of combat GURPS is already generous about allowing free choosing of targets that should be difficult to even line up on a still target, I don't need to make it more so. I will say I've got no issue with Wyatt doing this, but it does highlight one downside of point-buy systems - you can generally double down, and double down again, on a specific area. Wyatt is extremely good with his swords, and as good at hitting the eyes as hitting the torso, and has very high defenses . . . plus if he chooses to Feint, it's practically impossible for most foes to still defend. They still get ones off here and there, just due to blind luck, but otherwise, they're dead. But that was also true about 20+ points invested in sword and sword-related offensive advantages ago. It does mean he's getting extremely lethal again high-skill "boss" foes, but games are games . . . the GM can, will, and must escalate to make those bosses effective to keep the game challenging. If the PCs respond in turn, then it's just an endless race. And then comes with a foe with mind control powers and you're still at Will 10 and hoping a good roll and Luck can see you through.

I'm not sure what the plan is for the snakeman - no one is going to buy it. The PCs can pay for research on it, or try it themselves, although Gerry lacks a lab of any kind so it'll be tough to accomplish a proper dissection.

MVP was Gerry. Crogar as always argued it was him for an epic ape-killing skull hit, and there was an argument that a knee-strike knockout by Aldwyn was the winner. But in the end it was Gerry for actually saving people's lives.
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