Friday, December 3, 2021

Assorted Links for Friday 12/3/21

Quick Friday posts!

- For all my talk, I didn't paint this week. I plead busy-ness. I'll attempt to get back to it this weekend or the next week.

- You can buy the Blog of Holding Random Dungeon Poster (again.) I do need to talk to Vic about Felltower stuff.

- The Nordlond Bestiary and Enemies Book funded. I'm hopeful it can get much, much bigger.

- Delta looks at "sweep" attacks. I like the multiple attacks vs. weak foes approach, but I think it works better in abstract systems like D&D and AD&D. On a tactical map - such as AD&D video games (Pool of Radiance, say) - it's harder to explain. But a 6th level fighting trashing six weak opponents in a one-minute round? Easily visualized. Hard to do it in a 5-second round where facing and tactical position matters.

- I did some character work for Felltower this week - more details on Sunday!

- Thanks to Acoup for linking to this - I wouldn't have seen it otherwise. I'm really interested in the logistical underpinnings of conflict. Too much Eastern Front wargaming, I guess.


Sometimes you can't easily accomplish what seems like you could due to logistical issues. And the enemy's problems always seem smaller and the enemy's advantages always seem larger from the other side.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Close Combat Defenses - Basic Set vs. Martial Arts

The Long Weapons in Close Combat rules in GURPS Martial Arts are a gamechanger.

In the Basic Set rules (and as far as I can tell, in DFRPG), your close combat defenses pretty much run as follows:

- Parry with a "C" reach weapon or bare-handed
- Dodge

You can Retreat to aid those, if possible.

That's it, per B391-392.

Nothing in Basic Set says you get your normal defenses on the second someone steps into Close Combat with you. Nor does it say that if you Retreat you get your full, normal defenses.

If you add in the rules in GURPS Martial Arts, things change for the defender a lot.

With those rules in play, the defender, per GURPS Martial Arts. p. 117:

- defends normally against attacks when the attacker initially steps into close combat;

- can start a turn in close combat with a foe, Retreat against that same foe's attack, and claim full Parry as if neither was ever in close combat;

- can Parry with a Reach 1+ weapon with a penalty depending on the maximum reach of the weapon used;

- can Parry with a "C" reach weapon or bare-handed with no additional penalty;

- can Dodge.

This is a dramatic increase in ability. Now, your two-handed sword wielding Knight is only at a -4 to Parry in close combat, not unable to, and is at a net +1 to Parry if they can retreat (ignore the -4 and take the +1). That's not nothing to a starting Knight, but it's still not bad - Two-Handed Sword-20 and Combat Reflexes is Parry 14, so a 10 . . . where in Basic Set (and DFRPG) you'd have no parry and be forced to Dodge. Against unarmed foes, too, instead of just getting out of their way if you can, you also get a very solid chance to stop their attack and wound them in the process.

Jumped by a Demon From Between the Stars? Parry on a 14 or less turn 1, 10 or less turn 2+, assuming you can't Retreat. Maybe hack its arm off on each one of those.

Without the rules from GURPS Martial Arts? Dodge and Retreat if you can . . . and just Dodge if not. If you pull that off, your foe just misses and isn't carved up on an armed parry.

Big difference.

Don't think I'm saying the rules in GURPS Martial Arts aren't good, logical, sensible, and defensible. I think they are all of those. But they do really tilt the playing field heavily to the defender. The attacker gives up a lot to get to close combat, and to attack in close combat. Unless the defender chooses to stay there or is completely unable to move away with a Retreat, the attacker gains little in return except the ability to attack with a "C" reach weapon.

In a game like DF, where PCs skills are very high - a low fighter weapon skill is an 18, and 20 is entry-level for a lot of templates - the penalties involved just aren't a big deal.

I've, anecdotally, seen PCs stay in close combat and melee with Reach 1 and Reach 1,2 weapons because they wanted to be in that hex no matter what . . . shrugging off a -2 or -4 to Parry as the cost of doing business. This is especially common when the damage penalty for using a weapon in close combat is forgotten . . . which happens often. It rarely is self-enforced. So generally, a Reach 1,2 weapon is -8 to hit, -4 to parry, no penalty to damage in practice.

Keep in mind, therefore, that implementing these rules makes for a very big change. Know it when you choose to do so!

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

More bits and rulings from Session 161

Here are a few things that came up in play on Sunday.

Concentration in close combat

Can you take the Concentrate maneuver while in close combat?

We've long ruled no, not with a hostile foe. You can step out as the Step portion of your Step and Concentrate maneuver, and then Concentrate, but you can't while you are there in close combat.

I'm not sure this is an actual rule.

One of my players said he can't find it in DFRPG, and wanted to know if, therefore, we should allow you to Concentrate in our DF/DFRPG hybrid game. I said no - our standard ruling applies here. We do use the rules in DFRPG as the basis to operate from, and then expand out from there. But just because a rule isn't operational in DFRPG doesn't therefore mean it isn't operational in DF Felltower.

This might be a bit strict, but we already expand what is - and is not - allowed in close combat in our game. We use the expanded close combat rules in GURPS Martial Arts, which isn't even standard for GURPS DF, nevermind DFRPG. We use Telegraphic Attack, trading attacks for Feints, Defensive Feints, multiple Blocks, spells like Zombie and Create Servant - all not in DFRPG. So, "It's not in DFRPG" isn't really a good argument that something shouldn't be so.

I'd be curious if someone can find a page reference about Concentration in close combat - I'm certain we play it how we play it, but I can't find an actual mention of this in Basic Set or otherwise from a casual search.

I'm not blaming my player for asking, I'm just faulting the logic here.

Shields in Close Combat

I know we got this wrong last session, and applied the penalty too broadly. I have zero sympathy, because I also know it happened to someone who didn't reduce his damage swinging in close combat with a Reach 1+ weapon, so I guess it evens out in a way. Also, it didn't even matter to any significant degree - if at all.

The actual rule? See Basic Set p. 392, or DFRPG Exploits p. 51.

I know I should know all of the rules . . . but I've said it before. I don't always remember them all at the time. I have a lot on my plate. I'm expected to run all of the foes, judge the results of all of their actions and all of the players' actions, and then also remember every little rule that affects each player and NPC. You want to make sure things go right for you based on those rules? Know them, and have a page reference handy - not a quote, I don't trust people's quotes:

"I think it's a -2" is less than "I have a -2 for that according to my cheat sheet" which is less than "I have a -2 to for that according to Basic Set, page 391."

Why? Because people write things down wrong, remember wrong, forget bits, and misunderstand the whole - and sometimes all of them. Convince me by quoting me the number.

Opportunity Fire

This is mostly a note for my players - if you want to Wait and then shoot, you need to use Opportunity Fire - Exploits p. 43 is the relevant rule here.

Minimum spell casting penalty for range

I enforce a minimum -1 to cast a spell at range, unless you are touching the subject. This requires a "to hit" roll in combat - even to touch an ally, who doesn't have to defend. If you cannot touch the target, you suffer at least a -1.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

DF Felltower, Bracers of Force, Ironskin Amulets, and Shirtless Savage Barbarians

I mentioned some of this in my post yesterday, but I wanted to expand further.

I said the following:

- the Bracers of Force aren't exactly the same as the ones in DF6. I'll post them sometime soon. They specifically do not layer with Shirtless Savage DR, and they replace it if you wear both. No if, ands, or buts about it. If not, you'll end up with a very munchkinny approach of claiming or arguing for force field DR for the eyes (excluded from Shirtless Savage DR), DR 9 on the arms on 1-3 and shirtless savage DR on a 4-6, and the force field DR whenever the force field is a better choice. No. either wear it and get DR 3 (9 on the arms on a 1-3 in 6) or don't wear it at all.

That does appear to contradict Dungeon Fantasy Denizens: Barbarians, p. 14, doesn't it?

I will say that the rules on p. 14 apply in my game - but not to these variant Bracers of Force (from Dungeon Fantasy 6: 40 Artifacts). Here are their stats . . . as the players know them:

* Bracers of Force. DR 3, force field, doesn’t stack with armor, only while conscious, only on living, sapient beings. Protects arms on 1-3 on 6 with DR 9 (total), $10,000, 6.75 lbs.

The players also know that Armor spells stack with barbarian DR, so these aren't providing the Armor spell exactly. They don't know if these stack with the Armor spell or not - likely not, but "similar effect" often doesn't stack.

There hasn't been an appearance by the Ironskin Amulet in DF Felltower, either, and I've firmly rebuffed attempts by players to order one or ask about one. The Invulnerability elixir exists, but isn't commonly for sale. At $2,100, it's a bit expensive for a casual purchase.

When it comes down to it, though, this is about play balance and color and interest.

As a GM, I need to make some decisions when I equip foes. I felt like the golden swordsmen were way cooler if they didn't have a lot of native DR from "tough skin" or "magical innate forcefields" or something, but instead the big bracers on the minis were actually a variant of Bracers of Force. That's pretty cool. It also means the PCs can take and use them, if they choose, or sell them - so they act as a form of loot. That's fine. But that doesn't mean I have to accept that choosing this approach means barbarians with Shirtless Savage DR thus get +3 DR force fields stacked onto the already-maxed DR (they all always max their DR). I can - and did - come up with a ruling that makes that not so.

The alternative as a GM was to say, okay, if I give these guys a cool, stylish, and interesting spin - their only armor are magical bracers others can use - I'm giving +3 DR to every barbarian in the game, and that's too much, so nevermind. I'll just say the bracers allow them to generate a forcefield but they only act for golden swordsmen. Or they have an innate Armor spell ability. Or something else. It's foolish to take the negative consequences you can see instantly or get rid of the whole idea, good and bad, to stay "consistent." And if the players are going to arm-twist the rules into making this work for their PCs in some fashion, I'd be better off just saying "these guys have Shirtless Savage DR, too, and no one gets any loot for that." That's not as fun or as cool as the bracers, even if it is easier to do and means the rules stay utterly consistent. See what I mean?

I chose to have cool magic items that some players can use on their PCs - or not use, as they decide. Cool magic items they could cash in as loot, too, making the risk of fighting the six-fingered ones and the golden swordsman a worthwhile risk, as their gear is quite valuable. But I don't have to also feed into the escalation of DR and damage in the game by letting it all stack together. I'm happy to give out the Bracers of Force above, but not ones that will turn Bruce, Crogar, and any and all future shirtless barbarians into DR 10 (12 vs. crushing) guys with DR 11 (13 vs. crushing) on their arms on a 1-3 and DR 3 on the eyes. That's pushing them firmly into the "ignore all threats not inflicting at least 2d+4 / 3d" territory, and makes them invulnerable to far too many effects. I still wanted the bracers out there and useful. I solved that problem by making it clear they don't stack with armor and the barbarian Shirtless Savage DR doesn't stack with it, either.

And that's why the ruling, and different bracers, and the lack of Ironskin Amulets laying around.

Monday, November 29, 2021

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Session 161, Felltower 116 - Level 7? (Part II)

We picked up mid-fight from last time.

Game Date: 11/7/21

Aldwyn, human knight (345 points)
     Varmus the Hanged, human apprentice (170 points)
Bruce McTavish, human barbarian (340 points)
Crogar, human barbarian (350 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (498 points)
Gerrald Tarrant, human wizard (420 points)
     2 skeletons (~25 points)
Wyatt Sorrel, human swashbuckler (378 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (366 points)

We restarted in combat.

The six-fingered foes continued to back off in the line they'd formed, as did the golden swordsmen, skirmishing with the PCs as they backed off. The goldcat backed away as well. The sword-armed six-fingered types threw more smoke nageteppo. Gerry countered with Purify Air to keep line of sight open.

The PCs kept to their line, with Wyatt spending a few seconds re-readying his sword off his lanyard. The next seconds basically consisted of the enemy backing off, repeatedly throwing nageteppo, and the PCs backing off. Galen shot the golden cat a few times but only managed to wound it a little further.

At this point, reinforcements showed up. Goblin-sized bipedal rats streamed out of the hallway next to where the axemen stood. Three kinds appeared - ratmen studded with chunks of crystal, ratmen crackling with bluish electricity carrying crude kukri-like blades, and shifty, crackling ratmen who didn't really seem all there or all the way in the same phase as the rest of them. They ran out at full tilt, reaching just short of the PCs.
Phase Ratman

Electric Ratman

Crystal Ratman

Aldwyn sprang into action, stepping up and stabbing a "blue one" three times. ZAAAAAAP. He killed it, but also shocked himself badly. He attacked a crystal one and wounded that one, and no shock. Galen shot three each with one arrow in the body, but that wasn't sufficient to kill any (I think he intended to shoot them in the vitals, but said body initially, and didn't take a -3 for vitals, so it was body.)

Gerry immediately cast an 8-area (15 yard diameter) Stench spell over the entire room, carving out the hexes his friends were in plus the corridor they defended. Ulf put Resist Lightning on Aldwyn.

The six-fingered foes kept to their side formation, throwing another smoke nageteppo to block the vision of the PCs. Gerry couldn't clear that without clearing the stench, too. Aldwyn was in the middle, surrounded by ratmen. He took some blind shots but immediately critically failed and dropped his sword. He'd drop the other, too, on another critical failure. Galen critically missed while in the smoke, too, while trying to sword a rat to death in close combat. The PCs decided the smoke was cursed.

The ratmen were in trouble - they didn't have time to hold their breath, and so were suffocating. So they charged the PCs at a full run, flowing through the open formation the PCs were in and filling the corridor. The PCs killed a few as they came, but otherwise they managed to overrun the PCs. The electric ones shocked a few people but most of the PCs were resistant (although one skeleton was nearly trashed fighting one ratman one-on-one in close combat for the whole fight.) The crystal ones scratched up a few PCs, and their crystals gave them enough DR to hold on. The phase ratmen were exactly that - they shifted in and out of phase, their hisses and sounds muffling to silence each time they moved out, giving them an irregular sound. They easily dodged most attacks but eventually got taken down by flank shots, critical hits, and massed attacks.

Wyatt and Bruce engaged the golden swordsmen as they backed off. Bruce broke one's sword when it tried to parry his giant greatsword, but it managed to back off. The goldcat roared and hurt Wyatt and one of the ratmen, but the swordsmen backed out of the stench.

The casters in the back got mobbed - Gerry managed to stay out of it, floating above and with his skeletons (and later Varmus) providing a screen. He threw a Flash spell behind Ulf to blind the mob of incoming ratmen. The smoke blocked most of them, but he got the lead ones, largely giving them a -3 to DX for a minute.

Varmus managed to fend off a ratman briefly, Ulf was mobbed up against the door and got a bit mauled, as Crogar and the skeletons were tied up with ratmen. Bruce, meanwhile, had long since rushed out to the fight and ended up brawling with ratmen in close. He punched one in the skull and knocked it cold, while another poked Bruce's right eye out with a crystal-clawed fingertip. He managed to eventually kill that ratman.

Wyatt faced off with the swordsmen - three of them now, down the hallway, blocking the cat - and threw a demon's brew, then a cloud of fire, and then missed a fast-draw for a second demon's brew. The swordsman came forward from the cloud, with sparks coming off of the one hit, but then ran through it while Wyatt finished readying his grenade (a muffed multi-fast-draw costs you not only the rest of that turn, but turns the next to a ready . . . be careful with those.)

Wyatt ran back to deal with rats.

The six-fingered foes backed out of the room, seemingly the way the rats came. They dragged away one fallen axeman, but not another one much closer to the PCs.

The PCs kept brawling with the rats. Varmus catch Itch as often as he could, Gerry Strike Blind, to disrupt the ratmen's attacks. They managed to keep a few of the ratmen from fighting effectively.

With the retreat of the swordsmen and axemen, the PCs converged on their casters and cleared out the ratmen, hacking them down.

They had little time to rest - they had maybe 4 1/2 minutes with the Stench up, and those with hearing heard whistles and a groaning, grinding noise. They didn't want to take their chances. Over Wyatt's strenuous objections, they gestured to each other to grab stuff and leave. They grabbed their dropped weapons and shields, Adlwyn grabbed the axeman, Crogar and Bruce each a golden swordsman, and they fled.

They made it up the stairs, fronted by Galen. This took a few minutes. They heard the clomp of obsidian on stone and scraping of ratman claws on stone, too - they'd managed to get past the upper level doors without an issue. They forced the Will Wall - it took a few tries for some of them - but eventually made it through. Luckily, they made it through the "gate level" without encounters (I rolled, nothing came), and eventually made it out of the dungeon.

They made it back to town with three corpses, the gear they wore - Magescale, some magical boots and a magic cloak, two pairs of Bracers of Force, and two ratman blades (which proved valueless - cheap steel, poorly done, with the Crude prefix.)

- to clarify, quick-readying off of a lanyard requires a flat DX roll; doing so quickly requires a Fast-Draw roll - which is penalized at -3 to -5 (default -4) for the size of the dangling weapon. A failure on a Fast-Draw in this fashion is a normal Ready. A failure on the DX roll means a failed attempt to draw at all. If the other hand is free to grasp the dangling weapon, this takes one Ready maneuver but doesn't require a roll - and can't be done with Fast-Draw. "Fast draw" techniques assume a sheath, not just the weapon.

- Alaric fumbled around the the dark for his swords, and found them over a couple of turns. Then he parried with them right away. I didn't notice this until right after - the player clearly assumed he found them and grasped them by the handle, at ready. I was assuming he'd just found the weapon, and didn't assume it was grabbed by the handle in a ready to fight position. So he was able to defend without any issue even though he should have had one.

- Blame Matt Riggsby for the ratmen. They were perfect, and made a good swap-in for something else I'd vaguely intended to use that didn't make as much sense. All I did was make them SM-1, because I like them smaller. But still, I basically look at monsters that Sean Punch and Matt write, say to myself, "That seems a bit excessive, who would write a monster that does that?" and then I use them as written or slightly upgunned. So I think I'm about 1% to blame, here. But it's mostly Matt's fault.

- For a long time, the PCs heard about the "six fingered vampires." Eventually, they fought one . . . and sold the body to the orcs. Since then, though, they mostly have referred to them incorrectly as the "cone-hatted cultists." This is despite a lot of clues - different descriptions, different heights, different numbers of fingers, different equipment (cone-helmed magescale, ornate axes, very slim swords and maces vs. cone hoods over normal headgear, red and black mail and cloth, normal human weapons done up to look more attractive) . . . I even used different minis entirely, and made it clear that what you saw was accurate. They had the same colors and same-shaped headgear, but clearly some of the earlier ones (and the ones in town) are humans apeing some others, and the others themselves.

Now that they have a body I took pains to tell them they are different. The PCs should know, even if the players keep getting them mixed up. They are clearly not human - six fingered hands with an extra joint on their long fingers, slender builds, extra-long incisors and fine teeth, very palid skin, no blood, jet black hair . . . and this one had its eyes poked out so they don't know how those differ. They're looking at getting it examined, and also want to preserve the hands to open doors. We'll see how that works. They preserved Alaric's hands to do that, and we'll see how this works.

- Now that the PCs realize on a deeper level that magescale doesn't includes hands and feet, I think we can safely assume they'll want to target the hands and feet of their cone-helmed foes. A -4 for a marginal target isn't a showstopped for 20+ skill guys, although most of them either have Slayer Training or Ultimate Slayer Training for much better locations. Still, I'd bet money on increased targeting of feet.

- the Bracers of Force aren't exactly the same as the ones in DF6. I'll post them sometime soon. They specifically do not layer with Shirtless Savage DR, and they replace it if you wear both. No if, ands, or buts about it. If not, you'll end up with a very munchkinny approach of claiming or arguing for force field DR for the eyes (excluded from Shirtless Savage DR), DR 9 on the arms on 1-3 and shirtless savage DR on a 4-6, and the force field DR whenever the force field is a better choice. No. either wear it and get DR 3 (9 on the arms on a 1-3 in 6) or don't wear it at all.

- the PCs probably had the ability to move on - but were very low on FP, the casters had largely drained their power items, and were running low on paut. Big combats - and they're all big when a "small" group has 10 PCs/NPCs - take a while. Huge combats - like this one, with about 50 combatants - take at least a full session. Fights won't get smaller.

The PCs had to leave basically because of FP. The FP issue is tough - the PCs need to win quickly, because they can't fight everything at once - and PCs need to conserve FP, which means they can't use as many FP-costing spells and abilities to speed up the fight. They can't safely rest for 15-30 minutes after each fight to heal up. If they can't move to the next fight without a break, they can't really do anything but try to win the dungen by attrition.

- My players did well on the deafness thing. Credit where credit is due. I'm still not sure about the whole "how many HP do you need me to heal?" question in combat, though. Do clerics have the ability to instantly diagnose damage levels at a glance at a friend? "He looks to be down 11 HP." I think this is all part of that "maximize every second in combat" approach - everyone wants every action to be the best, most efficient, and most correct use of resources for everyone, every turn . . . so assuming you can identify the exact level of wounds is just a way to make that happen.

- Roll20 isn't made for close combat. It slowed us down a lot as I clicked and dragged and clicked and dragged trying to get to see who is in what hex.

- Loot was around $3K each. They sold the Magescale (estimated value is $55,000) and one pair of Bracers of Force. Varmus took the other pair. They wanted to give the new magescale to Gerry and then pass the damaged set to Varmus, but Varmus wasn't keen on that . . . he preferred the bracers as they're lighter and unobtrusive. So he'll be blamed for any damage he takes that would have been stopped by the damaged armor.

- MVP was Gerry for the Stench spell followed up by an effective Flash and Strike Blind spends. He clearly broke the attack. XP was 5 each (3 for Galen). Gerry made his loot threshold and Galen 20% of his by Ulf giving up a portion of his loot. Poor Wyatt's player does the bookkeeping, and it took him many iterations to make this work. He'll be my firmest ally if we ever change to XP not being based on unequal distributions.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Felltower pre-summary

We played Felltower today and:

- Gerry layed down some large-area magic

- Ulf hid in the back

- reinforcements arrived - and not more of the "six fingered cultists" or golden swordsmen

- Bruce got into a bare-handed fight

- and the party got overrun but pulled out a win

- a few bodies were hauled off as the group scrambled to the surface after the bloody fray

- and a mysterious about the "cultists" was put to rest but another was revealed.

Details tomorrow.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Felltower tomorrow & a megadungeon best practice

So I'm sitting here on a Saturday night, listening to a hockey game, and getting ready for a game of Felltower tomorrow.

One helpful bit I've learned as I stock deeper levels of Felltower is to stock directly onto the maps. I've long done that for what's a room - a trap, a treasure, a puzzle, a monster, etc.

But it's helpful for a "new" level - one I haven't really detailed thoroughly - to then do a pass writing what's in a room. "Two golems." "Orc guards." "Beholder platoon." It's easier to see the relationship between rooms once those details are scribbled down in a visible fashion.

Why not play using the details on the map?

- It's hard to write all the details you need. I know, blah blah blah old school games only need you to list numbers and names and HP . . . but that's only true if you have the other details elsewhee. I prefer to have them all in a block assigned to the room.

- it's easier to add details to a document, and expand them as needed. This is especially true if the room contents keep changing.

- it's easier to search a document than to search a map. And I mean CRTL+F, grep, etc. - hey, is there another lich in this dungeon? Did they take that Potion of Human Control? Where the hell did I place Malice in this dungeon?

Perhaps in a small dungeon it's easy to play off the map, but I find it much easier to play off the document . . . but to take advantage of the map when doing the second-pass stocking.

So yeah, as I stock away, I find it easier to figure out what is in room 5-23 or 7-03 or 11-55 by looking at the map, writing it there, then writing it in the key, and then using the keyed map to play off of.
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