Sunday, December 10, 2017

Felltower Page Maintenance

I did some quick updates to the Felltower pages today:

- the Monsters Encountered page has been updated to include the golden swordsmen and goldcat and ooze.

- the Race and Template page has been updated to discuss DFD: Swashbucklers and DFRPG.

- minor updates to the layout of the DF Campaign page.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Easiest templates for DFRPG for a returning player - my take

Yesterday I asked about what the easiest templates would be for a GURPS 3e player returning to 4e-based play.

As promised, here are my comments.

My recommendation

What I said to the player was this:

"In terms of rules-know-how required to do really well, from easiest to most complex, the templates seem to go:

1) Thief, Artificer
2) fighter-types of all kinds
3) spellcasters of all kinds

2 includes barbarians, knights, martial artists (possibly the hardest of the fighter types), scouts, holy warriors.
3 includes clerics, druids, bards, and wizards.

Spellcasters are just tough because you have to learn the casting rules, deal with spell prereqs, track [energy from a power item, fatigue, and an energy reserve, etc.

It's totally doable [. . . ] It's just something you'd need to learn on top of knowing all of the other stuff.

Fighting is a little more complex than 3e, but if you read Exploits and a house rules doc I'll email to you (I need to clean it up to be readable) fighter-types are simple.

So that's how I ranked it.

Why are thief and artificer the easiest? Basically because:

- there is no combat complexity


- most of their skills are "decide what to do, describe it, and roll."

Not a lot of opposed rolls in there except against skills you're very good at (Stealth, for example). Most of the time, within your niche, you're top dog and roll against very high numbers.

Fighters are next. I think martial artists are the most complex, because of the combo of low armor values generally and specialty skills. We've had a heavy armor martial artist with weaponry, but a) he died and b) I'm not sure how effectively that leveraged what martial artists are actually good at.

Spellcasters are harder because of all of the things to track. Lots of rules to know, and all of them are critical to doing your job right. A non-optimized caster is a drag on the group, and one who either does too little or too much equally weights down the party in bad ways.

Ranks within Ranks

But how would I rank the fighters?

Easiest to hardest:

Holy Warrior
Martial Artist

In terms of making choices and playing the character, the Knight is the easiest. There is no bad set of choices for a Knight on the template. You're good at combat, largely melee combat. Melee combat really comes down to a few basic choices and understanding the rules for Deceptive Attack - something easily mastered. The numbers you roll against rarely change during a session. And you're probably going to either take cutting or crushing weaponry as your main weapon, and both are good choices against everything except Diffuse creatures (who you aren't good against anyway.) They're simple in actual play. "I drop my skill to 16 or 17 and then hit it in a random location or torso" is rarely a bad choice. It might not be the best choice, but it's almost always a step toward victory. Plus they're defensively sound unless you are a big risk-taker.

Barbarians are simple to design. Holy Warriors take a few more nuanced choices, as you need to decide if you're a demon-hunter or an undead-hunter and hopefully make choices that support that.

Swashbucklers can be tough - "Speed is Armor" means knowing how to leverage your speed. And knowing the rules for doing so, or depending on someone else to know for you.

Scouts aren't hard, but I don't think they are actually easy. You need to know:

- the range table
- the hit location table
- the rules for Homogenous and Unliving targets
- how the Chinks in Armor rules work
- how ACC works
- the Aim rules
- the rules for Fast-Draw and cumulative Fast-Draw.

Plus, you need to buy and track ammo. And have a good bow or two.

It's actually a more complex template than most melee fighters. It's not like a new player or returning player can't handle all of that. But it's very easy for players to think scout works like this:

- I shoot everything in the vitals or face and it dies.

I've literally had to pull aside every single scout's player save one - Galen's - at least once and say, "Please learn (some or all of the above list)." It's very frustrating for a player to expect they just shoot arrows and everything dies, then find out most of the foes they encounter in DF are most effective against their best damage types. Watching scouts shoot Unliving targets with broadheads, or accept advice from well-meaning friends who say, "Use bodkins points against those golems!" when Homogenous gives a 1/5 divider on injury, or not really get how the Range table works, or ask to shoot Chinks in Armor with a cutting-head arrow against a foe with only natural DR . . . it's frustrating as a GM. I end up needing to intervene to teach people how to run their guy. GURPS really needs less system mastery than people suppose, but for a scout you do need some. If you get buy with "I shoot it in the vitals!" or "I shoot it in the face!" and basically play Impaling McFaceshooty, you're going to spend a lot of time rolling relatively low damage and having the GM multiply it by x1 or x1/2 or x1/5 and ticking off arrows from your sheet.

None of this is to say Scout is a bad choice, or that this player couldn't run a Scout. It's just not the easiest template, it just on the surface presents the easiest choice. I still think a melee-oriented Knight, followed by an equally melee-oriented Barbarian or Holy Warrior, is the easiest way to go. You have more options in front of you, but no need to use them to be an effective character.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Easiest DFRPG template for a returning GURPS player?

One of my players is going to drop in and play DFRPG with us sometimes in my DF Felltower game.

That got me thinking, for someone conversant with the basic concepts of 4e but not the details, what templates are easiest to start with?

I have my own ideas and I've shared them with the player in question* - but I figured I'd see what you guys, the people who follow and comment on my blog, think on the subject.

What template-based characters are easiest to run in a DF game for a returning player, and why? Please share in the comments, I'm sure it will help him choose.

* Someone with a long history with me with GURPS 3e, Revised, but whose only encounters with GURPS 4e have been fairly heavily house-ruled.

(I shared my own thinking in this post.)

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Area spells trick

The other day, Sean Punch put up a great series of tips for spellcasters:

Dungeon Fantasy Tips for Superior Spellcasters

Great stuff.

But he missed a small but vital trick:

Trading energy for skill for area spells - Don't forget you measure your distance penalty for an area spell to the nearest edge of the area. You can make an area spell bigger, and thus closer to you, to ensure a good effective skill. A few extra points of energy for a larger spell can mean a slightly better chance at overcoming the resistance of targets in the area.

My players use this one all of the time, trading off recoverable energy for an easier chance at getting off a critical spell. For cheap area spells that depend on a good margin of success, such as Awaken, this is a vital tactic to know. Add this one to your repertoire.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

2000 AD minis - arrived

So you've seen these guys before, painted like I'll never get them painted, ever:

Well, here they are on my desktop:

I also got Don Apelino, and they threw in a sampler Imperial Roman unasked for!

I really have no need for any of these guys, except the Roman, maybe. I suppose the Don can lead my two Ape-X minis around.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Last few hours for the Dungeon Alphabet Kickstarter

Just a quick heads-up, this is ending in a handful of hours:

Bronze Age meteoric iron weaponry = proof of magic

See, clear evidence of magic:

- Bronze Age peoples made meteoric iron weapons;

- Dungeon Fantasy 1: Adventurers says meteoric iron weapons are unaffected by magic, making them awesome ways to bypass pesky Missile Shield and Blocking spells;

- they made these weapons even though they had perfectly good bronze weapons (and orichalcum weapons, obviously) to slay things with.

Therefore in the Bronze Age people had wizards to fight and slay, just like in Conan books. QED.

That's just science. And magic! And Awesome!

(King Tutankhamun's dagger)

Okay, it's mostly just awesome.

Monday, December 4, 2017

GURPS Gamma World, 20th Homeland - Session 15 - Operation Top Hat / Operation Top Hat II

We played a session of Gamma Terra today.

"Caveman" - demo/EOD
"Hillbilly" - medical specialist
"Love Handles" - demo/EOD
"Momma's Boy" - computer programmer

Back at the Ferry Base:
"Fatbox" - demo/EOD
"Oinker" - demo/EOD
"Short Bus" - computer programmer

In reserve:
"Barbie" - demo/EOD (MIA)
"Princess" - cryptographer/sniper

We started out in our ferry station base camp. This time, Short Bus, Fatbox, and Oinker stayed to guard our base. Although he was still badly psychically damaged, Love Handles was deployed with the mobile crew.*

We headed out to the college campus to meet with Colonel Jezza and make plans for Operation Top Hat. We passed a mech sans Little Thieves on the way (we later told Colonel Jezza so he could snap it up.)

Operation Top Hat was:

- borrow a mech

- build a boxed superstructure out of salvaged wood and metal and mount it on top

- send it to the mall

- if it was unmolested, do the same again but this time with the PCs in it

- bail out at the mall and loot it

- have the mech pick us up

Jezza agreed if we'd agree to replace the mech if it was captured. So we did.

But then we decided that it was worth trying a smaller run against some of the Little Monk barricades they'd been setting up to keep us pinned on the coast road and away from their precious Ancients sites. We realized that they might sense living things, and so Caveman decided he should ride it on this pre-programmed test run around the local area. Naturally this meant we all ended up piling into the mech's "top hat" and riding it because one of us might get into trouble but four of us means we'd be able to get out of it.

The trip began, and quickly we reached a barricade. The Little Monks shot arrows into the mech and the superstructure, to no effect, then scattered. But then immediately Hillbilly felt a wave of fear - bone deep, paralytic fear. He shook and couldn't do anything. The Little Monks came up with their barricade wood and stopped the mech by blinding it with an extended piece of barricade. It started to move back and they started to box it in.

Caveman solved this by shooting one of the barricade holders on the side. Love Handles shot as well, and Momma's Boy started burst-firing his PDW into the Little Monks. In moments, they were mostly down.

Caveman tried to yell Hillbilly out of the catatonia, but failed. So then he started to joke him out of it. That didn't help much, but eventually Hillbilly recovered himself.

But Hillbilly decided from then on, Little Monks were little threats. Unarmed ones were dangerous, and needed removal. (He gained a Quirk: Intolerance (Little Monks) from this psychic fear attack.) At the next barricade, we'd slid by and the Little Monks didn't threaten the mech. At the third, just before we'd turn for home, Hillbilly looked out and saw two unarmed LMs. Aha.

He aimed at one and shot him down. He switched to the second and narrowly missed him. The others joined in, gunning down two belly-bow users and the second unarmed guy. A couple others ran and Hillbilly and Caveman shot them down.

We reached the college and discussed our failure.

So, Operation Top Hat failed.

We settled on Operation Top Hat II.

- ride the mech with the top hat to the fringes of the Little Monks territory in the East

- bushwhack our way all the way behind the mall

- loot the mall

- walk back and wait for the mech and then return

We did that, instead.

Riding the mech and much of the initial bushwhacking was uneventful. But as we crossed some ruins we found a medicine cabinet in a building we'd crossed and found a bunch of expired and old meds and bandaids but also a boxed electric razor in perfect condition. We took that.

Then we got jumped by an ogre-sized armored mole-man with a tree branch club. Momma's Boy and Caveman were closest to it, and we shot it up. Nothing significant happened. A second later Hillbilly shot it once right in the nose as Caveman, Momma's Boy, and Love Handles shot it more. Still nothing - rounds went into its fur, but nothing happened - only the nose shot drew a little blood.

It smacked Momma's Boy and knocked him back but not down. Love Handles tried to talk to it in English. Caveman dropped his rifle onto the sling and started drawing his knives. Hillbilly let go of the SCAR-H with his right hand and drew Hoopslayer (referred to as "Hoopfriend" around the college campus, naturally.) Momma's Boy drew his "headlights" - the "laser" and the shield.

The mole-gre kept swinging his tree branch with little effect. Hillbilly slashed it and missed, then stabbed it and lightly wounded it, and then slashed it for much more damage, and then again for a lot less - all through serious resistance from its fur. Meanwhile, Momma's Boy managed to laser it a couple of times and inflict serious hard. Caveman tried his shortsword and couldn't even penetrate its metal-hard fur. It swung and hit Momma's Boy once in this process and then missed MB and Hillbilly a few times.

Eventually it fell, and before it could really get back up it got las'ed again and slashed again. It dropped, breathing hard but out. No one wanted it alive, so Hillbilly slid Hoopslayer into its eye and finished it off. It had nothing except iron-hard fur and equally hard skin. Its nose and beady little mole eyes were the only weak points.

After that, eventually reaching the "mall" was uneventful.

The mall turned out to be single big-box store. Momma's Boy hacked the passcode door in the back, which is Tomorrow Men code for "pried off the keyboard and defaulted it to all zeroes." We snuck inside and replaced the door keypad.

Long story short, inside was a combination Super Wal*Mart / Lowes. We basically set down and looted the place silly for almost two days total.

Hillbilly located a Mark V android and had him bring us to his supervisor. Then, Momma's Boy organized them, used his computer skills to get them under our control, and put them to work. We had 13 of them working and 7 disabled old ones.

Then we looted. We got out Caveman's Scrounging wish list and filled it. We tooks bags of jewelry and portable electronics and watches. We took walkie-talkies, batteries, ball bearings, propane tanks, balloons, tools, beer (240+ years old but some was still good-ish), bedding, fishing tackle, and more. Roughly, 1500-2000 pounds worth of stuff (Caveman's player over-estimated weights and ended up near 2000 pounds, but it's likely significantly less.) We even got some kevlar bike gear to use as leg and arm armor, along with extra suits that we put on the androids to protect them.

We eventually headed out. The androids carried most of our stuff. We made it a few hours away before they ran out of power. D'oh!

So we pulled their batteries and sent Caveman and Momma's Boy back to get spares and recharge the batteries. Love Handles and Hillbilly hunkered down to guard the androids.

That all passed smoothly, but it was annoying.

We eventually made it to the Mech meeting point and mounted up. We packed up the "Top Hat" full of androids and stuff, carried the rest, and walked back.

We made it to the college, talked to the Colonel, and then took the mech to the factory (dismounting and walking part of the way to avoid the rad zone, the androids were sent through.)

We met with the head android there, emoted with the Little Thieves, got Momma's Boy to bond with them over getting a knife, and then headed out.

We then eventually worked our way back to our base (IIRC, riding on a mech.)

We ended there.


* Love Handles really needed rest. But his player was there, so he came with us. In-game logic bends to the meta-game-logic of "you play your own guy" and Love Handles's player was there.

All in all, a good mission. We got 13 of the 25 androids we need, we improved our kit significantly, and made progress. We need 12 more mechs, and we're hoping we can find some of them on the Princess. We'll need another vehicle before we can get all of this stuff we looted back to our base (Unknown Area 3) or the Bal'Kree, so we need to salvage that and/or a dozen more androids.

We're probably taking some time off, as Momma's Boy wants to learn how to use the compound bows we found at the store. He's tried to convince Hillbilly he'll need to learn it "for when you run out of ammo" but Hillbilly is banking on finding better weapons than a bow before he fires off all 350 or so rounds he's got left. Hillbilly will spend some of his downtime testing the spare suits of Kevlar, and we'll see what else he does - there isn't an easy to self-teach skill around that he needs. We'll see.

Hillbilly often needs to get out Hoopslayer, but lacks Fast-Draw (Knife) - yet he's not going to learn it. As I said, I've never rolled an 18 taking a Ready maneuver. And that's it - I'd rather spend 1 second getting the weapon out than risk failure getting it out quickly. Fast-Draw (Magazine) might help, I'll think about that.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

How much treasure - one of my players posted about it

Following up on yesterday's post, here is what one of my players commented on over on Dungeons on Automatic:

Vic LaPira wrote:
"Over the last 15 Felltower sessions that I played in (I missed one where there was lower than average loot), the average over that time period is around $5,844 without the major haul (average of about $1,000 per share, because the number of shares varies). The average INCLUDING the big haul where we got $141,000 in one haul ($28,200 each) for almost no work (!) is $16,241 (average of $3,153 per share for 5-6 shares). That does not include magical items, such as the magical longword from the Sword Spirit duel; the huge equipment haul from the Baron Sterick fight: @$250,000 Worth of armor; a fine meteoric iron broadsword worth $25,800; a fine balanced dwarven throwing axe with puissance +1 and accuracy+1, which destroys any shield (except meteoric iron or orichalcum) on impact and has quick draw on it, probably worth upwards of $30,000); and the magic items from the huge loot haul, which included an iron ring of endurance, a ring of three wishes, a necklace of fireballs, and a “ring of protection +1” that was really a cursed poison ring that killed one of the characters (and there went $15,000 of that $28,000, LOL).

It’s great fun, but definitely NOT too much loot. The characters could each be earning $3,000 per session and still be dead broke every few sessions. That’s why they keep delving!

That's actually more than I'd expected. I did have to increase the loot a little while back when I realized I was being too parsimonious. But my players spend money like water going through a fire hose, mostly on things they'll need that don't last:

- potions
- scrolls
- hirelings
- food
- upkeep
- research
- healing
- consumable magic items

on a few permanent things:

- new armor
- new weapons
- replacements for the above when they're damaged beyond useful repair
- minor magic items and enchantments I allow for easy purchase
- better mundane gear

Even with the money that the PCs see, and the gear they find but keep, I'm probably still giving out loot a little on the low side as evidenced by how often PCs go broke and have to beg and borrow to get what they need to delve.

Still, I bet if I gave them twice, triple, even five times as much loot . . . they'd still spend it down like crazy and hope for more to make up the loss. Expensive one-time things start to become expensive every-delve things very quickly . . .

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Post recommendation: How much treasure?

Kyle Norton responded to a question/comment I had about "too much treasure." I wanted to link it here for my own sake and for any other GURPS Dungeon Fantasy / DFRPG GMs who wonder about how much to give out.

My TL;DR of treasure is "limit what's for sale, provide lots of services to rent, and hand out scads of money." It doesn't always work that way but it's what I'm aiming for.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The view from the throne - a looter's perspective

The other day in game, a PC found a hidden item through the simple expedient of sitting on a "throne." A stool, actually, set up in the chamber of the chief of some tribal humanoids, but set up as a ruler's seat.

Now, every time I've had an evil throne, or the throne of some dead king, or a throne-like seat of someone the PCs have defeated, someone has had their PC sit in it.

But Sunday had a first - or at least, something so rarely encountered in my play that it seemed like a first. Someone had his PC sit on a "throne" and ask how the room looked, and what he could see, from the throne. As the player noted, there is always something different about the room from the King's perspective.

In this case, it was an axe, hidden in such a way that it was ready to hand but out of view of anyone not seated. Facing the chief, he's unarmed, or armed with only what you see.

As a player skill moment, this was a good one.*

As a GMing moment, it made me think - when I put seats and chairs in a room, what do they face? What does that say about the room? Is there something the boss/chief/king/etc. expects to see, and things he/she/it expects the others to see?

It just so happened that I had put in a hidden weapon. But I hadn't given express, distinct, specific thought to what someone seated in the chair would see, only what was there and what people facing the chair would see.

Thanks to clever play, one of the players found a little bit of extra loot. But he also added a quick mental checkpoint I'll use to make better rooms in my castles, keeps, and dungeons. Thanks man!

* I still made a Perception roll, with a bonus for him. Sometimes you miss the totally obvious. But a +10 for "in plain sight" helps, especially when that bonus isn't there if you're facing the other direction.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

What the @!¢%*# is GURPS

Timothy Brannan posted about Dragon Magazine's issue #111.

He put up a copy of the big ad for GURPS from the issue:

I still pretty much feel like that's the reaction when I explain my hobby or my writing to non-hobbyists or casual hobbyists. As if explaining tabletop RPGs isn't hard enough, I have to explain it's an acronym, what the acronym is, etc. Some of my friends and acquaintances are still convinced I write manuals for video games.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Dungeon Alphabet 4th printing Kickstarter

Way back when, I got a copy of the Dungeon Alphabet. It really helped rekindle my interest in playing some Dungeon Fantasy, running a dungeon-based game, which eventually led to making a megadungeon, converting Keep on the Borderlands to GURPS, and starting a long-active campaign.

Several printings, including an expanded one, have come and gone. But I noticed this up on Kickstarter:

It's significantly expanded. Plus, the pricing is quite good for me. The price worked out to $17 for a physical copy, PDF copy, and shipping. That's not bad at all - if I found the hardback for $17 in a store with a free PDF download I'd grab it. So I backed this.

I really enjoyed the earlier version, and I think I'll get enough enjoyment out of the new one that I'll get my money's worth. Ultimately I've learned I vastly prefer reading tables to rolling on them - I'm a roll and re-roll until I like what it comes up with kind of person - these were fun and idea-provoking table entries. It's worth checking out to see if it's worth it for you as well.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

GURPS Sales on my stuff

Some of my books are on sale during this Warehouse 23 sale.

$21.55 on sale

$3.84 on sale

$6.15 on sale

$7.69 on sale

$4.61 on sale

That's not them all - for everything I wrote, you can search under my last name: Dell'Orto.

I'd also recommend this compilation of GURPS Dungeon Fantasy related material, if you don't have it. Even as someone who owns all of the covered issues, I find this very useful:

$12.31 on sale

Monday, November 27, 2017

Iron Crawlers from GM Games

I received a nice package in the mail on Saturday from GM Games, and I finally had time to give it a bit of a look:

Tim Shorts was nice enough to send me a copy of Iron Crawlers, Micro-Adventure #70, for Swords & Wizardry Continual Light. It also came with two S&WCL character cards:

It's all of four pages, includes a nearly full-page map and text covering the entire front, below the map, and another page an a half. It also finishes out with a roster of the bad guys in the adventure - the Iron Crawlers (sometimes also called the Iron Mongers, confusingly.)

It's an introductory-level adventure, and it's complete: bad guy roster, introduction and a reason to delve, map notes (including wall HP if you want to break them down!), info the bad guys know, etc. - it's all there. Treasure and enemy stats are easy to spot, and magic items are in bold, making them even easier to pick out for the GM.

It's good, it's complete, and it's inexpensive (aka free in PDF). And it's up to Tim Shorts's usual production quality.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

DF Game Session 94, Caves of Chaos 10 - Return to the Keep on the Borderlands

November 26th, 2017

Weather: Cold.

Ahenobarbus the Lacerator, human swashbuckler (260 points)
Desmond McDermott, human wizard (255 points)
Hayden the Unnamed Knight, human knight (260 points)
Mo (his momma call him Kle), human barbarian (352 points)

We had a discussion of "low-level" areas where starting PCs could explore, given a lack of players for this session. The Caves of Chaos came up, and so the group voted to go there. Mo accompanied them, mostly because his player wanted to run him this session and not bust out one of his backup guys. So the PCs made the trip to Falcon's Keep from Stericksburg, two weeks all told, and then to the Caves of Chaos.

They pretty much set out right away after the previous delve to get there, so they didn't get any rumors. They couldn't afford the Meeposian brothers, or anyone else, since they'd need to pay several weeks of wages for their help. Raggi was around but couldn't be bothered - he long ago decided he was done with the caves.

Once they arrived they headed straight for the Caves of Chaos, after briefly discussing going to the "Caves of the Unknown."

They arrived at the caves safely, but after some terrible navigation and outdoor survival decisions by Mo. Tired and foot-dragging, they decided that risking Mo's skill at hiding them to rest was a poor choice and went directly in. They chose the bottom left-hand cave out of the few they could clearly see from their position, after rejecting going for the top-most one. Unwittingly, they exactly mimicked the choice from our first session - none of the players today were playing at that time.*

The PCs made it into the caves, and chose to "always go left." So they did, and quickly ran into three waiting orange-skinned goblins with spears who lurked in a room waiting for them. They goblins sprang the ambush and attacked - and died in about as long as it takes to read that sentence. All three fell but not before they yelled "Bree yark!" really loud. The PCs found a number of spears (like, five dozen), a table, two casks of water, and little else. They didn't even bother to loot the goblins, and just moved on. Sounds of bare feet behind them and a door slamming ahead convinced them to move in further.

They went up two flights of stairs and found a closed door. Mo tried to force it, but failed due to a bar. So he crowbarred it open.

Out came some spears, which he dodged (and which hit no one, ultimately, as Desmond dove for it to avoid them.)

Mo yelled in Common for them to give the PCs treasure as tribute. They didn't understand them, but thanks to Intimidation and a naked (but attractive) barbarian clad only in war paint and a strategically placed spy horn hanging from his belt, they just stood stock-still. They readied weapons - five males, maybe ten females, and a dozen or so young. The young began to cry. The PCs waited as Desmond worked on Mass Sleep. Ahenobarbus tried to intimidate them as well, and they PCs moved in and backed them off. Desmond cast his spell, putting one male and one female to sleep - oh, right, hobgoblins are resistant to magic. The PCs attacked the still-standing males and killed them in short order. The females backed off to protect the young, and the PCs closed the door, barred it as they could, and then just moved cautiously around them. Ahenobarbus suggested tossing Alchemist's Fire on the women and kids ("Hey, that's how I was raised in the Barca family!") but Mo pointed out that if he did that he's crack his skull open. Ahenobarbus felt that Mo was right, it was a good idea to just move on. They did so.

They eventually found a side tunnel leading to a torture chamber, with three victims chained to the wall and two hobgoblins standing near a recently-extinguished fire. They threw spears and drew axes. The PCs waited, but then one threw an axe. So they charged. One of the hobgoblins swung his axe at Mo, another drew a hot poker from the fire. But they were quickly slain. The party saw the prisoners were an orc, a hobgoblin, and a human - but all were throat-cut, just before they'd arrived. All were tortured, especially the human. The orc must have expired earlier because he was throat-cut but little blood had come out, so he was probably gone already.

Mo smashed the skulls of the fallen with the hot poker. He wasn't happy about torture.

The PCs rested for a while, ignoring the clear signs that they'd alerted everyone. Soon, though, they heard noises. They ignored them, and waited for the inevitable assault.

Until they smelled smoke. Mo realized they were trying to smoke out the party!

They moved up the hallway and found a barricade of a table and some casks, with a bonfire behind it, and crates beyond that. When Mo looked out two crossbow bolts zipped toward him. He dodged back. They decided to attack it.

Mo moved forward with Desmond behind him. Amusingly, Mo chose to Dodge to avoid the incoming shots. So he blocked one and the other forced Desmond to hit the dirt. He still managed to get off a Create Water spell to extinguish the fire.

Ahenobarbus used Acrobatics to cross the barricade and face the hobgoblins on the other side, two with axes and shields. They shielded the crossbowmen from the PCs. Soon, though, Hayden nailed one with a javelin, Mo hit one crossbowman with a thrown axe, and the group moved up. Desmond created an Explosive Acid Ball and held onto that as Hayden threw another javelin into an axeman and dropped him. Mo and Ahenobarbus quickly attacked the others and dropped down. The crossbowmen fled, some spear-armed hobgoblins moved, and in a short brawl they went down. The PCs set Desmond on guard as they bandaged up some minor wounds and then followed after Desmond threw his acid spell uselessly to get rid of it.

They moved on and found the skull-lined exit cave beyond a door, as well as a tunnel and stairs. Up the stairs they found a room with a glowing fire in a fireplace and a barricade of trestle tables. Deciding it was clearly a crossbow ambush, Desmond lobbed an Explosive Acid Ball over the tables. It went long, but still managed to splash the defenders. There were screams and cries. Mo and Ahenobarbus ran up, looked over . . . and saw acid-splashed women and kids. Oops.

They left after realizing they'd just attacked helpless non-combatants.

They found a guardroom (but no guards) and a burned-out armoury. See Secrets located a secret door, however, and they passed through that and then another.

Beyond that door was a guardroom. Mo backed off after spears came out at him and readied his weapons. The hobgoblins in the other room got ready and then shoved the door shut, yelling the whole time.

So they PCs stacked up and Mo shoved the door open, managing to move it and two hobgoblins that tried to stop him. He got attacked for his trouble but ran in the room and into close-combat with a hobgoblin, trying to knock him over with his shield. He met two axemen, two macemen, and two dueling halberdiers. Two crossbowmen shot and then retreated, hitting Desmond and wounding him (an accident of hitting the wrong target) and Hayden (bouncing off his armor despite a bodkin point.) The other PCs moved in. Mo used Cleaving Strike and put three of them down, two with serious skull shots that floored them. (Incidentally, he was rolling well on defenses, well on "to hit" rolls - routinely well under 10 - but rubbish on damage, once rolling a 5 on 4d. Still, on a skull shot, his minimum will kill most fodder outright.) Ahenobarus moved in and killed one or two, and Hayden killed the others. They started looting while Hayden guarded the two doors out. Good thing, as one door opened and two crossbow shots came in. No one was hurt, but Mo and Ahenobarbus rushed into the other room. They managed to kill two warriors, two females (one Ahenobarbus slashed in the back as she fled to a nearby door) and one of the crossbowmen.

They decided to stand pat there - Hayden guarding the other door out of the first room, Ahenobarbus and Mo the second room, and Desmond would loot. Desmond went to work.

After a minute or so the other door opened - and out rushed four big female hobgoblins with maces ("the East German Swim Team of hobgoblins") backed by, clearly, the chief. Hayden fought off the females and whistled for help. Mo and Ahenobarbus came running.

But then the chief threw an axe at Mo and rolled a 3, hitting him in the hand and falling just short of enough to cut it off! Mo dropped his morningstar. The chief stepped out of sight of everyone but Hayden.

Mo shield-checked one of the females right after Hayden badly wounded her. Ahenobarbus moved in and sliced her down.

Desmond, who is pretty badly hard of hearing, didn't notice and kept looting. (He'd stay oblivious the whole fight, which just cemented his awesomeness in the eyes of the other players.)

They quickly cut down the other females, and the chief barked in Common at Hayden, "Human, fight me!" Hayden said, "Sure, alright." But the chief backed behind the door so people could only engage him one-on-one. Ahenobarbus tried but couldn't penetrate his plate breastplate to any real degree, only lightly wounding him. He backed off and let Mo in, who tried to shield-bash the chief's hand. It was blocked easily. He backed off. Ahenobarbus moved in again, parried the chief's blows, and then stabbed him in the face with a Deceptive Attack after a feint. He hit and inflicted a major wound - and the chief was knocked cleanly out. He fell backward and down.

They took off his helmet and cut off his head after Ahenobarbus made sure of the wounded with thrusts to the vitals.

They heard some footsteps - one pair of booted feet and some bare feet slapping on the floor. They let whoever it was go.

They searched the bodies, and alerted Desmond - "Hey, you dragged those guys in from the other room? Nice." They searched the rooms. Ahenobarbus sat on the chief's stool, which had space for the four females around it and a human-style chair with a cushion on it with two kneeing cushions next to it. He quickly spotted a hidden throwing axe set for easy grabbing. They took that - like the first, it was a fine-quality throwing axe.

Desmond took a nap on the chief's bed, and they slowly and thoroughly searched the room, put out the fire and searched behind that, and looted the obvious loot. Finding what they could find, they used See Secrets to no avail.

They rested more and headed out.

After this, they found a storeroom, and Ahenobarbus and Mo proceeded to knocked open a keg of ale and drink. Mo held it up for Ahenobarbus to drink while standing on his head. Ahenobarbus quickly went past his limit and was getting pretty drunk. But they moved on further, noting nothing worth carrying but much worth recovering given some carts or porters.

They found another secret door down a hallway, and noted it led to a storeroom - this one guarded by goblins. The goblins saw their lights, then Mo, then ran as he yelled them and posed menacingly. "Based on my knowledge of Galoob, all goblins are cowards" he noted. "And lecherous" someone else noted. They realized the hobgoblins were taking the better stuff from the goblins via a secret door.

At this point they decided to leave, not wanting to engage the goblins uselessly. They got back to the main door and headed out, and made their way to the keep.

Poor navigation by Mo meant they arrived late, and got stuck outside overnight in the drizzling rain. They all caught bad colds except Mo.

We ended it there, and they bought rations and planned to head back to Stericksburg, feeling like they'd had a positive delve.


* Hayden the Unknown Knight's player ran Fuma the thief starting in Session 9. He realized today that although Mo and Ahenobarbus are run by people who've played with me longer - since High School and somewhere in the 2000s during my last game - he was the ranking player at the session for this campaign.

We learned a bit about Desmond - he's in his 50s, married, and retired - probably from the lay priesthood, maybe something else. His wife wants him out of the house on weekends and/or he's adventuring so he doesn't have to help organize the shed or clean the house. Probably both. It's why Gort was adventuring, after all. Now that Desmond's age and family situation are established, we've got all sorts of shanannegins we can get into with his PC.

It was interesting to go back to the Caves again. I'm not sure what goal, exactly, the PCs had, but "fight monsters we can mop the floor with" was part of it and they did that. They mashed the hobgoblins badly and killed the chief. Loot was good, thanks to selling the chief's broadsword, plate breastplate, mail and fine throwing axes. Some other coins and jewelry helped as well, netting a mild profit for the group. They will probably delve next out of Stericksburg.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Black Friday/Cyber Monday Black Tree Design sale

Quick heads-up on a sale by one of my favorite mini companies:


40% Sitewide
25% Cavalry
30% Doctor Who
20% Bonus Coupon on your next order
Free shipping over $100/£100

We have decided to go Full Monty on our Thanksgiving Black(Tree) Friday Cyber Monday Sale Extravaganza (hereinafter called The Sale). Massive discounts, Free Shipping AND a 20% Off Bonus Coupon. We've pulled out all the stops, shoot the works, gone the whole nine yards, and... I think I will stop there! To avoid any embarrassment here at EOE Central all staff have been told “Baby, you can keep your hat on”.


Next week we will send a 20% Bonus Coupon to all customers that have placed an order during The Sale. This coupon can be used on any future order (up to Dec 24th). Place an order as usual, taking advantage of any discounts, then enter the coupon number in discount box at checkout. Easy Peasy. Once entered, you will see 20% disappear from the total due as if by magic.

World War 2 Ranges
Doctor Who Ranges
Ancient Ranges
Roman Ranges
Dark Ages Ranges
Feudal Ranges
Hundred Years War Ranges
Zulu Wars Ranges
Fantasy Ranges

Sale ends Midnight November 27th

Small Print

The 40% Sitewide (some exclusions apply), 25% Cavalry and 30% Doctor have been applied and The Sale discounted amount will show on the Website. Yowza.
You will receive free shipping on your order where the merchandise total after discounts applied is $100 or more. K-ching!

Bonus Coupon 20% if off the value of merchandise only.
Bonus Coupon 20% is addition to any Discounts shown on the Website
This offer has no cash value and may not be redeemed for a gift certificate.
Coupon expires 12/24/17 at 2:59 AM EST.

So, buy something now, get 20% off your next order. Neat. I may need more of these orcs, they were fun and easy to paint and my players thought they were really attractive on the tabletop:

Friday, November 24, 2017

Link Hogthrob WIP

Okay, he's probably not originally meant to be Link Hogthrob, but he's named that now:

He's coming out okay, if a little high-contrast.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Limits on Resurrection?

A few of the PCs in my DF Felltower game have died a number of times.

As-written, though, and as-run, we basically have only two limits on Resurrection:

- cost, in either character points or money or both (25 points or $15,000, or a combination of both at the usual 1 point/$500 exchange)

- a 15 or less success roll in town (with a -1 per day after death).

And for what it's worth, I don't allow Luck or Lesser Wish or Wish spells to affect this. It's just a roll. Dead people aren't lucky, they're dead, and we don't allow wishes to work on spells.

In the DFRPG, it's even less limited:

- cost, in either character points or money or both (25 points or $15,000, or a combination of both at the usual 1 point/$500 exchange)

And that's it. No rolls, no "per day" penalty mentioned, nothing.

So you can come back from death as often as you can afford to.

But what if you want to limit it? What if you don't want death to just be, "okay, you're done for the session, and out $15K"?

Here are some limits you can choose from.

No Cash-Only Resurrection

Instead of $15,000 or 25 points, make it $10,000 and 10 points. Every time you die, you must cough up 10 points of reduced abilities or additional disadvantages or both. This can have an in-game effect of making death really frightening without making it all-or-nothing.

You could also make this an escalating point cost - perhaps it's $15,000 and 0 xp the first time, the second time it's $15,000 and 5 points, then $15,000 and 10 points, etc.

Cumulative Resurrection Penalties

Each Resurrection spell after the first is at -1. Cost is paid up-front, of course, and any failure means no one can try again. If you fail this, hopefully a friend will try Great Wish.

You can make this more steep, if you like: -3 per cumulative attempt will make this a 1-3 time affair. It would match the -3 for cumulative healing spells.

Hard Limits

Put a firm cap on the number of times. One to three is probably thematically appropriate, nine for cat-folk (make it a Perk), if you want to avoid D&D-level issues of Con 13 guys who've died 10-11 times and think, okay, I've got to stop adventuring soon, it's getting risky.

Setting a stat-based limit is possible. HT/5, round down, or Will/5, round down, can make sense depending on how you see it metaphysically.

Generally, I don't have a problem with Resurrection as written and as we play it. But having people killed over and over and come back does make it seem like sufficient money will even take out the sting of death. If you want that sting put back in, those are ways to do it. Still, it's a game, and if people want to earn treasure and spend it getting their paper man playing piece back in play, is that a bad thing? I'd recommend using Resurrection limits sparingly.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Combat in the megadungeon

Another truism I've heard about old-school megadungeon gaming is that combat represents a failure. You've somehow managed to fail at getting treasure through cleverness or stealth or sneaking. Getting it through combat is already paying a price you didn't want to have to pay.

My own experience with old-school systems and even retro-clone megadungeon delving is, basically, that this is not quite true.

Combat is risky, but it's also a very effective means to an end.

The critical aspect to me is, it's the end that's important. You want treasure. Not all of it will be unguarded. You won't be able to get maximal loot without combat. Not every access point to deeper levels will be unguarded, not every treasure will be plunderable without conflict, not every treasure-gifting puzzle is solvable before wandering monsters show up.

Plus, in many game systems, combat gives XP. Even if treasure exceeds or dwarfs it, it's not zero, so there can be a benefit to fighting when you can win with minimal or negligible cost.

Additionally, no matter how careful you are, how stealthy you are - you'll have to fight sometimes. It's hard to sneak in a dungeon, and basically impossible with a large group depending on light to see and spoken words to communicate.

But again, if you don't have to fight, or if fighting comes with a cost but not a reward, you want to avoid it if possible.

I think I can get behind this statement:

If the answer to "Should we fight this?" isn't "we literally have no choice*" or "hell yes!" then you don't want to fight it.

Monsters you can basically execute instead of fight, monsters with disproportional amounts of loot (dragons, especially in old-school D&D games), monsters that have high intrinsic XP values but low intrinsic threat to you - those are going to be "hell yes!" if you're high on resources.

So combat isn't automatically a bad choice. It's just a risky one, and one that comes with costs. You want to avoid combats that aren't going to net you more than they cost you (immediately, and long-term). But you don't want to avoid it at all costs, just when it's cost outweighs its benefits.

* I mean this literally. Not "we convince ourselves we have no choice" or "argue we probably should do this." I mean, Move 12" monsters vs. Move 9" PCs / Move 8 monsters vs. a Move 5 party, attacked by surprise, etc. No choice.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Is megadungeon play really about exploration? (Part II, competition)

Yesterday I argued that in a treasure-based XP system, megadungeon play is about treasure more than exploration.

That is, you explore as needed to get treasure. You fight as needed to get treasure, too. I've often heard combat described as failure, or to be avoided at all costs, but honestly, that doesn't match with D&D and D&D-based systems as I've played them. Combat that nets you less benefit than it costs is a failure. Combat that nets you something you want and costs less than that's worth to you is a net benefit. It costs resources, sure, but so does everything else - light, healing, food, time, even logistical ability to bring out treasure is a limiting factor.

But it's treasure you want.

In other words, combat for combat's sake is a failure.
Exploration for exploration's sake is wasted.
Treasure found and recovered for any reason is success, regardless of if it is coupled with combat or exploration or not. 10,000 gp is 10,000 gp, whether it's in a heap in a corner of room 1 or hidden behind a series of secret doors down on a deep level guarded by demons.

But does this all change if there are other players in the dungeon, competing for access to that treasure? Does that fundamentally change the game to an exploration-based game where treasure is the reward for exploring?

I think no.

Rivals and competition certainly change the dynamic of a dungeon.

In a non-competitive game or single-party game, you can be a lot more relaxed about finding new sources of treasure. You can spend time exploiting loot until you need to move on to look for more.

In a competitive game, though, you could potentially miss out if you don't explore. Your main goal is still loot. But you're more driven to find things first - something not an issue where you're the only group doing so.

You might order a non-competitive game's priorities as:

1. Treasure. Find it and loot it, you need it to advance.
2. Combat. Kill things that are in the way of #1 or #3.
3. Exploration. Discover new areas to loot.

In a competitive game, my own experience of competition puts the priorities as:

1. Treasure. It's still the main goal.
2. Exploration. Being first has potentially great value.
3. Combat. It's to your benefit if your competition has monsters in their way.

Ultimately, then, I think competition just reframes the value of exploration. But only because the pressure to find and exploit treasure first and most makes it so. You can't be leisurely about exploiting finds - or exploring for finds - if you know another group may be more aggressively exploring. You won't spend time thinking, we need to wipe out those orcs/demons/dragons/eyes of death/whatever because they are a long-term risk. You'll be thinking, great, those orcs/demons/dragons/eyes of death/whatever make a great barrier to other groups, let's avoid them and find new places no one has been before "they" get their ahead of us.

Fear of missing out on new areas with new treasures seems like it would drive exploration's value up in a competitive game. Your goal is still identical, but this would become a more of a priority and more of a means you feel you must maximize.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Is megadungeon play really about exploration? (Part I)

Is megadungeon play about exploration? I've heard that it is. It seemed to be a truism back when I was reading material that caused me to launch a megadungeon-based game.

But how exploration-based is it?

A thought experiment

If you have three choices in front of you in a megadungeon . . .

- treasure in a known, already-explored area (guarded, unguarded, doesn't matter)

- a fight that doesn't have any treasure

- new areas to explore

. . . which do you choose?

In my games, you choose the treasure. If I was playing a D&D-based class-and-level system with treasure providing the bulk of the XP, I'd choose the treasure as well.

So my megadungeon game is not about fighting or exploration. It's about treasure.

Fighting is a means to get treasure.

Exploring is a means to get treasure.

If your game rewards exploration, and treasure is a nice thing to have because it enables more exploration, you'd probably explore more.

I'd argue that megadungeon play in a treasure-centered XP system isn't about exploration. You're doing that because it's required to get treasure. Meta-game wise, you're also doing it because it's fun - combat fits this as well. In the game, you fight because some fights are required for gaining treasure or can't be avoided in the process of gaining or finding treasure. Sometimes you fight because you're bored or annoyed or want to try out your spiffy new spell. It might be a bad choice. But then again, sometimes exploring is, too. "Let's just go back down this one corridor and see what's there" dropped my own PC deep down into the dungeon once.

If you wanted it to be about exploration, you could reward exploration directly with rewards - finding new things would give XP, and monsters and other combat encounters would be obstacles to overcome to get to new areas. Treasure could be a secondary objective, or not an objective at all - it might be its own reward as it gives you assets to expend on resources to use exploring.

Tenkar's original B-Team xp approach in the Castle of the Mad Archmage is a good example of a game where the megadungeon play was was heavily about exploration. PCs received an escalating amount of experience points for each new, numbered encounter area explored . . . and since it went up and up, you were driven to go "just one more room" because it was worth more than the previous room. Treasure was a major source of experience but the main XP came from exploration. We still sought treasure as much as possible and avoided fights (risky, least XP) - but we'd explore just to explore. Had Tenkar made treasure XP even smaller, we'd just have skipped known treasure for unknown rooms unless that treasure was trivial to get.

Does any of this change if there is more than one adventuring group exploring the dungeon? I have some thoughts that I'll post up tomorrow.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

DF Feltower: A New Axe for Raggi

So Raggi's axe was sold to fund his return from death.

What he lost was this:

• Dwarven Fine Greataxe (Accuracy +2, Puissance +2, Shatterproof), $49,400, 8 lbs.

It was sold for $19,760, and Resurrection cost $15,000. He has $4,760 plus around some loot money. Not enough for an enchanted axe, but plenty enough to order a pretty good one:

• Balanced Dwarven Fine Ornate Silvered Greataxe, $2,100, 8 lbs.

"Ornate" isn't strictly necessary, but it's only $100 (+1 CF) for a +1, and it'll look nice.

He doesn't have the $10,600 it would cost for a giant spider silk cloth shirt, but he probably needs it for the 2 additional DR. Getting Puissance +1 on his axe for $5,000 is more of a priority.

It's really a shame his magic greataxe is gone. That - like the treasure horde and monster that guarded it - was an exact clone of an encounter from my version of the Forgotten Realms "Dungeon of Death" from my long-running GURPS 1e-converted-to-3e-revised game. It's even the inspiration for a magic item in GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Denizens: Barbarians!

Oh well, it's gone now. Perhaps this new axe can carve its own legend.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Player die rolls/details I watch - and the ones I don't

I take a pretty hands-off approach as a GM for a lot of PC details in my game.

For other details, I take an extremely hands-on approach.

I think this says a lot about how I run game.


These things, I pay close attention to.

Die Rolls - There is a short list of die rolls I watch. As in, I stand up and watch the players make the roll. They are:

- Resistance Rolls

- "To Hit" rolls

- Death checks

- Knockdown/Stunning and Consciousness rolls

- success rolls with real, critical and immediate effects

Sometimes I'll watch other ones - almost any other ones - especially if it's dramatically important or really fun (like damage rolls when someone is doing extra damage, or rolling lots of dice such as an 18d missile spell.) A lot of these I watch because of modifiers, margin of success concerns, or to make sure players are rolling against the right number in a critical situation.

Point Totals. I track point totals, XP earned, and advantages, disadvantages, skills, etc. in GCA. If my notes disagree with the players, it's on the players to show I'm wrong. Generally, I'm not, as I'm meticulous about tracking them and doing the point totals in a specific, repeatable way.

Session participation. I write the summaries, so I've got close notes on who was at what game, with what PC, with roughly the right character point total when they participated.



Die Rolls - basically every die roll not listed above, I don't bother to look at. It's not that I don't care, it's just that only the results really matter to me. Defense rolls, damage rolls in most situations, spell casting rolls, healing rolls for potion effects, etc. - the players do that. I don't even look. I often find out after it's all over. "Okay, my guy is up and around." Me: "Wasn't he just like 2 HP from -5xHP?" "Yeah, but I roll X, Y, and Z on my healing potions." Me: "Oh, nice! Okay, you're up and around." I don't even look over the screen unless I feel like the roll might be entertaining.

Equipment - I track some gear for the PCs - mostly armor and weapons, just so I have a handy way of telling them damage and and DR and making sure it's added up correctly or modified correctly (or quickly!) when modified by magic. Other gear? Up to the players. I trust them with our very simple, elegant encumbrance system.*

Sometimes gear gets lost - "What ever happened to that ____________?" If you don't know, don't ask me. I don't know. Maybe it's on some PC that doesn't play anymore. Maybe you sold it. Maybe it's lost in the dungeon. In any case, it's gone.

Money falls in the same category.

Energy - players are in charge of dealing with energy costs, spells on, recovery, using Pool A to recharge buddies's Pool B to min-max the recovery rules to finish up 1 minute faster and avoid a Wandering Monster roll, whatever. They do that. I couldn't even tell you how they do it except that when I ask, it's accurate and detailed.

Everything else, really - Besides those specific examples, I don't really track much for the PCs. The players do that. They do it well enough. The game setting is fairly adversarial, but we aren't. I trust them with their roll.

* Also known as "add up the weight in pounds." Heh. Sorry, I know a lot of people love alternate encumbrance systems, but real-world measures is just so easy for me and works well in play.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Golden Swordsmen and Goldcat minis

The gold cat is a TSR Star Frontiers megasaurus:

To make it a magical, interesting, special creature I wanted a non-standard non-earthly color. I pretty much painted that one up gold because, well, why not.

Once that was done, I put it in storage and kept it in mind.

Then I got around much later to painting the golden swordsmen.

The golden swordsmen are I-Kore Flesh Eaters. I got them because I thought they looked fairly Githyanki or Githzerai-ish.

They're intended to be undead but don't look rotted. So I used a paint scheme that made them look like the cover of the Fiend Folio with its Githyanki - gold, yellow, brown.

Once they were in-process I realized they'd match up well with the golden cat. I started to think of a synergistic set of abilities and powers and you end up with deaf/mute warriors with a "pet" with sound-based attack powers.

I'm quite happy with these guys. They had stayed half-painted for a long, long time until I just suddenly rushed and finished them. For all the rush might have detracted from the minis, I think it forced me to paint better and not second-guess my color scheme. Brown, gold, and yellow is a tough combo but they look good on the table.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

GURPS books on RPG Now

This is pretty big news, disguised as small news. GURPS books are now available electronically on RPGNow, not just on Warehouse23.

You can find the full list of them here:

This includes all of the books that are sold as POD (Print on Demand) on and Createspace and pretty much everything else.

Might I suggest starting with a copy of GURPS Martial Arts?

By the way, amusingly, RPGNow only displays for me in Francais. I don't know why, but oddly, it doesn't really affect my experience.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Mo has Dodge what now?

Mo's player mentioned that Mo (his momma call him Kle) has Dodge 14.

How is that, exactly?

Pretty simple:

Speed 6 gives a base Dodge of 9.
No Encumbrance is -0.
Combat Reflexes is +1 to all Active Defenses, for a 10.

He carries a Medium Shield (DB 2), for a 12.

And he has Extra Option (Beefcake Protection), giving him a +2 for full nudity, for a 14.

So Mo's shield-enhanced Dodge is 14.

It makes him hard to hit, and his natural DR makes him hard to hurt with minor attacks, which is how he survives in combat even with Committed Attack as his base move, which drops his Dodge to a more-reasonable 12.

Still, 12 means he succeeds more than he fails.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

DF Felltower, Session 94, Felltower 67 - Golden Swordsmen

We played our latest session of Felltower on Sunday. For general links and previous sessions, please the DF Campaign page.

November 12th, 2017

Weather: Cold.

Ahenobarbus the Lacerator, human swashbuckler (255 points)
Gerald Tarrant, human wizard (302 points)
     5 skeletons (~25 points)
Hayden the Unnamed Knight, human knight (255 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (330 points)
     Brother Ike, human initiate (143 points)
     Antonios, Demitrios, and Leonidas of Meepos, human spearmen (125 points)
Mo (his momma call him Kle), human barbarian (352 points)
Raggi Ragnarsson, human berserker (?? points)

We started in Stericksburg as usual. The plan was to move down to the bottom of the giant spiral staircase and explore "the nicer area" ("Not that area with the noisy neighbor." - aka the Lord of Spite). The group was able to locate the Meeposian brothers for the delve, as well as Raggi to bulk out their ranks.

The PCs dragged the bridge up to the castle and stashed it outside with their winter clothes, and climbed the walls and went down through the metal trap door. They wound their way around the first level and found their chosen way to the stairs down blocked by spidewebs. There was a clear tunnel in it. Mo tried to shoot an arrow into the web tunnel to get the spider to come out. It wouldn't. So they advanced with Hayden holding a torch to set the webs on fire. A humongous spider rushed out and was quickly slain by Mo and Hjalmarr and Hayden. As they burned up the webs Gerry cast Zombie on the spider and added him to his trail of undead. Mo collected an egg sac and plotted using it to plant near the orcs so they'd have to deal with a lot of spiders.

They headed down to the next level, hurrying past the stirge-choked hallway and to the stairs. They dropped the egg sac just around a corner near the stairs and opened up the door.

Beyond it was an ooze!

The ooze rushed out and snapped a stinging pseudopod out at Hjalmarr. Mo rushed up to hit it. So did Hayden. Ahenobarbus started to get out an alchemist's fire a moment later. The ooze kept attacking, moving in close, sizzling away armor, and dodging attack after attack. The PCs hit it fairly often, but couldn't seem to make much headway - weapons passed through it with little effect (aside from taking corrosion damage!). Mo was hit once or twice and resisted its poison but had his skin scaled by its corrosion attack. Ahenobarbus hit it with alchemist's fire, almost - it dodged and got caught in the splash damage. (The original plan was "stick in it and Mo will hit it" which showed I didn't describe the ooze well, everyone assumed it was like a giant enveloping slime, which is more gelatinous.) The ooze burned with the fire a little bit, but easily moved out of the burning area. It was eventually hit with more alchemist's fire and hit a lot, and quivered . . . and split into two!

The two smaller oozes fled, one down the stairs and the other up the wall and away. Ike tried a Sunbolt but missed.

The PCs took stock of their damage and wiped the ooze's slimy gunk off of their weapons and armor. They needed to go down, and the ooze was going to be there.

They moved down the stairs, single file, and watched for the ooze. It eventually rushed them out of the darkness. Mo slammed an alchemist's fire near it (on it, but it dodged) and the stairs were afire. They kept hacking at it and it kept Dodging when it could and stinging back.

Gerry Levitated a skeleton out into the air, and found it wasn't a NMZ. So he did the same to himself and while Invisible moved up to the ooze. He tried to hit it with his staff with Deathtouch but it dodged. He tried again and hit. That seemed to do it - the ooze broke up and dribbled away. Was it the blow, or the spell? It seemed like it was the spell, but they're not sure. They'll need to experiment more.

They finally got to the bottom, weapons and armor seriously damaged by the ooze, and knowing another was on the loose elsewhere. Someone remarked it would have been better to open the door and find the Lord of Spite waiting.

Once at the bottom they carefully headed to the "apartment complex" where they'd found colored doors and a golden statue on a trapped pedestal.

This time they investigated the door with a face on it. They could see a handle in the mouth, and a keyhole. The door wouldn't budged when pushed, so they had Gerry cast Lockmaster on it. It clicked, unlocked. One of Gerry's skeletons tried the door - and it bit off its fingers!

No one could fit a gloved hand inside, so they had Mo try it. It bit his fingers but the door opened, and he was able to pull his fingers out of the mouth bloody but not seriously injured (he has a lot of DR from being a Shirtless Savage.) Inside they found a pedestal with a red leather book with a face on it, just like on the door. Gerry moved up to investigate it and it leaped up and bit him, biting off his three middle fingers on the right hand! They managed to rip the book off and pin it to the floor. Mo decided it needed to be his shield mount, so he and Hjalmarr started to pin the book to his shield with a hammer and iron spikes nailed into a rough frame. They banged away, enough to keep them from hearing the approach of booted feet!

They were rushed from behind by six gold-skinned swordsmen holding weird, thick clubs/swords with razor edges. The Meeposian brothers held the line and the swordsmen advanced . . . and revealed a giant scaled cat-like critter. It roared at the group, a road that turned into a deafening BOOOOOOOOOM. It coughed a sonic attack that hurt anything that could hear (I ruled, though, the spider counted but not the skeletons) and deafened and stunned most of the group. The swordsmen attacked.

The PCs fought back, uncoordinated due to stunned fighters, close quarters, and being deaf so they couldn't talk to one another. As quickly as they could, Hjalmarr and Mo got up and moved to the fray. Hayden and Ahenobarbus beat them there. Gerry put Great Haste on himself and then began to methodically put it on everyone else, starting with Ahenobarbus. As one of the Meeposian brothers dropped, Ahenobarbus stepped up and cut down his attacker. Moments later he was cut down and knocked unconscious by a blow from a weird golden falchion. Raggi moved up and eventually found his way forward even as the big golden cat-like thing roared a second time and stunned him and more of the PCs. The tight corridor made the roar dangerous to everyone and unavoidable, and the PCs had trouble moving up past their friends.

Eventually the PCs were able to force their way through, especially since their foes kept using space to Retreat and step back up, allowing the PCs to follow. They did, moving around the Meeposian brothers - one down, one stunned, and one wounded - and engaging their foes. Hjalmarr went for the big cat but was held off by the swordsmen.

Soon, though, the PCs pushed the swordsmen back. Mo smashed one down with his morninstar, Hjalmarr wounded one with his axe, and the cat-thing roared again. This time Gerry was stunned, too. The golden swordsmen kept getting forced back, and another went down a few seconds after Mo injured it.

Then problems struck the golden swordsmen backed down three different corridors. Hjalmarr went around the party's left to reach the cat, and it bit him and held on after he crippled his own arm with a Critical Miss on a parry. He desperately tried to wrench free but didn't make much headway. Hayden and one of his foes both cut themselves with critical failures around this time. And Raggi followed a cagey fighter with a DBZ haircut who kept parrying his attacks and then slashing the now-berserk axeman twice a second.

Then as another swordsman went down, Hjlamarr suddenly felt a strike into his back - for once, he didn't check his flank (and his spiffy new greathelm, a loaner from Vryce, wouldn't have helped him here). It turned out that six more swordsmen were rushing in. Hjalmarr kept announcing that "I'm not left handed!" but they didn't seem to care (later examination showed them to likely be deaf, and definitely mute.)

From there the fight turned into a slugfest. Hayden took out the cat with a massive skull chop. Mo charged out and attacked the new wave of attackers even as Hjalmarr spun, fought briefly and then dropped unconscious (missed by 1 due to a -1 thanks to Unfit, acquired as part of his partly-funded Resurrection). Mo began to clean up, however. Even as he was chopped over and over, Mo managed to Dodge attacks, rolled a few timely 3s and another critical hit on skull blows, and kept smashing golden swordsmen headless. Hayden fought off three but mistakenly stayed a little too close and was enagaged simultaneously by two and wounded badly. He'd drop unconscious his next turn.

Raggi kept swinging, but basically needed a critical to get past the defenses of his foe and couldn't get one. He hit -5xHP from a tough series of blows and dropped, dead.

Mo turned the tide, however, smashing down swordsman after swordsman. His morninstar was tough for them to Parry and he made it tough to Dodge and eventually wore them down. Ahenobarbus was fed potions by Gerry, by now invisibly up in the front, and healed by Ike and then hit with Awaken until he got up. He wasn't able to get back in the fight. The final swordsman dropped - even as it had attacked one on many.

But Mo didn't snap out of being berserk. He turned and had a choice - a Meeposian brother or a skeleton. He hit the skeleton, since Mo loves smashing skulls. He shattered it. Gerry cancelled his Great Haste as Mo went after Leonidas. Mo was blcoked. He went to kill again but finally snapped out of it.

With the foes dead, the PCs quickly woke up Hayden and set him to guard (with some funny pantomime by the PCs, who are really getting into roleplaying deafness). Ahenobarbus was furious at getting knocked out, so he went around stabbing. He noted they seemed to have some protective skin or shield while awake, but were perfectly normally fleshy while unconscious. The PCs looted the bodies, and then carefully checked and looted the nearby rooms with colored, but open, doors. They took a necklace festooned with tiny golden heads like this:

along with a map, jewelry from the bodies (all gold, hard to spot against their gold skin), an odd whetstone (which turned out to be for the weird swords), and some healing potions. One was wearing bracelets which turned out to be Bracers of Force, claimed by Ahenobarbus.

They got out of there after Gerry cast Zombie on the big cat-thing (he has Huge Subjects 2 on Zombie) to help haul bodies. They took a golden corpse with them, as well, to find out more about them.

They returned to town. Raggi didn't have any more money saved up, or at least handy, so Raggi's magical axe was sold to raise money to pay for his successful Resurrection.


So this is the second time in two delves that Raggi was slain. This time it cost him his fine dwarven enchanted greataxe, sold to raise the cash to Resurrect him. It's not clear what's next - he can downgrade to a normal axe (and will), but he does show his limits a bit. He pretty much needed to critically hit a foe or wildly change his tactics - neither happened, and he was diced up by a single golden swordsman. He's still a viable character, but he'll be much weaker (skill 13 on his Trademark Move, at least 3 damage less on each swipe) and no better equipped to deal with defensively-strong foes while berserk. And he's totally broke beyond the net proceeds of selling his main weapon and getting raised. He can probably afford a pretty good axe, but that's it.

The ooze fights were both pretty painful. The only weapons the PCs had that aren't nerfed against Diffuse creatures were vials of alchemist's fire. I described them later as a $100 bandaid for not having Explosive or Area spells. Beating oozes to death is possible but unlikely, and they can split - like the one did above. The fight was long, too - more than 90 minutes of slogging, swinging, planning, discussion of how they probably can't regenerate from fire, trying to set the ooze on fire with a torch . . . Diffuse creatures are murder if you don't have the weapons to deal with them. Good thing there was one - if I'd rolled more on my Wandering Monster chart, it could have been a TPK. The PCs still don't know if Deathtouch or Sunbolt even did the job or just were the last bits of damage needed. It seemed like it for the former, but the latter, who knows?

The golden swordsman encounter wasn't painful. This was a fun two-threat encounter for me as a GM. The twin threat of a cone attack (impossible to avoid in a narrow corridor) and dangerous melee fighters made for a tough fight. The players liked it, too - the foes were a clear and lethal threat, but they were vulnerable to normal attacks if you executed them well, PCs were able to use their carefully-cultivated attacks, and they yielded reasonable loot.

Fun session. 5 xp all around with the loot, MVP was Mo.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Felltower Instagram tag

For readers who use Instagram, the tag #Felltower is being used by myself and my players identify pictures from our GURPS DF Felltower games.

You can see pictures like this, from last session:

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Felltower pre-summary for 11/12

We played DF Felltower today. Very eventful session:

- a display of why oozes are awful to fight.

- a bloody fight deep the dungeon

- multiple new monsters encountered

- a dead berserker!

- blue-on-blue violence

- and nice loot.

I'll get a summary up tomorrow, time permitting.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Hayden the Unnamed Knight - almost finished

He needs a bit of face touch-up and dark-lining to bring out his features better. He's also oddly unevenly eyed thanks to trying to use a pen instead of a brush. Easily fixable when I have time. But he's otherwise ready for the tabletop. I won't have time to paint today, so he'll be used this way tomorrow.

Hayden is a good example of an odd physical perk. He's small, so he wears elf-sized, not man-sized, armor. That's good for -1 in a game where humans make up the bulk of the inhabitants, where his height will be remarkable (and occasionally mistaken), and where elf-sized armor is much less common as loot.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Assorted Lessons of DF: Come ready, bring the damage, have variety, and more

Here are some things I learned GMIng DF. It's kind of rant-sounding. It's just me trying to be direct, quickly.

Be capable out of the gate. Back when we started the game, Borriz the dwarf did like 2d+8 and had a skill in the low 20s, Vryce had ST 17 and did 3d+8, the wizard had Magery 6, etc. They were highly capable guys. They were designed to maximize their specific niche right from the first step into the dungeons.

This came up recently, actually, where the players had to make some new PCs and use them right away in a very dangerous fight that had TPK'd their more-powerful, higher-point, better-equipped previous PCs. A couple people basically apologized for making their guys specifically ready to step into the fight and be effective. But that's really someone you need to do in DF. If you make a 250-point guy who is going to be hell on wheels at 300 points but need a lot of help until then, you're making a potentially fatal mistake. You really need to figure out a strategy that makes you effective at 250 points. Use those next 50 to become more effective or branch out. It's all stuff you can buy later anyway, so be good now and expand later, don't design purely with a wait-until-I've-bought strategy.

Bring the damage. A party without characters who can deal serious damage - in the high 2d+ to 3d+ range - is doomed against high-end tough monsters. So what do you need to bring?

For casters, have an effective spell you can rely on for the first combat, no matter what it is. Have a 20 in it if you can. You won't regret the point savings. Have a missile and if possible an explosive missile spell. And have as much FP and Energy Reserve as you can. The ability do crank out 3xMagery in dice of damage when you need it will make a big difference.

For damage-dealers, I'd put 2d+4 as the rock-bottom minimum. That's enough to penetrate DR 10 on average, and if you're a melee fighter the party is going to depend on to hurt things, you can't be bouncing off of DR 10. 3d+ is better. ST 17 (or ST 15 or 16 with Striking ST 1 or 2) is a critical breakpoint for raw damage, especially for weapon masters.

For armor-minimizers, such as Swashbucklers and Scouts, damage is less critical but you don't want less than 1d+3. Skill will need to be 20+ as soon as possible, and you'll need to know all of the rules for Chinks in Armor and the downsides of bringing impaling damage to a dungeon. Expect that big boss monsters will lack eyes, lack a brain, and/or have Nictitating Membrane. If they don't, except the later ones will after your GM gets frustrated with one-second incapacitations of encounters they put in expecting it to be a challenge. Bring a variety of arrows or a sword with a variety of damage types. Smallswords aren't really a great choice.

For "DPS" guys, see damage-dealers or armor-minimizers and do that. I'm serious, here. Early on I had a couple of people talk about maximizing their DPS - lots of attacks, moderate damage being better than fewer attacks with higher damage or against specific locations. GURPS has DR, which is a per-attack cost you have to account for. Put them against a dragon or an evil knight or a Golem-Armor Swordsman and they usually do 0 damage per second. Have a plan to overcome or bypass DR, then start cranking up the number of times you do it.

For utility guys, you can ignore some of this - have an idea where you'd go if you did go for combat - but remember that Weapon Master, Trained By A Master, and ST 17+ mean you can't just wade into melee against serious foes and survive. The "you must be this tall to ride this ride" bar is too high in DF.

I've seen many people bring a defensive-minded, "max-DR, max-HP, and then if possible raise damage" approach to the table. That works . . . if someone else brought the damage. Our first two knights were defensively sound and offensively murderous and hung out with a ridiculously sturdy and offensively dangerous barbarian. The guys who weren't offensively powerful found they needed that defense and DR and HPs because they couldn't drop foes fast enough.

Have variety. A variety of attack forms is critical. Don't only have one damage type, no matter what it is. Bring cutting, impaling, and crushing to the dungeon with you. If you can do all three well, you're okay. If you can do two well, you're probably okay. If you do only one well, you're eventually going to be helpless in a fight where you could be contributing. Usually I see this because of a narrow character definition ("I'm Mr. Stabby!" or "I'm a Fire Wizard!" or "I only dual-wield hatchets" or something like that). Broaden it out a bit - perhaps "I'm Mr. Fencing!" or "I'm an Elemental Wizard!" or "I dual-wield axes and maces" - or a lot - "I'm Mr. Sword" or "I'm an artillery mage!" or "I dual-wield anything" - and you'll be much more useful. Start narrow-ish if you like (although with weapons, narrow can be 2-3 damage types!) and widen out quickly.

This goes double for casters. We recently had a situation where basically the entire party was dependent on Lightning. Vulnerable to electricity? We win! Invulnerable to it, or just have high DR and can't be stunned? Uh-oh, let's start discussing when we bail on this fight. For clerics and druids, yeah, your options are limited. Wizards? You need multiple forms of attack. If you depend solely on one kind of energy source or one spell, you will be useless some of the time - and yet it's a problem you can solve with a few points in a new college. If you do focus on one type ("fire wizard" or "cold wizard") make sure you do that first and then expand out. The longer you stay within that one niche, the longer you're betting your ability to survive on not fighting monsters immune to your attack.

Having non-damage ways of dealing with trouble - Sleep spells, area-denial spells, illusions, whatever - are also important. Especially for casters, it's a small investment to get variety.

Finally, have in mind two ways of being useful: solo, and in the group.

Solo utility is simply, can I operate on my own? Am I a liability or at great risk if someone else isn't covering for me? Do I need a specific combination of other delvers to be useful or survivable? If so, think about how to address that.

Group utility is simply, can I contribute effectively to the group? Are they better off with me than without me? Does my character's style depend on putting other people at risk, or come with downsides so large I'm dragging folks down? Do I have abilities that multiply other people's utility or am I merely additive? If so (if not in the last case), think about how to address that.

It's a group game, so the first might not seem so important. But in a pick-up, play-with-who-shows game like I run, solo utility is critical, too.

I hope this helps people making their own characters for DF and the DFRPG.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Felltower Character Generation FAQs

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions about character generation in my DF/DFRPG game, Felltower. Many are answered directly or indirectly in the books or elsewhere, but to keep things clear to everyone I decided to put this together.

What templates and races?

All of the ones listed here:

DF Game: Race and Template List

and any of the templates in DFRPG Adventurers.

Can I buy [advantage/spell/skill/attribute improvement] after play begins?

It depends:

Is it on your template, or listed in for your template in DF1, DF11, DFRPG Adventurers, or Pyramid 3/61? (or Spells, for magic)

Then yes. Pay $40/point for training costs. Lenses are available as well - buy them either piecemeal or all at once (any disadvantages must be taken at the end when the lens purchase is completed.)

is it not on your template or listed as a valid power-up in the sources above?

Then no, although non-template skills can be learned with a training cost of $80/point. Ask before you buy. Non-skill advantages may be available on a case-by-case basis - offers will come up in play, they cannot be sought out.

What armor and weapons and equipment can I buy?

Anything in DFRPG Adventurers is available for a starting PC. Once in play, special orders and magic items require in-town rolls.

How should I trade character points for money?

There is an advantage in GCA. Add one level per point, up to 5, using Quirk points. Each point is worth $500. DO NOT reduce your character point value - that is DFRPG standard but it messes up my record-keeping!
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