Thursday, March 30, 2017

Musing on a fairly-costed Wall of Stone spell for DF

So one thing that GURPS Magic lacks is a good-old Wall of Stone spell. Oh, sure, you can use Create Earth to create some dirt, then use Earth to Stone to turn it to rock.

But what about a single spell that skips straight to the rock?

Let's look at some costs.

Create Earth: 1 second to cast, costs 2 per cubic yard.

A 9' x 9' x 1' wall would be 3 cubic yards. 10' x 12' x 1' (most generic 10' Felltower tunnel dimensions are 10' x 12') would be a bit more than 4 cubic yards, but you could probably round it down and assume it's a little less than a foot thick. So those are 6 and 8 respectively.

Earth to Stone: 1 second to cast, costs 3 per cubic yard. Turning the above to stone would be 9 and 12 respectively.

Total time is 2 seconds, total cost is 6 + 9 = 15 (13 with skill 15 in both, 11 with skill 20 in both) or 8 + 12 = 20 (18, 16).

Fast, effective as a barrier, but pricey. It's also two spells to get off, and a foot of earth isn't necessarily a strong barrier against some forces.

So how to build a combination spell?

You could just make a "Create Stone" spell to simplify it, and because you might not always want a wall.

Making it take a little longer (say, 3 seconds instead of 2) and cost a little less (4 per cubic yard, instead of 2 + 3 per cubic yard) doesn't sound crazy as mutual tradeoffs. Neither does eliminating the "metal" option from Earth to Stone. You essentially combine the steps, spend a little longer at it, and get a cheaper wall. I'd make it Very Hard just because it's a combination of two useful effects.

Create Stone (VH)

As Create Earth, but creates stone instead.

Duration: 24 hours (DF limits creation to 24 hours)
Time to Cast: 3 seconds
Cost: 4 per cubic yard, minimum 8.
Prerequisites: Magery 2, Create Earth, and Earth to Stone.

Or you can go for a more limited, literally Wall-type spell.

Wall of Stone

Creates a 1' thick slab of stone up to 4 yards tall (excess is lost if blocked by a ceiling, roof, etc.) around the area. Must be created in contact with the ground.

Duration: 1 minute
Time to Cast: 2 seconds
Cost: 4, same to maintain.

That's more like a "circle of stone." But it's shorter.

If you wanted a really flat wall, you could look to the 3e Grimoire and Force Wall and Utter Wall for ideas. Both are per-hex costed and 2/3 cost of the dome version. That would suggest cost 2-3 per hex, say 2, for a Wall of Stone that lasts 10 minutes.

Any thoughts on this? I'm not sure I'll use it, I'm just thinking about allowing what's becoming a regular tactic (create earth, turn it to stone) into dedicated spell for people who want to hurry the process along. I'm not really sure I'm satisfied about the costs and details. But I kind of stall out with those, so I figured I'd post them and let people see what I was thinking up until now.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Lankhmar and Planescape: Torment news

There is a Lankhmar boxed set on Kickstarter for DCC. I'm tempted to jump in, even though I already have the AD&D version from TSR. The DCC magic system really does seem to fit with Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser - magic is dangerous to be on the giving or receiving end of, no one really wants magical items, and it's all about the adventuring now than building up a domain or retiring to own a tavern.

Because of that, all three of the DCC Lankhmar items on RPG Now are on sale for $2 each - roughly 75% off. I'm thinking of getting one just to see how they are for me as a non-DCC player, but I'm not sure which. Honestly if I was going to play a game set in this world, I'd use GURPS, but DCC adventures are generally pretty entertaining. Any recommendations of which one I should get to try them out?

DCC Lankhmar: Through Ningauble's Cave

DCC Lankhmar: Patrons of Lankhmar

DCC Lankhmar: Masks of Lankhmar

I'm tempted by the boxed set, although I'm not sure I need anything - not even the AD&D Lankhmar book - to run a game set there.

There is also an enhanced version of Planescape: Torment coming out, for $19.99. I've played it through, er, three times? I can't see playing it a fourth (I think the third time I managed to do everything that I didn't do the first two times.) But if you haven't, take a look. It's a great game that really pulls you into the story.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Hobby Shop Dungeon map

This is the sixth level of the six-level Hobby Shop Dungeon, created by Ernie Gygax and Terry Kuntz:

Comparing it to my maps of Felltower, this is a big level. My bigger levels are on 11 x 17 paper with 8 squares to the inch. This one is 22 x 17 and it seems like it's close to my 8 squares and inch.

That's a tough map to use, for me, though. 11 x 17 is already hard enough for me to keep where I can see it but others can't. And the thin walls scream "D&D" to me because GURPS players would just tear the walls down with Shape Earth spells if they're that thin.

But it's very cool to see, and it's fun to have this to compare with my maps. I like the amount of unkeyed space, too - lots to wander through, making wandering monster rolls and finding little but combat you don't really want. The sheer amount of walking you'd need to do means you'd need magical light sources, plenty of time, and just patience to keep moving around looking for the actual prizes.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Review: Frostgrave

Time for another review of something I like.

I'll say this right out - I haven't played Frostgrave. But I've read play report after play report, and it sounds fun. Really fun. So I bought it to check it out.

by Joseph A McCullough
Released 2015 by Osprey Publishing
136 pages
$24.95 Hardcover

Frostgrave is a campaign skirmish miniatures game. You build up a small band of figures and delve with them repeatedly. The system - and the game - is built around wizard-centric raiding bands exploring part of a partly-unfrozen lost city full of magical power and loot. The book covers a number of scenarios, including exploring undead-haunted areas, exploring a half-ruined library for valuable books of magic, and so on.

Your main playing piece is a wizard, a specialist in one of ten different schools of magic (ranging from things like Necromancy and Illusion to Enchantment and Chronomancy), plus an apprentice 10 levels lower than you. You pick your spells, hire your soldiers to bulk out your force, and head into the city after treasures. The treasures are tokens placed according to the scenario, and your goal is to get as many of them as you can to the edge of the play area to claim them. Also, to gain experience for your wizard.

What's interesting is that your wizard gains experience for casting spells successfully (or having your apprentice cast them successfully, personally killing things, and recovering treasure, plus occasional scenario-specific ways. But only your wizard gains experience. Your apprentices and soldiers do not - your apprentice improves in lockstep with your wizard, and your soldiers just don't progress. If you want improved soldiers, you need to replace the ones you have or hand them magical items that you find.

If you wizard or apprentice gets knocked out, you get to roll to see how badly injured they are. This may result in temporary injury, permanent injury, or death. Soldiers, same thing - 1-4 on a d20 and they're lost along with their gear, 5-8 they're hurt and need rest, 9-20 and they recover. This seems like it would nicely encourage risk (they're probably fine, even after getting mauled by a demon, stabbed by a rival's soldiers, or falling off a tower) without making it too certain.

Actions are pretty much move and fight (okay, a bit more than that, but not by a lot.) Fights are very swingy. Even casting spells requires a roll and success in casting is not certain. It's clearly a game of positioning yourself for possible success, taking risks, and then rolling to see how it goes. People who expect certainty and chess-like execution of moves will be disappointed at spell failure and their best fighter getting mauled from some bad rolling. But it does seem like it would encourage taking risks - playing safe isn't going to get you very far, and who knows, a good roll can change a lot.

The treasures seem generous, which I think is good. I've played competitive campaign play before and when it's possible to lose more than you gain in a delve or mission or battle the folks who have bad luck or less skills or both tend to fall behind and lack the resources to ever catch up. This game seems to be more like rewards ranging from "good enough" to "great" so you always want to take that risk that the delve this time will really kick your power up.

Another nice thing about it is that while there are Frostgrave minis, there isn't a direct tie from mini to stats. So you can substitute anything as long as it fits one of the soldier types. A barbarian with a two-handed weapon can be a barbarian figure, or perhaps an ape-man with a club, or an orc with a hammer, whatever. A war hound can be a dog or some other animal figure, a crossbowman armed with a crossbow, prodd, handgonne, etc. as long as you're okay with the listed stats being the stats.

The book is very attractive - nice pictures of well-painted mini, easy to read text on a nice background, enough whitespace for clarity but not too much. The monsters, spells, soldiers, etc. are well-organized and easy to copy spell cards in the back are probably the most useful tools for running the game.

My main complaint are the scenarios - there are ten, and little guidance to making your own. You're expected to play each one once, in whatever order you like, and not repeat them with the same wizard. Supplements with more scenarios have come out, but it feels so limited not having a generic scenario designer system built in. Perhaps a supplement has come out for that, but it felt . . . too close-ended for something as epic as "thawing city of lost magic" to have a ten-delve coupon book.

Overall: This was a good read and it looks really fun. Enough fun that I bought the book just so I can follow along better. And having read it, I'd like to give it a shot.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

DF Felltower: What's a Barbarian?

It came up on T-Bone's blog about what counts as a barbarian, for magic items like Terrifying War Paint that works better for barbarians.

So who counts as a barbarian?

For me, it's pretty simple. You need:

- the appropriate Social Stigma for barbarians and one of the following:

- a character built using any of the barbarian templates from Denizens: Barbarians

- a character built using Brute from Dungeon Fantasy 15: Henchmen who has chosen the barbarian Power-Ups route (p. 11).

- a barbarian lens.

That doesn't work for Power-Ups, though. For those, you need one of the first two - a lens specifically doesn't count. This is avoid the whole "Swashbuckler with a Knight lens" and "Knight with a Swashbuckler lens" munchkin route designed to pick and choose from two pools of highly effective Power-Ups for synergistic power-gaming.

Why does this matter?

A few magic items work better for particular template. So you need to know who qualifies.

So where does this leave GMs who made the judgment call to let people freely change, modify, or ignore templates? It leaves them making a judgment call about who counts as what. It's a choice you've made to get away from the built-in rigidity of DF's default approach; it's yours to make but once you've made it there will be spillover consequences. Personally I'd pick some defining traits and stick with them. Disadvantages work well - Social Stigma, for example - because generally people do not take those just to benefit from them.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Minimized Unarmed Options in my DF Felltower Game

In my DF Felltower game, I tried to cut down on the options avail

In other words, although GURPS Martial Arts is full of techniques, in order to keep rules lookups down and keep play moving, I basically cut all techniques down to a minimum:


Punch - per Basic Set
Kick - per Basic Set
Headbutt, Elbow, Forearm smash, etc. - as a Punch, but -1 to hit, uses a different striking surface. Surface determines penalties and damage bonuses (grappled and both hands locked up? Head butt works. Plate on your arms and do a forearm smash? +1 damage, etc. Elbow strikes can hit behind while you are grappled, etc.) Generally I'll find a way to allow almost any kind of strike for a -1 and a slight change.
Knees - per Basic Set

Everything else fits in there somewhere.


Grapple - per Technical Grappling, inflicts CP.
Break Free - per Technical Grappling, inflicts CP against CP.

Locks & Wrenches

Arm Lock - per Basic Set
Neck Snap - per Basic Set
Wrench (anything) - per Martial Arts
Chokes, Constriction Attack, etc. - per Basic Set
Judo Throw - per Basic Set's attack variation, never uses a contest.

Not a lot of changes, so much as a simplification. So if you see someone toss a headbutt in my games, or a knee, or smash down an elbow, or whatever, it's just a single change. We don't have to look up a lot to get people striking in all sorts of interesting ways.

And it should go without saying, but if I ran a Martial Arts centered game, I'd turn on the options and use all the detail in the book.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Repetitive Fights, Style Clashes, Questions vs. the Rule of Cool

Just highlighting other people's work today.

Repetitive Fights

There is an excellent post over on Blog of Holding (aka the home of Dungeon Robber) about combat grinding is okay in video games but it feels boring in face-to-face group play . . . and how to spice things up with unique combats. It's really excellent, directly actionable advice. You can read this and change how you do your game right away with little effort and lots of results.

Repetitive battles in dnd

He says, "in DnD" but it's really "in tabletop gaming." GURPS fights are inherently individual and interesting, but that doesn't mean you can't make them better.

Style Clash

So I posted the other day about my observation that my preferred game pace (Fast, with a side helping of simplicity) doesn't match the preferred game pace of some of my players (varies, but includes slow, with a side helping of careful deliberation). Joseph Teller had an interesting take on it over on G+ - that's it is symptomatic of a larger style clash:

Style Clash

I disagreed, because I really think it's not such a big deal. My game isn't heading off a cliff - my gamers have been playing with me for ranging from a few years to 20+ years. We've lost a few people who either had schedules change or just decided the game wasn't for them, but that's happened over the years. More players were lost to "Good news, we're expecting!" than to "Sorry, this isn't for me." We have guys drive hours to game, people who stay overnight in the area to make game, etc. We'd have more players if we'd just play a little shorter so it was more conducive to their schedules. So I'm not seeing a train wreck coming. But it's interesting in two ways:

- for some groups, this might be true;


- just because you see part of the elephant, it doesn't mean you've seen all of the elephant.

By the latter I mean you see only a small portion of my gaming group's interactions. My choices of words might not accurately convey the full sense of our game play - it can even convey a completely opposite impression. I'm not impuning Joseph, here - he's reading my words and telling me what he sees from them. And it's quite possible what he's written will help others more than what I wrote!

Don't Ask, Just Be Cool

Aka, don't question the rule of cool, aka the more that is defined the less that is open to definition.

Joseph Mason observed that in his own case, the more questions you put to him about the circumstances means the less likely some crazy plan is to work.

As a believer in the Rule of Awesome, this really speaks to me. As someone who says a good questions show the GMs your intentions, this speaks to me. As someone who's likely to think better of allowing something wacky the longer I think about it, this speaks to me.

Seriously, ask questions. But know your answers close off as they open things up. And just know that in my games, it's better to try something crazy than to ask me, "will this crazy thing work?" The first might work; the latter probably will elicit the answer, "No, that's crazy." Not trying to be mean - it's just that the longer I have to consider the more doubts will enter my mind.
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