Saturday, June 24, 2017

Simple Bar Contests - Staring Contest

This kind of contest is especially dangerous in certain bars. Avoid trying this with the customers at the Snake-Haired Dame and beware the terrible gaze of the bartender at Thulsa's Bar & Doom.

Also, never challenge the Eye of Death!

Staring Contest

Don't blink! For a real staredown where you break your opponent's Will, use the Contest of Wills rules from GURPS Martial Arts, p. 130.

Fast Version: Quick Contest between the lower of your HT or Will. Modifiers: up to -3 worth of distractions from either side's cohorts. Starers can try trickery - this is a Quick Contest of IQ. Apply the margin of victory as a penalty to the loser's side. However, the starer initiating the contest must make a Will check to avoid distraction - failure imposes a -2 penalty on the starer.

Slow Version: Regular Contest of the lower of HT or Will. Modifiers: up to -3 worth of distractions, as above. Each starer may use "distraction techniques" - take a -1 to your own roll for a -1 to your opponent's. Risky - if you both fail your rolls, you both lose - but a good way for a dominant competitor to try to end a contest quickly.

Friday, June 23, 2017

GURPS Martial Arts in POD

Thanks to Matt Riggsby for pointing this out:

GURPS Martial Arts is available in softcover for $29.95! It's been out of print for a long time. I get a tiny fraction of each sale as royalties. More importantly, my players and I can finally get some extra copies of the book.

Dungeon Fantasy Magic Items author revealed

I'm not sure if this was mentioned publicly earlier, but my latest writing project was revealed yesterday on the Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game Kickstarter page:

Taking Care of All the Things

So what is it?

"Dungeon Fantasy Magic Items (by Peter V. Dell’Orto)"

So that's what I was up to earlier this year when I mentioned a time crunch due to writing. Lucky for me, all of that writing was directly useful for my own game. Soon it will be potential useful to yours in the Companion when it is released.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Simple Bar Contests - Arm Wrestling

So, tavern level in my dungeon. I'll need some bar contests, and the ones in Basic Set feel like they don't have all the drama that I'd like for Dungeon Fantasy. Here is the first.

Arm Wrestling

Like it says.

Fast Version: Quick Contest of ST. Win, lose, or draw and re-roll.

Slow Version: Quick Contest of ST. Each point of victory is worth 10 degrees of arm bend - first person to lose a cumulative 10+ has lost the game. (Why not 9? Assume it takes an extra point to get the arm to initially bend. Plus 10+ is easier.)

I Hate ST Roll Version: If you don't like rolling against ST, simply roll thrust-based damage and compare. Assume both contestants are using All-Out Attack (Strong) and add +2 or +1 per die, whichever is higher. Extra Effort (Mighty Blows) can be used for its usual effect at 1 FP per second; make a HT roll whenever it is used or suffer the usual injury effects from Extra Effort. Whoever rolls more damage bends the arm of the opponent back by 10 degrees per point of damage more than the loser rolled - first person to lose by 10+ cumulatively loses the contest. Injury can occur thanks to HT rolls for extra effort!

(Editing Later: this would use your basic ST, modified by Wrestling, but not by Striking ST - this isn't a blow, it's a slow and steady push. Lifting ST does apply and you can use Trained ST if you use Technical Grappling.)

(Editing Even Later: Note that Mighty Blows is not normally compatible with All-Out Attack; however, this is for DF, and assumes you have the Mighty Blows perk which does allow this combination!)

For extra fun, stare down your opponent - add in The Contest of Wills (Martial Arts, p. 130) right on top of this!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Jeff Rients's hirelings

You have to know by now I love hirelings. I proposed and co-wrote a book about them, I blog about them, I paint them, and I deploy them regularly in my games.

Jeff Rients just put up a great list of hirelings for his Vyzor game:

Meet the locals: Vyzor hirelings

It's a very fun list to read, akin to those of the Dungeon Dozen.

It also has a nice set of rules for varying levels of utility for hirelings.

Go check them out. I need to paint up some more figures in the tradition dark red shirts and jackets of the local militia . . . and yes, you can count this as a uniform for the rules in DF15 . . .

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Alternative Feint - Feint Cap / Feint Attack - Revised

This is a second look at something I posted the other day:

Alternative Feint - Feint Cap / Feint Attack

The more time I took to mull it over, the more I think it needed a tweak, especially Feint Attack.

As written, if the attack would have been a critical hit, it's both a Feint (capped at -10, if you use the Feint Cap rule) and an Attack. Not a critical hit, but a normal hit.

I think that needs some modification to avoid, essentially, Feint-only approaches vs. skilled foes. It should still be a viable option to just straight-up attack. It also left open the question - does this attack benefit from a prior Feint? It's possible abuse to say yes, but it's also logical and sensible to say it does. You're banking on a good roll if you just string feints together hoping the next one will bring an attack that benefits from this one.

Still, getting a hit in on a 6 or less when you're a good feinter is probably not a good idea.

One way to avoid this is to say, "If the roll for the Feint is a 3 or 4, the Feint proceeds normally and you strike your foe - roll randomly for location and resolve defenses normally, unaffected by this Feint. Defenses are affected by a successful Feint done before this strike!"

I think that's a superior approach to what I had before.

You could equally supe this up and say a 3 on this roll is a critical hit and a successful Feint, or that a 3-4 on a Feint roll is a critical hit instead of a Feint. But in that case once you're highly skilled and regularly hit the Feint Cap of -10, you are generally better off doing the following:

Rapid Strike (-6/-6, -3/-3 with Weapon Master or Trained By A Master)
Split this into one Feint at -6 or -3, and one Attack at -6 or -3, per the Feint/Attack tradeoff approach allowed in GURPS Martial Arts.

This way you get a Feint and a potential critical hit, followed by an attack that will benefit from the Feint.

I can't think of a better combination off-hand, but I bet my players can. That's why "converts a 3-4 to a critical hit" or "adds a critical hit on a 3" seems abusive. If you really can't do much more than critical hunt on a target, well, why not do it this way, preferably with a Beat so others can take advantage of the move even as you hunt 3s?

Monday, June 19, 2017

Player(s) harassed by an angry mob

A while back I talked about player being synonymous with character.

One of my favorite examples of this is the Villains & Vigilantes 2nd edition's rulebook - 4.4 Designing Adventures, p. 32. It has these great tables of "Supernatural Events" and "Ordinary Crime" and "Revoltin' Developments!"

The best part is that they all say Player, not Character.

Hence the title of this post - that's #16 on the table, along with:

Player(s) Framed for a Crime.


Player(s) mistaken for Villains.


Secret Identity of Player(s) discovered.

The meaning here is totally clear. But it's not any less funny in an age after making clear distinctions between "player" and "character" as terms of art has taken hold. I can't wait to see what the Protectors books have along these lines.

In the meantime, though, I'll keep chuckling along as Player(s) [are] harassed by admirers thanks to a die roll.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Felltower: Pub Level thoughts

So Felltower officially has a pub level . . . somewhere. Thanks to a rumor misheard due to wishful thinking, the players have once again added an unusual element to the dungeon.

A level of taverns and caves. Cheese caves, obviously, probably along with wine cellars.

So what does a tavern level need?

Warning: Potential spoilers for my players. But not really, they're all familiar with pubs.

- Bar fights, using the DF10 bar fight rules!

- drinking contests (three pints at lunchtime!)

- wandering pub crawl groups, themed (Santa, Halloween, etc.) and unthemed.

- patrons in threes (a dwarf, an elf, and a hobgoblin walk into a bar . . . )

- all of those fun games from Yaquinto's Pirates and Plunder rules - arm wrestling contests, darts, drunken shooting and ones from The Vikings with Kirk Douglas and even worse ones - pun battles and trivia contests. Hidden Lore (Spirit Lore) never seemed so critical until that's the category to beat the elite orc trivia team for a free round of beer and wings!

- weird drinks from games and sources past and present - rageahol, jungle juice, grug-splunk, skittlebrau, porter (made from actual porters), stouts (made from stout halflings), and bier (made in and on biers.)

- silly bar names.

Sure, you might think that I could do this all in town, and you'd be largely correct. But then it wouldn't be Felltower's rumored level of taverns and caves, would it? For some reason I picture this as an odd mix of the undertown from Wormy and the town-as-blue-skied-dungeon feeling of Pool of Radiance. Plus bits of Lankhmar, Odd Alley, Waterdeep, Sigil, etc. as I feel like throwing them in.

And yes, it's going to be silly and have potential reward and potential lethality. People who don't want silliness shouldn't agree with Hasdrubul's player when he says, "There HAS to be a tavern level!" Because now there is.

How and when I'll use this, I don't know - it might make a heck of an in-dungeon "base" to delve from. It wouldn't be a safe town, though, not really.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Fantasy General free on GOG

Just a heads-up - GOG is giving away Fantasy General for a limited time. It's a turn-based "light" hex wargame from SSI. It's pretty entertaining, and it's free for a while:

Friday, June 16, 2017

Dungeon Fantasy RPG Unboxing video

I missed this a week ago:

Looks nice.

WIP Bones 3 Orcs and TSR Rust Monster

I started to compose a nice post in my head yesterday, and I figured I'd bang it out today. Then I realized it made a better short Pyramid article, so instead you're getting to see some of my minis.

It turns out I have two TSR rust monster minis.

By "turns out" I mean I knew that but most people probably did not.

It's a simple figure to paint the way I do - primer, black, color every "scale" with red starting from darkest hue to lightest, white on the eyes, metal and orange on the shield for rust, ink it for depth, seal it.

I now have a bunch of rust monster minis - two of this one, one plastic Bones insect one, and a few red plastic dinosaurs that are like 1/100 scale or so and may as well be rust monsters. Hey, they come in varieties. Why not?

Behind the rust monster are the four big orcs from the Bones 3 set. They've been lightly coated with grey in preparation for a real paint job later. They'll appear in Felltower as Brute Orcs by next session.

Usually I'm a big fan of orcs with:

- shields
- light armor
- axes

They're just more survivable and thus better threats.

At the same time, though, the guys with big two-handed weapons like that guy on the left are nice to have. They are basically glass cannons - their friends can pound on you and they can hack open your heavy armor and really hurt you thanks to the kind of damage two-handed weapons can do in GURPS. So I'm starting to enjoy having them on the battlefield more and more because they add an element of "heavy weapons" support. In DF, even the mail-armored orcs with shields and swords are fodder, so why not up their damage a smidge (or maybe even 2-3 smidges) and take the chance they'll hit?

I will get my trade list of Bones 3 stuff up soon - the weapon sprues almost for sure, a few others. I just haven't had the time to dump everything on the floor and get deciding.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Alternative Feint - Feint Cap / Feint Attack

I've toyed with changes to Feint before several times.

I've also toyed with the idea of using the TDM table - the often-overlooked heart of GURPS modifiers - as bounding the limits of penalties.

Here is an idea I had - but have not yet tried - that could apply the TDM to Feint.

First, a cap to Feints/Beats/Ruses, and a bone to throw to people who feel hurt by this.

Feint Effect Cap

Feints are resolved normally; however, the maximum penalty to defend that can be inflicted with a Feint of any kind is -10.

Why? The idea here is to apply an upper boundary on the useful levels of skill and defenses. Plus -10 is already harsh, it doesn't really need to be able to go to -11 (or more) to be harsh.

Someone with Skill-30 still has the ability to utterly crush a foe's defenses - you can put someone to -10 easily with a Feint roll and then smack them down another -10 for Deceptive Attack if you really want to and hit 50% of the time, or take the foe to -17 and have a 98.1% of hitting. Skills above 30 really don't make much sense - Sure, you get Parry 18, but the most a foe can do is put you down to 8 via winning a Feint and then Deceptive Attack you down to nothing by taking a big penalty.

Even a 30 is pretty ridiculous in this case - while penalties are easy to come by, and it's still useful, it's not the skill this was design to deal with. Even a 20 skill can put someone to the maximum penalty. As I've mentioned, players like maxima. Knowing the worst-case scenario and best-case scenario for a "featureless plain" duel means you can more easily decide what skill you need and how much defense is probably enough.

Personally, I like the idea of this - especially in the game I run now, where PCs have routinely crushed foes defenses or face ones who can have them crushed below a rollable number. Why do I need to roll for the orc's Broadsword-13 against Borriz's Axe/Mace-30 or Vryce's Two-handed Sword-27 when the latter two roll a 12 or something . . . I can just say it's at the max -10 and move on. It doesn't need to be worse, and the idea that -10 is as bad as it gets is solidly GURPS 4e.

Of course, some people hate caps and limits that didn't exist in the game. So here is another idea, which might make a nice way to give on one hand as you take with the other.

Critical Hit on a Feint

When you roll what would be a critical hit with a Feint (a 3-4, a 5 on skill 15+, 6 on skill 16+), you also hit your target with a normal attack if you wish to. Decide when you roll the critical. Hit location is random, and attack type can be any allowed (choose before you roll location.) The opponent defends normally - this is not a critical hit. However, if the roll would have been a Critical Miss (17-18, 18 on skill 16+) go to the Critical Miss Table as usual. Resolve the Quick Contest of Skills as usual.

Why? It's a way to fold in something of a Setup Attack without actually implementing the rules in Delayed Gratification, it's a way to give back if you're capping Feint. It also stops the endless groans at the table when someone rolls a 3 on a Feint and says, "I should have just tried to hit him!" Well, yes, that's still the case, but with this rule you got a hit and a Feint instead of just a hit that couldn't be defended against.

As noted above, I haven't tried these, but I do really like the bounded limits of the TDM table. I like the bounding of effective utility of Feint and applying soft limits on useful Active Defense levels. I also like the idea that a really good Feint can slide into a full-on attack if you're both good and lucky yet still leave the opponent open for the next. I'd be game to try these out if I can think of a way to smoothly do them without adding more time-per-turn as people consider Attack vs. Feint and so on.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

GURPS Lite in the Classroom, Session #9

For the previous session, click this link.

Rules Explanations

I explained parrying vs. unarmed attacks, and used my house rule (1/2 damage).


I did the short recap again, but kept it short.


We started with the Unknown Soldier by the pool. He advanced to the oncoming sound with his candle. Something lunged out of the darkness - a loose-skinned white-eyed undead of some kind, dragging a stiff leg. They fought - he slashed it a couple of times while parrying it, and it palmed aside his sword thrusts.

He then realized (IOW, was advised by the GM) that it's harder to parry a sword bare-handed if the person swings. So he did that, cutting the thing. It hit back, twice, but its nails couldn't penetrate his mail. He held his breath each time his DR 4 was tested by the undead's 1d cutting nails.

He finally put it down with a hard sword swing that broke its spine. He advanced past it without hesitation.

He made his way down a narrow and low tunnel (5' tall, 3' wide) for about 10 minutes or so. He eventually found a larger cave, and sucked along to the right wall with his hand. Good thing for him - ahead was a steep drop off that would have forced him to climb or suffer damage.

He found another tunnel, which split - right and up, left and down. He chose left, maybe for the first time. He started down the tunnel and heard a growling ahead. He decided to go back and up.

Back and up eventually lead to a cave where he saw flickering flames and heard a whistling breeze on and off.

So he use Stealth to sneak up slowly, wanting to see if people were there.

Instead, he saw a trail of coins and gems leading to a pile. On top of the pile was a 20-22' dragon, sleeping. The flickering fire and whistling were the dragon's snoring and jetting flame.

I figured the money might tempt him. Not at all - he walked past a spill of gold, silver, and gems, and sneaked past the dragon.

He eventually found daylight and was out into the wooded hills near the fortress. He headed back to his base back in civilized country.

And that's where the mini-campaign ended.


There was a bit of a magician's choice here. The escape route was linear - any way he chose would eventually have led him out or dead-ended him and sent him back to the way out. Sandboxes are nice, but railroads get you to the destination you need to get to. Besides, freedom of path isn't a big deal to me - freedom of how to handle that path is, especially in a classroom! Had he went down the growling critter's path, he would have faced a bear guarding its cave and could have fought (or run past it) to escape. The other way, the dragon with the twin troubles of needing to sneak and the temptation of treasure.

All in all, he seemed to enjoy the game. He got some good listening and speaking practice in. I gave him optional summer reading homework - his own copy of his PC and of GURPS Lite. Truly optional - I just want him to have it, not tell him to read it. School could take the fun out of anything.

This was a lot of fun. I'll keep doing this if he comes back in the Fall, and I'll modify the game a bit to get more speaking and so on in there.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Nested Encounters - Monster and Trapped Treasure

I was reminded of this possibility thanks to some annoying ants. We had some ants causing an issue where I live, so I put up an ant trap. Basically, poisoned bait.

The bait attracted ants and the poison killed them. But when it came time to freshen the trap, I found a spider had set up shop directly over and around the trap. The ants headed for the bait, but instead got caught by the spider. I just left this alone, figuring, well spider, you do you. Net effect is the same to me.

This makes for an interesting encounter as well. Predators, especially ambush predators, will lurk near a form of bait that will attract prey.

But that's not the say the actual bait must be pure, healthy, and rewarding. The bait itself can be another trap and the ambusher just piggybacking on it. This behavior can explain a lot of "monster with trapped chest" situations where the monster isn't the kind of being that would hoard and trap treasure.

Here are a few I can think of offhand for a typical fantasy game:

- "gold" coins that are actually cheaper coins dusted with yellow mold, paint plus contact poison, or which trigger a trap when approached (a pit, wall-shooting spears, whatever) plus an attack-from-above monster like a spider, obsidian jaguar, lurker above, quasi-intelligent ooze or slime, etc.

- a covered pit, with a mimic pretending to be a section of wall about 15' back, to better come out from behind delvers who stop 10' out when the lead character taps and hears a hollow sound back.

- an illusion of treasure set up over a trap (pit, slide, chute, deadfall trigger, etc.) with a charging ambush predator lurking down the hallway, hoping to ram someone into the trap and retrieve them later.

- an Avoid spell meant to discourage moving down a safe path and into a trapped area (or a dead end, or down the wrong maze path) combined with a Living Pit that sweeps under the delvers when they move into the area.

None of this is really new; nested encounters like this have been common since the modules made for 1st edition AD&D. But it's a good framing to keep in your mind - the monster might actually be piggybacking off of someone else's trap. They might inadvertently be saving you from the trap - a spider snagging giant rats on their way to poisoned water is keeping them from being poisoned, after all. And it'll help confound delvers who'll logically reason that Monster A couldn't set Trap B so Treasure C must be safe. It might not be - it's a nested encounter not originally planned for by the trap setter.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Belated thoughts on the lastest DFRPG update

This is a bit belated, but I'm glad to see how well the DFRPG is coming along:

Those two books, especially, are ones I'm looking forward to having.

- A one-book version of Basic Set: Campaigns / Dungeon Fantasy 2: Dungeons to refer to, easily augmented by a short list of rules from elsewhere we're using.

- A one-book set of spells I can tag on my own revisions to, instead of a large book choc full of spells with prereq counts and specific wordings changes for the setting (GURPS Magic.)

I'm going to enjoy the DM Screen, too.

None will be free of inaccuracy thanks to my own rulings and house rules; that's expected and fine. But they'll be a lot closer, because it won't be a ruling on top of DF2 on top of Basic Set.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Example Felltower Rumors

I've been asked a few times about the rumors in Felltower. Here is a sampling of them - these are the ones, word for word, that the PCs heard last session.

They're listed in the order I have them in my file - so the higher ones were lower numbers on the list. When I re-do rumors I tend to leave things more-or-less where they were on the chart. Sometimes I'll just move them around fairly randomly, too. There isn't any purpose to the order of rumors or value depending on their roll.

Rumors Heard 6/4/2017

If you eat a monster’s heart, you can gain its powers.

There are supposedly a few levels of worked dungeons, then it’s all caverns and tunnels below that.[*]

Evil giants are resistant to magic, good giants can use magic.

There are these rust-monster like things with six legs that rust your stuff if you just come close to them.

Some monsters eat corpses and gain the knowledge and powers of the things they eat.

A bunch of goblins got kidnapped in town last week – the watch said they got dragged off the slums, maybe to Felltower.

I heard some guy from Falcon’s Keep is in town trying to hire mercs – some kind of local problem with hobgoblins.[**]

There was a big stir in town that people have been stealing those weird green gemstones some delvers found in Felltower. They’re disappearing without a trace – stolen right off of rings, out of safes, etc.

Remember that old guy, Gort? He used to say, if a door is closed, spike it open. If it’s still open when you get back, close it and spike it shut.[***]

When bugs swarm, they get smarter – some say they’re as smart as men or even smarter, especially if you get enough of them together.

The six-fingered guys could shoot magical lightning, fire, cold and so on from their hands.[****]

There is a level shrouded in eternal darkness – even magical light can’t penetrate it.

The group that used to run the dungeon before Sterick’s day was a bunch of evil wizard-clerics.


[*] - This is where "taverns and caves" and thus "the pub level" came into being from.

[**] - Falcon's Keep is the Keep on the Borderlands, named after a low-level adventure in Dungeon Magazine that I liked and used.

[***] - See, Gort's a dungeoneering expert. A good example of a rumor that's mostly there for laughs, but which might remind people of a "valuable" lesson about how adventurers act in dungeons sometimes.

[****] - the PCs have confirmed that, at least for lightning, this is true - they do it with some weird charged gloves.

You can see how these would help build a base of knowledge about the megadungeon. They also reveal things that will occur that seem to violate the written GURPS rules (impenetrable magical darkness directly contradicts the text of, say, the Blackout spell). And they also keep people aware that the world around them isn't static - it keeps generating and re-generating adventure possibilities.

And finally, as always, none of these are marked true or false. I don't decide that ahead of time. Sometimes things I just make up for the rumors turn out to be true. Sometimes the players pervert the wording into something false out of truth and a truth about their delving out of a falsehood. And if something keeps coming up, and the players really latch onto it as something awesome, well, it becomes true and gets added in. So putting (F) after a rumor like a D&D module serves no purpose here.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Half-Painted Minis Abound

I have a shocking* number of minis that are partly done.

I have a drawer full of them in my desk, a bunch on my desk, even more in Plano tackleboxes on my shelf.

My half-painted minis basically sit in one of four stages:


These guys are prepped, glued, based, and primed and ready for paint. They can sit in that state for anything from 24 hours (enough for the primer to fully dry) to eternity. I've got minis I prepped and primed in 1999 when I got back into painting, still waiting to be painted.

After that stage, it's more subtle:

I have no idea what color goes with that.

Color wheels, color theory - doesn't help. These guys have a bit of paint on them and then I totally lost all sense of what to do with other parts of them. Maybe I like that cloak green but I can't see what goes with it. I like how the brown leather armor looks but what about all those pouches? Or I had an idea and lost it and can't complete it on the mini.

These guys are annoying. My lack of basic art education hurts me here.

I can't think of how to finish this guy.

These guys are almost done. They're coming along very nicely, but the completion requires touches here and there that I haven't gotten to. Often they are quite good by my standards but need something . . . and I'm concerned about messing them up. I've done that before - I painted this awesome mini, blackwashed it with black ink for some reason, and had to re-do almost the whole mini because all of the blends and highlights got blacked out and deepened into a single over-dark color. So I get cautious on some.

Too many or too small bits.

A lot of guys sit in this state - finished except all six of these guys have tiny belts with tiny chain links and amulets on them and it's hard to paint them. Finished except for the fact it's got this one bit I just can't paint without slopping paint on the adjacent bits. Or "I'd finish this guy except he's carrying 14 pouches, bags, scabbards, weapons, and tools and I have to paint each and every one."

That's where my minis sit - the ones that easily go from "bits in a bag" to "painted, sealed, and table-ready" are not as common as the ones that make me struggle.

* to anyone who doesn't also paint minis.

Friday, June 9, 2017

High-Point DF PCs

Yesterday Warren "Mook" Wilson posted about high-point characters. I figured I'd throw in my own experience with high-point Dungeon Fantasy characters.


One thing I have seen high-point PCs is players love maxima. They aren't satisfied with them, but they want to be at them. Maximum HP. Maximum possible Active Defenses. Maximum possible Energy Reserve. Maximum possible ST. Maximum possible everything that concerns their niche.

If there isn't a maximum, PCs don't really know where to stop. Recommended limits sound nice, but as soon as that recommendation isn't accurate, they've lost any convincing power. "You shouldn't need more than 20 skill" falls down as soon as someone missed by 1 and skill 21 would have made the difference. So then you end up with 22, 24, 30, etc. There really isn't any upper limit to potentially useful skill, so it's tempting to just keep pushing it up.

It's better to set actual upper limits so people can be the strongest, the biggest, the fastest, the most skilled, etc.

As a player, you need to realize that you simply can't make yourself flat-out unable to fail by sheer shallow niche-filling purchases. It's impossible. 18s will fail you in GURPS, no matter how much higher it is. You'll never have done "enough" Deceptive Attack (especially if you don't know how much you won or lost by). You'll never have done "enough" damage. You'll never be impossible to kill barring actual traits that make you so. You have to accept this, get good enough to be where you need to be where your character needs to be for the game, and move on. If you undershot, tweak it up a bit.

Even on 500 points it's tough to do everything. Say, a barbarian with max ST, max HP, Mountain of Meat, Naked Rage, Great Rage, Epic Smash, Weapon Master (Barbarian Weapons), solid HT, maximum resistance to Poison and Disease, Very Fit, etc. etc. - you'll run out of points. Remember you don't need to be the Best X at everything - you don't need to be the high HP barbarian, the high Survival barbarian, the strength-feats barbarian, the combat-monster barbarian, etc. You don't need to know every spell as the wizard, or the knight who out-knights every other knight at every aspect of combat. You can't, so focus - have an idea of what your guy is like and do that. Don't maximize things just to maximize. Have a focus, because you need one.


GURPS is point-buy, so anything you spend on A won't be around for B. So the good news for everyone is that it's hard for you to niche-stomp other people even if you're higher value, unless they wholly duplicate your niche. Even then, if having multiples helps, you still have things to do.

At the same time, it's rare you need to absolutely, totally, completely maximize your niche with no other diversity. Doing so tends to come and bite you more than not being the absolute best the game allows you to be at some other thing. You tend to need to do basic adventuring tasks well enough to get by - climb, swim, sneak, lift, carry, etc. - or you hold the group down.

It's generally better to have some capability in other things - even if it's just a specialty within your template and a little backup in something else (a knight with a side of leading troops, or a barbarian warrior with extra Survival specialties, or a undead-slaying holy warrior with a side of demon-slaying). Don't see a big pile of points as a way to just be extra, extra good at the one thing you do. If the game goes long or the adventures vary up, you'll suffer for this and so will your friends.

Embrace the Challenge

Higher points mean tougher challenges. Embrace that. Don't assume that what was tough at 250 points will be easy at 500 points so just get there and things are easy. Ideally, you'll be able to revel in your improvement sometimes but also face challenges that would have stomped your 250-point you flat.

In other words, accept that things get harder as you get better. It's supposed to be that way. This is also why you can't buy your way into safety - you're facing bigger risks. You might need +5 to resist poison just to keep even against the snakes in this dungeon, but you can't buy +5 and think you're never going to worry about poison again. The game is an arms race, because part of the fun of being an epic hero is faces epic challenges.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

What is simplified in DF Felltower?

One of my players commented about damage to weapons in Felltower and simplicity.

What it comes down to is that just because some things are simplified it doesn't mean all things are simplified.

One, if not the, central idea of Dungeon Fantasy is killing and looting. in Felltower, that's magnified. You can describe the game like this:

PCs will face challenges centered on exploring hostile areas, attempting to deal with the inhabitants by any means, and find a way to gain loot from those areas. A core of the challenge will be combat and gaining and extracting loot.

In other words, things that make combat more entertaining and/or challenging, and which improve the experience of "explore the area" and put a challenge around getting loot are central. Other things are peripheral. "How to defeat the enemy?" and "How to get the most value from the loot?" are critical questions and challenges to players' cleverness and problem-solving. Success and/or failure at these tasks affects character XP and the availability of things in the environment.

We don't handwave away the problems of burning loot up with Fireball spells or the encumbrance of that valuable but big and bulky statue. We may abstract the conversion of value or die-roll damage, but it's not removed from the game because it's still related to the core activities.

What is simplified in DF Felltower?

We simplify and abstract a lot in DF Felltower - often beyond what Dungeon Fantasy does. I play with a sub-set of the sub-set of rules.

We abstract town even beyond that in DF2. Jobs are just assumed in downtime, and offset cost of living. Hirelings are rolled for. Rumors, rolled for. NPC interactions in town are just descriptions of what happened thanks to your die rolls (mostly.)

We abstract out the world to the point where my maps are good enough. We simply put aside things that don't directly impinge on our gameplay. The world responds to the players, not the other way around - a bad roll for finding hirelings might be explained by, "Huh, must be a war on somewhere, everyone's working."

Religion is a monotheistic church of the Good God and it's based on the Good Book.

Economics is based entirely on the success of the PCs in looting the dungeon and spending money. Coins are worth their face value unless they're some kind of unusual treasure. We don't worry about coin conversion and debased coinage and so on, or the effect of a lot of cash on the local economy except as it makes more cool stuff available to PCs.

Basically, if it's outside of the dungeon and doesn't concern the challenge of extracting loot from the dungeon or exploring the dungeon or killing monsters, expect it to be simplified or abstracted.

What isn't simplified in DF Felltower?

Just because we simplify some things in DF Felltower doesn't mean we simplify or abstract everything.

In some areas, we expand the options. We use Committed Attack and Defensive Attack, Beats, Ruses, parrying improvements for some two-handed weapons, Feint defense based on your best weapon skill (not the current only), and Quick-Readying weapons from the floor - all from GURPS Martial Arts. None of those are assumed in DF, we added them. We don't add more, and we do use more basic versions of other rules, where the added time from the complexity is seen as taking away from the "exploring" and "looting" part of the triumvirate of awesome and putting it all on the "killing" part.

In others, we leave the details as-is because that's part of the campaign.

Encumbrance? Actually, this is already simple, because we use real-world weights and measures.

Damage to gear and loot? Abstracted a little, but part of the challenge. You can't split skulls and then loot helmets. You can't melt the enemy in a vast pit of fire and then take their gold necklaces off of them. You can't provoke the acid-spitting dragon or grapple the rust monster or dance with the disenchanter and expect that your stuff will be fine.

Mapping? We make this a little easier than it realistically should be, but otherwise leave it as-is and make the PCs do it. "Explore the dungeon" is a critical gameplay element, so this stays fiddly.

Ammunition? Consumables and supplies? These are all part of the challenge of go, explore, kill, loot, and come back. They're tracked to the arrow, the meal, the torch.

Time in the dungeon? Tracked to the minute when it matters (or by the 4-hour block, outside.) Time is a consumable, and comes with costs in Wandering Monsters and resource usages and resource regain.

It's all centered on the main parts of the campaign. Your sword might break, the gems might crack under the heat, the barbarian might smash the valuable antique helmet. You might get so much loot you can't carry it out, or take so many casualties you can't carry them out. Equally, you don't worry about getting robbed in town, or where you keep your backup magic sword in town, or why there is a shop in town that has rations, paut, and healing potions. The peripheral stays so, the central stays so. We may modify the specifics based on actual play but the core stays the core.

DF Felltower may be simplified, but only where it needs to be.

GURPS Lite in the Classroom, Session #8

For the previous session, click this link.

Rules Explanations

None today.


I did the short recap again, a bit longer.


We last left the Unknown Soldier heading back the way he'd originally escape from. Instead of veering back toward his cell, he took a disused and cobwebbed corridor going the other way. He felt his way down the corridor, in the dark, wounded, as the fortress's soldiers looked for him on the upper levels.

He eventually felt a door on his left, and opened it. Inside was a faint glow.

He opened the door wide, then stepped in and closed it. There was a small room beyond, with a hairy man sitting by a table with a candle on it, reading a book. The man said hello, asked who he was, but really just wanted to sit and read his book. The Unknown Soldier drew his sword and tried to wave him away from the candle, wanting to take it for light. The strange man grabbed the candle and turned away, continuing to read.

So the Unknown Soldier slashed him with his sword. The man tried to dive aside but was cleanly hit for 11 cutting damage. The candle hit the floor - I said it would stay lit on a 1-2 in 6, and rolled a 4. It went out.

The Unknown Soldier felt around until he found the candle, and his flint and steel, and lit it. The man was gone - no blood, no nothing. The PC ignored the book, etc. and left the room and continued on his way.

(So much for the helpful NPC who could tell him how to escape, help him in various ways, etc. Chop! Die, I need that candle! Heh.)

The Unknown Soldier headed down the corridor until it widened out into a cave. He stuck to the right wall until it lead to a watery cave lit by phosphorescent slime. He stopped and bound his wounds and ate his looted food.

Until he head a scratch-stomp, scratch-stomp, of something coming!


Geez, PCs will kill anyone. I should possibly have made the NPC more obviously helpful, but I figured he'd ask some questions, not just right for "kill him for the candle." Oh well.

One more session, possibly ever, next time. I'll put in another way out past the creature that is coming, so we can end this campaign on a good place to end and/or restart when the next school year comes.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

How hot is my Fireball?

On my last session summary report, in the comments, there is some discussion about fireballs vs. undead, melting temperatures, and so on.

Basically, I mentioned that one reason the PCs haven't disposed of the 33 draugr is concern about the best method to kill them also being a good way to reduce the value of the loot. Flame-broil the whole bunch and you're flame-broiling their gold jewelry, their armor, their weapons, their shields, etc. It's not a question of temperature, but of damage. Let me explain.

How hot is a Fireball spell?

I'm not sure. It's not defined. It doesn't really need to be defined, either. It's hot enough to inflict 1-6 burning damage for 1 energy, in one second, reduced normally by DR.

Ordinary flame inflicts 1d-3 or 1d-1, depending on how long you stay in the same hex with it. Being partly on fire and having all of your clothing on fire merely match those, respectively.

We know what that will set fire to, because GURPS Basic Set conveniently lists the damage needed under Making Things Burn (p. B433).

We know how much damage it takes to punch big holes in objects (p. B558) and how many DR and HP most objects have (various sources, such as LTC2, Basic Set, etc.)

We know how much damage armor can stop before the things behind it take damage.

So even DR that would normally be fully protective from ordinary flame (say, DR 5, enough to ignore maximum damage from standing in a hex of flame for 1 full second) might allow damage through from a Fireball spell. Even fully sealed armor from heavily fire-resistant materials (steel, for example) won't necessarily stop a Fireball from inflicting burning damage on the person beyond.

All of that is looking at a 1d Fireball. They can go all the way up to 18d in a Dungeon Fantasy campaign. An 18d fireball on the low end will set even Resistant objects on fire and will, on average damage (63 HP) set flesh or green wood on fire.

Even a 3d Fireball is inflicting the same damage as contact with molten metal for one second.

Will that melt gold? Is it hot enough?

Maybe. Probably, even. But it doesn't matter. It's damaging enough that most gold objects aren't going to have the DR and HP to stay as intact objects from the hit. That spell can easily do enough damage to melt a hole in a 1/8" steel wall or punch a hole in a 3" thick brick wall.

And that's what matters. Damage, not temperature.

Because mainly, really, this isn't science. It's gaming. None one at my table is going to want to stop the game to determine how hot 28 points of fire damage from a Fireball is vs. 40 points or 60 points or whatever, and the smoke/ignition/melting temperatures of everything. It's enough to say, yeah, it's unlikely a gold necklace will be intact after 30 fire damage in one second, even if it could sit all day in a fire doing 1d-1 per second . . . so it won't be. It melts, it's warped, it's time to start thinking "value of weight of gold" and not "value as a well-crafted piece of jewelry." That feels right, it feels consistent with Fireballing down barriers, golems, and punching through armor, and it's easy enough at the table.

Defeat a bunch of undead with massive amounts of fire, expect melted stuff. It's just how it's going to work at my table.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Pictures and Tidbits from Felltower Session 87

A few tidbits from Sunday:

- Hasdrubal's player decided that this orc's hat was a Renaissance painter's hat. I dubbed the orc Michelangelorc, the finest orc artist in the world. But since orcs don't value art, he's been bullied and forced into front-line combat vs. naked barbarians.

That's probably what will happen to Leonardo d'Orcini, Raphaeorc, Signorelloc, Titorcian, Botticellorc, Giottorc, and Donatellorc, too, when they reveal their un-orcish talents.

Or maybe they'll be an elite hit squad of orcs.

But more likely, the sensitive artist orcs. (They're the ones singing "sensitive" in the background.)

Next to him is a Vlad the Impaler Heroclix.

- the next plan for the Lord of Spite, besides "leave him alone until we're all ridiculously powerful," is to find a few more things to try against him . . . and use them all. Not "and then he steps onto Puissance +1 caltrops and we win!" or "and we all buff up Will and we win!" or whatever else, but all of those kinds of things all together. Basically, hit him with the shotgun of ideas of things that might help defeat him. He's not a puzzle monster, he's a brutal demon lord with servants and a willingness and ability to vary his tactics even if the ones he tried last time worked last time. And honestly, people generally rolled really badly against his initial attack and that set the tone for the whole fight. It got ugly fast because everyone was deaf and stunned.

Well, actually, next plan is "keep sending in servants to pick up coins while we wait outside" but that's unlikely to work forever. The Lord of Spite isn't a moron, he's just spiteful.

 photo session-80-felltower-53_pic-6_hot-on-our-heels  small_zpsdpozcytm.jpg

- Here is a quick snap I took of Mo's fight. The pencil across the map is the Force Wall.

Monday, June 5, 2017

DF Felltower, Session 87, Felltower 60 - Crowbar Fight & Lord of Spite

June 4th, 2017

Weather: Warm and clear to cool and rainy.

Currently Active:
Alaric, human scout (250 points)
Dryst, halfling wizard (435 points)
Hasdrubul Stormcaller, human wizard (296 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (304 points)
     Brother Ike, human initiate (148 points)
Mo (his momma call him Kle), human barbarian (316 points)
Vryce, human knight (493 points)

We started in Stericksburg, as usual. Raggi wasn't around (12 or less, Vryce rolled a 16), and neither were the Meeposian Brothers. Rumors were gathered, a lot of time was spent figuring out if ordered items had arrived, potions were bought, etc. One especially amusing rumor was that below two or so worked levels were only levels of caverns and caves, misheard as "taverns." This launched the idea of the Pub Level, and why Felltower neeeeeeeeds a pub level.

The group eventually settled on their goal for the session and set out, intending to raid the Lord of Spite. The worked their way up to the castle, climbed the walls via ropes and Levitation and Walk on Air. They went down into the tunnels, hammered up some spikes on both sides of the pit and strung a rope along the right wall to help people cross over.

Once that was done they moved down to the level with the orc hole, first ensuring they all knew where the trigger for the secret door to the "safe room" before they went down. They moved into one of the rotating statue rooms and tried the door towards the orc hole. No dice. They tried to force it, but again, no - it was clearly barred. So they put up Glass Wall and saw a bar.

Has' tried to use Apportation to move it but it was stuck. So Dryst tried creating a brute servant beyond the door, creating a crowbar for it, and having it try to pry the door. It wasn't strong enough. So they hit upon the only solution that made any sense - casting Body of Air on a stripped-nude Mo, sending him under the door, cancelling the spell, and then having him use the created crowbar to pry the door open.

Naturally, the orcs who garrison the hallways just beyond this point showed up as soon as Mo turned his back. Eight of them rushed him. He turned his back to the door and got ready, as the servant cowered in the corner. As the orcs rushed in, Dryst put up a Force Wall to cut the corridor off where it T'd out. Has' tried to put up a Lightning Wall but failed. Mo engaged the orcs. Has' put up a Stench spell on every hex except Mo's. Hjalmarr started to hack the door down.

Mo fought off the orcs, dodging their blows and swinging his crowbar. He beat a number of them down. Hjalmarr hacked a hole in the door and Alaric shot through it, nailing the orcs in and around Mo. Has' cast Apportation and floated one of Mo's morningtars over to him. He let go of the crowbar and took that and went to town. In a few seconds, it was all over. Mo smashed all of the downed orcs in the skull ("Oh no, this was the Antique Helmets Squad! You ruined our treasure!") and they quickly looted them. Mo put on his loincloth and picked up his shield, they stacked up behind the opaque Force Dome after Stench was cancelled.

Nothing beyond except some oil on the floor. They tried to light it up, but it just burned with oily black smoke - low-flammability oil had been dumped on the floor. So they stationed guards, used Create Earth to make dirt, and tossed it on the floor to make it walkable. Then they formed up and moved down the hallway. Orcs hassled them with thrown rocks and arrows, until Dark Vision let Alaric shoot down the hall to annoy them. He missed on shot and hit once, blocked by an archer's shield carrier, but then the orcs backed off.

They peered down the orc hole and decided to block it off with Create Earth and then casting Earth to Stone to make it a plug of bronze. They moved from there and slowly worked their way to the giant staircase and went in.

They wanted to rest on the stair landing but the door doesn't have a closing mechanism that they can find. So they just had to wait a few minutes for it to close.

They went downstairs eventually and moved to the Lord of Spite's area, halting just short of the room with the Force Dome trap. They heard gnolls coming from behind, so they got ready and send Alaric forward to shoot at them. They briefly saw a gnoll stick his head out from far down the offset hall and then they heard gnoll voices. The PCs charged, but the gnolls had a huge head start and left them behind. So the PCs went to the Lord of Spite's area.

The cave was as before - coins scattered all over, weird smells and sounds. They sent a servant to gather coins, slowly, with a lightstone so it could see. They checked the broken pentagram and sent Alaric ahead a little bit to scout. He moved off in the direction the slime came from and heard a wheezing rattling breath. Then as he got closer he heard a voice speaking in a low register - like he was hearing only half of the noises on the top end - and a pop. Then a creak, a step, and drag-stomp. He ran.

The PCs formed up in the corridor that leads to the caves, a secured door behind them, so they could run or fight. The servant was brought in, destroyed, and his sack of loose change taken.

The Lord of Spite slowly walked up, as Mo taunted him over and over. Alaric shot one of his skulls (he had three, again), putting a bodkin arrow right through the bone, but it didn't break it. (Piercing vs. homogenous = poor choice, it penetrated but wasn't close to forcing HT rolls for breakage.) The Lord of Spite stopped for a second and chuckled. Alaric shot at him again but narrowly missed him - clearly a Missile Shield. Then the Lord of Spite put up a wall of darkness behind him that even Dark Vision couldn't penetrate. Has' threw a 6d Explosive Lightning into it but had no idea if it affected anything.

The Lord of Spite marched up to the PCs and Vryce took a swing and smashed one of the skulls. The Durak unleashed his Unholy Utterance and blasted the PCs - almost all of them were deafened, and stunned, while Has' and Brother Ike dropped into comas. Dryst alone resisted, thanks to Luck and a critical success.

Someone, I can't recall who, got off an Awaken spell stone and woke up Has' and Brother Ike, while everyone else besides Vryce became unstunned. Then the boars slammed into the group, one goring Vryce for 27 injury. The other was shield-checked by Hjalmarr. Mo skull-cracked the first boar but it wasn't impressed with severe brain injury - they are demonic and boar. Within a couple of seconds the first boar trampled Vryce and hurt him, Has' rolled away from the trample, and Brother Ike was trampled and hurt. The boar wrapped around to come back. Hjalmarr cut the second one in the neck and caused a lot of bleeding but it was still up.

As that happened, Mo got his right arm nearly lopped off by the Lord of Spite's axe. Then a second later he lost his right leg entirely to an axe chop and was stunned by a blow from his club. Has' got off a Spark Storm but it would take three critical seconds to spin up to speed.

In those three seconds Dryst Great Hasted himself and Vryce. But behind the boars came two devil maws pirouetting up followed by first of what turned out to be 8-10 doomchildren. As the devil maws got in close lightstones - magical and holy - winked out, cancelled by their light-eating effect.

Vryce slashed a devil maw from the ground but it deflected his blade with a multi-arm block, then clawed him five times - he stopped one, critically failed on another and averted that with Luck, and then critically failed the next. He'd used Luck earlier to avert real disaster on the Unholy Utterance.

Seconds later, the fight was a disaster. Mo down, Vryce getting trampled and mobbed (and a doomchild jumped nearly into his lap and tried to cut him apart), Hjlamarr got slammed from behind by the first boar, Alaric was trying to fend off oncoming foes . . . deaf Has' used his ring and Wished that the party - and their limbs - were back on the Old Stone Bridge.

They appeared there, in mid-day traffic (which is kind of sparse on Sundays, but still exists), bleeding and fighting. The order of the day here was quickly healing people, carrying Mo and Mo's leg to the church for Instant Restoration, etc. It took many minutes before everyone could hear, people realized dropped weapons were still in the dungeon, etc.

In the end the PCs sighed with relief. They'd almost gotten destroyed by the Lord of Spite, but the timely wish saved them.

Here is an image from one of my players's Instagram:

We chose unwisely. The Lord of Spite defeats us again. Ring of Wishes to the rescue.

A post shared by Thomas Pluck (@thomaspluck) on


I've ruled that Glass Wall is cast on the object, not on a specific subject, and is visible to all, both directions. I think it would work better as spell on a specific subject that let you look through single-ply barriers, but still, this works. It might be interesting as either/or - one barrier both ways, or one subject any barrier as long as it's a single barrier.

Mo dodged really, really well against the orcs, even given full defenses and his Beefcake Protection. He should have a Dodge 12 in those circumstances (Base 3 + Speed 6 + 2 nudity + 1 Combat Reflexes). It turned out later he'd mixed up his dice, and was using ones marked 1-5 and a symbol on the 6, instead of his usual ones marked 2-6 with a symbol on the 1. Only a few turns in did he notice this, when a symbol and a 1 came up the same time. He probably would have gotten hit a couple more times, since some of those 1s he rolled were 6s. Sigh. This is why I hate cutesy dice - ones you can't read easily, ones with symbols instead of numbers, etc. There is no upside to them except being cutesy.

Again we had some issues with "is that one still up?" I used to roll HT rolls for consciousness right away, just to get them out of the way. What that did was let someone knock out a foe through accumulated HP of damage and then have the next PC know who to move on from, or the same PC move through that hex, etc. The best way to drop a foe was a lot of damage to force rolls, not major wounds to critical locations. We stopped that a while back but people still kind of expect to see foes drop right away from heavy torso hits. They will, but you need to kill them dead or physically knock them down to put them to the floor if you want it to happen immediately. It works in the PCs' favor many times as well, when they get hurt, but old habits die hard.

The Lord of Spite once again mopped the floor with the PCs. They only ever had him on the run once, and even then he carpeted the floor with dead orcs and crippled PCs. He's a demon lord, he should be tough. This time the PCs were ready for him but their tactic of channeling the enemy into a narrow killing zone actually put them in a narrow killing zone vs. foes easily capable of mass-area attacks and plowing through formations. What to do next time? It isn't clear. There isn't a huge percentage in "sneak up and steal a small percentage of his loot before he comes and forces us to use a Wish to escape."

The PCs only netted around $800 or so but divided it only amongst the lower-point guys so they all hit their $200 minimum for full XP. It was 4/0 for loot, and everyone got a +1 Awesome Bonus because they chose not to chop down a door, but to send a naked barbarian through with Body of Air to pry the bar off the door and then Force Wall in the barbarian with some orcs and put Stench on all of them. Seriously, that's the most weird dungeon delver solution to anything. Therefore XP was 5 each for the lower-point guys, 6 for Mo (MVP for the naked crowbar fight), 1 each for Dryst and Vryce. Exploration was 0 - they literally went to no new places at all.

This was a lot of fun. The PCs narrowly avoided disaster with a timely Wish, second session in a row. But it was just a huge amount of fun. Laughing, silliness, groans at good and bad rolls, etc. - it all was enjoyable. We were nearly in tears laughing at some of what happened. And we've got a pub level now. I told my group, "My game is great. And it's all thanks to you guys."

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Felltower pre-summary

Not sure if I'll have time to finish the summary tonight, but in any case, here are some highlights:

- naked Mo with a crowbar vs. orcs

- Michelangelorc slain and new orcs christened in blood

- scouting by the scout

- the Lord of Spite sought out and attacked

- and another Wish used up.

It was a lot of fun, hopefully I can get it all down on the blog tonight.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Felltower tomorrow: Prep and Thoughts

So after a long break, we're playing DF: Felltower tomorrow. This will be session #3 for this year.

Yeah, #3.

We've actually played several times this year, but because we took two sessions off for White Plume Mountain and two for Gamma World that's mean that only three times had we delved into Felltower.

2017 has been a terrible, terrible year for scheduling.

Our usual host has been working seven days a week most of this year. That cuts down our best gaming place and one player, which makes it tougher to reach enough players to get a game in.

I've been busy more Sundays than usual, which also means no Felltower and often cuts down Gamma World enough to make that a problem, too. The group can play without me, but generally does not.

It's not going to get much better - I have a few Sundays x-ed out already for July and travel for August.

So we've seriously lost a lot of play momentum and it's not going to be easy to get it back.

That hasn't derailed the game in any way, though. It's still ready to go, we're still ready to play, and there is still a lot to do. But 2017 won't have an epic list of played sessions.

In the game itself, though, there is a lot to do. Off the top of my head, here are things that have recently (or at least, this year) discussed as things to do:

- kill the Lord of Spite;

- attack the orcs (which means either going into "the orc hole" or wandering around attacking orcs as they are found);

- go to the Lost City of D'Abo via the gate;

- clear the dungeon area around the gate (specifically, take out the gnolls and ogres);

- figure out those big doors down on the Lord of Spite's level.

I'm ready for all of those as well as for, "hey, let's go down this hallway instead of any of the stuff we planned!"

It's just a question of organizing my minis so I have what I need on the table. Hopefully we'll have a good number of players - seems like most of the regulars can make it, sans one or two we've sent abroad on missions.

It'll be nice to GM GURPS again for my group. We'll see if I have any rust to knock off, or if we've all taken home the wrong lessons from AD&D.

Friday, June 2, 2017

That's one Gamma Worldian Bones mini

Apropos the Bones 3 set that arrived, check this out:

That middle guy, the werebear, is the most Gamma World bear I've ever seen. Seriously. All you need to do is trick out his axe so it's made out of a drainage pipe and wire-wrapped axe head and give him a cybernetic eye or paint him streaked with purple and he's a mutant. The croc and the bat, sure, kind of. But for some reason that bear says "you better have an energy cell for your black ray gun."

I may just have to give him to andi, our GURPS Gamma World GM, to do something with. THAT should be Napoleon the bear's bodyguard or how he dresses for combat.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

GURPS Writing Update

I haven't had a chance to get in a writing update about GURPS.

- I wrote and submitted an article to Pyramid which centers on something I needed for my own games. It's DF related, unlike my last one.

- I got back to work cleaning up a co-authoring project with Douglas Cole. By cleaning up, I mean starting over because we got way out of hand with our cool ideas and couldn't edit it down. I'd do an editing pass and end up with more words. Sigh.

So it seemed easier to just start from first principles and write. That's going well, and hopefully you'll be able to see what we cooked up in Pyramid at some point.

The work we did isn't wasted, though - those words needed to be written so we could see what really needed to get down on paper. That happens.

- I started work on a Felltower-themed DF article, with materials pulled straight out of my current game with all of the labels intact. I'm not sure it's salable, though, since it's less generic than usual. But you never know, and if it's not good to go as-is, I can certainly generic it up. Still, I like how it's coming together now.

- Sales of my books are still going pretty well. DFM3 is still going at a pretty good pace. Slow but steady. The more that sells, the better the odds of DFM4 coming out, and I've got monsters ready for that one, too.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

More thoughts on megadungeons

Wayne R over at Initiative One is making his own megadungeon.

Why Build a Megadungeon in 2017?

I understand the pull - both from an open table and/or pick-up campaign perspective, and from a general GM prep perspective. I said as much there, and in the past, why I think megadungeons are good for a low-pre-session prep game (once the dungeon is "done" enough to play) and why I think it's easier to run your own.

This isn't news for anyone who's read my blog for a while or browsed my page of megadungeon articles and links.

I think making your own megadungeon is rewarding. If your players are game to try, and especially if they're game for focusing on what megadungeons do well (repeated delves, exploration, weirdness, ease of getting to the killing-and-looting, etc.) and not what they don't, it can be fun. I think it's more fun than it looks from the outside, as well. It's easy to dismiss megadungeons as impossible or not-fun without trying them. And it's hard to just give your own megadungeon a shot for 2-3 sessions just because of the sheer scale of prep - once you start one, you're committed for a while or you've sunk a lot of costs.

But once it's going and people are enjoying it, it's very satisfying and interesting. The game system doesn't matter as much as you might think - I'm running Felltower in GURPS, and I'm not sure anyone else is doing so (maybe even, has done so.) Systems like original D&D and B/X D&D and AD&D 1st edition are packed with tools that assume a megadungeon. Clearly 5th edition D&D needs fewer monsters per PC but can handle big dungeons, so why not megadungeons?

By the way, this is no knock on existing megadungeons. If you can digest someone else's dungeon faster and easier than you can write your own, that'll be faster prep. You'll have name recognition and that pride of dealing with a known dungeon, too (my players are justly proud of having bested White Plume Mountain.) And other people's megadungeons are a great source of material to raid for your own.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Bones III arrived

So this just came. The unboxing will begin tomorrow or later, time depending. Not pictured here: the undisclosed mini to be unleashed later.

Lessons from training, for gaming

I'm not going to tell you talking your paper man through an imaginary situation is like physical training. It's not. But some of the lessons I've learned training apply to gaming, and some of the lessons I've learned gaming apply to training. Sometimes it's hard to tell which one fed into which - it's rarely an epiphany. The epiphany tends to be realizing that you have learned and adjusted not suddenly spotting a life-changing moment to learn from and adjust based on. Put maybe better - the epiphany is noticing you've changed, not the changing.

But I'm getting off track.

In any case, here are two things I learned from training that apply to gaming.

There is never a perfect time.

If you define the perfect time as any or all of:

- having the most benefit for the least cost;
- having the optimal amount of preparation;
- having the assured ability to execute without error;

you will always wait.

There is never a perfect time.

In training, if you wait until you're totally healthy, and you've got time to train every day, and you've got a schedule that allows regular training, and the weather is right, and the cost is right, and the ability to back it up in the kitchen is right . . . you'll never start. That's never the case, not even for athletes training full time in a training center. I've trained with pro athletes in the off-season, when they have nothing to do but train and get better . . . except for raising their kids, seeing their family, getting over illnesses, dealing with contracts and endorsements and charity commitments and all of that. So really, you may as well make the best of what you have right now, and then work to improve the "have right now" for cases in the future.

In gaming, it's also never a perfect time. The best time to deal with an obstacle might not be right now, but it's likely that next time won't be any better. If you always back off and wait until you're fully prepared you will come out with less in the long run. Not only that, but as Tim Shorts pointed out, if the world is dynamic and assumes other adventurers, you may lose out. In games where increasing rewards are required to level up or improve (or even keep pace!), or where experience/benefits are reduced as the challenge drops down, you're also reducing risk at a cost of reducing reward . . . maybe so low it's not worth the risk of a bad break.

Just from a fun/play perspective, "let's come back when we're totally prepared" means you spend more time backing off and preparing than actually doing. And the doing is where the most fun is.

Prepare as much as you can, look before you leap, and leverage what you've got the best you can . . . but stop putting things off until there is a perfect time. It's not going to come.

Need trumps want.

In training, you need to do what you need to do. You can't just do what you like - not if you expect the best results. And focus on "want" can often leave you with gaping needs that grow bigger and bigger. I've trained tons of people who work their biceps, their chest, their triceps, their quadriceps, and do ab exercise after ab exercise. They do only the cardio they like, or only go easy, or only go hard (usually, only hard.) They come to me with shoulder issues, bad posture, neck issues, mid-back weakness, low-back pain, inhibited gluteals, messed up hips, bad knees, and feet with more problems than toes. Years of "I did what I liked hard and often, what I needed only when forced" magnified the need until it's a source of pain and misery and frustration.

Those that focus on a rational, objective need-based training approach tend to do better - and while they'll get to do less of what they want, they'll do it better and benefit more from it.

In gaming, you can get away with a lot more want. Need can be handwaved in ways you can't in reality. You're not punished by the simple fact that doing 90% of your leg exercises for less than 50% of the muscles acting on a joint is going to cause joint issues. But there are needs you must address. Common ones include:

- having a "healer" (mechanic, cleric, physician, etc.) is usually necessary.
- having utility players (thieves, scholars, artificers, inventors, etc.) is usually necessary.
- having a good "face" (diplomatic types of all sorts) is usually necessary.

You can offload these to NPCs, of course, but if you do, caring for those NPCs becomes a need.

In a megadungeon, with its immediate and cumulative, it's easy to keep pushing for "want" over "need." Same with any sandbox. Yeah, yeah, yeah, we're totally unbalancing the delicate standoff between hostile forces here, but we need money right now. Oh sure, we don't want to suffer consequences of our actions in town, so we'll just run away - nevermind we need this town's goodwill long-term. We can deal with that big glaring evil enemy later, it's not the perfect time yet. Some of these mix needs - you have needs right now, which can obscure other needs. Priorities are still something to be decided and balanced.

But you if always choose "want" over "need," eventually, the game can grind down as needs overwhelm you or as GMs right the ship for you to keep going one more session. You need to figure out your needs within the confines of the game and make that happen if you want the game to last.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Munchkin simplified for kids?

Has anyone taken Munchkin and simplified it down for kids?

I don't mean Munchkin Treasure Hunt. I'm not in the market to buy a new game. I mean, the original Munchkin set, stripped down to very fast, very easy to learn rules for kids. Something explainable in, say, one minute tops, without reference to rules sheets.

I've got most of the early Munchkin sets, all the way up to Half-Horse, but I've split off my base set in the hopes of turning it into yet another ESL game. Something fun, easy to learn, and where part of the challenge is telling me what you've doing and the other part is reading the cards so you know which ones to play.

That's one reason I use the earlier edition of Fluxx with my older ESL students - it's a reading challenge combined with a game-play challenge. Plus I can teach it inside of one minute and one turn of play.

But before I do the work to make a game out of Munchkin that uses what's on the cards for some kind of play, I'd like to see if someone else has.
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