Thursday, August 17, 2017

Origins of the +4 to target a hex?

I don't have access to my pre-4th edition GURPS books right now. But I was thinking about the +4 to target a hex with an area-effect weapon such as a grenade or an explosive spell.

I think it originated in either GURPS Fantasy (for 1st edition GURPS) or GURPS Magic (for 2nd/3rd edition GURPS, the one with the dueling magicians on the cover.) But I can't check from where I am.

Can anyone reading this take a look and see where it originated?

Monday, August 14, 2017

More Bones IV thinking

More thinking about the Bones IV Kickstarter and what I'm getting and not getting.

Gauth - probably trade block / sale block. We'll see. But I don't really need another giant dragon.

Nagendra - nice snakemen. I'm glad to have them. The snakewoman, though, eh. Put breasts on a snake to make it a female? Snake-bodied medusa/gorgons have the same issue, but still, for some reason it doesn't bother me there. The rest are very cool, though.

Ape Attack - Like I need more ape-men. Hahah. They are welcome to join my eight metal Jason Weibe apes and my Hackmaster "ape shaman." These are welcome. I can always use more apes, even as they become more and more fodder to my higher-powered delvers in my game. Plus I like to paint apes.

Tree of Despair - amusing, but what would I do with it? Deploy a tree over and over in my games? Contrive a situation where there is a big tree on my tabletop with vultures and a victim on it and pay $12 plus shipping and painting time to use it?

I am 100% certain one of my players, maybe two of them, are thinking, "HELL YES!" to this question. But it's not going to happen. This is a useful wargame centerpiece, skirmish game objective, or diorama piece. It's a one-time use as a RPG gaming piece in my game, and then really only if we need to have tactical combat in and around it. Even then, I know my group - there is a 100% chance they'll say, "Let's not go back to that tree" and that'll be the end of it. It's like one of those very distinct character minis except more so. At least with a big dragon it can be the same dragon a few times, or be quickly re-painted into a different one. Generic monsters can be more of the same kind of monster. A big tree with victims? Better as a home-made terrain piece or a home-made counter, just to avoid the whole build, paint, and store aspect of this thing.

Dreadmere - cool, mood-inspiring minis. So far, I'll pass. Too many personalities I'd be able to use once, not enough repeat use for my $50. A boat and a raft and a cart are nice, but I can (and have) made them out of square or round toothpicks and parts from other games. This would make a great support pack for a "Dreadmere" adventure path or base play area for a series of adventures, though.

Living Statues - male and females of these. Both are cool. The price is nice and low for what you get. Still, they are very big, and I don't know how often I'd need Ancient Greece-themed figures - especially since I'd have them in Feb/March of 2019.

Chibi Delvers - I don't need or want these. But I'm happy to get them, and I like that it's dependent on Twitter and Facebook shares to unlock them. Nice idea. If I used the platforms they're asking for support on, I'd do so just to help out those people who really like these guys.

The various giants, bonus demons, etc. fall into the same boat. Cool, price is fine, by the time I'd get them I'm not sure I'd need them. Plus giants are kind of a pain for me to paint and store. Many of the others I just wouldn't use - cute baby dragons, dice monsters, skeletal animals. The trolls are tempting, but four trolls and a fanged dog for $12 - probably not. I might just get one or two of those trolls when they eventually come out. I do have a big pile of Bones, Legendary Encounters, and TSR trolls already. And that giant demon - way, way too big for me!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sandboxes & XP

John Arendt aka Beedo asked about flat-rate XP and sandboxes. I have opinions on this, because of the game I run and the game I play and a game I have played.

Here are three ways sandboxes can handle XP - by rewarding in-game action, purely flat-rate, and by story advancement/goal accomplishment.

Dungeon Fantasy: Felltower is a limited sandbox, and runs with goal-oriented experience. The system has gone through three iterations, but essentially, the reward are for loot (primarily), exploration (secondarily), and miscellaneous goals (avoiding death, finding special reward areas, etc.)

Since rewards are based on actions, especially loot, the game is very loot-driven. PCs make decisions that might be unwise from a long-term sandbox for per-session XP reward reasons. For example, the PCs have demolished several potential allies (even former allies) to get loot from them to reach their loot threshold and gain XP. They've allied with clear enemies to their own long-term detriment because it promised loot now.

Gamma Terra is a limited sandbox, and runs with flat experience. We get 5 xp per session, every session, no matter how much or how little we do.

We also get a random bonus every five sessions played, ranging in value from 2 points to as much as 20. So a reader might assume that skews things. But it's random, it's based on attendance not actions, and it doesn't skew anything except attendance.

Essentially, though, getting flat XP per session means we do what the situation demands. We didn't get XP for negotiating with the badders. We didn't XP for fighting them, earlier. We could have talked to the Iron Men instead of defeating them. We could have turned on the Triumvirate instead of allying with them.

The fact that XP is not tied to in-game actions means we don't take any in-game actions in order to earn XP. XP is totally divorced from our actions so we take actions we feel fit our goals in the sandbox.

The Known Worlds/Blood Dogs campaign featured story-based XP. As the PCs made progress by accomplishing in-game goals - clearing areas, finishing off story arcs, etc.* As the PCs finished what was essentially an area-based series of activities, they earned XP. Loot, slaying monsters, negotiation with potential enemies or allies, etc. weren't individually rewarded. Getting the group - the Blood Dogs - closer to their goal of defeating the evil wizard they'd unleashed and made central to the game was rewarded as they dealt with a block of linked issues. Plus I gave a small, minimal reward to players that attended each session to bulk out the rewards. But the largest percentage came from the story-arc rewards.'

Because of this, the PCs didn't worry about money except as they wanted or needed it. They didn't fight monsters except as they were obstacles. They didn't make friends or enemies except as they felt they needed to (and in the latter case, by their actions.)

Overall I think a sandbox works just fine with flat rewards. If you reward in-game actions, you get in-game actions centered on earning those rewards. A sandbox in an old-style D&D game will involve PCs aiming for loot. One in a later D&D game with most XP coming from monsters means they'll focus on slaying. A sandbox in a GURPS game with purely flat XP rewards means the PCs will just do what they feel like doing (or feel they need to do.) But it's totally doable do any of those three. My recently played and run games have been sandboxes, and the method of XP reward has affected how the players interact with the sandbox.

They all work, but they all give a different feel to play.

* I've said this before, but it bears repeating - "story-based" doesn't mean railroad, and doesn't mean a GM-centered story. The PCs essentially drove the plot with their actions, but it was the plot that determined their rewards.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Why I don't sweat long-term fatigue issues in my game

One reason I don't really fret the generous fatigue point (FP) rules in GURPS is personal experience.

At the moment I'm doing some MMA training in Japan, as well as visiting old friends - the experience blends, as almost all of my Japanese friends are my MMA training buddies from living here and past visits. I do this routine of doing every single class while I'm in town, travelling to friendly associated gyms and training there, hunting down old friends and the toughest-seeming new guys to train with. I push nonstop, make some Carousing rolls in between, and sleep little thanks to an early dawn and early rising neighbors where I stay.

This isn't the first time I've done this. My record is training the same day I got off the plane, and then training 12 days out of 14 (two Sundays messed that up) including at least one extra mid-day class. Going hard 4-5 days in a row on minimal sleep (5-6 hours, not my usual 7-8) while jet-lagged and doing almost every round of training isn't that hard. I'd do all of the rounds but sometimes partner switching means you really can't or lack of mat space means waiting. And I'm always here when it's brutally hot and humid except when there is a typhoon. Plus my carefully arranged diet goes out the window in favor of randomly selected foods and travel-ready portions.

It's a pace that burns the candle at both ends but generally gets bracketed by a short break before (albeit with travel stress) and a long one after. Not a big deal if you don't do it every single day for a long time.

The individual bouts of combative training and fine, too - I generally feel like I've got as much power at the end as the beginning.

Anyway, this informs my opinion on whether I should enforce long-term fatigue penalties or more strict FP recovery issues in my GURPS games.

My DF game is a case in point. Megadungeon delving is a lot like this in my campaign. The PCs are off for a while. Then they gear up and do a half to a full day off walking, fighting, sneaking, healing, running, dragging, climbing, searching, etc. with only snatches of rest here and there to make up for FP spent in battles or movement. And once FP are back, they're back - no Last Gasp or Long-Term Fatigue rules wanted, needed, or used. After a day of this, the PCs take their haul back to town, sell it off, and presumably get some rest before doing whatever they do in Stericksburg that pays for most of their upkeep.

Even the overland isn't that bad - travel for a few days by boat (Cold Fens) or by foot (Lost City of D'Abo), spend a day or two trashing the "dungeon," then repeat. You might be tired when you get there but not enough to really bother anything.

The fact that no one took Light Sleeper helps, too - no one is literally asking for points in return for special issues with travel and fighting and lack of sleep thrown together.

There is nothing wrong - and a lot right - with the rules I referenced above. They just aren't appropriate in my game.

I don't like to generalize from only my personal experience. But I do find that my personal experience provides a nice explanation for why the delvers in my game aren't slammed for many delves in a short time or intense delves in general. And why I don't fret cumulative effects of hard combat beyond that caused by direct injury. Here is where the generous rules do match my experience with doing this in the relatively short term - intense effort is possible even when tired, especially combative effort. Penalizing the PCs for it doesn't seem that fun, and would run counter to something I've done personally. So yeah, thanks to my own "vacation" plans ("Let's full-contact spar for 9 out of 10 3-minute rounds with 15 second breaks!") I don't worry about the PC's fatigue issues ("Let's kill orcs for 12 seconds and then hang out for 15 minutes resting and looting, then fight again in two hours.")

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A little more on player buy-in

The other day I wrote about rules weight and player buy-in.

A few more thoughts.

Rules weight isn't purely determined by how well you know them.

It's a strong factor, though. A simple-ish game with rules you don't know well will play slow and require rules lookups and run clumsily. A complex game you know by heart will play as fast as the game can and run smoothly. The latter will always run more slowly than the former, assuming equal rules knowledge.

You need player buy in for complex rules.

Just as a practical matter, if you use complex rules or ones with large decision trees (say, full-on GURPS tactical combat), players need to learn some of them. Even if they can just use plain language to explain what they want to do, someone needs to turn that into in-game decisions.

If you don't get sufficient buy-in, the game will grind to a slow crawl. There will be slowdowns for sure, possibly arguments, lots of "I didn't know you could do that!" and even more "it doesn't work like that" even when it does because of half-understand rules derived from past examples.

Someone has to know the rules. It helps if someone equals everyone.

As much as I don't really mind "just tell me what to roll," it's offloading rules knowledge onto others. And if you want to do complex things, or have choice be up to you, it doesn't work as well.

In other words, if you're just saying, "I chop that guy with my sword! I rolled a 13, what happens?" then "just tell me what to roll" works well enough. Once you go to "I want to chop that guy with my sword. What should I aim for? Should I step back after? Can I pivot after to face this guy? What, is there a tricky way to get better odds? What are my chances of hitting?" etc. then you're just making other people do the nitty-gritty of knowing the rules. They need to present your options like a menu so you can choose.

A corollary to this would be that you probably shouldn't complain as a player when you suffer for not knowing things you choose not to spend time learning. After all, you're putting it on someone else to know it for you.

Know your group.

If your group has lots of people willing to put in time learning the rules, you can add more rules with less consequence. If your group does not, or has players whose PCs will directly be impacted by those rules but who do not like to learn rules, it's probably going to have negative consequences. Know if your group does better with more rules layered on top. Even a very good rules addition is a negative if sufficient players don't understand it (or want to!)

So, anyway, I think my idea is this:

- rules complexity is a factor in rules weight.

- player buy-in is required to make rules weight light enough to play well.

- lack of player rules knowledge is more of a problem the more rules you use and options within those rules.

All of this probably comes off as a little rant-y, which isn't my intention. It's just a thought about how to choose how many rules and how much complexity you want. It's got to reflect the investment the players put back into the game.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Rules Weight & Player Buy-In

I've found that the more rules depth you use, the more your players need to buy into and learn those rules.

It's not the rules system, it's the depth and number of rules. I've played many games, most heavily GURPS, 1st edition AD&D, and Rolemaster. I can't say that any of those is really more rules heavy than the others. GURPS has a lot but they're mechanically more similar to each other and generally are modifiers and special cases. AD&D is a mess of different systems and special cases and a mix of those two. Rolemaster is just heavy on rules lookups, even if the system is remarkably simple (roll high, open-ended, add modifiers, consult a table). Anyway, that is a tangent.

But the more rules we enforced in play, the more players needed to know those rules.

Basically rules have weight, multiplied by the number of players, and that weight is divided amongst the players who know the rules. The fewer that know them, and the more rules, the more the game is slowed by rules adjudication issues.

You could say:

Rules Weight = Rules Used x Number of Players / Players who Know The Rules

A good example of this is my DF game. It's rules-medium.

It's not rules-heavy, as we've tossed many special cases and optional rules out of the window. We only use rules if they fit the specific challenges of the game. Damage to items, special grappling rules, special rules for combat, hundreds of magical spells, etc. are all in. Many other rules are out.

Even so, it requires a lot of player buy-in to learn the rules. We get this to a varying extent, from people relying on memories of previous play to those meticulously looking up the rules. The less people learn the rules, the slower the game plays. People need to deal with combat modifiers, defense and offense rules changes, spell lookups, effects of stats and skill levels on effects of spells and rolls, etc. Since we don't get 100% buy-in on learning everything, it slows things down.*

On the other hand, GURPS Gamma Terra aka 20th Homeland aka Gamma World+ (it's Gamma World, don't doubt that for a second) is rules-light.

Our character sheets, one equipment list, and one handout page covers all of our skills and abilities, stuff we can buy with XP, our campaign details, combat rules from range bands to ROF, etc. Maybe once a session we need to consult rules about setting things on fire or Aim bonuses or shooting from Prone. That's it. This has low player rules knowledge requires. Nothing is really slow, because there isn't anything to look up and very little to consider. Similarity between PCs means we can tell each other the required rolls.

My old GURPS game was more rules-heavy, and needed even more buy-in. You needed to invest more time in learning how the rules worked just to offload the responsibility of knowing them from the GM and other players. Someone had to know the rules if you didn't.

So whenever I think about rules weight and adding or subtracting rules, I do it with this idea that the players need to put some work in. If they're not going to do it, even a mechanically superior and campaign-superior rule is going to subtract more than it adds.

* We're hoping a switch to the DFRPG rules set with a single house rules handout for add-ons will help this. I expect so, but it won't be perfect. Players will still need to read the rules set to make the play speed as fast as it could be!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

DF Felltower - Special Thanks Goes To . . .

I'm away, so no Felltower today, but I generally have a game summary or a Felltower post up on Sunday, and it's Sunday.

This is more of a special thanks post.

A megadungeon game is a combination of the new and the iterative. You find new stuff, you deal with old stuff again and again. With a rotating cast of players, 70+ sessions in the dungeon, 90+ sessions of play, hundreds of encounters, six plus years of play, and many hundreds of rumors, it's hard to keep track of everything. Some things the vets know but the newer guys don't, and vice-versa, and not all of that matches or is in fact remotely accurate. Too much is the telephone game in a knowledge-sparse setting.

I try to help by tracking some bits for the players:

- I write game summaries. They're entertaining for readers, but they're really reference documents for actual play. That's probably why they are entertaining, actually.

- I track the monsters encountered.

- I keep track of all of the rumors heard and keep an updated copy.

- I keep updated character sheets for everyone. Well, not their equipment (too fluid) but their stats and spells.

But tying it all together? Not my job. Partly that's laziness (I won't do it) and partly that's specific game approach choice (it's a player-facing challenge, not a character or GM facing challenge.)

One of our players, though, has taken it upon himself to start to tie things together. Vic, who joined our group after discovering us online and overcoming our fear of getting axe-murdered by some random internet stranger, has started to pull everything together.

He has been:

- redrawing maps into single maps, taking the pieces drawn separately (like parts of one level accessed by different approaches), parts accidentally mapped twice, and parts just fading with age, and redrawing them.

- reading the game summaries again and again to check them against the maps and make lists of what was mysterious, not taken advantage of, or what really has been done.

- tracking the rumors himself to compare to events in the current and past sessions.

For all of this I gave his PC a bonus point in Cartography, but it's paid off in-game a couple times for the players. He insisted on checking some rooms for treasure that everyone assumed the vets had looted (they hadn't), pushed to solve the statue puzzle (and found a Ring of Pro, er, Death, for his trouble), pushed to check a staircase that a mapping error had indicated went somewhere thoroughly explored and instead lead to a key to the Giant Freaking Staircase, and has generated a few leads on treasures never followed up on.

I'm not sure if he'd planning on doing this for the Cold Fens, Caves of Chaos, and Lost City of D'Abo as well. I hope so. They're all tied together in one interlocking campaign. The PCs went from stuck, feeling like they'd dead-ended, into having more to do than they can possibly finish in a year of gaming. That probably makes him MVP in a campaign sense at the moment. So, thanks for that Vic.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Bones IV Kickstarter thoughts

As I mentioned the other day, I got in on the Bones IV Kickstarter.

There does not seem to be such an overwhelming number of character minis in this one, especially in the core set. That's good for me as mostly those aren't useful. They tend to be very much unique, heavy on detail, action-posed, and otherwise distinctive. They end up being time-consuming to paint and useful once at the table as a foe.

It's interesting that they put a big dragon in the core set. They are usually $15 add-ons. I had that one - Gauth - in metal and sold the kit because it was clearly never getting painted. With the dragons I have now, do I need another big one? One of my players would say "Yes!" but my players also strenuously avoid dragons ("There is a big dragon in the Cold Fens!" "Let's not waste time getting sidetracked exploring that place." "Okay, there is one in Felltower!" "We're not ready for that one, let's avoid it until we're all powerful enough." Etc.)

I like the knights a lot, and I like the inclusion of more monster types, even those odd minitaurs. And more goblins are welcome.

The Chronoscope add-on pack is very cool, but I only could really use 4-5 of them. One of those I already have in metal. So I think I'll pass.

The trolls add-on is tempting. I do like trolls and I do have several now. But I may not need those guys.

The "High Rollers" dice-people would make good silly versions of Modrons. But I could equally just have the PCs in my game fight deleted for spoiler reasons instead.

All in all, I think my $100 pledge is going to probably stay right there. A solid core set, nothing to add-on yet, and a few tradeable figures already (thanks for the kobolds and townsfolk, but they can go away when they arrive.)

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Bones IV

I was online for line 30 minutes, total, in the past 30 hours or so. 15 of them were around 1 pm, so I was able to jump in on the first wave of Bones 4. I haven't even looked to see what I'd be getting. I just figured, get in wave one and then decide what I actually want.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Intermittent Posting Warning

I generally post every day. However, I'm going on a trip so I it's possible I will be posting less. No worries, I'll be settled back down by the end of the month and posting regularly - and gaming regularly - again.

Jeff Rients on Not Giving Up

I love this post by Jeff Rients:

Don't give up. Don't beg for mercy. Bargain!

Go read it.


Good stuff, eh?

I approve, although in my own games I'd expect a lot more willingness to trade one kind of suffering for another - "Could I have had time to Dodge and Drop for a +3?" or "If I let go of the chest of loot I was carrying, my encumbrance would go down and I'd just have made it - can we say I did that?"

I do want to spare your guy.

But I equally want you to have the consequences of your own actions.

You can't get out of failure by trading in argument ("I should be able to Dodge and Drop and have been Waiting for anyone to jump out at me and hold onto all of my weapons when I fell.") Trade in things of actual value.

My only quibble with it is his suggestion of sacrificing magic items. I play with a lot of group-minded groups. I guess it's different when you are running a 'FLAILSNAILS' game where people bring PCs in from another game. In a fantasy game with access to resurrection and revivification and regeneration of lost limbs, and with a loyal party of delvers (in the meta, run by your friends), dying is temporary but loss of stuff is permanent. So you're less likely to say, "Couldn't my magic sword have snapped but saved me?" because you could come back with that blade if others survive. And if you're too poor to get brought back, your next guy or your friend's guy can use that blade.

We don't act that way in Gamma Terra, though, our Post-Apoc game. I suspect our GM would find a way to let us revivify our PCs, possibly with some "minor defects" (lost abilities) due to "minor inaccuracies in the process." But we're not sure, and I know for me I'd rather be naked in the radiated wilderness than dead and I'd give up all of my stuff to make that trade.

But given Raise Dead, trading off your cool amulet or your magic sword or whatever to live isn't a trade I see a lot of people making.


I have also dealt with the same kind of students as he has, as a teacher and as family of teachers. I always want to say that the time to beg, bargain, and claw for a better score was the whole semester. Remember that, delvers. The best way to avoid, "What can I do here to get out of dying?" is to have taken appropriate risk and appropriate care along the way. Be prepared, read your Players Handbook p. 107-109, and if your game has a luck stat or a Luck advantage (like mine does), save it for when you really need it.

Monday, July 31, 2017

GURPS Gamma World, 20th Homeland - Session 12 - Friends of the Fit

Yesterday was another session of GURPS Gamma World, aka Gamma Terra, aka 20th Homeland.

"Caveman" - demo/EOD
"Hillbilly" - medical specialist
"Love Handles" - demo/EOD
"Oinker" - demo/EOD

In reserve:
"Fatbox" - demo/EOD
"Momma's Boy" - computer programmer
"Princess" - cryptographer/sniper
"Short Bus" - computer programmer
"Barbie" - demo/EOD (MIA)

We picked up based in the ferry station that we turned into base camp when we arrived in the ruins of Muskegon, Michigan. Only four players made it, so we left half of our number to guard base and fix it up (fortify it, clear lines of fire, fix the cappuccino maker (joke, maybe), refurbish weapons, forage, etc.)

The rest of us headed out to investigate the various heat sources detected by Warbot.

On our way to the first one, four lizard-like things with grass frill down their backs saw us in the streets. We waited, they moved on, and we went on. We'd find out later they were just beasts, and delicious ones at that.

Our first stop turned out to be Mead Motors, a car dealership. They had one of those glass-and-burning oil structures in front. I opined they must be shrines, not modern art, maintained by the Uggies/Ugnauts/Devo beasts/whatever. I'd turn out to be right - Hillbilly's college education must shine through now and again despite the haze of being frozen for so long.

Mead Motors had a Mark VII android salesman and some cars:

- a 50's looking bubble car two-seater (42,000 domars as equipped)
- a bubble car sedan five-seater with a broken wheel (12,000 domars, as-is)
- a totally wrecked sedan
- a stretch limo
- a big truck with lots of damage, a two-man cab, and a big bed.

We looted some free key fobs as trade goods and tried to sweet-talk the android into a test drive - no, not without a driver's license and we have none. Military ID wouldn't do. Hillbilly's doctors note didn't work either. The android wasn't authorized. We could buy a car without ID, but we'd need cash as we know (even if the Android, Sid, did not) since the banks are all out and we aren't on any records. We decided not to ruin the place and just moved on, hoping to come back. Sid did reveal the little dudes cleaned the outside, never came in, and kept the shrines going with flame. All we got after that was about 20' of thorn vine that Caveman harvested.

Our next stop was a large building that turned out to be a 14-story hospital. It was also marked with a shrine, but it was thoroughly looted. Anything that could be pried up was gone. We explored anyway, Caveman gathering what bits he could of materials for bomb-making. Around the eighth or ninth floor, we found a balcony full of plants. Maybe a dozen "pineapple" headed pygmy dudes made of sticks and leaves and plant fibers rushed us from 15 yards away. Hillbilly yelled, "We come in peace" and they gibbered back and charged. Okay.

Caveman and Oinker shot them, with little effect. Love Handles got out his sword. Hillbilly got out Hoopslayer and moved it to his left hand and drew one of Mike Mike's plasma grenades. When they got closer he lofted it into the middle of the pack, setting like seven or so of them on fire. The rest moved into melee. Caveman drew his ceramic knife and joined in. We slashed up a couple, with Hillbilly and Caveman double teaming one and Love Handles on the other. It took a few seconds, and Hillbilly took a nasty thorn-claw slash to the leg, but then we finished them. We left the burning ones running around until they dropped. Oinker cut up a pineapple head and was disappointed it was plant, but not fruit. Maybe he kept one, I'm not sure.

We got to the roof and briefly looked around, spotting a cemetary with a zamboni-looking groundskeeper bot, briefly saw 3 little men with a mech walking away (and lost to view soon after), and a college. Then the red snow came down hard. We slept in the hospital ground floor.

The next day we worked our way back to to base.

As we arrived, though, a polearm equipped owl swooped down near us and dropped a bag for us. We opened it and found three masks - Neo-Brain hoods. They claim to boost willpower and perception but might cause nasty side effects if worn too long. The owl also gave us a note that said, "Jeschure of Freindship." We kept both as he flew off. We handed out the hoods. Hillbilly wanted one, and the best way to get that was to get Love Handles worried. Hillbilly read the side effects, said, "As your Primary Care Provider I recommend you put this on." Love Handles did, but got worried, so he ended up giving to Hillbilly and doesn't want it anymore. Mission accomplished!

At base, we got more food and water and Hillbilly re-did his bandages, now confident he wasn't poisoned. We also got two of Fatbox's watch stash and Hillbilly wrote "You too" on the note and stashed them in the bag. We headed out again the next day.

We went past a radiation zone on the map. In it, hovering but listing, was a hover-cruise ship named "Princess," just like our most feminine sniper. I joked it was not hovering, but in a "hover zone" and that got Caveman to throw a rock to see if it would hover. It didn't.

We hacked our way along a trail to get from one road to another. But along the way there was a blinding flash that disoriented Caveman and some big nearly-invisible thing grabbed and hugged him. It would turn out to be the dreaded Michigan Murder Hose, aka a lamprey. Within a couple of seconds it squished him nearly to death. Hillbilly took a shot at it and it dodged, but then he put four more into it in the next four seconds, each time rendering it slightly more visible. Love Handles off-hand shot it with his pistol and his bullet hit to no visible effect. Oinker snapped off 3-round bursts with his sniper rifle and hit it a few times as well. It slackened its grip enough for Caveman to get his knife out even as it bit around his head. It would have decapitated him if it wasn't for his armor. Hillbilly yelled, "Stab yourself in the head!" and Caveman basically did that, ramming the knife into its head. That and the bullets were enough, finally, and it collapsed. We stopped, backed up the trail 20 yards, and proceeded to heal up Caveman with red sticks and first aid. Then he took 30 minutes to carefully skin it. We left the remains and kept on going.

Our next spot was a church we'd seen from the hospital. We got to the church. I asked what the sign said, putting our poor GM on the spot. Somehow, "Watch out for snakes!" came out, and he decided that is what it said. (The passage is in the Science Mysteries 3000, Eegah 5:06)

We hacked our way into the church through the weeds and went inside. We found some domars in the donation box, endless packed supplies (food, water, etc.) for emergencies, holo-bibles, the keys to the rooms, etc. We took 13 holo-bibles, Oinker camped in the tower to keep a lookout on the college, Hillbilly stripped down and went to sleep on a cot, etc. We ended up staying overnight. Then we zip-tied the place shut, Caveman dirtied that up and we covered the doors with foliage to make it look less disturbed.

We hacked our way through rough ground. We did some more bushwacking and found four hubcaps, one of which was salvageable and could be used as a 3' metal shield with modifications. We took that.

We came out on the far side to a college campus. A giant herbivore moose-dinosaur thing was grazing, and it telepathically greeted us. We also saw a mech with a French tricolor on it with a rabbit skull with crossed carrots - the Jolly Rabbit. (We all encouraged out GM to make Jolly Rabbit t-shirts.) We approached in peace and met Colonel Jezza, a hoop that make the one we fought look old and weak. He greeted us in accented English (oddly, monotonous English despite coming from a ways up north, eh?) I was all ready to greet them with my Bob & Doug accent and song but no.

We spoke to him and found out he is in the Ranks of the Fit, under Emperor Napoleon the Bear. He is here harvesting robots. We were friendly and gave him the watches in thanks, and he explained the hoods only seem to work for humans. They took them off the Purists. We explained we were of the same origin, but not the same unit, and clearly something had gone wrong with their waking-up process to make them horrible racist Nazis.

Hillbilly gave him the illustrated Animal Farm he's been carrying since the early days. Turns out that the Fit aren't really hostile, but Pinkeye and Bro were. They were glad they came to an end. We were glad they weren't natural enemies. Maybe political rivals down the road.

We met the rest of the team - a four-armed squirrel, an opossum named White Dog who used a belt-mounted M2HB, and a small wolverine. They were snatched mechs they'd encounter in the city, reprogram them, and send them through a secret way through the woods to their lands. They intend to use them en masse versus the Purists. We told them we wanted robots, too. It turns out the little dudes are split into two groups - the Little Thieves (who forage and steal and patrol around with the mech) and the Little Monks (who preserve and worship.) The Colonel doesn't want that balance upset.

We talked it over and made a deal:

- we can get into the factory, we're military and human.

- the mechs don't seem to be manufactured there anymore, just refurbished and maintained.

- while the Colonel is patient, if we can scoop up all of the robots at once and divvy them up, that would be good.

- they can teach us how to reprogram them.

So we will go to the factory, try to take the place over. They get half of the robots (half working, half not, half supplies) and teach us how to reprogram them. We go our separate ways. We try to establish real relations between the Fit and us. He seemed very pragmatic and trustworthy, so we'll do this deal. It's probably generous to them, but they have something we need (reprogramming). We also got the Colonel to get a 7.62mm barrel sent to us (we explained the kind of gun and gave him a round of 7.62mm) and show us exactly where the weak points on the mechs are. He shoots them with a 30mm rifle he carries. We're going to have to find a different way.

(The goal here is to get what we can without annoying the Fit. Ideally, they'll be strong enough to hold off the Purists but not so strong they beat them and incorporate us.)

He also told us one of the spots was a perfectly intact mall, but it was heavily guarded by the Little Monks. He said there is nothing in the mall he can't live without. Hillbilly said, "That's because you haven't had a Cinnabon." (Seriously)

In the end we made our deal and decided as a group to do the following:

- factory

- mall or floating ship

- the other of the above

- use the floating ship to take everything we can from the city to our base - food, water, raw materials, bots, mechs, androids, cars, Cinnabons, etc.

On the way back to base we stopped at the cemetary. We met a Little Monk in front. He seemed angry but hopefully. We emoted back and forth and seemed to convey that we didn't want a war with them. He seemed okay.

Inside we found an older Little Monk hovering. We did the same with him. We also met a startled priest android - Father Mark VI. We spoke with him, gathered details on the cemetary (and Caveman tried to find weapon stashes buried as Sarah Conner, Linda Hamilton, etc. but failed, so Hillbilly mocked him), and so on. We also found a Mark VI police android, heavily damaged and limping, but armed with a high-tech simple shotgun. I got him to wake up and showed him my police ID badge and ordered him to follow us, we need to clear up disturbances in the city. His shotgun (and three beanbag and three EMP rounds) would help. I ordered him to follow the orders of me or any of the other three, but specifically not the others, so Fatbox can't order him to dance or give up his shotgun and Momma's Boy can't make him carry his stuff.

(We found out here that Oinker is part Iranian, speaks Farsi, and is Muslim. That explains Oinker as his nickname. Hillbilly is probably from Greenwich, CT, and just likes fishing and shooting; Caveman is just big; Fatbox's nickname isn't explainable in polite company, etc.)

All of that done, we took the bot and headed out to the ferry.

Having dropped everything off at the ferry, we went to recon the bank and see if anything had changed. That was my idea as I figured next session the returning players would demand to know what was going on there, and it would be useful intelligence.

As we walked to the bank, we weren't on guard well enough. A storm of crossbow bolts rained down on us, one going through Love Handles's hand into his plastic gun grip, one going through Oinker's leg, and two bouncing off of armor plating (on Caveman and Love Handles). Hillbilly is lightly encumbered and has Combat Reflexes so he dodged with ease (well, against a 9, and I rolled low.)

We took cover and looked for the attackers. Only Oinker could see them. He aimed at one loading his belly-crossbow and shot his head off. The rest ducked. We patched up while we waited, using up two partially-full red sticks, and did not see them again. Eventually we got up, emoting disappointment (Love Handles) and anger (Hillbilly), and went back. Recon was costly but yeah, the Little Monks are guarding the bank.

We headed to the ferry, annoyed at the Little Monks, and settled in to plan our move on the factory. We're really annoyed that the Little Monks didn't convey our feelings. And if they're going to bar our way around the city, Hillbilly will err on the side of shooting them next time. We'll call this a mulligan, but the next crossbow shot gets retaliation. Hopefully it won't come to that.


Early in the session we sailed around the streets. Then our GM questioned our measurement when it seemed really short in one spot. Then it turned out that Love Handles's player's hand-made "ruler" was using the wrong markings. He'd marked miles as quarter miles! Gah. We slowed down a lot later, and the GM bumped the time forward appropriately. Oops, I should have checked more closely.

Hillbilly bought up Wrestling to DX+2, finally, and at the end of the session bumped ST 16 to ST 17. I do kind-of want ST 19 for the 2d-1 thrust damage, but I'm not sure that's worth 20 points. Mostly it's encumbrance - I'm at Light while most of everyone else is at Medium or Heavy, mostly Heavy. The horrifying damage he does with Hoopslayer is really nice, too. Now it's 3d+2 instead of 2d+5, and I'm sure going to miss that +5 even if it's usually going to be better (5/12.5/20 instead of 7/12/17). +5 just feels so satisfying.

Caveman has been looking for 14mm rounds for his over-under four-round pistol since he took it off of a hoop back in Session #2. Out of game, I joked that we'd find out they'd all moved to 13.9mm or 14.05mm or something. Turns out they'd moved to 18mm, so Hillbilly said something like, "I guess General Bro was using his daughter's pistol out of nostalgia."

Caveman missed a lot, but luckily it seems like his player is back for the long haul since we play infrequently enough that he can make it happen. Good thing, too, as he brings a whole different element to the table as well as a good combatant to the PC pool. Amusingly, he rolls 5 dice every time, with two that don't count, "Because it's Gamma Terra." Fair enough. You learn to ignore the non-counting dice in seconds.

Speaking of combat, Hillbilly hasn't been firing full auto much lately. He's still got 357 rounds of ammo left, but it's more of an issue of confidence in his shots. I really thought it would take one or two shots to put that thing down. I was surprised it dodged the first one, and really surprised it was still up after rounds two and three hit home. Michigan Murder Hoses are tough!

And as much as I like meeting iconic Gamma World critters, it's more fun meeting new ones I've never seen or heard of before.

Fun session, as always. I do really like how we do mapless combat and use the Action range bands.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Gamma Summary Teaser

It's late and I have a lot to do so I can't write a summary. But:

- we explored more of the ruined city.

- we fought Gamma Vegepygmies and Hillbilly plasma grenaded them.

- we made friends with an owl.

- we got cool hoods with not-so-cool side effects.

- Caveman got squished by an invisible Michigan Murder Hose, aka a lamprey.

- we met some of Napoleon's Fit and a deal.

- we recruited a Mark VI android policeman.

- we made our peace with the hairy little guys we fought with last time.

- then they attacked us anyway when we on a recon mission. We suffered injury and one of them suffered catastrophic head loss.

- and Hillbilly now has ST 17, pushing him clean up to Bolt VanderHuge territory.

It was a productive session, all in all, and a lot of fun. Now for a quick month off between games. Next game is DF on 8/27!

Gamma Terra today

Today is Gamma Terra.

Last time, I'm pretty sure we fought some of these guys - Devo Beasts* aka Wardents.

I haven't double-checked; it's bad enough that I have 80%+ of Gamma World 1st and 2nd edition memorized. I don't need to meta-game beyond what can't be erased from memory. I won't tell my fellow players all of their mutations and powers or any of that, or act on what I don't see. But I can't un-know.

We shot the heck out of them last time. We'll probably do it again. But I'm not sure what's in store - we've got a lot of city to explore, and robots to contact. Hopefully without violence. I enjoy the in-game violence but I'm hoping to save it for opponents, not potential allies!

* andi missed a trick by not giving them radiation domes, which would have been awesome. "Are we not men? We are Wardents! W-A-R- ah crud it doesn't match the beat."

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Mighty Protectors RPG

I just got my backer's download of the Might Protectors RPG by Jeff Dee and Jack Herman from Monkey House Games.

It's basically a modern update of Villains & Vigilantes. I haven't done more than glance at the nice art but it's getting queued up for my next long trip to sit and read. I don't play a lot of superhero games, but I do like to read them and imagine how they'd play out. I'm not a capable supers GM, but I always did like the genre - Marvel Super Heroes, Champions, and V&V were very influential on me in a lot of ways.

Bones Bear WIP

This guy is coming along nicely. Just some touch-up, base work, and some drybrushing with 2-3 lighter shades of brown and he'll be done:

Now I have a bunch of bear minis.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Ramping up the silly in Felltower

As I said in my last session summary:

"The fool's cap - the coxcomb cap - is my blatant in-game indication that anything that gate leads to is silly. No, check that, capital-S Silly. Also amusingly lethal, eminently lootable, and potentially nasty - but silly. I figured some players might not like to risk their lives in my own Dungeonland/Land Beyond the Magic Mirror. Apparently not - everyone seemed at the very least interested, and several players where really excited. Good! The PCs think it might be the fabled Tavern Level, but they saw no indication of that. So there are some doubts. That level might not actually even be really silly, even if it'll be much more lighthearted or less serious than other delves."

I'd asked my players in the past about silly stuff. The response was generally, yes, but not too much. We've played for a while since then and I asked again, and I got either "it's just right" or "more please."


Lucky for me, the plan all along was gates to silly places. So this is how I put in access to "more please" without stomping on the entertainment of people who chose "it's just right."

Having clearly-marked gates means that people can choose to go or not. They won't just fall down a pit and end up in Dungeonland. They have to choose to go.

Is this the only gate to silly places?

I can't say so publicly. It's possible that this is the nexus of silliness. It's also possible I have others. I'm not averse to re-purposing dead-end gates or adding new ones if I need to in order to put in more silly things.

Can they go and come back repeatedly?

Maybe. It depends on the place. I do have some silly stuff that's designed as a one-shot. One delve through and you're done, like the Cow Level.

It's probably best to assume it's a one-shot thing.

Will play end in town?

No, we'll keep going in that one spot until people come back or "finish" it. At least for most of them, per our multi-delve discussions.

The tavern level is silly, right?

Not as I think of it. It'll be light hearted, more tavern fun with less town consequences, but it won't be capital S-silly like the gate they found this time leads to. That just is a silly concept, but so is a big megadungeon full of monsters and gates to sillier places. It doesn't have to be jokey to be fun, and probably would be more fun mostly serious.

What is meant by "Also amusingly lethal, eminently lootable, and potentially nasty - but silly"?

My background in this kind of stuff is the Gygax conversions. So if you go to a silly place, expect:

- lethal versions of things. If it's potentially lethal in the source material, it's lethal here. If it's lethal there, it's double-lethal here.

- lootable. You're meant to go and kill things and take stuff. Not everything will be lootable, not everything will be something that can come back to the main game, but there will be real loot commensurate with (and possibly in excess of) the danger level.

- nasty. I won't pull punches. If you haven't heard the story of the Chesire Cat biting Darren the halfling's face, go read my review of Dungeonland. Physical rules might change. Things may be totally unfair.

- Silly. Yeah, this is where you'll fight behir versions of the caterpillar and have playing card soldiers and that kind of stuff, to keep the Alice example. It won't necessarily make sense. But it'll be the trappings of the source material turned into a kill-and-loot fest.

It's GURPS, so it's trivial to move things in from other types of worlds.

I think these kind of places can be fun, feed enjoyment into the campaign, and otherwise be good sessions. But they won't necessarily change the overall level of silliness (which is probably a bit high for some of our readers). It'll be roughly on par with my impression of what you'd have gotten from Gary Gygax, maybe a bit less. I'm looking forward to the first delves.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

GURPS in game stores

There is a nice bit of GURPS news on the SJG Daily Illuminator today - basically, some of the print-on-demand (POD) releases have been picked up by a distributor and will show up in game stores:

GURPS At Your Favorite Local Game Store

That's nice. You can see the list of POD books here:

GURPS On Demand

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Page Updates for Felltower

I updated some of the Felltower pages today:

Known Entrances

Monsters Encountered

I also did some minor edits on the Gazetteer but no major additions.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Phase serpents picture

I only have one picture from last session - Mo surrounded by "Danger Noodles."

Mo vs the danger noodles (phase serpents)

A post shared by Thomas Pluck (@thomaspluck) on

The room is to the right of the picture, and Gale and Hasdrubul and unconscious Ike are off to the left.

The phase serpents are giant snakes from some TSR boardgame, bought loose on eBay, plus two snake figures from some D&D or Pathfinder set - you can see one of them partially blocked by Mo's shield. I originally painted up the snakes as frost serpents (DF2) but they will do admirable double-duty as phase serpents. They're a bit large for that but since they only take up one hex we can pretend they're SM 0 like the others.

Monday, July 24, 2017

DF Felltower, Session 90, Felltower 63 - Gates & Phase Serpents

July 23rd, 2017

Weather: Intermittent rain and clouds.

Alaric, human scout (262 points)
Hasdrubul Stormcaller, human wizard (332 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (337 points)
     Brother Ike, human initiate (160 points)
Mo (his momma call him Kle), human barbarian (340 points)
Quenton Gale, human druid (312 points)
Vryce, human knight (494 points)

We started in town, gathering rumors and re-equipping. Alaric started to look into getting an owlbear cloak made as well.

Raggi was not available - it was a 12 or less, +1 for Vryce's reputation and +1 for $400 spent on a crier to look for him, but Vryce rolled a 15. Oh well, he must be on vacation.

The group decided to take a different way down to the second level, investigating a tunnel that had sat disused since they'd found it full of earth many, many sessions ago. After that, the plan was to go to the bottom of the big staircase and explore more, away from the gnolls and the Lord of Spite.

They made their way up to the castle, and then up and over the walls without mishap. They scouted ahead and saw no sign of the orcs in the pillboxes, so they put down their bridge and crossed. They made their way to where their old maps had marked a trap door in the floor. It took some searching but they found it.

They pried it open, expecting a two-way tunnel shaped like a J, possibly filled with earth. It was now a shorter, one-way tunnel, but equally J-shaped, with no earth in it.

First Mo climbed down and squeezed into the flat space (almost 9' wide, but only 3' tall) and scouted it out, and reported no trap door down. So he came back and Hasbdrubul went in following Gale. They shaped open the ceiling above a lower corridor where a trap door had formerly been. The group slowly climbed down. The corridor was labeled "Gnome Trap Corridor" on their map, so they waved off Mo's curiosity and ignored the doors and headed down.

They heard stirges nearby, but turned the other way and made their way up another door-lined corridor. As they passed a door, however, Alaric heard a sound and snapped around. The door opened and out burst the first of six rock trolls! The PCs immediately attacked. Alaric's arrows did little or nothing, bouncing off of the rocky forms. Hjalmarr put away his axe and got out Inquisitor Marco's Mace as Vryce and Mo rushed to the front. Gale and Hasdrubul began charging up Lightning spells.

The PCs tried to form a line, but Mo kept needing to back off to defend, and the rock trolls kept pressing into close combat to bite. Mo dropped his morninstar on a critical failure, and was forced to fall back on his axe swung peen-first. The fight see-sawed back and forth, but eventually Vryce's sword, Hjalmarr's mace, and hits from Mo and the lightning of the mages paid off. The rock trolls crumbled one by one, but not before landing a few blows and bites, wounding a couple of PCs. In the end they all fell, unwilling or unable to retreat. The PCs bound their wounds, checked the room (it was empty now), and gathered up splintered bits of eyes and gemstone teeth as loot. [I let them roll for the amount, which was fun for all.]

From there the PCs moved down the hallways until they reached the Giant Freaking Staircase and its metal door. Mo opened it.

They proceeded to the next landing, and tried to open the red-palm printed door. They're heard a rumor about blood sacrifices. So Mo cut his chest and smeared blood on his "stank hand" (the one that touched the palm prints) and tried the door. Nothing. Hasdrubul tried it, with Mo's blood. Nope. Gale tried it with his own blood. Nope. They gave up, deciding they'd misinterpreted (or misapplied) the rumor.

The made it down to the next level and carefully moved out and left, through the octagonal room where they'd fought the gnolls. The went left instead of right this time.

Around this time they noticed the air was a bit more stale and stifling than it had been. They tried to figure out what it could be - it wasn't an animal or monster odor, it wasn't gas, it was just more stale and less invigorating than the air normally would be. Hasdrubul and Brother Ike felt a little fatigued (failed HT rolls for -1 FP until they could get fresh air and real rest).

They headed to the "eye beast" room, where they'd fought the Ravening Eyes. They forced the door open and saw six gargoyles! Alaric took a shot at one but it dodged. He took a shot at another and it dodges as well. The PCs advanced into the room, Vryce yelling, "Get out! Beat it!" and things like that. His default Intimidation is not high, though, so they weren't impressed. Mo rushed in and tried to hit one of the gargoyles but they fell back. Vryce slashed one, wounding it severely. He yelled, "I said get out!" again. This time, they gargoyles fled. They clearly weren't interested in a fight, at least not this one, and split up, three and three flying out the different entrances. Hasdrubul tried to hit the fleeing wounded one with Explosive Lightning and missed; Mo chased him and equally missed on his Move and Attack. They gave up the pursuit after that.

They headed left, having gone straight out of the room the previous time. Once again, they found natural tunnels. Tucked into the corner of a small side cave was a grey-clad corpse, an old one. Hjalmarr investigated. He saw it had grey skill, pointed ears swept back, and bony plates on its skin like natural armor. He went and grabbed the corpse by the ankles and started to drag it. To his shock thumb-sized grubs burrowed out of the feet and into his hands! Only his mail gloves under his gauntlets helped him. His squeamishness couldn't take it, though, and he badly failed a fright check and started screaming and trying to shake them off. Alaric stepped up and shot one of the rot grubs (despite a -11 to hit!) and Brother Ike cast Cleansing on the corpse, killing the rest of them. The PCs had a good laugh at Hjalmarr's expense, then checked the corpse. It had only a dirty loincloth - rolled over, Vryce recognized it as a norker, which they know are a kind of hobgoblin although no one knows how exactly they're related.

The headed down more tunnels, passed an iron-bound heavy wooden door, and tried to squeeze down a very narrow tunnel. Has' got stuck Mo shoved him through. Then Ike got stuck so Gale shaped the stone aside to make it wider. They found more caves, and felt some wooziness and weakness around one cave. Again, Has and Ike suffered FP loss from it. They hurried on and found and forced another iron-bound door into the worked areas.

In the first room they found a black hemisphere on the ceiling. Mo broke it immediately, swiping it twice with his morningstar.

They moved down some corridors and found another 10 yard square room. As Alaric moved into the room, he was shot a jet of black fire. He was both injured and fatigued by it, and stumbled back. Standing outside the room, he scanned the ceiling and spotted a small purple disk in the ceiling. He shot that several times, breaking it into pieces. They moved in again, and no more jet of fire.

They took a left out of the room, and came into a room with a gate - and with a snakeman and nine large snakes! Alaric shot immediately (his goal is to kill one of everything, and these were new to him). The snakeman parried his arrow out of the air with his twin swords! Uh-oh.

The PCs attacked, as did their foes. They tried move up cautiously, waiting, as the snakes did the same. Vryce crushed a Shield spellstone. But as the PCs got too close, the snakes moved into action - they phased out and zipped insubstantially through PCs, walls, through ineffective Wait-triggered swings, etc. to get in, around, and behind the PCs. Instantly Ike was bit in the neck and went down, badly injured and heavily poisoned. Mo was bit.

What followed was a very nasty, confused brawl. The snakes were in and around the PCs. Everyone dodged, not sure that a parry would work. Alaric got surrounded and bitten repeatedly after critically failing and dropping his bow. He quickly was bitten repeatedly and felt unconscious from impaling and toxic damage. Vryce laid about himself with his sword but couldn't hit the snakes, who kept trying to dodge (usually failing) but then would phase a moment later. Hjalmar realized that the serpents would phase when hit and tried a shield rush. He went right through the snake and kept going, ending up just short of the now bow-armed snakeman.

The snakeman shot him but he blocked the shot, and then it drew its swords. Hjalmar took two swings - the first a critical hit, the second a normal hit. The snakeman phased from the second but the first was too quick and sliced him for 16 cutting damage, right into his bronze corselet, wounding him badly. The snakeman never regained the initiative, and Hjalmarr sliced him again a second later and knocked him down and unconscious, possibly dead (he dropped right away.) So he spent the next second cutting off his head with two hefty neck cuts.

Meanwhile Hasdrubul started throwing Explosive Lightning into the melee, hitting friend and foe alike to hurt the snakes. His first throw stunned a couple and mildly wounded others (and almost hurt Ike, too). His second attempt was a normal Lightning spell and the snake phased, so he switched back to 6d Explosive Lightning spells and tossed them at clusters. He zapped Mo badly and stunned him but also killed four serpents, then did it again against three more bothering Vryce. Gale helped out by throwing a pair of missiles from his Necklace of Fireballs (gifted to him by Hasdrubul, because Gale a) has Throwing, and b) doesn't have explosive spells), wounding a few phase serpents. His final throw was a critical miss, however, and he spiked his ruby at his own feet, setting his clothes on fire and wounding the serpent he was after. Once the snake was down, Gale stopped, dropped, and rolled while Hasdrubul used Create Water to dump water on his fellow delver.

In the end Vryce managed to parry one and slice it apart, and Hjalmar kicked the snakeman head at the serpents to scare them (it didn't work) and then parried one and sliced it. The realized parries worked, and so did piling attacks onto single serpents.

With all of them dead, they started in on healing. Luckily Mo had a Universal Antidote, which they used on Ike, and then fed him healing potions. Once he was back on his feet (he'd faked dead, again, and hadn't passed out) he started in on Instant Neutralize Poison and used his Combat Medic power-up to heal people quickly.

The PCs gathered up the snakeman's gear - an 80 pound bronze corselet, swords, a bow, and a Cornucopia Quiver - and took his head and the snake heads to salvage their brains for sale.

They inspected the gate. It seemed active, but they had no spells to scry with. They did find a carved fool's cap on the floor in front of the gate. [I explained it out of game - see the notes, below)].

It had gotten late, and resources were running down, so they headed back home. They made it, but made a wrong turn in the tunnels and found a four-way intersection including a narrow passage with carven stairs going down. They backed up and found the right way out. It took a while, and they heard the Lord of Spite walking around, but they made it to the GFS and up.

They spend some time messing around with the trap door into the tower knocked down way back in Felltower 1. They opened it from below, and figured out that when locked it is trapped with the black energy so common in Felltower. Mo got zapped trying to open it. He tried to pry the bar so it wouldn't lock anymore, but he utterly failed. So they gave up, got their bridge, and climbed the walls/Apportated the bridge over and went home.


We got a lot in this session because people generally stayed focused, and because fights didn't drag down into slogs.

MVP for this session was Hasdrubul, for electrocuting most of the phase serpents. XP for the others was mostly 5 (4 for loot, 1 for exploration) but only 3 for Vryce (2 for loot, even with almost half of the day's take, and 1 for exploration.)

Phase serpents and rock trolls are two of my originals that made it into Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 3: Born of Myth & Magic. The rock trolls are unchanged from their original writeup. The phase serpents are very slightly different - I changed their phasing ability from "once per turn" to multiple times, as written in the book. That made them as lethal as they should be - before, it was just hit them twice in one turn and they die. Ganging up on one is still the best tactic - witness the many failed attempts to cut them down. The phase snakeman? Uses the prefix from "the same book. He didn't do as well because Hjalmarr rolled a number of critical hits on him.

The fool's cap - the coxcomb cap - is my blatant in-game indication that anything that gate leads to is silly. No, check that, capital-S Silly. Also amusingly lethal, eminently lootable, and potentially nasty - but silly. I figured some players might not like to risk their lives in my own Dungeonland/Land Beyond the Magic Mirror. Apparently not - everyone seemed at the very least interested, and several players where really excited. Good! The PCs think it might be the fabled Tavern Level, but they saw no indication of that. So there are some doubts. That level might not actually even be really silly, even if it'll be much more lighthearted or less serious than other delves.

Today was the last session for Alaric for a while, as the player is heading off to college. This almost caused the Cornucopia Quiver to get sold, but then it was decided that Mo might be able to use that instead of his normal arrows. I think that might put paid plans to go after the orcs, since their scout is their best orc slayer. They passed on it this session because Vryce really wanted to go deep, and they made out well by doing so, but it's always a tradeoff when you choose what to do. Good, fun game session.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Felltower Session teaser for 7/23

We played Felltower today, our last Felltower session for about five weeks. It was a good, enjoyable session.

- we had six players (we expected seven but one couldn't make it after all)

- the PCs delved into some new territory deep in Felltower, expanding on their exploration from last session down at the bottom of the Giant Freaking Staircase.

- three big fights - well, two, plus an aborted big fight.

- Hjalmarr picked up a new quirk.

- debut for a few new table tools - a better mapping approach (thanks to Hjalmarr's player) and some better organization to our spell house rules (thanks to me.)


- the PCs found a new gate . . . to somewhere silly.

Felltower today

We have a full house of gamers today for Felltower - seven gamers plus myself. It'll be the last session for a month, as I'll be away from the GM screen for a bit. We do plan to get in some Gamma Terra, however, before I leave.

I'm not sure what the plans are today - but with that much firepower on hand, it could be almost anything. Will it be the Lord of Spite? Will the third Wish get used to bail them out? Will they finally assault the orcs? Try to finish up their maps of level 1 while the vets are here to confirm the details?

Who knows?

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Reaper Bones 4 coming August 1st

So Reaper announced their next Bones Kickstarter:

I signed up for the alerts, but fat lot of good that will do me. I should be off the network most of August 1st, so I guess no 1st wave for me, eh? But I'll get in on it after I get back to internet access and get the earliest wave I can.

But sure, I'll go in for it, I'm sure I can get my money's worth from it.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Bones Modifications - Formorian Weapon Swap

I traded some off of my Bones 3 minis that I didn't like - weapons and vermin - for some other figures, including this Formorian Giant. That's good, because classically they come in twos, right?

I already had one, so how to differentiate this guy?

I did need to make a weapon swap.

So I cut off his club halway down, at one of the metal bands, and made it a flail.

The flail consists of some decorative craft chain. I looped it over a screw I'd had leftover from disassembling a stopwatch that stopped working properly, and screwed that into the club after making a safety pin tip guide hole.

Once that was screwed in, I made a Kneadtite cap for it and a ball as well.

My craft skills aren't up to making flanges or spikes. I could have inserted some, but I had nothing handy that wasn't also likely to be a real weapon - I didn't want to put in bits of wire or metal sprue bits. So I just went with round. I could have put a plastic Warhammer bitz head onto the chain, but it seemed a little small and would have been tricky to engineer.

He came out okay, I think. I made a couple of other weapon swaps on Bones guys, but this one seemed to most interesting for other people to see.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

GURPS Rules for Group Rolls

Last game, I needed to make some group rolls. I fell back on "everybody roll!" for some and "best roll with modifiers" and "worst roll with modifiers" in a couple of others. I knew GURPS had some official rules for this, but aside from the first one below I couldn't remember where or what they were.

So I asked some of my fellow GURPS fans and authors and so on to help me find them later in play. This way I can quickly search the blog for it. And honestly, if I type something down I tend to remember it better than just by reading it.

Thanks to Shawn Fisher, Dr Kromm, and Christopher Rice for promptly telling me where to look.


Complementary Skills are in Action 2 (p. 5), and in GURPS Martial Arts: Gladiators (p. 22).

Many examples of how to use this are in Dungeons and Wilderness Adventures.

- Basically, roll against Skill A to help the use of Skill B. Note that the person with Skill A and Skill B do not have to be the same person! Help your buddy out.

Got You Covered is in Action 2 (p. 5) and in GURPS Martial Arts: Gladiators (p. 22).

- Basically, roll against the highest applicable skill in the group, with a bonus for others trained in the skill* and a penalty for group size. In short, if everyone knows the skill, use the highest. If some don't, suffer a penalty.

* No defaults, not even the usual "But I have Survival-12 in everything thanks to my Survival (Mountains)-15" skill default.

Pulling Your Weight is in Action 2 (p. 5), but it's summarized in places all over Dungeons.

- Basically, use the highest ST plus ST/5 of all helpers. In my current game, if it's a ST-based skill roll, use the highest skill plus other ST scores (for example, Forced Entry). If you are lifting, add BL together.

Horde Rolls are in GURPS Zombies (p. 112-114).

- Basically, you can apply a projected success rate onto a group to determine which part of a group succeeds in, or fails, a roll.
- You can also subsume group rolls for stats such as Per into a size-based group Per.


In my own games, I also use a reversed version of Got You Covered, for times when anyone messing up can cause a problem and I don't want to deal with rolling for each individual. For the main example of when I'd use it, Stealth when sneaking in the dungeon. In that case, it will be lowest skill, not highest, but otherwise follow the rules in Got You Covered, above. If the roll can flat-out kill, obviously I'll go with individual rolls. But rolling Stealth for seven characters is tiresome at best.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

More thoughts on PI6 Druid Spells

A while back I talked about culling the megadungeon wreckers from the DF druid.

I've been looking at spells to add to the PI6 list to bulk it out, since I stripped it all the way down to nothing except Earthquake, and that comes with a warning to PCs that trashing the dungeon where they get their loot isn't a good way to get loot.

Here are the two additions I'm considering, and some notes on them.

Spark Storm - added. I see no reason why druids shouldn't be able to cast Spark Storm.

(Air) Elemental Possession - This is a new spell I'm trying out. I may modify it based on experience in play. But I think being able to directly control and ride an elemental makes the druid a potentially much more powerful template. This is expensive, but it does all that Control Elemental does but allows a direct ride.

And that new spell writeup:

(Air) Elemental Possession (VH)
Resisted by ST or Will.

As Beast Possession (Magic, p. 32), but only works on a specific type of elemental.

Duration: 1 minute.
Cost: 1 point per 5 character points used to build the elemental. Half that (round up) to maintain.
Time to cast: 5 seconds.

I briefly considered the lethal weather and plant spells from Death Spells, but I have reservations about handing those out and I know the weather ones would mess with our Air-college specialized wizard. Even if they are off-limits to him in any case - weather magic is druid magic in Dungeon Fantasy. I may add them later if the PCs ever get access to death spells (well, find the access to them that exists somewhere in Felltower.)

I'll consider Plant spells on a case-by-case basis, and they mostly would not be PI6.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Bones 3 trade list updated

I made a trade, so I updated my Bones 3 trade list. Email me or comment with some contact info if you are interested in a trade, and for what.

I updated the list of wants (no more ogres, more animals) and what I have.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Players Campaign Feedback Questionnaires

Want to know how your campaign is? Ask your players.

Something I've done at least once per major campaign is hand out player questionnaires. That's how I find out how many campaign is being received, even by those who don't normally give me a lot of feedback.

I generally split these up into three general categories of questions:

- Player Centric

- Character Centric

- Play Centric

Player Centric

These questions are the real heart of my questionnaire. What do the players like, dislike, want, and need from the game? Not their characters - the players. I try to find out what the players enjoyed so I can maximize that. I can also minimize the things they don't like.

Sometimes what one player likes, another doesn't. For example, in one game the #1 dislike of one player was the NPCs the other players had accumulated - spouses, hirelings, friends. Another player listed that as one of the best parts. So I knew I needed to keep them in, but not to spend too much time on them. I also needed to minimize the interacts between them and that player that disliked them.

These questions allow me to better identify the "awesome" in my game from a player perspective. I've added chances to get forbidden advantages people wanted. I've taken out monsters I like but players hated. I've added in events that tie into the kind of things the players enjoy.

Character Centric

These questions are aimed at getting the players to tell me what their character likes, dislikes, wants, and needs. This gives me a better idea of how the character fits into the campaign, and the motivating factors of the character. Even with a full set of disadvantages and quirks, I can't always see how it all fits in with the campaign. Sometimes these questions elicit changes to PCs, as players realize different things about their characters.

These often contradict the player questions, and that's fine. One case in point, we had a campaign period where the PCs were slave-soldiers in service to an ambitious military officer in a border war. One player loved it - he enjoyed the emerging story, the Mass Combat rolls, the challenges of the environment in general. But he noted that his character hated it - it was exactly what his character disliked. So he'd roleplay being a shirker, complaining, trying to get out of the situation, etc. Had I taken the player's actions in game as a guide, I'd have cut the story short, and ruined the player's fun to spare the character.

I've used these to determine quest offers, rewards, what magic items need to be sprinkled into the game, what monsters the players love despite their characters clearly hating, etc.

Play Centric

These questions are trying elicit opinions about how I run the game. How many rules, and how I apply them. How much I can tinker. How I run game (or how game runs). Rules people think are broken. General ways the game could be better.

My "No Rules Lookups" rule partly springs from the feedback I got in my last campaign from a questionnaire.


You might say an observant GM will just spot this stuff. That might be true. You might not need these. But sometimes the players don't even know the answers to these until you ask them. And I've never failed to learn something that changes my game for the better from doing these.


Here is a cut-and-paste of a blank questionnaire I used in my last campaign set in the Known Worlds of D&D aka Mystara. I've lightly edited this to remove player names. Feel free to use this as the basis of your own questionnaires.


Q:In order, list the three advantages you would most like to acquire for your character. It is not important if they are normally acquirable in play or not (for example, Magery). #1 is the one you want the most, #3 the least.




Q:What do you think was the best adventure or episode in the campaign so far?

q:What made this especially memorable, enjoyable, or exciting?

Q:What do you think was the worst adventure or episode in the campaign so far?

q:What made this especially forgettable, aggravating, or boring?

Q:Who is your most favorite NPC in the game world?

Q:Who is your least favorite NPC in the game world?

Q:What monster(s) or enemy(s) did you like encountering the most?

Q:What monster(s) or enemy(s) did you like encountering the least? Keep it short. ;)

Q:Do you like having your PCs work for a Big Important Guy?

Q:What do you like most about your character?

Q:What do you like least about your character?

Q:Is there anything you especially like or dislike about the game world in general, or you would like to see in the game world?


Q:What is your character’s biggest long-term goal? You can also answer this as “If I did one thing before I died, it would be…”

Q:What place would your character most like to go to, or go back to?

Q:What is your character’s favorite adventure or episode?

Q:What is your character’s least favorite adventure or episode?

Q:Who is your character’s most favorite NPC in the game world?

Q:Who is your character’s least favorite NPC in the game world?

Q:If your character could meet one “famous” NPC, who would it be?

Q:What monster(s) or enemy(s) did your character most fear or respect?


Now, for some technical questions:

Q:Are you satisfied with level of magic – in terms of items, enemy and friendly magic, access to scrolls, the public Beacon in Glantri, ease of learning new spells etc. – in the campaign, or should it be higher or lower?

Q:Are you satisfied with the growth rate of the PCs, in terms of experience points? Should it be faster, slower, or is it about right?

Q:Are you satisfied with the amount of combat we have in the game, or should we have more or less? The ferocity of the fighting is not likely to change, though.

Q:We have a lot of people playing – 7 players. Do you feel like you get enough “spotlight” time for your character, or do I give you short shrift when it comes to paying attention and giving you plot elements centered on your character?

Q:I have been using relatively few monsters, compared to human/humanoid opponents. Do you like the ratio, or would you prefer more monsters? (Less is unlikely)

Q:The campaign was designed with an over-arching plotline in mind – basically, a Big Event that will involve the PCs. Do you like this approach, or do you prefer a more basic “wander around and do stuff” kind of game? Do you think the plot is too opaque, or too obvious?

Q:Rules-wise, I am a tinkerer. I suspect this bothers people somewhat….but how much? Does it bother you a lot (please don’t change anything), a little (change stuff that is broken, but otherwise leave it alone), or not at all (whatever you think is a good idea, go ahead and do)?

Q:Rules-wise, we use a lot of rules. Back when (name deleted) was playing the first time, we played very fast-and-loose. Do you prefer playing “tight”, where we use rules for everything, or “loose”, where we have a basic core of rules and wing everything else?

Q:Speaking of rules, any rules you think really need to be changed, no matter what? Rules you hate, rules you think are broken or abusive, or rules that just annoy you because I enforce them.

Q:Any general comments about things I do that annoy people? Go ahead and tell me…I may not change what I am doing but I would like to know.

Q:If there was one thing I could do (or the others could do, even) that would improve the game for you, what would it be? Assume “You buy all the beer and soda” is not happening.

Q:If there is one thing you could do to make the game better for yourself and others, what would that be?

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Felltower NPC: Melchior the Malevolent

Melchior the Malevolent was an NPC from my DF Felltower campaign. He recently died, hatcheted, knifed, and poisoned by an orc slayer. In your campaign, though, he can be a good example of an effective henchman or a solid above-starting character in a 125-point DF campaign or troupe-play game. He is built off of the 125-point Apprentice template from Dungeon Fantasy 15: Henchmen.

For more pre-made henchmen from my game, check the DF Henchmen page.

Melchior the Malevolent

Melchior, it is agreed, is crazy. He's also quite skilled as a wizard, and he's both brave and reliable. As much as any wizard is reliable.

ST 10 HP 10 Speed 5.00
DX 11 Will 13 Move 5
IQ 13 Per 13
HT 11 FP 11
Dodge 8 Parry (Staff) 11

Small Knife (7): 1d-3 cutting or 1d-3 impale; Reach C.
Staff(12): 1d+2 crushing or 1d crushing. Reach 1,2.

Traits: Ally (Tough Zombie) (50% of starting points - about 65) (Constantly; Minion (w/Slave mentality)); Delusion (Phantom Voices, Annoying) (Minor)' Magery 2; Obsession (Perfect my art at any cost) (12); Odious Personal Habit (Arrogant) (-1); Selfish (12); Social Stigma (Excommunicated); Wild Talent (1) (Focused (Magical); Retention).

Quirks: Chauvinistic; Delusion (My pronouncements are prophetic); Talks back to his phantom voices; Genuinely likes kids; Marks all of his gear with a stylish painted M.

Skills: Alchemy-10; Climbing-10; First Aid-13; Hazardous Materials (Magical)-12; Hidden Lore (Demon Lore)-13; Hidden Lore (Lost Civilizations)-13; Hidden Lore (Magical Writings Lore)-12; Innate Attack (Projectile)-13; Occultism-13; Psychology (Demons)-11; Research-12; Search-12; Staff-12; Stealth-10; Thaumatology-13; Writing-12.

Spells: Create Fire-13; Death Vision-13; Detect Magic-13; Fireball-13; Identify Spell-13; Ignite Fire-13; Lend Energy-13; Lend Vitality-13; Light IQ/H-13; Mage Light-13; Mage Sight-13; Recover Energy-15; Shape Fire-13; Summon Spirit-13; Zombie-13.

Gear: Backpack, Small; Boots (DR 2); Bottle; Leather Jacket (DR 1); Leather Leggings (DR1); Ordinary Clothes; Paut (x2); Personal Basics; Scribe's Kit; Scroll Case.

Notes: Melchior would make a good resurrected undead, too. The PCs asked for him to be given Final Rest, but he's Excommunicated and thus wasn't given that. Presumably his body was tossed in a secret pit somewhere or destroyed - Brother Ike won't say, and probably doesn't know.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Countering Feints / Recovering from Feints

I like the concept of recovering from a Feint. Douglas Cole presented one way to do this in his post on Viking Shield Fighting. I think it could use a tweak or two, but I think this is a good, playtest-ready rule:

Feint (Recovery)

You can attempt to recover from the penalty inflicted by a successful Feint against you. Roll against your own weapon skill, using the same statistic used to counter the original Feint (ST or DX for a Beat, DX for a Feint, IQ for a Ruse.) Apply your margin of success against the penalty imposed by your opponents feint, negating the penalty on a one-for-one basis. This never provides a bonus.

Example: Sir Agrippa uses a Beat against Sir Ferro's rapier. Sir Aggrippa has Rapier-16 and makes his ST-based roll by 5, Sir Ferro has Rapier-15 and makes his DX-based roll by 1 and is at -4 on the next turn. Sir Ferro takes a Feint (Recovery) on his next turn, and rolls against his Rapier-15. He rolls a 12, making it by 3. Sir Agrippa's Beat only imposes a -1 to Sir Ferro's Parry the next turn. Had Sir Ferro rolled, for example, a 5, his margin of success would have been 10. He would remove the entire penalty for the Beat, but not gain any bonus to defend.


Notes: One issue with this is whether this is a Ready (you're spending a turn to recover) or it's a variant Feint used to just reset yourself in position. This is an issue because of the rules for Feints and Multiple Attacks (GURPS Martial Arts, p. 127). If you can swap in any kind of Feint for an attack (even part of a Rapid Strike), then you should be able to do a Feint (Recovery) as well.

The downside to this is that it makes Feints even less useful against foes with Multiple Attacks (just swap in a Recovery, every time) and useless against high-skill foes with multiple attacks from any source. The upside is this makes high-skill multiple-attacking martial artists, swashbuckler-types, wuxia swordsman, and chambara movie samurai able to engage in really cinematic combat. It also means feints are a very useful way to deal with multiple-attacking skilled foes, if you're skilled as well - make your Feint, force them to choose between an attack or undoing the Feint. So attacks and feints and attacks and recoveries are all meshed together in a web of action economy until someone cracks.

Making a Ready means it takes your whole turn to avoid suffering from the Feint.

Making it a Ready is probably the most conservative approach, and imposes the most cost.

If you play with hidden feints, like many do, this is pretty much useless unless it's a Beat (which is always obvious.) So you'll need to allow people to notice a feint.

Noticing Feints

At the beginning your next turn after your opponent has attempted a feint, roll against your best Per-based Melee Combat or Unarmed skill. If you succeed, you know your opponent has attempted a Feint. You don't know how much the contest was won or lost by, however - it won't be resolved until your opponent's next turn. If you take a Feint (Recovery) action, resolve it first and apply your margin of success against the results of the Feint normally.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Skill-Based Beats

Yesterday Douglas Cole put up a post about Viking Shield Fighting.

One thing he mentioned was shield-on-shield jostling.

One problem with a Feint is that it's skill vs. skill. The attacker would roll with Shield, the defender with Shield or another skill if it's better. Forcing the defender to roll against Shield might make sense, but it's really going to weird when the defender isn't using a light buckler-style shield like a Viking shield.

Beat makes a lot of sense, but Doug says his experience shows it is more skill than ST.

There is a simple solution - a perk.


Skilled Beats*

You've learned to use your skill, not your strength, to execute a Beat (Martial Arts, p. 100). You must specialize by weapon skill. When executing a beat, use the better of your ST-based or DX-based skill. Your opponent opposes the beat normally.


This way you can get a skilled fighter using his agility and skill, not his strength, to move people's weapons or shields out of line. Yet a strong foe can still oppose it with ST, which seems appropriate (not everyone is using a buckler and is equally taught to use skill to defend it.)

You might say, "Why not just Feint?" For the usual reasons of using a beat - you want to share the effect with others.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Cost of Armor & Weapon Repairs in DF Felltower

Two sessions ago, one of the PCs had his armor severely damaged (nearly destroyed, actually) by the corrosive tears wept by the ravening eyes aka eye beasts they encountered.

I do a very simple armor repair cost:

Armor and Weapon Repair

Armor and weapons can be repaired in town.

Armor costs a percentage of the original cost equal to the damage suffered; round up to the next 1% and the next highest $1. For example, a DR 6 plate corselet ($1300) reduced to DR 3 from corrosion damage is at 50%; cost to repair is $1300 x 50% = $650. A DR 3 Fortify +1 ($1000) Lighten 25% ($2000) Fine Giant Spidersilk cloth shirt ($3270) that is reduced to DR 1 is 67% damaged; cost to repair is $6270 x 67% = $4201.

Weapons that have been cleanly broken cost 50% of their original cost; weapons damaged by corrosion use the percentage system above based on their remaining HP.

Casters with a Repair spells can fix these items instead, but the missing bits cost 50% of the above-listed cost in the case of corrosion, rust, etc.


And that's it. I don't require a roll, and I assume magical fixing get done as well. This is cheaper with the Repair spell from a friendly mage, but that person does have to roll. Don't critically fail!

I probably should subtract out enchantment costs, but a) enchantments can be worn down and need repair, canonically, and b) I let the DR of Fortify affect the survival of items so why not the costs?, and c) it's much simpler than re-calculating the cost of each item. I'm sure players won't mind, but it wastes game time we can never get back again. I'd rather have them spend imaginary money I can imagine up more of.
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