Sunday, October 22, 2017

Retirement age in DF Felltower?

The idea of retired characters came up in the comments on another post the other day. Basically, I dismissed the idea that "Stericksburg" would be renamed after an active PC because he was pretty badass. Maybe when he's retired, I said.

When would that be?

Probably never.

No Mandatory Retirement Threshold

One thing about my game is that it's all about hack-and-slash fun.

So as long as someone is having fun playing their hack-and-slash guy, they can keep playing that guy.

There does reach a power level when you're basically not challenged by much of what you encounter. But GURPS is GURPS - there is never a level where you're effectively invulnerable. And no matter how powerful you get, there are things you just might not be able to deal with.

A perfectly lethal knight won't ever be able to overcome some magical effects, especially ones that automatically overcome resistance and need post-effect remedy, not a good roll.

An epic-ly powerful wizard won't be able to overcome foes in melee in a NMZ.

A powerful cleric might wave away undead with trivial ease but lack to the ability to destroy non-undead with sufficient ease.

So I'm not especially concerned. As long as people are having fun with their guys, they can run their guys. I'll let them sort out the who and what and when of stopping playing a particular paper man. And if someone wants to basically set a PC aside for special occasions, that's fine too. We've got a dozen or so templates to choose from and lots of levels, side levels, attached side areas, and so on to explore in the megadungeon game. It's all about the player's fun, not the PC.

One of my players did say, basically, that he means to keep playing one of his guys until he dies and can't get brought back. That's not counter to the game. You don't win in DF Felltower by getting to retirement age or being unbeatable. You win by risking your paper man to have fun. And as long as I can keep up the challenges, why set a PC aside?

Saturday, October 21, 2017

On the painting table: Desmond and Hayden the Unnamed Knight

Here is what I'm starting to paint:

Desmond isn't base-coated yet, but he'll get that tonight. He's from one of the Bones Kickstarters.

Hayden has a black base coat and gunmetal grey on his metal gear. He'll get more metallic paint, a re-coating of the red and tan he had before, and some general highlights. He's a TSR elf fighter from a TSR boxed set:

Friday, October 20, 2017

Pyramid #3/108 - What new monsters?

So I wrote some new monsters for the DFRPG-themed issues of Pyramid. What are they?

Here they are by name, and any variations offset below.

     The Cerberus
Colchis Bulls
     Iron Bull (aka Gorgon)
     Rock Bull
     Storm Bull
Giant Beetle (grouping)
     Big Beetle
     Big Bombardier Beetle
     Humongous Beetle
Giant Centipede (grouping)
     Big Centipede
     Humongous Centipede
Giant Frog (Grouping)
     Big Frog
     Big Killer Frog
     Huge Frog
     Huge Killer Frog

Many of these you've seen in my games, and if you haven't, you eventually will.

* Based on the ghouls/wights of Felltower.
** the fabled "root men" of the Cold Fens, which my players call shambling mounds. They are, basically, but also sort-of not.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Pyramid 3/108

The new issue of Pyramid just came out today:

I've got a few monsters in it.

I'll try to get a good look at everything and post about the contents ASAP.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

How tough was Baron Sterick the Red?

So Baron Sterick the Red was slain in my Felltower game.

How tough was he?

(A sword-swapped version of Boris Mingla, Evil Warlord, by Werner Klocke)

Sterick was a human knight and clocked in around 525 points.

A good chunk of that was non-relevant skills like Strategy, Tactics, Leadership, etc. It included his Born War Leader 6.

Most of the rest? Combat. He's a knight, like I said. Highlights include:

ST 18
Speed 7

Combat Reflexes
High Pain Threshold
Striking ST 2
Extra Attack 1
Armor Mastery
Two-Weapon Fighting
Weapon Master (Axe and Broadsword)
Enhanced Parry 1 (All Parries)

. . . and a custom variant of Unkillable.

His skills included Axe/Mace-27 and Broadsword-28, and solid skills in Shield, Thrown Weapon (Axe), and Brawling and Wrestling. Nothing great, though - solid for his DX and point level, but nothing special.

He also had a Bad Temper and an Obsession with raising a kingdom.

Weapon-wise, he did 3d+11 cutting or 2d+7 impaling with Magebane, and 3d+13 cutting with Shieldslayer.

Gear-wise, he had something close to $250,000 worth of gear using Basic Set prices and DF1 modifiers. That's pretty amazing, but considering that Vryce lost all of his gear once, including some great weaponry and solid armor and still had close to $80,000 worth of gear and probably another $10-20K worth of consumables it wasn't so lopsided. At the top end, costs start to multiply for a simple +1 here or there.

So he was a tough fight. He couldn't be permanently put down by mere combat, but combat would set the stage for his defeat. The first crew made the mistake of a lack of clarity of mission - it was half "let's talk to him" and half "and then kill him if he attacks us." They still came close thanks to Lightning spells. The second group had the advantage of a better main fighter, and total clarity of mission - "Get the bodies and escape if possible, if it's not, kill Sterick." Some excellent rolls on buffing potions helped immensely, too - but were countered by some improbably rolling by me for Sterick to keep him in the fight. It still cost them a headless PC.

In the end though, they got him.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Man Cave's awesome game world

I thought I had a good game world until I saw Clichea.

And I thought Clichea was my ideal world until I saw this:

Battles in the Land of Fowlwarren: our Fantasy Campaign

And I quote:

"Our campaign setting is based entirely on this cartoon which I came across last year:





Oh, my world of Felltower, Stericksburg, the Lost City of D'Abo (and her fabled bells) . . . it feels so overwrought now.

I may need to deploy people from Hopsland and Mallardia in my pool of hirelings . . .

Monday, October 16, 2017

DF Felltower, Session 93, Felltower 66 - Four Entered Felltower

Sunday was a scheduled Gamma Terra game, but one of the GT players couldn't make it. We'd have a very short crew. On top of that, the GM was busy right up until the night before game. So I volunteered to run Felltower instead. We still had a short crew, but since one of them was the player with the most powerful PC in the game, it seemed like it was the right move. We played Felltower and put off GT for a couple of weeks.

October 15th, 2017

Weather: Warm, wet.

Ahenobarbus the Lacerator, human swashbuckler (250 points)
Desmond MacDougall, human wizard (250 points)
Hayden the Unnamed Knight, human knight (250 points)
Vryce, human knight (497 points)

After the disastrous delve the previous time, a group of PCs again attempted to crack the six double doors in the caverns past "the dragon cave." Word had spread about the last attempt pretty quickly, as Church alarms meant to warn about the Sterick's Tomb, better termed Sterick's Prison, having been breached. Add on research the PCs had commissioned, Quenton Gale's Reincarnation and coming back to tell his tale, and general open-mouthed recruiting and word was out.

They'd heard the history of Sterick and how he came to be placed in his prison, and that he'd sold his soul to a demon in return for being undying and unkillable. But to escape the prison, they needed him dead. It says something about the group (and the game) that Vryce decided he'd go fight him and then figure out how to destroy him and leave from inside the unopenable prison.

Vryce gathered together an entertaining group of volunteers:

- a short knight with a bad knee.
- a white-haired old wizard who can't remember people's names
- a red-haired, red-bearded cousin (or brother, or retainer - it's not clear) of the Barcas - a swashbuckler.

. . . and that was it. No one else would come, for pay or promises of loot. Ahenobarbus asked if they couldn't just sweep up folks from debtor's prison, death row, or the drunk tank, and then realized, oh, wait, that's probably us. It actually made the group more plausible that everyone was kind of odd, like only the really desperate came.*

They spent a long time gathering up materials and discussing plans - a couple hours in real terms - but the whole session was one fight, so I didn't rush anyway. Even so, they stocked up on healing potions, spell stones, gems of healing, food, water, chain to bind Sterick and chain to bind his sarcophagus, and buffing potions of all sorts . . . and then headed out only to arrive at the cave mouth and think, hey, we forgot something.

They decided they needed a scroll of Summon Spirit, because they'd heard that only Sterick's confessor, Father Martin Hauer*, knew the secret to actually destroying Sterick. But Sterick killed his confessor first, and no one could contact his soul. They figured, maybe that's the head that Sterick is carrying on his belt, and they could use the scroll once they had the head. (No one put two and two together and got, "If Summon Spirit doesn't work now, it won't work later, either.")

So they turned around and headed back to town. They got in before curfew, but had to wait it out until the next day. Queue up Vryce calling in to work and asking to use a personal day to get off on Monday, etc. etc. jokes.

The next morning, they headed out again.

This time they made it into the dungeon. Getting around was a little easier - the church provided them a map of the prison, meticulously drawn when they made it. To make a long story short, they wound their way around, avoiding trouble and going through door after door. They did one, took a side trip to gather mushrooms and rest, and then started back on the teleporting doors.

They ran into trouble on one, though, teleporting right into a bunch of crushrooms. The church told them monsters were periodically summoned into the complex and were attracted to the teleport chambers when people began to teleport. All part of the wards they set up to make rescuing Sterick difficult. In any case, the crushrooms charged. The PCs began to hack them apart, easily hitting them and mostly staying out of reach. But just as someone (I forget who) downplayed the danger (and Vryce warned them, "These things are dangerous"), one of them roll a 4 and critically hit Hayden (whose player had, just prior to start of play, decided to remove Luck and buy more ST instead. Oops.) It bit on a random location - another 4, Skull. It smashed Hayden's helmet and knocked him out. The others sprang into action to try and kill that one first - Desmond hit it with an Ice Dagger, Vryce cut it up, and Ahenobarbus finished off the one close to him. But it still managed to squeeze down on Hayden and inflict 60 injury to his skull after armor. Hayden was mortally wounded. They cut down the crushrooms, but then were stuck - no Great Healing, no Stop Bleeding, no nothing. What to do?

They retreated to the "mushroom chamber" and its improved Sanctity. Desmond tried a quick prayer (he's a seminary school dropout) and defaulted Esoteric Medicine (Holy), needing a 6. He rolled a 7. Hayden held on, though, so he prayed again and then tried again. This time, I figured his prayers were worth a +1 (gee, I'm so generous) . . . and he rolled another 7! Hayden was stabilized after two hours of chanting, praying, bandaging, etc. They fed him red healing mushrooms and healing potions and eventually got him to nearly full HP. That would be critical later.

After some more travel around, avoiding dead beetles, rats, live beetles, and whatnot, they reached the final door and went in.

They found Sterick's tomb, floating. On the ground were the headless bodies of their friends. No heads, though. That put paid to a plan to chain up the tomb, grab the bodies, and escape with the corpses for Resurrection before the doors could close. Vryce quaffed his Strength (+2) and Dexterity (a phenomenal +6!) potions.

They piled in to the room. Desmond started in with Flight spells and Vryce started to crush spellstones, starting with Blur -4 and Flight and then used a Great Haste spellstone and then Invisibility as the sarcophagus opened. Sterick sat up and demanded to know who they were. Vryce glided up and struck his arm. He badly wounded Sterick's arm but it was clear he wasn't crippled despite the wound - and Sterick managed to Dodge the second strike of the pair as Vryce turned visible! He snapped out his sword and his axe and jumped into the air and struck Vryce.

Vryce and Sterick fought in the air, each climbing for superior height until they ended up level near the ceiling. Vryce went with a full-skill Feint on his first turn and then split his attacks on his second turn into Rapid Strike, heavily deceptive. Sterick tried one Feint but once it was clear Vryce was better than him (thanks to his potion-amped DX 20) he went for axe swing followed by sword-and-axe combo.

They exchanged attacks for several seconds while Hayden and Ahenobarbus moved up from behind. Vryce circled to get Sterick surrounded, but at the cost of being unable to parry for his friends. Sterick kept moving to face Vryce without exposing himself to too many back shots. Vryce's attacks hit home most of the time, thanks to some excellent Feint rolls. Often Sterick defended with penalties in the teens despite rolling very well on his own Feint counters. Even as he was badly hurt, he kept moving - slowly after a few strikes, but still going.

Ahenobarbus got cocky and moved up next to him, glancing down in to the sarcophagus and seeing a bunch of heads. The he struck. Sterick parried his attacks and, since Vryce was momentarily out of easy range, attacked Ahenobarbus instead. He used Feint, crushed Ahenobarbus's defenses, and then hacked him twice, putting him well below -5xHP. Ahenobarbus's decapitated corpse joined the rest.

Hayden was more careful, and managed to get behind Sterick and cut him twice in the back, once bouncing and one maximum damage hit wounding him. Sterick ignored him for the moment, pressed by Vryce. His counters never touched Vryce, as his only critical hit was foiled by Vryce's luck.

Again, Sterick took damage from Vryce, suffering a greater pounding then he took in the first fight, but routinely made his rolls to stay active (I rolled a 3 on an early on, a 4 on the next one, and nothing above a 9 for a 13 or less base target). Hayden tried him again, and this time annoyed Sterick enough to distract him from Vryce. He took two chops in the neck for his trouble - and went to -41 HP, made his death check (and stunning roll!) and kept his head. He backed off as Vryce moved in to keep him away. Desmond hit Sterick with an Ice Dagger and it failed to penetrate his armor.

Finally, though, Vryce hit him solidly and Sterick fell out of the air with a smell of sulfur in the air, gasping something like, "I'm not finished yet."

Vryce landed next to him and started to just hack him, pausing briefly to take off Sterick's invisible helmet and toss it aside (it appeared, as it's only invisible while in correct use.) Desmond insisted on rolling him over and taking the head off of his belt. Vryce said, "What head?" He hadn't noticed (PC or player) that he's got a head strapped on to his belt.

Vryce kept trying to hack him, but realized he was doing nothing - Sterick's inert body was immune to further harm! Desmond started to unroll his scroll to use it, but suddenly realized he needed to look at the head before he started spellcasting. It was animate! It looked fresh - pale, bloodless, but fresh. The eyes were open and looking at him, the mouth moving.

He started talking to it. "Are you Martin Hauser?" (Annoyed look) He couldn't read it's lips (Per-10 is a tough default, and no one thought to ask him to speak slowly or mouth along or anything like that to fish for a bonus.) Then he said, "Blink once for yes, twice for no."

They started a slow process of guesses of what to do. Eventually, Desmond decided to use an alphabet board. He quickly started to write in Ahenobarbus's and Hayden's splattered blood on the floor . . . until Hayden croaked, "Don't you have some wizard's kit or something?"
"Oh, sure, I have paper and ink."

So fine, he stopped writing in blood and used paper. With an alphabet board, they got Father Martin to spell out what he needed.


What now?

Desmond blew into Father Martin's throat to get air across his vocal cords. In breathy words, he told them to face him to Sterick - who was by now chained up and padlocked, with Vryce standing huffing and puffing over him. He tol Vryce to kill Sterick again, as Sterick began to wake up and speak. Vryce split his skull and put him right to -5xHP or below.

Still powered by Desmond's air blowing, Father Martin banished Sterick to Hell.

A weird red whispy smoke emerged from Sterick's mouth, and hovered above them and looked them all over. "I'll see you in Hell."

With that, he disappeared.

The doors clicked open, as Father Martin expired.

After this was the task of healing up Hayden.

Next, they stripped Sterick of his stuff and debated bringing his corpse back. They realized this would add a lot of extra work, for one, and the church said they wanted him "destroyed" if possible, for two. They went with destroyed, and burned him to ash with alchemist's fire and flammable oil, and used his bonfire to burn Gale's corpse as well (Quenton the goblin saying, "I don't need that thing anymore" to Vryce as a pre-delve instruction.)

Next was gathering loot and corpses. Loot included their wish ring - worn by Sterick - Sterick's baton of office, his necklace, his personal seal ring, and two bent coins (passage coins for his eyes, bent so they couldn't be used according to custom.) They also took his armor - some of it fantastically well made and highly enchanted glossy-black heavy plate - and weapons, Magebane (a very fine balanced meteoric thrusting broadsword) and Shieldslayer (a Quick Draw dwarven balanced fine throwing axe that destroys shields on impact).

It took a few trips, but they got everyone out. First Desmond grabbed three heads and Vryce and Hayden carried corpses. Next, they left Desmond outside and made a few more trips in and back, luckily not encountering any lethal foes.

With all of the bodies on the surface, they send Hayden down to town for help. He went to the church, explained they'd destroyed Sterick, and asked for help getting bodies to the church for Resurrection. Some strong-bodied acolytes came and helped.

The bodies were assembled and the last wish of the Ring of Minor Wishes was used to put the bodies back together and restore them to "just slain." Still, all of time can't be rolled back, so they had a -1 to Resurrection rolls. Still beats the -20+ they'd have had otherwise.

Resurrection followed for most of the slain, with spiritually costly versions for Brother Ike and Hjalmarr, and a failed attempt for Hasdrubul (he needed a 14, and rolled a 16). The rest succeeded, and Raggi told his story of waking back up and going for his axe and mouthing off to Sterick. Veronico and Raska were given Final Rest.

XP for the session was 5 apiece, as everyone reached their loot threshold after selling some of Sterick's stuff, and each received 1 xp for defeating Baron Sterick the Red, a signature boss-level encounter of Felltower.

* Ahenobarbus's player said it was a sentence, "Prison or Felltower." That would explain a lot of the delvers - five delves or until dead, whichever comes first.

** Who kept getting called "Martin Hauser" by Desmond. On purpose? Maybe. He doesn't know any of the PC's names, either.


Sterick held up longer than I'd expected. The fight with Vryce was a superhero fight - both flying, one with weapon skill-28 and two magic weapons vs. one buffed up to weapon skill-34(!) and carrying a magical sword wrested from some other high-skilled foe. But the 6-point difference in skills told, and often Sterick was forced to defend at -12 or more. He went deeply negative before he finally failed a roll and dropped. Last time he was solidly negative near the end, but one or two more hits could have been enough to put him down (especially that 18d Lightning spell because of the effect through armor.) Vryce was able to crack his DR 15+ armor regularly with his 4d+12 attacks more easily.

Will there be massive negative repercussions for selling Sterick's stuff in town, having killed him, etc. etc.? No. Not that kind of game. All but Desmond paid 5 points for a +1 Reputation in town, though.

Brother Ike was given Resurrection for "free" - it cost him 30 character points, taking him from the mid-160s to the mid-130s. He'll slowly grow back to 50% of Hjalmarr's points, but I'll set a per-session cap so it's not just a snap back to where he was but a slow grow. Like I said before, there is a metaphysical cost to be paid to come back, and either you do it through money (which goes for sacrifices, good deeds and charity, etc.) or parts of your being or both.

Has' had enough cash in his 401(r) to pay for his own revivification. It failed, and he had most of the cash needed for another one for Ahenobarbus. I can't recall who fronted the rest of the cash for him. Raggi I just declared had 15,000 sp in uncashed empties and money laying around, since I know the party would pay for him otherwise. That seemed unfair since Raggi's lack of cash has everything to do with me no keeping track. So saying he had a 401(r) equivalent seemed fair to the players.

Now the PCs need to get some armor modified to fit people, finish passing out Has's stuff (Desmond already got his spiffy magical six-fingered vampire armor), and so on. Magebane went to Ahenobarbus (argument for this: "Hey, I lost a 350-point guy here!"), Shieldslayer to Hjalmarr, Sterick's armor to Vryce, his spidersilk underarmor is currently up for debate and/or sale, his seal ring to . . . someone. The other stuff was sold.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Felltower pre-summary

We played a session of Felltower tonight.

It featured:

- three new PCs:

Ahenobarbus the Lacerator, human swashbuckler
Desmond McSomethingorother, crusty old man wizard
Hayden the Unnamed Knight, human knight*

- Vryce using up scads of high-value consumable magical gear

- Crushrooms crushing people

- a high-risk do-or-die mission to slay Sterick the Red, with no one sure how that could be done

- a big brawl, with a casualty or two

- a headless cleric's help

- a permanent PC death.

* Actually, just Hayden, but I had "Unnamed Knight" for his name and kept it on after. We'll see if it sticks. I think it's funny, but we'll see.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Every statue a gorgon's victim?

Do your players - or you if you're playing - assume every statue is a gorgon's victim?

Warning: Tiny metal breasts after the cut.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Age of Ravens & Rolemaster

This post made me very happy:

Retrocember Rolemaster: Bringing Law to the Ursine Dunes

This is awesome. Especially this:

One of the largest challenges to running Rolemaster comes from the combat charts. Weapons have individual charts. A successful roll usually moves players over to an additional critical table (Slash, Crush, Pierce, Heat, Shock, etc). That’s the cornerstone of the system and why it’s dismissively referred to as Chartmaster.

But that’s also the secret sauce.

Those charts are great, wild, and fun.

Yes, yes, and yes.

And yes.

I totally agree, and I've said that very same thing before.

Fans of Rolemaster might complain about system holes, weirdly distributed secondary skills, Initiative, the disconnect of class/levels/skill points/stat-based point allotments meshing, etc. but play because the crits and weapon effect charts are awesome.

I'm very excited to see how this goes. I love Rolemaster even though I don't play it anymore. I hope game summaries (complete with crit descriptions) follow that post!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

DF: Cut Rate Resurrection III (Felltower edition)

A while back I wrote two posts on cut-rate Resurrection for GURPS Dungeon Fantasy:

Cut-Rate Resurrection

Cut-Rate Resurrection II

With a number of PCs dead in my Felltower game, and with our switch to the DFRPG as the main game engine*, questions have arisen about how we'll deal with Resurrection and its cut-rate varieties.

Felltower Resurrection

The church in town can cast Resurrection. Cost is $15,000. Results are not guaranteed - results are subject to the rules for the Resurrection spell from GURPS Magic, p. 94. This is a change from Exploits, p. 62-63, to maintain consistency with how we've run Resurrection the whole game so far. PCs are not suddenly available to be restored, no fail, no roll, no concerns about time between death and healing, thanks to this rules switchover. Felltower is GURPS DFRPG on hard mode!

Cut-Rate Resurrection works per Exploits, p. 67. Every $500 or fraction thereof you are short on the required donation** is -1 character point. The player may pick and choose what they'd like to lose, subject to GM approval - you can't pare away skills and advantages and purchases you regret and save money doing so.

. . . and that's how we'll do it.

* Not a big change, but still, lots of little changes here and there.

** Which I assume is to cover the recharge costs and material energy costs of healing, not just their time. In other words, they're not price-gouging you and leaving the poor dead. They're taking a required sacrifice because something must be expended in order to effect the return of the dead to life.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Lost Hall of Tyr - so, so close

Douglas Cole's Lost Hall of Tyr Kickstarter is so, so close. $2,485 pledged, $2,500 to fund.

Someone go throw him $15 so the poor guy can exhale!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Spellcaster hirelings in DF

Dungeon Fantasy 15 has a number of spellcaster templates, for both 62-point helpers and 125-point henchmen.

In my own game, I tend to make caster hirelings much less commonly available than non-caster hirelings.

I have a few reasons for this.

Difficulty of making them

GURPS character generation is a lot of fun, and I love what you can do with it, but making a list of 15-30 spells is not as fun for me. It's tough to make a good set of choices when you're making your own guy. NPCs can be more throwaway but they need to be effective in their niche. So they take time to make. While someone can hire an archer and I can pretty much go from template to loaded out NPC with a personality in a few minutes, if that, a caster will take me more time. I'm loath to spend that time if I don't need to, and I'm really unhappy spending that time at game (especially as I also field requests and questions about actual PCs.)

Belated requests

Usually people don't know they want or need a caster until the day of game. "We need a wizard of any kind" might be answerable with a 125-point Apprentice, if I can sit down and make one quickly. Or if I have one handy. What if there are specific requests? When you add on "with See Invisible and Levitate and enough FP to get us all over the castle wall" it's a bigger problem. Then I need a fully-made wizard with certain spells. "No" ends up being easier than "make a roll, and if you roll well, everyone leave me alone for 10 minutes while I make up a guy."

High Expectations

No matter what, once a caster gets introduced it's common for people to start seeing them as full-fledged master (whatevers.) Acolyte? Cleric. Apprentice necromancer? Master necromancer. Beginner elementalist with Stone Missile-13? 18d Stone Missile Sniper capable of firing into melee without hesitation. I exaggerate a bit, but not by much. The expectations rise. A 125-point guy who serves as a bandage for a serious gap in available spellcasting needs gets seen as a full-out replacement for a 250-point delver.

On top of that, skill expectations are high - all casters getting a -1 to energy cost for skill, able to maintain spells for free, and succeeding in casting despite penalties? That's a feature of well-made 250-point delvers. That's where a good measure of those extra 125 points go.

Annoying the PCs

If you do get a good, effective, well-designed caster, then it tends to eat into what the PC casters do. This simultaneously annoys the player due to overlap, and makes for less likelihood the NPC gets used. "We already have a necromancer" or "We already have an artillery mage" means the guy doesn't get hired. Or it means he gets hired and people choose to use their non-caster PC foe the session, turning this back into the High Expectations issue.

This tends to be why you don't see a lot of caster hirelings in my games, and see the same ones over and over once you do. I add in game explanations, too - casters being less common, wizards being more suspicious, the church being unhappy that delvers show up every three months saying, "Funny story, Father so-and-so died and was eaten, who else you got?" But a good portion of it is the mechanical issues of making them up, designing them well, having them ready to go, and then the expectations issue.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Casting Room Miniatures sale

Casting Room Miniatures, part of Wargames Foundry, is having a 20% off sale until the end of October with this code:


I'm a big fan of their work, and have a number of their adventurer minis. And they have a Free Samples policy worth taking advantage of: Free Samples.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Prepping for Felltower & the "Rescue Mission"

I'm busy reviewing characters for Felltower.

Originally we'd planned to play Gamma Terra for our next session, but one of our core GT players can't make it.

So it's Felltower for our next game.

Quenton Gale reincarnated, which allows for some very easy explanation of how people know what happened during the last session. An eye-witness to all but the very end, and post-end eye-witness, is available.

Some loose ends were noted - before Quenton actually died, he got a glimpse of the decapitated heads* of most of his companions.

There is one lingering question - "Red Raggi" Ragnarson. He dropped with a vicious cut to the neck. But the players know out-of-game he wasn't dead, that Hard to Kill kicked in. They'll know in-game, at least the vets will, that Raggi has woken back up from being "dead" before.

On top of that, Raggi has Recovery and his random healing potion selection (rolled each time) came up with a Great Healing Potion. So he was at -1 x HP, and has a healing potion that, on average, will heal him 28 HP (4d, x2 for 23 HP).

As long as Sterick the Red didn't take his head, like he did the others, he could actually be alive . . . although water would be a major issue even if they have plenty of food. Quenton didn't see his head before he died.

And does Sterick have some ability to make undead? He had draugr bodyguards, but draugr are created by dead who can't rest in peace. You generally don't just make them. He may have had more powerful undead friends, or ways to make them, but there wasn't much detail available.

So Raggi is a big question mark. Alive, somehow? Undead? Simply and disappointingly dead? The last would be anti-climactic but it's what happened to everyone else.

Beyond that, there is the big concern that even backed by Vryce (Dryst's player and thus Dryst almost certainly being unavailable), Sterick will just add the new guys to the pile of corpses. They will be equal in numbers to last time, have a more effective core fighter, but all of the others will be significantly weaker. Quenton won't be, but he may or may not make the trip - given the option to bring a different PC his player may well do so.

"Let's add NPCs!" sounds like a good plan, except that it's a small spherical chamber with a lethal foe. Hirelings won't last more than a single sword or axe blow against Sterick, and will simply be in the way of better, more lethal PCs while alive and Bad Footing while dead. The better NPCs (Orcish Bob, say, or Deadeye Slim) are merely 125 points, and can hold their own against Worthy foes and beat up Fodder but a clear Boss like Sterick is beyond their ability to deal with. Remember those Deceptive Attacks at -7, backing up Feints - again, they're one second from being a movement obstacle and a $15,000 charge to Resurrect if you want to make up for that.

Also, the Wish the PCs have is quite limited. It's powerful, but it's not an all-powerful wish or even a Great Wish. It's a lesser version, subject to much greater limitations. So it's not a "alter reality to how you can phrase it in a single sentence" but rather a catch-all spell that does things normal spells can't or don't (or replicates what one spell can and does, if you like.) There is a clever plan to use it to allow to get the slain characters back, or at least make it possible to get them back despite a -1 per day Resurrection penalty. But it's not a Restore from Save Game or CTRL-Z spell. The players have both a chance to get their old guys back but don't have unlimited time and space in which to do it.

So we'll see how this goes.

* or the heads of his decapitated companions, however it's better to express that.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Bones Young Dragons

I haven't gotten a lot of painting done, but I did finish these guys up except for the bases:

They came out pretty well - fairly standard "green" dragons. Still, they look attractive. I guess I need to put some young dragons into my game somewhere, along with all of the big ones!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Video Games to Finish / Never Finish

I have a number of video games I just haven't ever fully finished.

Games to Finish

Ultima IV - I never did finish this game, although I played it a lot back in the day (well, co-played it with my cousin R~). I got stuck finding the stones in the dungeons this last playthrough. So I located my savegame tonight and restored it to my current PC. I will get this one done. I do really want to check this one off - it's just such a special concept of a game.

Darklands - I've slain dragons and disrupted cults, but I haven't followed through on the full devil-worshipping cult thing. I need to gear up a little and just track down the witch's meetings and get to it before I completely forget what any of my cryptic game notes mean. Ultima has some of the same issue - I need to really sit down and look outside of the game to see what I've done in the game. No automap, no game logs, no quest lists - it's just a lot of bookkeeping and it makes it hard to pick a game up months or years later and get right back to it.

Fantasy General - I was doing well until a) I hit a very tough mission and b) I went on a visit to my family abroad. That was sufficient to derail my play; I need to get back to this and finish it up.

Numera - This one I haven't even started. I backed the Kickstarter, and it was so late that by the time it arrived I didn't want to invest time in a game. So I waited for a major patch; one came, but I still waited. I haven't even fired it up once. I should do that - I sank $15 into this, I should get some fun out of it.

X-Com: Apocalypse - Another game I was playing until a trip to Japan, and then I set it aside and didn't come back to it. I've won it before, back in the day, but I was enjoying my replay through it.

Sam & Max Hit the Road - Have it, haven't played it. I would like to, as I'm a fan of Sam & Max.

I have a bunch of games GOG gave me for free (Steam, not so much), that I may play at some time: Neverwinter Nights Diamond, Ultima: Savage Lands, Akalabeth. We'll see.

Games to Not Bother With

Bard's Tale II / III - As much as I love Bard's Tale, II and III frustrate me. I just can't work up any enthusiasm to finish either of them.

Wasteland II - I finished this a couple of times, but my last play through just ended with a whimper when I got tired of it. I think I'm done here. Wasteland itself, the original, never held any interest for me.

Dungeon Keeper - I think I've had my fun here. It's repetitive after a few missions.

I have some others, but not ones I've spent any time on. And I'm really hurting for time now - but when I'm overwhelmed with work, I often find 10-15 minutes here and there to play video games to get a mental break from work. So maybe questing after Avatarhood might do, or blowing up the city to save it in X-Com.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Ogre on Steam

The Ogre computer game is out, released on Steam:

It's $24.99, which is bit more price:value than I'd probably get out of it these days. And if I love it it'll actually cost me more as I play instead of doing paying work. Heh. But I'll keep it on my wish list and see about Christmas or Steam sales. I am just passing along the word with this post . . .

New Spell: Rebuke Evil

If you missed it, Sean Punch added a new spell to the DFRPG:

Rebuke Evil

It's an anti-evil spell that's available to wizards, clerics, and druids alike.

I'd probably add some negative prereqs - you can't be Excommunicated, you can't generally be evil (a combo of traits and actions, not a specific list of traits). But otherwise, this seems pretty good. It's definitely going on the cleric list - clerics of the Good God causing evil beings to take damage and flee is very in-setting for Felltower. I'd just need to say the Good God started to add it.

Druids and wizards - not yet. But it's a nice spell.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Power Score on pre-set travel encounters

One blog I really enjoy reading is Sean McGovern's "Power Score."* His "How to Run" series, giving useful (and specific) guidance on published adventures, is especially good.

On 10/2/17 he put up one about The Tomb of Annihilation, and how to run that.

Sean's stuff tends towards stories and scenes more than my own gaming. But his effective use of NPCs, his approach of tying the PCs to the setting and the setting to the PCs, and the way he tightly connects events all appeal to me. You can see similarities in how I make everything in my GURPS Dungeon Fantasy / Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game campaign link back to the central megadungeon and everything center on the PCs.

What's getting me to post about this particular post of his is this, under Planning the Journey

"Let's make a bunch of travel days. These can be used when the group travels to a hex that doesn't have anything special on it."

Essentially, the idea is planned drop-in encounters. They aren't hex-specific, they're need specific - when you need something to make a hex interesting, or a travel day more than just a tick on the calendar, you've got these days queued up.

This is a cool thing to do with random encounters, too. Wandering monsters and random events can be these one-time pre-planned event capsules that you just drop in. Not a new idea (I mean, Jim Ward even co-wrote a book of them), but his are especially well executed:

- some are positive, some are negative;

- they all tie into player actions or potential player actions (climb trees, interact with animals, fight monsters);

- they give clues about and action-based investments in the setting (wildroot, wakka nuts, friendly animals, beautiful vistas);

- they use the setting (undead, dinosaurs, undead dinosaurs);

- they give the PCs ways to do the stuff the players will want to do (basically, use their abilities and be awesome);

- they use specific NPCs that have a role in the PC's adventure without taking the scene away from the PCs.

I think this is easier in wilderness than in dungeons, but pre-set "vignette" encounters are a great thing to have handy. I've done some - a sword-spirit in Felltower, an octopus blossom encounter in the jungles outside the Lost City of D'Abo, dragon-spotting in the Cold Fens. I should do more, and I should take more care to include ones that just highlight color and interest as well as bring danger.

Highly recommended, even if you don't want to run Tomb of Annihilation or 5e D&D.

* Although the white-on-black really bothers my eyes - I have to glance away from my screen for a few seconds and blink before I can face the standard black-on-white screens. Still, the content is worth the blinking.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Monday, October 2, 2017

Dungeons of Tenochtitlan

Aztecs and a tunnel full of treasure:

Dungeons of Tenochtitlan (not the real article title)

What's interesting to me is that this is under a swamp-based city. Well, drained swamp based city.

The Aztecs are just interesting in a lot of ways - from their religion to their approach to warfare, to their end at the hands of Spanish cheerfully allying with all of the people the Aztecs stepped on to get to the top of the heap. Add in a dungeon and the DF campaign writes itself.

"The conquistadors departed, sealing the tunnel as they left, destroying the religious symbols. But the Aztec mummy-lich-wights in the tunnels below were not destroyed, as popular belief held. According to rumor, they're still there . . . and this map you found to the tunnel below indicates their treasure was not all recovered by Cortes and his 400 hirelings . . . "

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Recruiting new delvers for Felltower

Our next session is a few weeks away. But based on the last session, there is a strong need for new delvers. Only one of the players who lost a PC last time has an in-play PC they can pull out next time - and that player retired that PC and doesn't seem interested in running him again.*

So Vryce is apparently gathering a team of delvers to go find his old adventuring companions. Coincidentally there will be just as many of them available as there are players who need new PCs. The universe moves in metasterious ways. Presumably he's putting up posters and circulating the word.

I have to wonder what the criers and posters and such are saying.

"Wanted: Foolish men and women for a dangerous expedition assured of killing some or all. Must be willing to split the cool magical loot with the guys who failed last time."

"Operation Go Get My Dead Buddies: Volunteers only. Guarantee healing if you're alive, Final Rest if you're not. Impressive delvers may be hired full time."

"Need More Income? 5,000 sp or more per day!"
Sundays only. Must provide own weaponry and Resurrection funds."

Or maybe Dryst will write one?

"Servants Required!
Combat-ready servants required for totally safe mission. Must be willing to die so that Dryst can escape. Experience opening doors and carrying loot a plus!"

Mostly I'm being silly, here, but still. What kind of people are looking for this kind of work?

* Gale's player retired Christoph, the scout.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Writing update

Here is a quick writing update:

- I've got a Pyramid article written and in editing. By "in editing" I mean I asked Christopher Rice to look at it and he sent me a long list of stuff that shows how nothing I wrote made any sense. Next step, fixing it so it does.

- I've got another Pyramid article 90% written, but the missing 10% is the good bit. That will get done in the next day or so. Really, it's done, but the stuff that will make it really zing is kind of weak and needs to go and be replaced.

Both are DF-related (and/or DFRPG related, naturally).

- I've actually got a 1/3-done outline to submit once I finish the other 2/3. The problem is that I have so much non gaming writing to do - plus a recent upsurge in work hours - that I haven't had time to finish it. Nevermind if I submit it, my deadline would need to be "Reply Crazy, Ask Again Later."

- I actually have a lot of ideas of things to write - articles, a book, blog posts. But it's closing in on CEU crunch time for my professional certifications, which means I need to shift to dealing with those first. Gaming gets prioritized ahead of game writing, and studies ahead of gaming, and work ahead of studies. So it's a tough time to be all like, "Holy crud, this would make a fantastic article!" Post-it notes full of idea abound.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

DFRPG - reflections on actual play

This past Sunday was our first foray into using the DFRPG books, instead of the Basic Set and DF books, as our primary go-to books.

It went well, overall:

- I love the back cover charts. I kept Exploits face-down the whole session to use the Wounding Modifiers chart. I wish that was on the GM screen instead of some of the other tables.

- Spells was much easier to use than GURPS Magic.

- I didn't get any use out of Adventurers at the table, but we did get use out of most of the others.

- Monsters was handy enough that I used it several times instead of my statlines in the Felltower dungeon key or my PDFs.

- It's very easy to find what you need in Exploits, too. I'm used to just looking in the index, but I'd recommend looking at the Table of Contents, first. It's well-ordered and labeled, and that makes it easy to find what you're looking for. I don't like looking up rules at the table, but we made an exception to get used to where things are (and to make sure of changes.)

I will commence stripping down my "game box" to remove some of the DF and Basic Set-centric material I won't need thanks to us using DFRPG. This will be the core.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Dealing with player knowledge after a TPK

So no one made it out last session from Felltower.

But we play the game with everyone knowing what the players know about past sessions.

How do we explain that?

I had some ideas, and solicited them from my players. Special thanks to andi, our Gamma Terra GM, for providing a very detailed explanation of how people would know the pre-delve plans, who was going, what the aim was, etc. It boils down to "we plan in public," clear descriptions of the aim, map copying, etc. It would be clear to all the other normal crew (Vryce, Dryst, Angus, Gerry, Galoob) who are in town what's going on even if they didn't make it.

But then they went somewhere, found Baron Sterick (which they didn't really suspect), and never returned.

Yet the next group of PCs will know it was the Baron, how to get in, not to try the doors back out, not bother to try and block them, know roughly how Baron Sterick operates and his weaponry, his skill, his capabilities, etc. etc.

In other words, it went from "I wonder if we can open those doors, and what's in them?" to "let's go in and fight Baron Sterick, and we have a rough idea of his skill levels and know exactly how much damage his weapons do."

Here is how that can be explained:

- the crew can use Summon Spirit to question the dead PCs once it's clear they are dead. This can explain a lot of very specific in-game knowledge about the combat, assuming questions were worded right and power was handy. We can assume those. That would also explain getting to hear about the aborted attempts to deal the doors, too.

- the crew has access to Divination spells to get some yes/no questions answered or visions. While those would not explain the final combat as that area is proofed against divination (for obvious reasons). The other areas are shielded to a lesser extent, but basic questions could have been answered. Shielding wouldn't affect Summon Spirit, because the deceased's spirits weren't trapped. Lucky them.

- There will have been GREAT commotion in the churches very suddenly on Sunday, especially the great cathedral of Stericksburg, with priests alerted that someone penetrated the great seals and defenses. Word will spread, even if it's just "something bad happened and the priests are very upset!" The living PCs can easily put two and two together and get "I guess Hjalmarr was right about those doors, and Asher did detect something supernatural and evil over that way. Guess it was pretty dangerous."

So that is how the next group will be able to know what happened to the last group in dripping detail.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

DF Felltower, Session 92, Felltower 65 - Eight Entered Felltower

September 25th, 2017

Weather: Hot, sunny.

Hasdrubel Stormcaller, human wizard (333 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (347 points)
     Brother Ike, human initiate (166 points)
     Raska, human laborer (62 points)
     Veronico, human archer (125 points)
Mo (his momma call him Kle), human barbarian (350 points)
Red Raggi, human berserker (?? points, NPC)
Quention Gale, human druid (317 points)

We started in town, with the PCs exhaustively buying up potions, spell stones, and so on for the delve. This was aided - as was recruiting hirelings - by Hjalmarr living it up off of last delve's profits, spending 4x his usual upkeep to eat well, drink well, and fritter away cash well.

The PCs hired the same two NPCs as last time, but couldn't find Orcish Bob. No matter, they found Raggi. They headed up to the "dragon cave" entrance, planning to try opening these double doors they'd found way back in the day but previous delvers hadn't solved. They were sure extreme danger, probably something really evil, was behind them, and that loot was sure to follow.

They stopped briefly in the slums to visit Sterick's statue, and Hjalmarr patted his axe and said, "I'm coming to find you" to it. They headed out of the slums. On the way out, Mo grabbed some "acorns" (actually, seed pods, but he kept saying "acorns") from the whispy, thorn-covered scrub bushes that grow up the near the trail to Felltower. They worked their way around to the "dragon cave" and carefully entered.

With a copy of their not-to-scale, semi-accurate-looking, but well-labelled map on hand, they started to work their way to a pair of the double doors. They made it to one of the cube-shaped rooms (a 30 x 30 x 30 cube with exits on all four sides) just as three acid spiders did as well. There was a quick fight, with Hjalmar going "Eeeeeeeeewwwwwwww!" the whole time, and the acid spiders were chopped up and Lightning'ed down. They wanted to harvest spider acid, but lacked any containers. (There was a side discussion about "Couldn't Raska be carrying Has's Alchemy Kit, and we can use the containers in it?" But I shut that down by saying kits don't come with free crytal vials, sacks, pouches, etc. That's what Gizmos, Create Object, and planning are for.) Gale grabbed part of a leg for some purpose, and Has' and Mo started to discuss a dungeon-to-table restaurant. Then the PCs moved on and began to work their way around the tunnels.

They made it to the "rest area" cave, and harvested some red-tinged and purple-tinged mushrooms, plus refreshed and ate from the Essential Water and Essential Food (mushrooms) there. Gale complained at the lack of lentils, a recurring theme. Has' waited outside with someone else to "guard" - his soul is too stained to enter.

From there they reached the first pair of double doors they intended to open. It took some work to move the 9' wide, 21' tall doors, but they did it. They moved down the red-marbled hallway inside to a door covered with silver studs, linings, and edgings. Blocked the big doors open with magically shaped stone, and opened the interior door. There was a crack as the big doors closed despite the stone, a golden flash . . . and the PCs were in another cube-shaped room.

They found themselves amongst six flesh-eating apes who were wandering through. Many of the PCs had failed their Body Sense rolls, and the apes grabbed Raska and bit him in the face (for max damage), grappled Veronico, and failed to significantly engage anyone else. Then the PCs got rolling - Gale and Has' used Lightning to shock the apes, Hjalmarr, Raggi, and Mo just attacked them straight up, and Ike tried to not get killed. In a few seconds it was over - Raska was badly chewed on (two max damage face bites!), Veronico strangled a bit, and the six apes ranging from "mortally wounded and twitching" to "definitely dead." Mo smashed one's skull to make sure of him.

They lingered a bit, checking the apes and healing, until they heard stone scraping and flapping - gargoyles. They fled down a random corridor, and found a marked number and used it to orient themselves on the map.

They went to the next door, and through that. Same result. Hjalmarr's attempts to quickly peek didn't amount to anything - he saw literally nothing but a flash of golden light.

On nearly the last trip to the doors, they found themselves in a tunnel near the gargoyles, and again hurried away to avoid having a useless fight. Instead they got attacked from the flank by a hungry, angry umber hulk! The weird blobby humanoid confused poor Veronico and nearly did so to Mo and Gale, and bit someone on the chest (Veronico, I think). But in a few seconds the umber hulk, too, was slain, having been shocked and smashed in the skull repeatedly. They moved on.

They made their way back, again. This happened six times in turn.

When they opened the interior door the sixth time, the outer doors closed, but they could now see inside.

Inside was a spherical room, 30' across, painted light green to dark green on the bottom half, light blue to deep blue at the top, with a white sarcophagus floating in mid-air in the middle. It was decorated with seals with a tower and crossed axe and sword. That's Baron Sterick the Red's symbol. Oh . . .

But how to get to it? It was far, it was 15' off the floor, and only Has' has Levitate and he has to concentrate to move you. The doorway was too narrow for a second person. So they decided they'd hook a grapnel over the door's ring, attach it to Has, and send him in. He didn't touch but did verify the symbol was on top.

He floated back. Now what?

Mo tossed in an "acorn." The floor was solid, the seed pod was unharmed. The floor was clearly smooth - marble-smooth (I joked it was coated in White Plumium, the slickest element known to GM kind, but it was just marble.)

Before they got too involved, Mo insisted they see if they could open the big doors.

So they did. As they tried to opened the big doors, the interior door closed, there was a golden light, and they found themselves in a cube-shaped room.



Six more trips around the dungeon later, they made their way back in, only having one significant encounter. They stumbled across 15 man-sized slicer beetles. They made short work of them, but Raggi got a sliced foot from a bite and the PCs were concerned a lucky shot would mess them up.

The second time they faced the sarcophagus (now called either "the trap" or the "sarcophagus of endless slimes" or "Sterick's tomb"), but from another angle.

This time they tried to anchor a grapnel on it to pull in the sarcophagus (didn't work, it was rooted as if on stone), or pull off the lid (not, it was seemingly lift-and-slide, not slide or just lift), or otherwise get it to do something. Has' called to the sarcophagus and tried to talk to its occupant. Nothing.

So Has' floated in, with a rope around him, anchored to Mo. He saw the top of the tomb had an unfinished inscription, in florid script - "Our Dear Lord, who" and then it cut off to part of a letter (not enough to identify it). It had been chiseled in, but the work hadn't been completed. The top also had a large logo identical to the ones on the side.

In the end, they had Has' touch it. The sarcophagus started to open. He Levitated back as Mo reeled him in. As they did, the door started to close. Raska was holding it fast with his high ST, but it was still moving inexorably as the sarcophagus opened. They put in a crowbar, but it bent, and snapped. Inside of a minute, before they could see what was in the sarcophagus, the door closed.

Golden flash, Body Sense rolls, and in a cube-shaped room.


So they made their way around to the doors again, this time having to take a detour to avoid a slime, but otherwise finding their way around and eventually making it to the double doors, each of six in turn.

They came in a third door. Hjalmarr gave the NPCs a speech about this being do-or-die, no retreat, you're in and that's it, but we're there too and once more unto the breach and folks in Felltower will regret not being here this day and such. It worked well enough.

In the PCs went, sliding down the walls of the sphere. Has' floated up and touched the sacrophagus. As before, it opened, and before it was open enough to see inside the door was fully closed.

He floated back and away. The others looked up.

A man sat up and blinked at Has', and asked who he was. Then the man stood up - balding, but with flowing grey hair, wearing glossy black ornate plate armor (magical, obviously). The man drew a sword and an axe and held them, and demanded they say who they were. Has' answered.

Who was this guy?

They all recognized him as they saw his face - Baron Sterick the Red. They recognized this weapons, Shieldslayer and Magesbane*, the names of which they'd just found out thanks to Hjalmarr asking that specifically in town. He demanded they kneel before him. Has' lowered himself into somewhat of a floating mage-bow (it's a robe-holding curtsy), and Hjalmarr knelt and had his NPCs kneel, too. Mo, Gale, and Raggi refused. They kept talking, and Sterick was stern and didn't say much but made some demands of names, actions, etc. Sterick motioned Has' closer.

Has' came just a little closer.

"DIE WIZARD!" yelled Sterick, and he slashed Has' with Mageslayer. Has' tried to Dodge, gaining a pile of bonuses for height, retreat, and aerial movement, but it was a Deceptive Attack -7. He was struck and sliced badly, despite his six-fingered guy Magery-enhanced scale. The PCs started to stand up and act. Mo shouted up a challenge to come and fight him.

Sterick accepted the challenge and jumped down to attack Mo, quickly Feinting him and swinging his axe at Mo's Targe of the Tiger (from DF6) and his neck. He hit both - and Mo's shield howled a tiger-like yowl, and wrenched and twisted and broke into bent pieces. The neck hit landed, and he wounded Mo badly, but failed to kill or stun him. Mo went berserk. The others stood and moved in, but Sterick had placed Mo between himself and easy attackers.

In a second or two everyone was going. Veronico shot Sterick in the face, but the arrow loudly pinged off the air in front of him. Raggi swung at him and critically hit! But then he only rolled average damage and merely creased Sterick's armor.

Sterick wounded Mo further, but rolled an 18 on his axe swing and lost it! It clattered to the ground. The PCs moved to force him back. Mo's morningstar had turned in his grasp, so he dropped it and tackled Sterick and forced him to parry and retreat to avoid it. Sterick did, nimbly walking up the sphere's side even as PCs slipped and fell trying to follow. Raggi fell trying to follow up on his success.

Has' and Gale opened up with Lightning, nailing him once apiece, leaving him smoldering and angry, but otherwise he was able to Dodge. Generally they fired face-on against him when he was obscured by friends, so they couldn't usefully use Prediction Shot (and ma have forgotten it entirely, or didn't know the rule) and Sterick was able to Dodge all of them from then out.

Mo kept after Sterick, taking horrible damage. Sterick hit him in the neck over and over, Feinting and then striking with both weapons, missing the bear every time (clearly he's an expert at dealing with barbarians). Ike healed him, but to no avail - tired of chopping his neck, he chopped his skull open to the chin with Magebane.

As Mo was dying, Hjalmarr was picking up Shieldslayer. He stood up and tried to hit Sterick, but he was easily parried. Sterick chopped at his hand. Hjalmarr parried. A second chop was a critical hit, and off came Hjalmarr's hand, axe with it.

Has' decided enough was enough. He spoke into his ring and wished for the PCs, living and dead, and their stuff, and Sterick's weapons, to be teleported to the Old Stone Bridge outside of Stericksburg.

Nothing. The ring literally did nothing - it didn't expend the wish, it just did nothing.

Too greedy, maybe? - That seemed to be the consensus.

Sterick was still after Hjalmarr, as Raggi got up, recovered his axe, and tried to hit Sterick. He had a 15, rolled a 6, and hit . . . oh, if he'd only not done his Trademark Move and had a 16+. Sterick critically parried and knocked Raggi's axe out of his hands. Raggi drew his knife because he couldn't get to his axe. Has' blasted him with an Explosive Lightning around now, missing but catching him in part of the blast. It wasn't enough.

A second later, Has' tried another wish, this time asking only that the PCs be whisked away with with their stuff.

Again, nothing.


Gale ended up close to Sterick at this point, missed him with an 18d Lightning and got slashed down. He lay on his back, wounded, trying to stay conscious while he faked dead and started in on Entombment.

Has' said something at this point, as he backed up into the air, mocking Sterick (or at least seeming to). Sterick angrily walked up the air and slashed at Has', hitting him and killing him outright. His body fell on the ground next to Gale.

Sterick ignored him as Hjlamarr tried to shield bash him, contemptuously parrying, and reached down and snapped his axe up as it flew out of Hjalmarr's severed hand and into his.

Raggi slashed at him as Sterick offered him a joke - "Axeman, join my bodyguards!"

"Sorry, my crew needs me."

So Sterick killed him - or at least seemed to. He slashed Raggi's neck with his axe, rolling pathetic damage, but it was still enough to put him to -23 HP. Raggi failed his death check by his margin of Hard to Kill. He dropped, seemingly dead, but really just unconscious. Ike started saying prayers in between casting healing spell after healing spell.

Sterick called the PCs church fools as Hjalmarr tried to talk now that violence wasn't working. Sterick mocked him and destroyed his shield and then cut him down. He went after Ike, next, even as the wizards cast on him. Ike zapped him in the face with Sunbolt. Sterick didn't Dodge, he just took it, and blinked off the attack with only a slight face burn and no blindness.

Gale tried Entombment, and made it . . . but Sterick beat his roll by a few points. Nothing.

He killed Ike with a contemptuous sword blow, saying that people like him had made him as he is.

Gale tried to throw a fireball from his necklace, but missed badly. It exploded harmlessly. Sterick kicked him in the chest for 10 damage and broke some ribs and told him to just lay there and stop bothering him (not in so many words.)

This whole time, Raska held back (he's not a fighter) and Veronico pinged arrow after arrow off of Sterick. Even his bodkins did nothing, and his skill was too low to useful aim for chinks. Sterick's exposed face was protected and bodkins did nothing there, either.

The fight was over. Sterick stalked Veronico and cut his head off. Then he stalked Raska right after Gale fell unconscious. He ran him through, fatally.

We ended the session there. No survivors, although it's still technically possible Gale and Raggi are alive. They were when everyone was out and couldn't verify what happened next. But there isn't any easy escape from the place Sterick was meant to "rest," forever.


For pictures, check Instagram and the #Felltower tag.

XP was 1 per person for finding a new area, MVP was Hjalmarr for asking to try and open all of the doors this session. No one can spend them, of course . . .

Using the DFRPG screen - actually two, one for me back to back with one for the players - was great. So was using Spells and Exploits instead of other books. Nice. Smooth, easy, handy, fast.

This was a "danger pocket," one of the originals. It's a centerpiece to the dungeon in some ways - the burial place of Baron Sterick the Red. Lots of clues pointed to this area, and some on how to get into it, but they were sometimes bypassed, misunderstood, or just not encountered as people veered off from area where they were. It's fine, the danger was clear, they just could have had a firmer idea of what could be within. I think Dryst's player suggested long ago that this could be Sterick's burial spot, but I could be mis-remembering.

As danger pockets go, this one is outstandingly dangerous. Tough environment. Go in, or don't go in, and a do-or-die choice. Every attempt to either secure a retreat (keep the doors open, check if you can leave) or effect a retreat (Wish their way out) failed. The opponent within isn't unstoppable but he's utterly lethal, and how someone put it was that they now know how everything in Felltower feels fighting Vryce. Add some poor choices, convincing themselves the opponent was potentially incorporeal and preparing for that, and some just inopportune rolling and good rolling by me and things went badly. The PCs had no where to run and had bet on being able to do so. They couldn't. TPK.

Just goes to show, you can go in eyes wide open and as prepared as possible, have reserves for the worse case scenario you can prepare for, and still have bad things happen.

I feel badly about this. I though they'd lose a few guys - Sterick is murder on his target, honestly - and some shields - but otherwise win out. They didn't. But at the same time, I deliberately set out to make some danger pockets places where going is betting your paper man that you are good enough for them. Retreat, recovery, and non-win options being limited or impossible. And I made those places that way only if I could logically do so in a game-world consistent way. It worked as designed. Sadly, it didn't work as I'd hoped.

What next? Not sure, how we proceed is being discussed. In-game explanations for how everyone knows the summary when no one lived have been identified. I'll post about that tomorrow. I had to cut out some must-do work today to get this written, so if my responses to comments, etc. seem slow, yeah, they are. I traded sleep later for writing now, before I totally forgot the order of events instead of merely garbled it.

* My players will detect a name change here - the origins were Mageslayer and Shieldbane, but in actual speech I kept revesing them to Magebane and Shieldslayer every time. So to heck with it, let's change them officially.

Monday, September 25, 2017

DF Felltower, Session 92, Felltower 65 (Brief Summary)

September 25th, 2017

Weather: Hot, sunny.

Hasdrubel Stormcaller, human wizard (333 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (347 points)
     Brother Ike, human initiate (166 points)
     Raska, human laborer (62 points)
     Veronico, human archer (125 points)
Mo (his momma call him Kle), human barbarian (350 points)
Red Raggi, human berserker (?? points, NPC)
Quention Gale, human druid (317 points)

Hasdrubel Stormcaller, human wizard (333 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (347 points)
     Brother Ike, human initiate (166 points)
     Raska, human laborer (62 points)
     Veronico, human archer (125 points)
Mo (his momma call him Kle), human barbarian (350 points)
Red Raggi, human berserker (?? points, NPC)
Quention Gale, human druid (317 points)

Details to follow later today or tomorrow . . . *

* Sorry, work before writeups, and writing before writeups, and I have a lot of work and writing to do today.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

DF Pre-summary teaser

Eight entered Felltower.

None returned.

How's that for a teaser?

DF Felltower today

We've got a session of Felltower on tap today. It's looking like we should be able to get in a good number of sessions before the end of the year - lots of potential gaming days on my calendar at least. Not as many as I'd like, but still a good number.

It should be a relatively small crew today, unlike the larger groups we had earlier this year. But that's actually more normal, to me. I should go back and count the number of players per session overall for Felltower, but 4-5 is pretty standard, and for all of the 6+ player sessions we had a number of 1-3 player sessions as well. That's another area where a megadungeon can shine - there are places you want to go after with a big group. And there are places you're going to move around in when only a few people can show up.

So expect a summary teaser tonight, and then if I have time I should get up a full summary tomorrow or Tuesday.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

DF-to-DFRPG - which critical hits?

Yesterday I put up a list of the rules I need to add to the DFRPG for DF Felltower.

The Critical Hit rules I mentioned are the ones from Basic Set: Characters, p. 326.

They are under Attacking, the last two paragraphs of Attack Roll. The short version is that a 3 is maximum damage, a 4-whatever your critical hit number is (4, 5, 6, even 7+ for certain Swashbucklers) just hits without allowing a defense roll.

And that's is.

We use the Critical Miss Tables. But in the interest of speed, we skip the Critical Hit Tables. It's been fine, and has in fact sped things up without anyone really feeling like they've lost out.

Friday, September 22, 2017

DF-to-DRFRPG game conversion: Additional Rules List

Here is the list of additional rules I think I need to list and summarize in a document for my players to refer to:

Charging Foes (Obstruction only) (Martial Arts)
Critical Hits (Basic Set)
Cross Parry (Martial Arts)
Extreme Dismemberment (Martial Arts)
Long Weapons in Close Combat (Martial Arts)
Mind Games (contests of Will only) (Martial Arts)
Multiple Blocks (Martial Arts)
Parrying with Two-Handed Weapons (Martial Arts)
Quick Readying Nearby Weapons (Martial Arts)
Rate of Fire (Basic Set)
Shoves with Weapons (Martial Arts)
Striking at Shields (Martial Arts)
Telegraphic Attack (Martial Arts)
Tip Slash (Martial Arts)
Tricky Shooting (Prediction Shot only) (Martial Arts)
and of course CP-based grappling.

That might be it. Possibly Damage to Shields, too, although we rarely use that in actual play.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

New Magic Item for DFRPG on Kickstarter Update

In case anyone missed it, my contribution to the DFRPG boxed set, Magic Items, has a blurb and a new magic item over on Kickstarter:

Shipping Update, & A Tome Of Magical Wonders

Scroll down for the Tome of Wonders!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Random Notes & Links for 9/20

Really busy day as part of a really busy week, so mostly I'm going to refer out today.

- Life Imitates Blog - And upside of having the blog, and the detailed summaries, is when they positively influence game. I'm pretty sure the next Felltower game session is going to feature exploration of one of the Danger Pockets simply because someone was reminded of it by reading my examples of what Danger Pockets are. It's not certain, as there is a lot to do in Felltower, but it's certainly an option. Had I stuffed that post into my "finish next week" pile, perhaps we'd have a different session.

- Big Bad / Short Fight - sometimes the big bad just gets wasted. This is why I like non-unique monsters! Killed my super man-scorpion-thing? It's okay, there are more! The PCs must have killed the same half-dozen slorn counters and orc minis and troll figures and so on over and over. Also, it's why those unexpected fights where some random NPC beats up the whole party or a nothing of a wandering monster derails all exploration as people run and hide are so fun.

- Suppression Fire - Doug has a new spin on Suppression Fire. Or at least on RoF. Of course, it's based on the Size and Speed/Range Table, because it's Doug. If it was me, it would be the Reaction Roll Table ("Very Good - wow, nice shooting Tex! You hit a whole bunch of them!")

- I forgot to mention there is a new DF item out - The Pagoda of Worlds. Since I have a lot to read and little time to read it, all work related (can you say CEUs?), I haven't gotten to this yet. I will get it and review it when I have a chance.

- I am still working my way through old posts replacing pictures no longer working through Photobucket. It's very slow going, as I need to be on my home PC when I stumble on the post, have the time to edit and search, and then do so. Sorry for all of the broken links. Had I know earlier Photobucket would ask for $300/year to do this thing, I would have switched fully over to Google's hosting immediately. But no, I wanted to diversify my dependencies. Silly me.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

No Town Game

Another aspect of my game that mirrors the West Marches campaign is the idea of "No Town Game."

A couple of quotes sum it up:

"make town safe and the wilds wild — Having the town be physically secure (walled or in some cases protected by natural features like rivers or mountains) is very useful for making a sharp “town = safe / wilderness = danger” distinction. Draconian law enforcement inside town, coupled with zero enforcement in the wilds outside town, also helps. Once you are outside the town you are on your own."

"the adventure is in the wilderness, not the town — As per the discussion of NPCs above, be careful not to change the focus to urban adventure instead of exploration. "

Both of those describe the four "town" settings my PCs have dealt with: Falcon's Keep, Swampsedge, the pilgrim's camp (aka "Rumshackles"), and of course, Stericksburg.

To be fair, some of this is a basic feature of GURPS Dungeon Fantasy as-written: town is vague and resolved with die rolls and simple effects. Town is safe unless you choose to make a roll and blow it. Town is where adventurers gather and get a minimum of information of the world around them, enough to send them off on an adventure.

Mine is a big less minimal than that, since we've got a big rumors table and sages for hire and recurring town NPCs of mostly color-level importance. But it's otherwise the same: safe, abstract, and not a place where adventure happens.

Again, the reasoning is the same - if you make town a place of adventure, people will adventure there instead. There is always one more thing to do in town anyway, even when the PCs are leaving. Ask this one guy something. Buy one more potion. Check to see if one more spell stone is for sale. Double-check if everyone has enough rope. Check and see if there just happens to be one more hireling ready. Adding actual adventure will mean you spend more time in town and less in the dungeon. Adding important adventures means you'll turn the focus from the dungeon to the town.

And that's fine, for a town-centered game. Or a town-and-dungeon game. Or a game where dungeons provide clues and links and resources that influence town. But not for a game where the dungeon is the thing, and town is a way to allow people to replenish and recharge between delves.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Warhammer Fantasy Role-Playing 2nd edition Humble Bundle

Thanks to Erik Tenkar for pointing this out.

There is a Humble Bundle of Warhammer Fantasy Role-Playing game books.

$1 will get you the WFRPG rulebook, 2nd edition, in PDF, plus three books.

Higher tiers will get you more.

II went in for it - $1 for something to read on my Kindle on vacation. WHFRPG 1st edition made my head spin, with all of the misery of being a spellcaster, profession-hoping, and mechanics I couldn't quite understand right away. But it had nice flavor (flavour?) to it. You can throw in more for more books, or just to support the charities they're supporting.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Danger Pockets

There is a very interesting series of web posts on a sandbox-style fantasy campaign called the "West Marches."

If you haven't read them, and you have any interest in sandbox-style play, it's worth reading them. You can start here:

Grand Experiments: The West Marches

I first discovered them a few years after I'd started running my DF campaign, Felltower. What's interesting to me is that many of the features of the West Marches game are also features of mine, in a case of parallel development. Or re-invention of the wheel. Or however else you'd term it. My game came later, and by a combination of accident, design, and emergent lessons of running a sandbox, I ended up with many of the same situations.

While I don't run a wide-open game featuring a large pool of players, I can't just run game on whatever day a few players are available to show up at my house, and I don't feature a wilderness-based area, the similarities really struck me. I read those posts and felt, hey, I do that. Hey, I realized that and changed to that. Hey, that happens in my games, too.

We started with very similar approaches. A modernized version of an old game (his was D&D 3.5 3.0, mine GURPS 4th edition). Minis. Tactical combat. Open rolling (although I still conceal a lot). Narrowed choices of character design but open access within those choices. Risk of death. Cross-player shared maps and knowledge to keep information from being siloed. A decided lack of NPC rivals willing to do the inherently foolish thing of walking open-eyed into extreme danger because you think there is money there.

I decided I'd finally sit down and take a look at some of the elements my game shares with the West Marches, and discuss them in the context of Felltower. Partly because I think it might make an interesting and helpful series of posts. And partly because it was a fun experiment for me to analyze my own game in light of someone else's game.

Today let's talk Danger Pockets.

Danger Pockets

My game in general, but the megadungeon Felltower in particular, has what Ben Robbins called "danger pockets." These are especially high-reward areas, which are often high-risk, difficult to access, difficult to find, or all three. The risk is much higher than the area around it. But I try to make the reward out of proportion to the risk, or at least well out of proportion to the surrounding area. They are static places, although they may feature mobile danger.

Sometimes they are really easy to find but getting in has some difficulty. They're places you can avoid for as long as you want - maybe forever - but if you want to get rich, one way is through those places.

Just like in the West Marches, people sometimes find these and then put them aside for "later," and "later" becomes "never."

Not everything is a "danger pocket." The big lizard man demon temple was a huge, epic fight, but not a "danger pocket." The dragon fought many sessions back was just a very dangerous encounter. The sword-spirit with his great magical sword wasn't a "danger pocket." Even the Lord of Spite isn't - he's an unavoidable problem that happens to have some treasure if you know where to go and get it. The dungeon isn't just broke wandering monsters and "danger pockets."

Interesting areas aren't all "danger pockets," either. The room of pools is interesting, and had an encounter, but wasn't really any more or less interesting than, say, the hall of murals and No Mana Zones or the apartment complexes or the weird temple. They weren't really out of line with what was around them. A statically located reward guarded with a challenge isn't a danger pocket. That's just normal danger for a sandbox.

But what is a good example of a danger pocket?

Good examples are: (* means it's been cleared or accessed)

- the Black Library*
- the draugr
- the "boss's" apartment complex*
- the double-doors in the "cavern area" past the "dragon cave."
- the big dragon
- the twinned temple*
- whatever is behind the repelling doors
- the force-walled temple in the Lost City
- the statue-puzzle "black door" (to the treasury)*
- the gate destinations (generally)

That's not all of them. That's just some.

The gate destinations are interesting. Either they are high-risk high-reward areas, or they're just access to new adventuring areas in general. I'm a little concerned they'll see very little actual adventuring, because by design they aren't set up for dipping a toe in to check the water temperature. You can't just pop in, look around, and get back out and come back when you're ready. Well, you can for some, but not all, and it's not always going to be clear which it is until you go for it.

But the one-and-done or enter easily/leave with difficulty places are "danger pockets" - high risk, but high reward. They'll wait for someone to take some risk to exploit it. And if you set them aside until "later," and only come back once you've reduced the risk to nil, odds are the treasure is not going to be as high-impact as if you'd gotten it first. Imagine if the PCs had solved the rotating statue puzzle right away, and cleared out rings of wishes and high-end healing stones and piles of coins and gems years back. And for reward, it was dangerous and tricky, required thought and a lot of travel around a dangerous dungeon (and thus some work), and carried well in excess of the amount of treasure anything else on the 2nd level could be expected to have.

I highly recommend using some "danger pockets" in your sandbox. Or even in a more linear campaign, so you can bring it back as a callback to earlier days. As in, "Hey, the key to the wizard's treasury must be the one behind that lethal series of magical traps we saw back in Dungeon #1!"

It's tricky as a player to guess what would count, or start interpreting encounters as "danger pockets." But once it's clear an area is especially dangerous and potentially especially rewarding, it's worth keeping in mind that there might be special rewards lurking there, too. Think static areas where something way more dangerous than what is around it lurks and waits for someone brave enough to take the risk to exploit it. Why I am going on about this? Because I half expect players to meta-discuss if something is a "danger pocket" or "just another encounter" to try to analyze risk to reward. Analyzing with only the information on the PC side of the screen can be deceptive - you can get a 100% logical conclusion that leads you astray because you're operating with far less than 100% of the actual data.

Long story short? You can avoid clear "danger pockets" for now, or forever. But there is usually better-than-commensurate reward for tackling them. Clear and obviously more-dangerous area probably have more reward, if you're willing to chance them.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

DFRPG Unboxings

In case you missed any of these from my sidebar, here are two looks inside the DFRPG physical boxed set:

DFRPG Unboxing

Dungeons Fantasy RPG for GURPS has arrived at the Attic!

What ones did I miss? Post links in the comments!

Friday, September 15, 2017

DFRPG - Arrived!

My DFRPG box arrived today. Let's see how it looks:

DFRPG arriving today

My DFRPG boxed set is due to arrive today, so I'll post about it later when it arrives - maybe I can get some unboxing pics.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The DFRPG is on the way here

I got a notice yesterday that my DFRPG materials are on the way - I should receive them Saturday.

We'll start using them right away, which means next game.

What I'm hoping the DFRPG will do for me:

- simplify my game overhead by reducing the numbers of PDFs I need to keep open and places I need to reference.

- get more buy-in from players reluctant to read and learn the rules.

- replace my so-so GM screen with a DF-centric screen*

- allow me to replace all references for rules with a simple house rules bundle and "See Exploits."

What I don't expect it to do:

- fully replace my DF books, especially template-heavy ones and Power-Ups we intend to keep (which is all of the ones we're using now.)

- undermine the DF-compatibility of my materials

- fundamentally change our DF experience

We'll see how it all goes next game, which is in just a couple of weeks.

* My plan for the screen is to print out the PDF of the screen and tape that to the player's side, as well - they don't need pictures, nice as they are, they need charts.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Suspicious Shopkeepers (thank to The Onion)

The Onion explains why the people of Felltower are so wary of the PCs:

Video Game Shopkeeper Starting To Get Suspicious After Selling 800 Bombs To Player

Yep, that's Felltower, right there.

"Hmm, that guy cleaned me out of alchemist's fire, paut, healing potions, and dark vision eye rub . . . and last week he was selling 'crab legs' and blood-stained weapons and weird idols and was pretty cagey about where it came from."

This is why the PCs don't all have a +4 reputation as generally great guys who spend a lot in town. Oh, sure, they spend a lot in town, but how they get that cash and what they spend it on, well, it's like a guy who comes to the pawn shop with a bunch of antique gold and then swings by Wal*Mart and cleans them out of ammo, sterno, and pressure cookers . . . and repeats that week after week. You're going to be regarded with some concern.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

DM David posts I liked

I stumbled across these posts this weekend by DM David and I enjoyed them:

Four Essential Qualities of a 4-Hour Dungeons & Dragons Adventure - this could probably be the four essential qualities of a game session, too. If you've got all four, you've probably got a good game session going on. 2-3, okay. 0-1, eh. I don't always get a fast start to my games, but I try to ensure the other three are available in my megadungeon. They certainly are in our Gamma Terra campaign, too.

I especially like #4. I remember this article about GMing Top Secret, where the writer said that if you set an adventure in Hawaii and then stick the entire session inside of an office building, you're wasting the setting. In a world with magic (and in our post-apoc game, radiation and mutants) there should be something magical in the encounters. Not all of them, but at least some.

How to Use Scenes and Summaries to Focus on the Best Parts of a Role-Playing Adventure - I don't consciously think of "scenes" and "summaries" but perhaps I should. I use both - we focus tightly in on combat, obstacles, challenges, and puzzles, and pull back to "we go down this long corridor, turn left at the T, and then go straight" or "you all get back to town" summaries the other times. I just wasn't explicitly categorizing them in this way. It seems like a useful tool for thinking about when to slow things down and when to speed things up as your write and prepare adventures, especially more narrowly focused ones (ones with a developing story, plot, or sequences of events to deal with.)

And I like this post about Backstory. I do a lot of that - backstory found in a lost tome is something the players read. Backstory read to the PCs at the beginning is ignored and no one remembers it. "Whose castle?" "The Dark Mage's castle, weren't you listening?" No, they weren't. You need to find a better way - if the players are ignoring your backstory, it's not a "them" problem.

I haven't read a huge amount of DM David's posts, but those I found and I liked. I'll probably dig around more and see what else might help my gaming.
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