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.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Bones 3 Trades Complete List

Here are all of the figures I intend to trade:
(strikethrough means it's gone now)

115 Female Elf with long-handled sword
119 Female Dwarf with Hammer
123 Dwarf Cleric
125 Male Human Priest
126 Female Warrior
135 Centipedes (set of 4)
136 Ticks (set of 4)

152 Warrior with Sword and Shield
154 Female Warrior with Sword and Polearm
169 Werebat
190 Orc Porter
191 Female Smith with Anvil
194 Halfling Cook
208 Pathfinder I Warrior
223 Pathfinder II demon (?) with trident

240 Dwarf with Axe
243 Female Dwarf Cleric
255 Female Warrior with Sword and Shield
259 Sophie

Wild West Oz (224, 226-229 - NOT 225)
Savage Worlds (141-146)

All four weapon sets:
Armory of Virtue (full sprue)
Armoury of Vice (full sprue)
Armoury of Death (full sprue)
Arsenal (full sprue)

I also have a vulture perched on a gravestone that I can't find in the pictures or my expansion set list.

Numbers come from this picture.

Please let me know if you're interested in a trade. I could use duplicates of anything from Stoneskull, any Bones monsters (aside from the ones I'm trading above), another Pathfinder troll, any Ogres, another giant snake, the yeti, the ape shapeshifter, or any of the hobgoblins or goblins.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

More Session 89 pictures

Here are two more pictures from Session 89 I didn't have time to put up.

In the second one, you can see a skull marker showing the middle of a 4-area Pollen Cloud spell.

The Ogre is a Legendary Encounters pre-paint from Reaper. So are three of the goblins - the rest are from Bones 1, painted to match. The owlbear is also from Bones 1. The orcs are a Reaper Dark Heavens Legends orc, and two TSR Monster Tribes orcs with saw-toothed spears. Both come from that set I got off of eBay a while back. The PCs are the usual mix - Ral Partha, a D&D pre-paint, a Bones ghoul as a zombie, a weapon-swapped Wargames Foundry Viking, an old TSR wizard, a Bones wizard done up as a druid, and a Reaper DHL barbarian.

Monday, July 10, 2017

DF Felltower, Session 89, Felltower 62 - Orcs & Owlbear Pelts

July 9th, 2017

Weather: Warm and clear.

Currently Active:
Alaric, human scout (255 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (304 points)
     Brother Ike, human initiate (148 points)
Melchior the Malevolent, human wizard (roughly 125 points)
     Melchior's Zombie, former Crazy Champion.
Quenton Gale, human druid (300 points)
Red Raggi, human berserker (?? points, NPC)

We started in Felltower with a short crew - only three players could make it. They made do with what they had, though, luckily finding Raggi and spending some money on drinks and a crier to find skilled companions. They managed to find Melchior the Malevolent, one of the two they were looking for (the other being Orcish Bob.) The Meeposian brothers were nowhere to be found. They gathered a few rumors - Raggi had heard from a cleric that the good book says you can only really kill a demon lord in Hell, so he said, "Let's kill the Lord of Spite there!"

They stocked up on rope, some healing potions and alchemist's fire, finally got a spy horn (so they listen at doors with less of a penalty), and readied their bridge. Then they headed out, meeting Gale on the edge of town. They'd settled on going down the "orc hole."

They moved up to the castle and did the usual rope trick of getting in - grapnel and climbing a knotted rope, then hauling up the bridge, then lowering the bridge, then climbing down from inside one of the towers. From there they made it down, set up the bridge, and crossed and headed through the noisy room and worked their way down to the next level. They stopped often and mapped and re-mapped, trying to consolidate a few inaccurate maps into one more accurate one. Nothing bothered them - that section of the dungeon is largely deserted at this point. They found the doors they'd spiked open were either closed or hanging open but not spiked - the spikes were gone.

They continued down, heading toward the orc hole. They wanted to visit the altar, since Alaric has never touched it, but there were blockages on the only routes they knew.

Eventually they made it past the statue room and toward the orc hole. As they approached, they tossed lightstones ahead and retrieved them, finally getting one near the hole in the floor they call the "orc hole" and the corner.

There the PCs were rushed - not by orcs, but by goblins - almost two dozen of them. Deeper voices egged them on from behind. The PCs waded into them - Hjalmarr cutting down two, Alaric shooting down one or two, and Raggi rushing up before Gale put down a Pollen Cloud choking off the hallway. The goblins came on, but coughing and sneezing. They got packed in from behind as goblins in front suddenly met Raggi charging them, decapitating goblins as he moved in, ignoring the pollen cloud. They started clumping up, too closely packed to effectively fight.

Meanwhile from behind the goblins came an ogre with an owlbear on a chain and three orcs. They ignore the pollen - and in a moment it winked out, Dispeled or Purify Air'd. Alaric shot the owlbear in the eye, and Raggi stepped up and cut its throat open with his axe. It fell. The ogre smacked Raggi, wounding him and he went berserk. Hjalmarr cut down more goblins. Melchior hit a goblin with a fireball and lit his clothes on fire. Alaric shot the ogre in the eye, stunning him. Raggi chopped him as well and dropped him.

Hjalmarr jumped up on the wing/arm of the owlbear and faced two orcs, cutting one down and then a second later cutting down the other.

In the end all but two of the goblins (who climbed down the orc hole) and the others died - 19 goblins, 3 orcs, an ogre and an owlbear. Raggi calmed down after cutting down a few more goblins. Alaric got set on fire by an errant Fireball from Melchior.

The PCs moved away, knowing there was a spellcaster nearby and wanting to clear their rear before they moved into the "orc hole." The "orc hole" is roughly 45 degrees or steeper (in spots), and needs to be climbed down. Instead of moving quickly, they took their time - checking maps, fixing maps, systematically listening at doors, opening them up, fixing the maps, comparing map to map. Time moved on steadily - over the next 45 minutes or so they PCs cleared out a few rooms, finding evidence of orc sleeping areas in recent use but nothing else.

As they reached near the end of the row of alternating doors, they got ambushed. Alaric was listening at a door with his spy horn. Hjalmarr was covering him in case something came out. The others were spaced a yard or so apart with Raggi facing the rear.

An Ice Dagger shot out of the darkness down the hallway at an angle and hit Alaric, wounding him badly. He rolled a 17 on his stunning check and fell unconscious immediately. At the same moment four orcs attacked (amusingly, as I said "a lot happens at once" the PCs reacted with all of their movement ideas, who is taking out a potion, who is looking where, etc. I ignored them and resolved the rest.) From the ceiling dropped four black-and-dark-green garbed orcs. Gale heard the one land behind him and spun around in time to defend from two icepick-gripped long knife attacks. He managed both, barely. Meanwhile one orc landed behind Melchior and hatcheted him in the head and knifed him in the vitals - combined this put him nearly to -5xHP, and the poison on the blades did the rest. He died right away. Another landed behind Ike and stabbed him twice, and put him prone but not out, but making death checks. The last landed behind Hjalmarr and cut and stabbed him, wounding him badly and poisoning him as well.

The PCs quickly tried to get into better position. Gale kept All-Out Defending and retreating towards Ike. Ike healed himself with his staff and tried to play dead (pretty poorly.) Gale yelled to Raggi who spun and chopped at the hatchet-armed orc who parried him. Melchior's zombie attacked the nearest orc.

In a short but confused fight Raggi cut down one orc and then wounded another, who Gale knocked out with a hit to the head. Another two were cut down by Hjalmarr, despite some hits in return and bouncing some Ice Daggers off his mail. But then the dead ones - clearly dead, heads nearly off - started to stand back up. Gale yelled for Raggi to decapitate the orcs. He started on the nearest downed one. The two that stood back up were quickly cut down by Hjalmarr. The Raggi swept off the heads of the others. After this brief fight (8 seconds, I think), the Ice Dagger spells stopped. The PCs looked up and saw spikes in the walls near the ceiling, to give the orcs a place to hold themselves. No one looking up didn't help here.

They heard noises and tossed a light stone down by the orc hole to keep it lit, and saw many of the bodies were gone.

The PCs healed up quickly, looted the bodies (some weapons, no poison or cash but lots of skull imagery and skull tattoos) and continued clearing the hallway, clearing rooms. They found a few empty rooms and space for an ogre to sleep (not recently used).

Eventually they found a room with a scorched floor and writing in orcish on the wall. Hjalmarr copied it down, and while doing so he noticed a crack in the wall was probably a removable piece. He opened it (with his crowbar) and saw a bar. He fished that out with his crowbar. They opened it outside the room and checked - six buttons, a big stone seal of a tree (a druidic seal, Gale said, but he's not sure who), three agates, and an electrum ring. Nothing magical.

They moved around and found a "new" room, but it turned out to have a swinging spiked log trap that Hjalmarr took right in the vitals. He was pulled off of it and healed, but there was nothing in the room.

They found the battlefield had been cleaned up a bit - the orcs dragged off bodies, it seemed. So they dragged off the owlbear to the side and Gale skinned it (taking about 30 minutes) as they stood guard.

At this point, they decided to move on home, killing orcs as they went. They weren't sure if they had enough to clear the orc hole, with Melchior dead and the orcs on alert and a wizard that would be behind them. Concerned they could be sealed off and finished, they headed home.

They moved to the statue room but had to chop the door down - someone had piled headless goblin bodies behind it and forcing it jammed one's arm under the door. They cut the door apart and moved along.

They took some harassing fire from a crossbow team and two archers but no damage.

Eventually they reached the surface, and scouted ahead with Alaric. He heard orcs in one pillbox, so he snuck up and then coughed. When they opened he shot into the tiny slit and hit an orc in the face. Then the next one, and then the next one after that in the chest. Three down. Gale moved up and cast Pollen Cloud inside.

After that they checked the next pillbox but no one was home. They crossed the bridge and pulled it in and headed home.

Amusingly, Hjalmarr fell 30' from the wall on a terrible climbing attempt out. Once again, the PCs cursed their decision to break the portcullis raising mechanism with the portcullis down and locked.

They headed home, with Melchior's corpse in tow for Final Rest. They sold off the ring, buttons, and gems and the orc weaponry (except for two skull-pommeled long knives) and made a reasonable profit on the trip.


XP was 4 for everyone for loot, 0 for exploration (nothing new, although it was new to some of the players), 1 xp for Hjalmarr for his player's excellent mapping.

Once again an expedition against the orcs failed to penetrate the "orc hole." Pretty much this is what happens:

- the PCs march down, dealing with any nearby orcs.
- the PCs realize they don't know bow to get back out of the orc hole, so they want to secure their rear and move away to clear out any other nearby orcs.
- the PCs decide they can't risk going down that hole with what they have and with orcs on the alert, and back off.

Not a criticism, just a factual assessment of the attempts. They'll stare down that hole and think, okay, that's steep and we don't know where it'll come out and we can't go down with a wizard behind us.

The goblin shock troops were fun for me. Goblins have Cowardice, but can be dangerous. It's hard to be effective against vastly superior foes willing to use firepower and lay down magical effects on top of it. Out of 21 goblins who engaged the PCs, 19 of them were slain, with Raggi decapitating about half of those. But the orcs only cared that they took a shot that cost them little.

Raggi's tactics are always amusing to my players. It's really simple - attack the nearest foe with the most lethal attack at hand that doesn't leave him totally helpless, unless he's berserk, in which case, ignore the second part. Not a lot of thought in it. It's generally more effective than trying to chess-move your way across the battlefield managing arcs of facing and which foe you most needs to be hit this turn. Kill what's in front of you and then move to the closest. Repeat.

(For more pictures, see this post.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

DF Felltower preview

We played Felltower today, as planned.

Some highlights:

- six enter, five leave Felltower - and one of them feet first.

- a stab at the orc hole

- the PCs vs. goblin shock troops, an ogre, and an owlbear

- surprise attack by orc slayers and their magical support

- some oft-passed by treasure found

- lots of maps reconciled.

It was a good session, lots of fun. Hope we can get more people next time, but I will need to expand my gaming space a little to accommodate them. I'll try to get the session summary up ASAP.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Short crew delve preparation

Tomorrow we're playing Felltower, my GURPS Dungeon Fantasy game.

We've got three players coming - we should have Quenton Gale, Hjalmarr (and his sidekick Brother Ike), and Alaric.

What they can do is necessarily limited by:

- their numbers

- their makeup (druid, knight, scout, and an initiate)

- any NPCs who may or may not make it (Melchior, Orcish Bob, the Meeposian Brothers, Raggi)

So my prep is necessarily kind of up in the air. They may decide on any of a half-dozen different things that I can think of. They may go heavy (all the NPCs they can possibly find and hire) or light (just the four them, five if Raggi shows up). They may loot hunt, try to explore, try to do both. I'm really curious.

Actually the three people who'll play are three of the guys who started gaming with us this campaign, too.

Lucky for me, I'm hosting tomorrow, for the first time in this entire roughly 90 session campaign so far. So I don't need to decide what to pack, it's all here. We'll see how that goes.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Broken Photo Links notice

Photobucket has decided to disallow so-called 3rd party hosting - that is, I put my images on Photobucket, and link to them here with IMG SRC tags. I can upgrade the account, or switch to somewhere else.

I'm going to transition to hosting directly on Google, which is actually easier for me. This will mean a number of posts dependent on pictures will lose them. I'll try to go back and fix them as I can, but please understand if you come across dead links.

First wave of Bones 3 trades

I'm not decided on everything I'll sell or trade out of my Bones 3 set. But I have settled on these as "not wanted."

Numbers come from this picture.

115 Female Elf with long-handled sword
119 Female Dwarf with Hammer
123 Dwarf Cleric
135 Centipedes (set of 4)
136 Ticks (set of 4)
169 Werebat
Wild West Oz (in grey plastic, full set minus Hellboy whom I'm keeping)
240 Dwarf with Axe
243 Female Dwarf Cleric
Savage Worlds (full set)
259 Sophie

All four weapon sets:
Armory of Virtue (full sprue)
Armoury of Vice (full sprue)
Armoury of Death (full sprue)
Arsenal (full sprue)

I also have a vulture perched on a gravestone that I can't find in the pictures or my expansion set list.
More to come - I have a number I need to really look at. Mostly really fiddly detailed character minis and a lot of the female elves (who are also usually fiddly, and whom I don't need for my game.)

I'm still waffling on a few - some of the townsfolk, some of the torture gear, if I really want to paint and keep 16 more lizardmen (I have a lot.) If those are especially interesting to you, I might be swayed.

What I want

Vegepygmies (from Stoneskull)
Possibly stuff from other expansions I didn't get.
Reaper Dragon Turtle

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Review: GURPS Planet of Adventure

I recently re-read Jack Vance's excellent Planet of Adventure series. So I decided to take a look at the equally excellent sourcebook for it, GURPS Planet of Adventure

For more reviews, please see my reviews page.

By James L. Cambias
Published 2003 by Steve Jackson Games
128 pages

GURPS Planet of Adventure is a sourcebook for adventures based on Tschai, the world of Jack Vance's four-book Tschai series of the same name. The book is for 3rd edition GURPS, but folks conversant in GURPS can easily use its material for 4th edition if you don't mind point costs being different.

Like all of the various GURPS sourcebooks for fictional worlds, this one is quite thorough. It covers all of the peoples and places of Tschai mentioned in the books, even those mentioned more in passing (night-hounds, the Xars, the details of Dugbo magic). It includes stats for all of the major characters and a few who mainly show up as opposition (like Otwile the fighter, for example).

The sheer amount of useful tools in this book is impressive. Sequin node generation rules and table for sessions set in the Carabas. Common price items and job pay. Vehicles stats for Dirdir air-cars and airships. Stats for Dirdirmen claws, knife-foils, stings, hand catapults, sandblasts, Chasch blasters, and more. A glossary (useful as a companion when reading the books, too.) A pre-made adventure that feels quite Vancian. The Planet of Adventure designer's notes have a cool random adventure generator, as well.

Interestingly, the book uses Wanek and Wanekmen instead of Wankh and Wankhmen. Why? Because Jack Vance requested the change. I wonder why, after so many years. I guess the inherent jokes in Adam Reith vs. a bunch of Wankhs eventually wore him down.

The illustrations are quite good - they match the descriptions in the books but also expand on them where the text doesn't provide a complete picture. Some of them - like the Pnume in their hats and coats - really play up the oddness. Others, like the Wanek, are actually kind of creepy. Overall they work well.

Overall the book is very good. It does some from undershooting on skills and abilities, though. For example, Adam Reith has Fencing-12 for 1 point. This is the same Adam Reith who wins several sword duels and has a fencing instructor offer him a job at his academy. Seems a bit low - I'd have gone a bit higher. The alternative is to make everyone he fights worse, but I've found that doesn't work for players - it's more heroic to be a master warrior with 15-20 and beat foes with 12-15 than to be in the 12-14 range and beat people in the 8-10 range. So expect the best ass-kickers of the world to have 14s and 15s in their best skills and stats in the 11-13 range. I'm not sure why this is the case, but it's pretty persistent. Only GURPS Conan ever really felt to me like it was describing the sheer awesomeness displayed by the character in the books.

Still, this book really captures the look, feel, and enjoyment of the books in a well-constructed sourcebook. If you can find it, recommended.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Megadungeon "Best" Practice XVII - Lethal Entrances

For more "best" practices for megadungeon design, see my megadungeon design page.

Provide Non-Lethal Entrances & Exits

I was reminded of this from Paul's Blog and a lethal series of well-climbing trips into and out of Rappan Athuk.

Avoid having the main - or even only - way into a dungeon be potentially lethal. Even if you allow for precautions and care, if you can get wounded or killed getting into the dungeon on a bad roll you're discouraging delving.

Risky entrances are okay, but if the only way into and out of a dungeon is potentially lethal, you're actively discouraging players from exploring the dungeon. It does help explain why the dungeon isn't fully looted. But it also means players have incentives to:

- find another way in or out;

- find another dungeon;

- cut exploration short to maximize their chances of getting out of the potentially lethal entrance.

A lethal entrance pits the logic of the gameworld (dungeons should be hard to get into to explain why they have loot in them) vs. the logic of the game (players don't want their PCs to die and the GM wants them to enter the dungeon.)

Having a lethal or risky entrance that otherwise avoids other problems - it's unguarded, it's closer to deeper levels and more loot, it's more convenient, etc. - is a useful tool. But if it's the only way in and out, you're enforcing a tax in lost PCs to play the game. That's probably contrary to the goals of having a megadungeon in the first place.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Let the Bones 3 sorting begin

I finally have the time and a bit of space to really sort my Bones 3 minis. Here is the initial dump out:

I'll certainly trade the weapons - I don't need them and none of them really leap out as ones I need to have. Others, I'm not sure. I was pretty surprised to find a Hellboy mini (I didn't even realize he was in the set), and I'll probably keep him. But others, I'm more meh on - do I need Wizard of Oz minis? I don't like the Wizard of Oz. Oh well, I'll sort and see.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Simple Bar Contests: Knockdown

This simple but brutal contest is another good one for DF.

Players often ask me about getting into bar fights, pit fights, etc. But honestly, it never works out. As long they are winning they are fine with it, but as soon as they start to lose they'll turn it into a lethal battle. Since most of my games have lethal battles anyway, it's just all downside - we get just another combat, and nasty consequences like dead NPCs and Social Stigma (Criminal Record).

Better is something that just doesn't act like a fight but uses fight rules. Something that is just stupid.


Two opponents face one another at arm's length. They take turns delivering punches to the other's face. Defending is bad form. Make a Will roll not to flinch - flinching allows a free penalty shot by the opponent. The loser is the first one to fall down. Keep your cleric handy for afterward!

Traditionally opponents take All-Out Attack (Strong) and Telegraphic Attack for a wind-up full power strike. Alternatively use Shoves, instead, and just make the contest about knocking the opponent back.

Options include the Chessboxing approach, but with drinks (one round punching, one round of shots), or having the fighters precariously balanced (DX roll not to fall down when struck, DX roll not to fall down when striking!), or other mixed variations.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Felltower: Red Raggi's loadout

Red Raggi Ragnarsson goes into Felltower with the following:

• Dwarven Fine Greataxe (Accuracy +2, Puissance +2, Shatterproof), $49,400, 8 lbs.
• Long Knife, $120, 1.5 lbs.
• Mail Hauberk (Fortify+2, Lighten 25%) $4610, 37.5 lbs.
• Pot Helm (Fortify +2, Lighten 25%), $216, 7.5 lbs.
• Mail Coif (Fortify +2, Lighten 25%), $140, 6 lbs.
• Boots, $160, 6 lbs.
• Dwarven Whetstone, $500, 1 lb.
Usually (15 or less) has 2 minor healing potions ($120, 0.5 lbs, heals 1d), sometimes 2 major (9 or less), or 1 minor and 1 great healing potion ($1000, 0.5 lbs. heals 4d) (6 or less). Make one roll, take the best result.

That totals out, along with assumed clothing, pouch, and personal basics, to be a little under 80 lbs. That puts him at No Encumbrance until he hits 88 (he's got ST 21.) Raggi prefers to travel light for speed and endurance purposes. His natural DR of 2 (4 vs. crushing) serves him well, but he'd suffer a bit less crippling injury if he'd armor up his legs. Well, possibly - he mail hauberk has sleeves but that didn't help when the Lord of Spite hit him for something like 4d+13 cutting. Nothing would - the bonus damage alone will hack through the heaviest Dwarven Plate.

He probably needs to invest some money in a good pair of leggings at some point - mail would be too heavy, so either leather or cloth would be the way to go. Next time he gets a stash I'll cost out some Oversized Fine Giant Spider Silk leggings with Fortify +1 or +2 on them and see what's what. Perhaps if he comes along on a very profitable delve he can afford them - it's how he got that whetstone and enchanted mail.

I need to update the prices since we went to a $20/point enchantment flat cost a while back, but that's not a priority in my bookkeeping tasks.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Simple Bar Contests: Target Shooting

Another simple bar contest for DF is target shooting.

To make this more fun, like any other of these contests, have a drinking contest first. Then, complete these trials with the penalties for intoxication.

Target Shooting

This can be done with any ranged attack - thrown knives, thrown axes, and thrown darts are all popular, but equally can be with bows, crossbows, and so on. Settle on a target, a missile, range, and number of tries and have at it. Targets include colored rings, shooting through rows of rings, throwing axes at locks of hair, shooting apples off of heads, and the ever popular shooting at each other - see Duels, below.

Score it in one of several ways:

- make attempts from further and further distances; one point per successful hit.

- 1+margin of success of each shot (max 10); best score wins.

- single shots until one competitor misses.

Modifiers: Distance and target size per the Size and Speed/Range Table. Very rapid throwing or shooting competitions should use the rules for rapid throwing from GURPS Martial Arts.

Drink & Throw

One fun variation is one shot, one shot. Each competitor takes a shot of alcohol, and then one shot at a target. Alternate until someone misses the target or falls unconscious from drink. Heavy drinkers or harder competitions might make you miss three times before you are out.


It should go without saying, but if your target is your opponent, it's probably a duel. Resolve as a combat, with the rules for Cascading Waits and a Quick Contest of Fast-Draw (if appropriate) to see who goes first. Dodge and Drop is legal, but generally would be regarded as an automatic loss - rules, however, may vary. Duels may be until one competitor is hit and the other isn't, to first blood (best done at half-damage range, so as not to kill each other), to the death, or anything else the competitors can agree on. One variation is to do this with shields and axes, and the first person to break the other's shield wins. In such contests, you don't Block, you hold the shield as a target. Will roll not to flinch; failure means you try to Dodge and suffer a free penalty throw by the other competitor.

Those should just set the table for more contests.

By the way, most of these come down to dice rolling. Some people might object that this isn't very fun, mechanically. I disagree - just make the stakes important, the setting enjoyable, and the task challenging. Players love to have their PCs show off their skills, and when the stakes are money, humiliating punishment, awe of a room full of NPCs, etc., the players will absolutely lean in over the table at every roll of the dice. These contests will be what you make them.
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