Tuesday, July 9, 2013

First blood! After play report 7

Calawas - Elf Thief (Katz)
Amalia - High Elf Cleric (Paraj) - absent
Volbak - Dwarf Knight (Jim)
Lamaevhun - Wood Elf Scout (Tim)
Ilsildel - High Elf Wizard (Martin)
Chief - Wood Elf Barbarian (Catherine)

John Porter, employed as a laborer and horse-hand by the party
Titus Longfellow, employed as a man-at-arms by Isildel
Matthias Wimbledon, novice of St. Cuthbert, employed by Calawas

This was a short session, so not too much happened. The party was down at the back end of a hole that had turned into a worked stone passage leading underneath the Moathouse, confronted with a sliding wall behind which they heard voices.

After a lot of dithering on their part, the party decided to force the issue, and the thief got out his crowbar. Assisted by the resident muscles and nearly herniating himself, Calowas finally levered up the wall, after which the barbarian went about lifting and holding it. When he'd gotten the wall about half-way up, the party heard from the other side the shouted words, "Hold! Stop and identify yourselves!" and saw four pairs of boots and four sets of chainmailed legs.

Calowas lost no time and dropped to one knee to fire his bow. He saw four men, dressed in heavy mail and wearing black tabards with a yellow eye in the center, with leveled crossbows. He shot, but his arrow bounced off the chest of the man he fired at.

They shot, and their bolts didn't bounce. Two sank into Calowas' chest, puncturing his lung and spleen. One missed, going wide and bouncing back along the corridor, and the last blew a hole right through Chief's leg. She fell, dropping the wall and frothing into a berserk rage from the pain.

The one saving grace here was that the barbarian was both crippled and without her hammer to hand. She promptly tried punching out the dwarf, who calmly blocked while the Wizard spun up his Sleep spell.

After she calmed down, Matthias rushed forward to check on Calowas, who as it turns out was still alive but badly in need of surgery, which he attempted to provide. Unfortunately, the enterprising thief bled out before his lung could be patched up properly.

That's the point where the party decided to head home to cut their losses and come up with another plan of attack.


This marks the first death, and the splitting of the family. Really, Calowas has been asking for it for a long while now, going off alone and fighting things while severely wounded.

It seems like my players are under the impression, despite my warnings to the contrary, that they can 'win' every encounter. Hopefully this cured them of that.

The guards have ST 30 crossbows. They can wind them up with a crank well enough, but they're definitely a fire-and-forget deal. I wasn't sure I wanted to do this, since some part of me still doesn't want to take such advantage of the rules, and 4d+4 imp seems kind of harsh, especially four times. Still, I went with it because I'd have no qualms if the guards were PCs, which seems a pretty fair test when the PCs are supposed to be special because of point totals only.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Remember Masters of Orion?

For those of you who don't know, Masters of Orion and its sequels were a turn-based galactic empire-building game. However, they're hard to get ahold of, especially if you run Linux. Enter FreeOrion, the free Linux "clone" (with versions for Windows and Mac, too).

They're only up to version 0.4.2, but it's fully featured and currently playable, both single and multiplayer over a network. (Besides, community-built games like these never actually hit version 1; they just keep slicing the version numbers thinner and thinner.)

And now you know why I haven't updated the blog.

Back Monday. (Friday's bad because of the 4th of July as well. For all you Americans, enjoy the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. My wife and I will be re-reading it, as every year.)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Down the back way: After Play Report 6

Calawas - Elf Thief (Katz)
Amalia - High Elf Cleric (Paraj)
Volbak - Dwarf Knight (Jim)
Lamaevhun - Wood Elf Scout (Tim)
Ilsildel - High Elf Wizard (Martin)
Chief - Wood Elf Barbarian (Catherine)

John Porter, employed as a laborer and horse-hand by the party
Titus Longfellow, employed as a man-at-arms by Isildel
Matthias Wimbledon, novice of St. Cuthbert, employed by Calawas

Our intrepid heroes came back to Hommlet with purses considerably fuller than when they left it last to the smell of smoke in the air. The villagers seemed tense, and the half-trained militia was out in more force than before, but life seemed to be going on as usual. They stopped to weather the night in the Inn of the Welcome Wench, where Volbak once again discovered ale and they learned that a great amount of smoke had come from the Moathouse a few days ago and put everyone on edge, though the plume was out now. Had the Moathouse burnt down in their absence?

There was only one way to tell, so after sunrise and Master Gundigroot's impeccable victuals they reclaimed their ponies and set off on the old overgrown trail.

It wasn't long before they found the Moathouse and the source of smoke. Someone had burned a wide, wobbly circle - three hundred feet, give or take a little - around the whole thing, razing off the underbrush and making unmarked approach basically impossible.

They did the sensible thing and set up camp outside the circle in the swamp - an uncomfortable and wet affair, but also unmarked so far as they could tell - and decided to spy out the surrounds.

 The first thing they discovered is that someone had worked to close a portcullis over the entrance to the Moathouse, though the drawbridge was still down, half-rotted as it was. Lamaevhun saw no real signs of occupancy, but as he poked around in the bog outside the kill-zone he stumbled across a large, foul-smelling hole in the ground about six hundred feet out, big enough for two men abreast and tall enough for a man on horseback.

He went back and informed the party, and after some discussion, they decided to leave John with the horses and the camp and head down the hole to see where it went. They got there without incident and started filing down the hole, finding that it was a nasty, rank and foul den of something or other - bones strewn about the place, along with offal and other filth - when, just Titus (keeping rearguard) stepped down the rampish first portion to the dank inside, he crumpled like a sack of meat.

Amalia and Lamaevhun were in back, and luckily heard the sound of rattling armor and the dull thud as the hireling went down. They turned around and were faced with a large, hairy, foetid beast with a nasty-looking club in one hand splattered with blood and a questionable-looking bag in the other.

Things weren't looking that good. Titus was dead, and the two people who could reach his assailant were the Cleric and the Scout. Lamaevhun lost no time drawing and shooting, and Amalia drew her sword and attacked, but the whatever-it-was didn't seem hardly fazed. It just dodged out of the way, took a cursory swipe at Amalia, and started dragging Titus off, though they could tell it had a hard time with his heavy body. Meanwhile the rest of the party wasn't really in position to help: Chief and Volbak were in the front, far enough away from the melee to take too much time getting there.

Meanwhile Chief had found some kind of impaling stick trap down there in the murk and Calawas went forward to look at it.

Fortunately, Isildel was in the middle and had by now forced his way to the back, and Amalia got in one lucky swing that made the whatever-it-was think twice about dragging off Titus. It dropped him, kicked something in the bushes that put up a jangling of bells much further down in the hole, and for a few seconds there was a sort of chase - them slowed by the bog, it slowed by its wounds - before it dropped down into the reeds and disappeared right before their eyes.

Isildel wasn't having that. He didn't know exactly where it was, but exactly isn't necessary with threshold magic, so soon there was a  12-yard wide fire. Up popped the nasty with a howl and booked it out of the fire...then lay down again.

That's fine. 12 yards wasn't enough? How about THIRTY?! I AM AN ANGRY WIZARD!

Yeah, it was kinda like that.

Up it popped again, howling louder than before. After a few seconds, it collapsed in the middle of the blaze. About thirty seconds later as the three were trudging back to the hole, there was a loud explosion and some differently-colored tongues of flame for a bit, then all was still.

(Fortunately for them, the fire didn't catch on its own too well, what with the swampy terrain.)

Oh, and it turned out that Matthais checked Titus over and found that he wasn't really dead, just very close. Some magical healing fixed that up well enough and, after a bit of rest around the entrance to the hole, the party went back in. Calowas had long since disarmed the primitive tension trap.

About fifty feet further down the hole, it became a tunnel of wet but dressed stone and took on a gentle but definite downward slope. After another few hundred feet, Calowas in front heard what he took to maybe be voices and the scrape of leather against stone, so they doused the arrow they'd been using as a light source (Continual Light) and he crept forward in the dark.

Pretty soon he found a wall. Feeling along it, the edges seemed like they fit into grooves in the tunnel walls, as though this thing were meant to be lifted out of place. Putting his ear to the wall, he heard muffled voices beyond.



This session showcased two things very well: One was the true potential nastiness of an absurdly high level of stealth (aided by Chameleon and Camouflage) on the part of the bugbear. -20 for being in plain sight and being watched when you drop into cover? No problem! The other was the advantages of Threshold Magic as a system.

Isildel was able to throw gross magical power at the problem to solve it. At the same time, I could see Martin making the decision, "Do I want to blow all my tally now, on this? Or do I save it up for something else, and dribble it out a little at a time?" So far, a Tally of 30 has worked fairly well, and it promotes real decision-making about a limited resource.

For some reason, session recaps are really hard for me to write, and I think that's part of why I've been negligent with this blog (on top of everything else). I still have a lot to do, though. Since the best way to do a difficult task is to actually sit down and do it, I'm going to post the rest of the session recaps until I'm all caught up. Any further ideas I have can always sit as draft posts.

Friday, June 21, 2013

New spell and other miscellanry

Do you like session reports? I like session reports. I've mentioned before that what finally inspired me to run the Temple of Elemental Evil is session reports, especially Peter's. +Jason Woollard has a blog full of well-written session reports. They read like stories, which is the best kind.

Mucking around with putting together a small dungeon on the side, I invented a new spell. Some background: the precept of the dungeon is that it's a reptile-man shrine, from back when their civilization ruled the earth, à la H.P. Lovecraft or R.E.H.

Blessing of the Eye      (Special)

Duration: See below
Cost to cast: 5. Cannot be maintained, must be recast. See below
Time to cast: 10 sec
Prerequisites: None, or See Secrets, or whatever. The idea is this is a secret spell.

Casting Blessing of the Eye requires the caster to draw a rune of Kiskig's Eye on a solid surface in his own blood. The caster takes 1 HP of damage for each day of duration, chosen at time of casting, that does not heal until the spell ends. Once cast, the Eye disappears from the surface as though soaking in (though Mage Sight will allow it to be seen).

While the Eye is active, the caster can see through it at any time without concentration and can cast spells through the Eye as though in its exact location.

Any night the caster sleeps while the eye is active, he is affected by nightmares as per the Nightmares disadvantage on B144 (SC roll 12 or less). I recommend something like The Shadow out of Time

Questions I forsee

Why cast this instead of Wizard Eye or Invisible Wizard Eye? You can cast through Kiskig's Eye. You cannot cast through Wizard Eyes. Also, this lasts longer.

What abuse potential do you see? First thing that popped into my mind when I put my player hat on was drawing this on a sheet of paper and slipping it under doors. Second was drawing this on my allies so I could always see where they were and cast spells on them or their enemies. This might be especially egregious since I could sit at home in my tower and still be useful on the adventure.

If you don't like these potential uses, specify that the spell must be cast on some relatively immovable surface (like a wall or a door) and/or that the maximum range is also dependent on HP expenditure; something like 1 HP per mile or league should work.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Re-stocking the Temple

"Any group of humans or small humanoids within the dungeon is able to replace its losses (to adventurers) at the rate of one per day. Larger humanoids (3 + 1 or more Hit Dice) can replace one each three days; monsters can replace their numbers at the rate of one per week.
If the Temple forces are not heavily pressed by the party, they actually grow at the rates given above." - Temple of Elemental Evil, by Gary Gygax and Frank Mentz
I feel comfortable saying that, with Dungeon Fantasy's different off-time pacing, this would be downright murder on a party. You go back to town for a week and the dungeon is back at full strength! Well, at least the parts you visited are. The other levels? They're stronger. Enjoy!

No, thanks. So, what to do? After all, the dungeon should restock and change at least somewhat. At the same time, I can't reveal everything here, because I have at least one player who reads this blog.

First is to split the dungeon up into sections. Rather than restocking the dungeon as a whole, I think it makes more sense in this case to treat different parts of the dungeon as different groups. Decide what geography belongs to which groups, and note down whether a given group has a particular character - for example, one group might be composed more of brigands and normal demi-humans, while another might lean toward subterranean monsters, and a third toward  undead.

Each section should have a source that can be dealt with by PCs. This could be a single leader, an inner cabal, an attractive resource, or whatever. If something happens to the source, the members of this section either desert or join another section over the next week. Assume that half the remaining members desert regardless, and that the other half is split between compatible factions that have room. By 'compatible' I mean that the section doesn't have an emphasis contrary to the emphasis of the section it's poaching from; brigands are unlikely to join eldritch horrors. Special cases (e.g. conversion of those brigands into skeletons for the undead section) are at the discretion of the GM.

Then, for each section, decide how much capacity they have, and where they are now in filling that capacity. This is probably most easily done by counting empty rooms that could be turned into full rooms and fudging a bit for dungeon backstory. The Temple was sacked fifty years ago; at that time it was a major force of evil in the land. Lots of structural damage was done, and the Temple is nothing like what it was once. Knowing that, I'm going to eyeball it and say that most or all of the sections are at 80% capacity. This means both that each group of creatures could grow by 1/5th before being at capacity, but also that 1/5th of the number of populated rooms is how many empty rooms could be used to house new recruits. (Example: let's say section 1 has 20 populated rooms and 33 not populated. This means that 4 of those empty rooms could have recruits move in.) Once a section is at 100% capacity, it won't grow any further. (If you like, continue to roll to restock and instead of adding replace monsters.)

Each section can also have modifiers on either the Restock Chance or the Restock Roster table. For example, one section in the Temple has a Restock Chance modifier of -1 but a Restock Roster modifier of +6.

Once you've done all that, roll weekly on the table below:

Restock Chance
Roll (2d6)Result
2Catastrophe! Roll twice on the restock table and lose that many forces.
3-7No change
8-9Roll once on the restock table. Recruit for losses only; do not gain extra forces.
10-11Roll once on the restock table.
12Roll twice on the restock table.

Restock Roster
Roll (1d6)Result
0Appropriately-sized group of local fauna moves in. (E.g., horde of rats, 1 bear)
11 easy to find recruit. (E.g., 1 brigand)
21d6 easy to find recruits.
32d6 easy to find recruits, or 1 uncommon recruit. (E.g., 2d6 orcs, 1 gnoll)
41d6 uncommon recruits and 1d6 easy to find recruits.
5Either 2d6 uncommon recruits or 1 rare recruit, and 1d6 easy to find recruit. (E.g., 2d6 ogres or 1 werewolf, plus 1d6 brigands)
6Roll twice more.
71d6 rare recruits and 1d6 easy to find recruits.
81d6 rare recruits, 1d6 uncommon recruits, and 1d6 easy to find recruits.
91d6 rare recruits, 2d6 uncommon recruits, and 1d6 easy to find recruits.
102d6 rare recruits, 1d6 uncommon recruits, and 2d6 easy to find recruits.
112d6 rare recruits, 2d6 uncommon recruits, and 3d6 easy to find recruits.
122d6 rare recruits, 3d6 uncommon recruits, and 3d6 easy to find recruits. Alternatively, 1 unique monster.

Any new group will have only their own equipment and pocket-change as treasure, along with whatever was already in the room. (Plug for Dungeon Fantasy Adventures 1: it has a random pocket-change loot table in the back.) However, any new group that gets another batch of reinforcements will have appropriate treasure, to represent their successes.

Feel free to assign modifiers, especially to the second table's roll. If a section is particularly strong or well-known, it should get plusses, as everyone wants to join the winners. A weak section should get minuses. There might be situational modifiers as well - for example, the Cult of Our Aquatic Masters might get a hefty bonus after a local flood. 

Consequences of Success

What happens when the PCs knock out a section? For 1d6 weeks, nothing. That area remains deserted. After that time is up, roll another d6. On a 6, a new faction takes up residence; make it roughly as strong as the surrounding factions. This can either be a completely new force, or defectors from the other factions making common cause and setting up their own power base. On any other roll, divide the empty area between the nearby factions. This will probably be a roughly equal division, but if one faction is significantly stronger than the others it might claim more. Move one or two groups from their current places in the section to the new area, but otherwise wait on restock rolls to add recruits.


The tables above aren't organized by foe difficulty, but instead by ease of recruitment based on the fuzzy factors of likelihood of joining the cause and the population of the realm around the dungeon. "Easy to find" doesn't mean "mook" and "uncommon" doesn't mean "worthy", though the categories probably roughly track one another. This reflects my bias that the behaviour of the world should track only loosely with the capability of the PCs. If you disagree, the wording is easy enough to switch, I think.

Where did these numbers come from? Nowhere. I thought them up out of the blue. If you're inclined, please playtest this and give me feedback, but use at your own risk. Still, I hope it's helpful, and I did at least familiarize myself with the probabilities involved beforehand.

Also, as an aside, does anyone know how to make tables in Blogger without editing the HTML? I'm fine with doing that, but it'd be nice if I needn't.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Eyes of the Overworld

With all credit due to Jack Vance.

Like this, only pink
Eyes of the Overworld are brittle, concave cups of a slightly pinkish material. The inner edge keeps itself moist through some mystical method or other.

When placed over the eyes, Eyes of the Overworld shrink to fit over the eye. Anyone wearing them is obvious; they look like pink globules over the eyes. They are very slightly sticky on the interior surface and so will stay in place through all manner of exertion after placement, but they are easy to remove, with a single Ready action per eye if done in combat.

When worn, the world appears a happier, more beauteous place to the world. Ordinary men and women appear as queens and kings, as does the wearer himself; the ugly is rendered beautiful. It affects all senses, so that the dumpy hermit with a speech impediment appears instead to have regal features and raiments and to speak with refinement. This has several beneficial effects:

  • Immunity to Sense-Based attacks. You cannot be affected by a basilisk's gaze or a ghast's stench while wearing the Eyes.
  • Immunity to Fright Checks and all fear effects.
  • Temporary annulment of some disadvantages like Chronic Depression or Manic Depressive
  • Other small effects as the GM sees fit. Examples might include a reduction in cost of living, since you're now satisfied with a broken-down hovel and slop, and a bonus to reaction rolls from some people since you're liable to treat them courteously.
However, there are a few drawbacks as well:

  • Between -5 and -10 on Naturalist, Hidden Lore, and other skills used to identify monsters and items, depending on how much the GM feels the Eyes of the Overworld change the appearance to make it presentable to you.
  • Complete inability to use Merchant or other value-appraisal skills.
  • The Eyes are very easy to shatter. Any attack to the eyes that does at least HP/10 points of damage shatters an Eye and drives the shards into your eye, causing an additional HP/5 injury.
  • The Eyes are mildly addictive. Each day spent continuously wearing them, the wearer must make a Will +4 roll or refuse to take them off. If they are forcibly removed, make another Will roll. the wearer suffers Chronic Depression (15 or less) for (24 +- margin of success) hours.
The Eyes must be worn on all eyes to be effective. If not enough Eyes are worn,  the user gets a splitting headache - treat it as being in Medium Pain for as long as the wearer keeps the Eye(s) on, and for 1d seconds after.

Nobody knows the origins of the Eyes of the Overworld. Some say that a wizard of old perfected a technique for creating them from the lenses of Eyes of Death. Others claim they are relics of a god who was slain for his beautiful scales, and these scales are the Eyes themselves. Still others claim they are excreted as spore casings by certain types of fungi that live at magical nexi.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Random Encounter tables are useful: After play report 5

Calawas - Elf Thief (Katz)
Amalia - High Elf Cleric (Paraj)
Volbak - Dwarf Knight (Jim)
Lamaevhun - Wood Elf Scout (Tim)
Ilsildel - High Elf Wizard (Martin)
Chief - Wood Elf Barbarian (Catherine)

The PCs had decided to head back to Verbobonc to clear their debts by getting rid of their absurdly large book and do their general buying and selling in a large town instead of tiny Hommlet.

The walk there was mostly uneventful, though they did come across a group of traders and peasants making the trek out to Hommlet, until the third day. On that day, near dusk, they saw dust in the distance and wisely decided to get off the road and onto a nearby hillock.

No sooner had they accomplished this than the dust resolved itself into twenty-odd horsemen. From the road these horsemen claimed to be collecting a toll for use of the road in the name of on Lord Diego. Pretty much everyone in the party thought this was a ruse, and a poor one at that, since the admittedly well-equipped men didn't bother with any standards or devices other than a red armband.

After several tense minutes which involved two of the "men-at-arms" entering the camp while leaving the other eighteen on the road in a show of goodwill, Volbak, who has taken on the role of party leader, decided to let them take their tithe and go. Which they did, claiming a pair of crystal goblets and a fine broadsword "for the safe use of the road through the territory of Lord Diego, rightful ruler of these lands."

They reached Verbobonc without further incident.

In Verbobonc was a bit of accounting and a bit of rumourmongering to the effect that the eastern reaches are again becoming unsafe unless you travel in large groups - though not everyone in the city believes that. Notable expenditures included Isildel learning Create Fire after the fiasco with the green slime and the hiring on of a porter by the party, a shield-bearer by Isildel to cover him while casting spells, and a healer by Calowas. Despite groaning over the cost, they chose to pay all three the monthly rate.

In addition, Calowas got an audience with one of the Duke's chancellors and informed the man about the band claiming to be working for a Lord Diego. That got a serious frown and a "we'll send some people to look into it" to which Calowas responded, "We'd be happy to be those people" and the chancellor responded, "No, I think we'll send some soldiers to look into it." Bandit lords claiming territory out from under the rightful duke is nothing to sniff at.

On the way back, the trip out through the populated lands was marked only by the occasional farmer using the road to travel to his neighboring village. However, once they reached the Kron hills, about three days out from Hommlet they were overtaken by a gnomish patrol. Relations with the gnomes were cordial to the point where they camped together and they got a chance to try some of the gnomish marching brew. It was potent stuff; so much so that the party isn't sure where Amalia ended up for the rest of the night.

From the gnomes they learned that there has been an increase in orcish and hobgoblin overland movements to dangerous levels. This very patrol had, four days previous, rousted two trolls from a relatively new den in the hills.

Oh, and did we mention the green dragon? But don't worry about that; it's hardly ever seen.

The next morning they set out and in another three days' time they made it to Hommlet, where the smell of smoke hung in the air, and that's where we stopped.


Don't ever leave a session report as long as I have for this one. I have a strangely good memory for details, but still, it's best to report on these things when they're fresh.

I never actually expected to get use out of my random encounter tables. Not only did I get use out of them, but we actually had a whole session based around them, and they created a plot to boot. Furthermore, with the exception of the accounting in the middle, I'm fairly sure all of the players were engaged and interested in the game. Goes to show that random encounters overland aren't the same thing as random encounters in the dungeon.

Speaking of accounting, does anyone have any tips for making that go as quickly as possible other than do it all between sessions? Sometimes that's not feasible, since I can't end each session back in town.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Encumbrance tracker spreadsheet

I cribbed up a spreadsheet for tracking encumbrance in real time that shows the total weight, the current encumbrance level, and the effect on dodge and move. Now I can require players to track encumbrance (or do so for their hirelings or other NPCs) without having it bog down the game.

You can get it either in OpenOffice format or Excel.

In order to use it, fill in the (N)PC's name and all the fields in grey: Lifting ST, Unencumbered Move, and Unencumbered Dodge.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Breaking the hiatius

I'm finally back. Life has been keeping me from this blog and most other past-times lately, but that's all over.

It's hard, coming back to something like this after such a long break. I pretty much stopped thinking of this project except in odd moments because there wasn't the necessary cognitive space. That being the case, this post probably won't contain too much useful information for people looking to play the Temple in GURPS or convert other AD&D material. Sorry.

I still have a lot of posts I need to write, and I will get on that this week and in the weeks to come. Despite the fact that I stopped doing pretty much any preparation, I did keep gaming, so there are session reports that need to be fleshed out and posted. (This is the blessing both of lots of front-loaded preparation and the fact that T1-T4 contains the Moathouse as a separate starter dungeon.) On the flip side, I don't think I'm going to continue the Know Your Options posts; other bloggers in the GURPS niche can cover DF-centric tactics much better than I can. Perhaps I'll pick them back up once I have some experience under my belt. We'll see.

Beyond that, I need to consider what needs doing next. The Moathouse is basically done, but I still need to work on Nulb and the Temple itself, where I've done very little. I think I'm going to stat up Nulb with City Stats in a rudimentary fashion, because I hope that will help me answer some questions about using it as a base for adventurers, like how much wealth the local economy can absorb, and how the town will change over time because of PC influence.

I also need to work out a new note system, since the method I currently have just doesn't work very well. I'm stuck flipping back and forth. I have a few ideas on that score that I'll try out and report on, but if anyone wants to come forward detailing what you do to keep track of treasure and monsters in the dungeon, I'd love to hear it.

I might occasionally wander off-topic; I've been considering a sort of hex-crawl campaign for a while now, though I don't expect it to ever get off the ground. It's for when the Temple's been gone through and we're ready to move on to something else - an eventuality I expect to take years to arrive.

Finally, I think I'm going to move down to a Monday-Thursday update schedule for the moment. That could change once I get my thoughts in order. It isn't the best thing for the blog, but the point of the blog was to force me to continue working on the Temple and to be a repository of useful information, not as an end in itself.

Since I'm a big believer in not posting if you don't have anything useful to say, I'll bring up something I've been mulling over for a bit now. I'm considering restricting spells learnable in town to those without any pre-requisites, unless the town or mage in question has special connections. Other spells would have to be picked up in the dungeon or researched. I don't know how much I like this idea: on the one hand, it brings back that flavor of why a wizard would delve and it makes magical scrolls and the like treasure truly worth it. On the other, it hamstrings mages, perhaps too much. Maybe I could combine it with not requiring pre-requisites for spells learned from spellbooks and scrolls? If I do that, and simply make learning spells from town prohibitively expensive, it might perform the same function without being too much of a handicap for spell-casters.

Monday, June 3, 2013

NPCs do the craziest things

I love wacky NPC personalities, so when I find inspiration, I have to share it.

The man loves his onion

(Should be back to regular posting next week! Yay!)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Dungeon Fantasy Thieves - a proposal

There's been a bit of buzz in the GURPS Dungeon Fantasy blogosphere about DF Thieves. Basically, it boils down to a sort of broad-spectrum agreement that they're a little anemic and could use some help to keep up with the other templates. I agree, and I think the point has been made fairly well, so I won't rehash it again.

So what's to be done? +Peter V. Dell'Orto has some good suggestions for template reform, but I don't think they go far enough. However, before I show you mine, I feel it needs a little justification.

One of the methods of accomodating the thief in the OSR (detailed here on pg. 44 - that's a PDF link) is to make it clear that anyone can try to do normal "thiefish" things, but the thief is so good he can do abnormally "thiefish" things. To quote, specifically from the first source:
When I allow Thieves, their class skills are treated as extraordinary capabilities. That is, anyone can hide, but a Thief can hide in shadows. Anyone can move quietly, but a Thief can move silently, without even making a sound. Anyone can climb, but a Thief can climb sheer walls. Et cetera. -Philotomy Jurament

Now, I realize claiming that this is the proper interpretation of a D&D thief is somewhat controversial. So instead I'm taking the dodge of borrowing this interpretation from Swords & Wizardry, a retroclone that, if you don't know about, you simply aren't paying attention to the OSR. (If you aren't, that's fine; not everyone's into it. Though I have to wonder if you came here from Peter's blog.) In Swords & Wizardry, this interpretation of the Thief is explicit.

Without further ado, how to turn the DF 1 Thief template into something more closely resembling the class abilities as explained above:

Drop Perfect Balance as a required advantage. Instead, put it in the list of discretionary advantages, and increase that point limit from 30 to 50 points.

In the discretionary advantages, include these:

  • Chameleon  (Shadows or other areas of at least -3 vision penalty and that are large enough to cover you only, -60%) [2/level, up to 10 levels]
  • Clinging (Vertical surfaces only, -50%) [10] 
  • Detect (Traps, Occasional) (Precise, +100%, Short Range, -10%) [19]
  • Discriminatory Hearing [15]
  • Silence [5/level, up to 10 levels]

Drop Filch, Shadowing, and Smuggling entirely.

Drop Urban Survival to 1 point and make it a background skill, optional
Put another point into Escape and another two into Lockpicking.


All "Thieves'" whatever - Thieves' mail, etc - should allow the use of the Silence and Chameleon standing-still bonus while moving if it covers most of the body and isn't obviated by some other equipment - for example, a thief trying to sneak with soda cans tied to his ankles is going to have a hard time even with Thieves' Boots - but he'd find it easier to get over a nightingaled floor.

Really, the above could use a little more polishing (like removing some dross from the optional advantages - should anyone really be taking Catfall at this point?), but I think this is a good basis for letting thieves reclaim some of their niche. For one, they're much better to send ahead in a dungeon than a Scout. Your thief could easily have effective Stealth 34 while moving with the right advantages - or higher than that, with the right (mundane) equipment. However, he doesn't steal the Scout's schtick, which is both putting lots of arrows in targets and being sneaky out-doors, where the Thief's limitations are apparent, since there aren't a lot of dimly-lit corridors outside.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Bandit Template

One of the things the Temple of Elemental Evil has in spades is human "monsters." Bandits, brigands, pirates, burglars, highwaymen, robbers, thugs - if it's a synonym for "group of men who try to rob you", they've got it. Heck, there's a whole town full of 'em.

That being the case, I thought it'd be useful to me (and perhaps to others) to have a baseline template the work off of. Yes, it's not hard to come up with, but having it done and in one place is still something. I give you:

The Bandit

ST: 12 HP: 12 Speed: 5.25
DX: 11 Will: 10 Move: 5, possibly down to 3 with encumbrance
IQ: 10 Per: 10
HT: 11 FP: 11 SM: 0
Dodge: 8 Parry: 10, but see below DR: 2-4, see below
thr 1d-1, sw 1d+2

Weapon (14): Damage is by weapon. Other important things to consider are reach, number of hands, and weight (for breakage). Weapons are almost always cheap. Usually, if this is a ranged weapon, they'll have a Secondary Weapon; otherwise, it's a block.

Popular weapons include shortswords, maces, axes, spears, and polearms. Popular ranged weapons are crossbows, shortbows, and regular bows.

Secondary Weapon or Shield (12): If a shield, probably a small shield with DB 2 giving Block 11 and +2 to other defenses.

Skills: Weapon - 14, Secondary weapon or Shield - 12, Riding - 12, Stealth - 12, Survival (Terrain type) - 12

Traits: None, really. Maybe Social Stigma (Bandit). Many have Addiction, Cowardice, Bad Temper, and other such disadvantages.

Class: Mundane (Humanoid)

Notes: Just out to make a buck. Usually won't attack unless they think they can win (comes in numbers) or unless truly desperate. Also, usually won't fight to the death, either trying to parley or run away if the battle goes against them.

Gear: Weapons are almost exclusively Cheap. Most bandits will be in heavy leather, with some especially fortunate bandits getting chain shirts or hauberks, and a few having pot helms. Your average bandit will also have 1d copper in pocket change, and maybe 1d-2 silver.

Usually at least a few will also come with horses, so as to be able to actually chase down travellers. These will mostly be outriders, unless the bandit troupe is well-prepared

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Nulb set pieces: Cugel the Sage

Down the main way along the river a bit from the Boatmen's Tavern is an old ramshackle hovel hung with crude trinkets that glitter and jingle in the wind and rudely scrawled over in faded red paint with "Cugel the Wise". It's not much to look at, and neither is the proprietor.

Cugel is usually clean, but he smells and looks of poverty, his clothes mostly rags except for his hat, which is a nearly ridiculously large and floppy thing with a very gaudy hatband ornament that looks like a piece of cheap mother-of-pearl. His wares are almost without exception trash, though he swears up and down they're potent magical charms of all sorts - against illness and scrying and for love and against magics, etc. etc. If someone were to actually take the time to poke through all of it, and had an eye for such things, he just might (5 or less on 3d6) find something of actual value, though Cugel is unlikely to part with it without charging far more than its worth.

Cugel is a rat and a scoundrel who spends most of his time and money at the Boatmen's tavern cheating at cards and shilling his useless trinkets to the gullible. However, one thing he does have is information, and pretty much all the natives will vouch that, in this particular, he is both accurate and honest.

Given a day and $100, he will answer any question about the Temple and its surrounds. His answers won't always be complete, and very seldom they will be, "I don't know," but they will always be accurate.

Cugel's relevant skills, if they need to be rolled for some reason instead of just giving the information, include:

Area Knowledge (Temple of Elemental Evil) - 18
Hidden Lore (Temple of Elemental Evil) - 14
Hidden Lore (All other specialties) - 16
History (Temple of Elemental Evil) - 18

A note on price: I'm trying to set a price that's low enough Cugel might be approached, but high enough the PC's won't just dump cash on all their problems. It's open to adjustment, especially based on the local economy.

Monday, April 29, 2013

In which elves steal, dwarves are hairless and I'm sorely tempted to use horde pygmies: After play 4

I have some catching up to do due to my hiatus. Fortunately, today at work everyone left me alone so I could get my actual work done. And now I'm home at a reasonable hour. Yay!

Amalia - High Elf Cleric (Paraj)
Volbak - Dwarf Knight (Jim)
Lamaevhun - Wood Elf Scout (Tim)
Ilsildel - High Elf Wizard (Martin)
Chief - Wood Elf Barbarian (Catherine)

Calowas' player couldn't make it tonight. Since I don't have the luxury of having each session be a different trip into the dungeon, but I don't want hangers-on, the first thing that happened during the session was that an urchin-boy came running into the moathouse, exhausted and dirty, and handed Calowas a card. "Oh no!" Calowas moaned, "I"m late for the Thieves' Union meeting!" and he ran off into the wilderness, putatively back to Hommlet to attend at the local chapterhouse. (Obviously, they're an outpost from Nulb.)

Anyway, the party was nearly done with the top floor of the moathouse; there was some discussion as to whether it was worth finishing the place off, or if they should just try the door they found earlier that led downstairs. After not too much discussion, Volbak took the lead and opened the last door...onto a very moldy kitchen. It was obvious that this place hadn't been cared for for ages.

There was some interest in the mold from the usual suspect, but it turned out both to be not magical nor particularly hallucinogenic, so interest was quickly lost after Volbak took a salutary essay into the kitchen to look for something of value - old cutlery, pots, or something. No luck, but then, they didn't want to stick around to search. I can't say I blame them; the place reeked something awful.

That accomplished, they headed down the stairs, where it quickly became clear that the door had swollen shut due to long exposure to moisture. (The moathouse is in a swamp, after all.) With much banging (and a little hinge-oiling) they finally managed to slam the door open, whereupon Volbak stumbled through the arch...and some green goop fell on him.

Let me say here that I run green slime nasty. The AD&D Monster Manual states that in 1-4 melee rounds you're basically screwed, sorry, that's it. I ran this as 4d cor per turn until you die, and non-sealed armor protects for two turns as it seeps in. (I think in future, if there is future, I'll run it as 2d, but after 1d6 rounds the only way to make it stop is with a Cure Disease and Remove Curse.)

Volbak quickly went down while the party tried to figure out what to do. Isildel tried apporting it off, and got some, but it quickly grew to replace the lost mass. A quick Naturalist roll told them this stuff is vulnerable to fire, and they had ten gallons of lamp oil, but they were using Continual Light for a light source, and the wizard didn't have Ignite Fire...

Turns out, though, that he did have a lit rope. (It's his Signature Item; we discussed this beforehand and I okayed him having a 'comestible' Signature Item, simulating the fact that he always has some around.) So, with a splash of lamp oil (taking 1d6 seconds) and the application of an open flame (taking 2 seconds), the slime-covered dwarf went up like an effigy of Guy Fawkes, still making his various HT rolls to stay alive while the cleric, Amalia, poured holy energy into him as fast as she could.

After the slime was gone, the barbarian tackled him to the ground to put out the fire - and discovered the second dollop of green slime over the archway. Fortunately, the party was prepared, and Chief just lost her hauberk and gained a few scorchmarks.

That was enough of that. The party decided discretion was the better part of valor and carted off their severely wounded comrades back to Hommlet, where Canon Terjon (standing in for the absent Canoness Ydey) agreed to care for the wounded dwarf for a suitable donation to the Church.

The party spent the week in town. Unfortunately they didn't hear much they didn't already know, mostly because Hommlet is not the place to go if you want news. However, they did contact their debtors in Verbobonc, the local Wizard's Society, and they learned that they could erase their debts from underwriting the expedition by returning the book they had found. After their comrade was recovered, they returned to the Moathouse, determined to get at least something out of this debacle by claiming the Manual of the Sea. So, they rented a draft horse and a wagon, and they apported the huge chunk of valuable stone out of the Moathouse and onto the wagon. 

While they were dragging the book back, when they passed Burne's castle-in-progress, they were summoned to meet him by a page. Turns out, unsurprisingly, the local wizard is also interested in magical artifacts. While they couldn't come to an agreement (Burne was willing to offer a goodly amount of coin, but not quite enough to rid them of their debts), they did pawn off a few things they'd found in the Moathouse thus far, including a vial of pacified green slime.


From judging how things looked and sounded at the table, pretty much everyone had a good time.  I do badly need to work on my treasure document. At the moment I have it interspersed with the pages of the module, which works fairly well for linear treasure procurement, but doesn't work if someone has questions as to value or weight. I think instead I'm just going to have two folders - one with the module and monster/trap stats interleaved, and the other with treasure, for easy reference.

Also, I need to put together an Excel doc to keep track of treasure weight, so I can watch that appropriately. Best of all would be if each of the players had one, so they could track weight in real-time, but that might be asking for too much accounting at the table. I'm not sure how fun that would be for them.

Finally, I was glad that my post on portage for Dungeon Fantasy got some play. They needed to rent a horse and wagon. I knew how much that would cost, and I knew how much horse they would need, with a simple lookup.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Noodling around with DR in Dungeon Fantasy

There was a thread on the SJGames forums a while back by +Douglas Cole about rectifying melee weapons so that the damage doesn't scale up so quickly. It quickly spiraled out into one of those mega-discussions that frequently happen there in core topics, so unfortunately, I can't recommend reading it. However, his core points were, as I take it:
  • Gun damages are based on real studies of kinetic effect 
  • Our wonderful previously-mentioned author has done the same thing with bows, which dramatically changes their damage
  • Melee sw weapons are not thus rectified, which means they get way too much damage way too quickly
  • Rectifying melee weapon damage with real-world quantifiables is difficult or impossible due to lots and lots of factors
    • As a side point, it's far too easy to penetrate DR with a melee weapon.
It's with that side point I'm here concerned. Even Blunt Trauma with Edged Weapons doesn't fix this, though it goes some way, but a shortsword in the hands of a ST 10 man (arguably below the average for people who go around hitting people with swords) will penetrate a maul hauberk 33% of the time. If you bump that to ST 12 with a broadsword, he penetrates 83% of the time.

(If you're talking about a ST 20 barbarian with a maul, he laughs at your puny heavy plate layered with a double-mail hauberk. But maybe that's how it should be, at least for Dungeon Fantasy.)

Basic plate armor is fairly egregious if this sort of thing tickles your paideuometer. It's DR 7, which ST 14 will penetrate roughly half the time, depending on the weapon. Looking on B558, this lines up with 1/8" of mild steel. I'm no armorer by a long shot, but I don't think mild steel is used in plate mail. (If I'm wrong, I'm sure someone will be along to correct me shortly.) Plus, I have the most convincing of all possible arguments: sketchy anecdotal evidence from the biomed play-tester to Low-Tech who says that when the playtesters brought up that plate mail should actually have a much higher DR, they were told that it didn't for playability and legacy reasons.

The thread was inconclusive about a fix, and for good reason. The real fix would be to fiddle with ST-sw and weapon mods values until they lined up with real-world quantities on penetration and wounding with regard to various weapons. Unfortunately, that data doesn't exist and probably can't exist, and even if it did that's a huge amount of work, much more so than for firearms given the relatively orderly nature of firearm wounding compared to being hit with a baseball bat.

However, one of the easy quick-fixes put forward in the thread is doubling DR values and giving firearms a (2) DR divisor. This strikes me as simple enough to play and remember to maybe be worthwhile. It was pointed out that this just shifts the point where the system breaks upward, but I think I'm okay with that for Dungeon Fantasy; characters and monsters with high-ST should be pulling off scary, fantastic wounding shots. You should be afraid of that ogre even if you have plate mail.

What would the effects of this be, I wonder? The easiest way to visualize it for me is to separate the advantages from the disadvantages.



  • My sense of plausibility will be less tickled, as will that of several other players at my table.
  • Knights and barbarians get even more awesome - the first because they can become tin cans that much more easily, and the second because they're the only ones who can still crush those tin cans with brute force.
  • It forces the use of tactical options, like striking at limbs or other places that are less armored, chinks in armor, and picking weapons based on armor penetration vs. damage (e.g. bodkin arrows).
    • Specifically, the All-Out Attack (Strong) option might get used once in a while.
  • It helps with the survivability of the PCs. I'm not actually sure this is a plus, but I'll list it here anyway. It also helps with the survivability of the monsters.
  • It makes the invasion force from the Barrier Peaks that are coming down to take over all of Oerth even scarier



  • It marginalizes people in combat who aren't primarily combat oriented, or some of their options. That puny bard or thief just can't do much to the lucky goblin who has a mail hauberk.
    • Most of them have other options in combat, like the Wizard or Cleric can use magic
    • Specifically, it might be worth giving Missile Spells the (2) armor divisor, 'cause they're magical and fast.
  • It could lead to long combats without either side being able to accomplish much by strength-of-arms. This is a big potential failure, though I imagine it's more likely in a low-powered non-heroic game than Dungeon Fantasy.
  • It makes thrusting weapons even less attractive. Who wants to use a spear when an axe won't even get through? Where's the point?
    • Maybe targeting Chinks in Armor should be easier with thr/imp weapons? Maybe it should give a (4) armor divisor instead of (2), bringing it back down to the level already given in the Basic Set (and making it very attractive).
  •  It lowers the utility of Fortify enchantments. Oooh, +1 DR! Great! I already have 8!
    • I'm hesitant to also double the DR granted by Fortification, but maybe I shouldn't be. Or maybe it should grant other benefits somehow - being cheaper or more effective on lower-DR armor, or not taking the (2) divisor from various attacks that normally have it, like Missile Spells and that monster on level 3.
  • It raises the bar for fodder monsters. A bunch of puny goblins just aren't scary unless they're truly a bunch of puny goblins, because they just can't get through your armor. Unless you're the Wizard. Oops.
Does anyone see anything I'm missing? With the above list, I think I'm going to try it in my game, for a few sessions at least. I think my players are amenable - in fact, they first broached the idea.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Temple History and Hazards

One of the things I like about the backstory of the Temple of Elemental Evil is that it has been sacked before. This has several advantages, and a few quirks to it:
  • This explains why the Temple, despite being the seat of serious Evil, is fair game for a set of character ~ 4th level by removing organized resistance
  • This allows really cool faction play by removing a central power structure
  • This allows really strong foes to be present for the 'oops' factor, but gives a good explanation of why they don't just stomp on the PCs posthaste
  • It gives the Temple some cool history that can be discovered in the game, through PC events (rather than through narration)
  • It gives hints about archaeology in gaming for those interested - that is, Gary's group (and Chainmail before) was involved in the sacking of the temple.
That last one is purely a GM's pleasure, of course. However, the other four bullets can be appreciated by players, either passively or actively - that is, the GM can bring them out in play and they can be noticed and enjoyed. I'm particularly interested in doing so with the fourth bullet, because I think the module itself handles the first three pretty well.

This is a formerly-sacked temple. Furthermore, it hasn't had any serious upkeep since after its desolation, nigh around fifty years ago. It's an imposing and impressive artifice, but it should still probably be falling apart. This fact isn't well-represented in the materials, though it's certainly available to inference. So what should we do with it?

First, the Temple should be dirty. Old leaves, vines, encroaching roots, rats, and just general grime and dirt, as well as old bloodstains and in some under-travelled portions even old, old corpses either dehydrated or mostly collapsed and scattered. This isn't just atmospheric; this can attract vermin (like rats...hordes of rats) as well as obscure signs of traps or other important dungeon features. It's not all one-sided either; the occasional body may contain valuables, or a rubbish pile might have accumulated some interesting detritus over the years.

I don't want to go so far as to have players digging through trash to find valuables in the same way they might in a first-person-shooter, though. Video game memes should stay in the video games. Anything that is valuable will be pretty obvious to the most cursory inspection, I think, and just have been not encountered by the intelligent denizens.

The other part of making the Temple old involves architecture. Specifically, portions of it should be falling apart, or dangerously unsound. The easiest way to model this in the game is with descriptions and with 'traps' - that is, pits and deadfalls and broken flooring and whatnot. These should be fairly obvious, since they aren't set specifically to trap adventurers, but should nevertheless present an obstacle, especially to a party not able to take its time due to being chased by monsters or whatnot. Possible other nuisances include unintelligent denizens, like black puddings and cubes and the like, mostly cleared out but still attracted to the edges of humanoid activity and the detritus of old battles.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday

It's Good Friday today, which means I don't really have a lot of time to dive into posting. However, in the spirit of the day, let's talk about myth*.

The sense of the mythic is what first drew me to fantasy roleplaying. Even as a small child, watching Eric's campaign unfold and reveal new sides to itself, I got the feeling that here was something grand, some primal act of storytelling. It didn't have a plot or defined narrative the way 'story' is mostly interpreted today, but it had an internal consistency and sense of action and discovery that infuses the best of campaigns. In a phrase, myth brought me to roleplaying.

Personally I'd like to play in such a game again. A second-best would be to run it. However, if you're looking for advice on how to evoke such a feeling at the game table, you've come to the wrong place. I'm just as lost as you - maybe more so. I've seen that car, even ridden in it, but I don't even know how to change the oil, much less rebuild the engine.

*I use the word 'myth' not as a judgment about truth or untruth, as it is commonly used today, but rather as a description of the structure of the truths imparted.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Honey I shrunk the PCs: After play report 3

Calawas - Elf Thief (Katz)
Amalia - High Elf Cleric (Paraj)
Volbak - Dwarf Knight (Jim)
Lamaevhun - Wood Elf Scout (Tim)
Ilsildel - High Elf Wizard (Martin)
Chief - Wood Elf Barbarian (Catherine)

Last session ended with the ignominous death of my beloved bandits. (Actually brigands - there is a difference.) The thief, undeterred by his wounds, immediately set about casing their quarters, finding some small change, a few rations, and the Manual of the Sea, a manual of Shiphandling written by the mad Dwarf Durgin Ulubad. It's quite ornate, quite magical, quite valuable (the letters are inlaid aquamarines!) and also 1,400 lbs - the pages are slabs of stone. Yep. This was actually the slab that Calawas was tossed onto for later interrogation in the last session - the book protector is just light enough that the Barbarian could move it without herniating himself.

Cue appropriate amounts of dickering about treasure, spurred on when the party found silver and even a bit of gold on the bodies of their enemies. (I'm using the bog-standard DF values for copper, silver, and gold, which makes gold very valuable.)

Funnily enough, the thief and the scout (who were, for pretty much the whole session, in single-digit HP range - more on this later) were stuck in the bandit hole-up when this noise attracted a swarm of dire rats from the pantry. Things were looking a bit sticky, because your typical ROUS brings friends, until the resident Problem Solv-err, I mean wizard Glued them to the floor. Let's see: rats with ST 9 need to make a ST-5 check to move one hex, then do it again to move another...nope. Like shooting fish in a barrel. Or rats in a trap. Still, this stirred up the indigenous wildlife a tad, so that after folks were done looting the bodies, things had been riled up.

Rather than waiting for healing, Calawas hobbled ahead, going down the southern corridor to check out - oh, hey, wait, is that a bloated decomposing body? Awesome! Does it have any stuff? What? No? Sure it does! Let me squish around in it a bit!

And that's how he didn't notice the Huge Fierce Green Snake Barring the Way! -I mean, curled up in the corner. Or rather, shortly afterward he did, after it missed him. Cue hijinks that involved setting a corner of the moathouse on fire, the already half-dead thief getting poisoned and narrowly escaping with his life thanks to the attentions of the party cleric and the barbarian not killing everyone simply because the wizard prepared Sleep that day. (As noted before, Berserk and Sense of Duty to Adventuring companions creates some powerful synergy for DF.)

Well, that's all well and good - off to the nearby room! What's in here?

At the same time, the scout and wizard, who had wanted to go down the other hallway, get ambushed by a tick. Yes, not that impressive, though it was the size of a human head. More of a freakish annoyance than anything else. After that, there was serious talk of going home - it was around 1900 game time - or at least resting. They eventually decided to clear out one of the rooms, bring the horses into the Great Hall, and post a watch, hoping for the best. Well, what do you know, the best happened - they weren't molested in the slightest, despite the swamp being thick with prowling wildlife. Good thing, too, because the cleric is their only source of healing, and she's beginning to feel stretched. Part of that is that she didn't even focus on healing so much as being a "divine caster" - i.e. the one who deals with undead and other icky stuff.

Afterward they tossed more rooms, finding a few pieces of worthwhile treasure but not much. They finally approached the last room, having already found the stairs and cordoned them off for later exploration, and discovered that the room was an old barracks with a giant lizard. Well, that was easy. The barbarian and the knight took care of him, and we broke there. I fully anticipate the thief going through its guts and trying to swallow anything he finds.


Okay, so I'm coming to realize that I need to help rein in Calawas' player. He likes the limelight, and most of the time other people enjoy him having it up to a point, because he's a good actor and a funny guy. However, other people need to be able and allowed to do things. I need to work on including them.

Also, I need to work on presenting random encounters in a better way. The Moathouse is especially egregious, what with wandering nasty wildlife and ghouls and so on, to the point where there were a few jokes about Gygaxian ecology and spontaneous generation. I think this will die down as the random encounters make more sense, i.e. are more able to be rationally integrated into the backdrop. However, we'll see. It's still an area to work on.

The party badly needs a leader. This is related to the first issue, but the whole session was effectively them flailing around - getting things done, certainly, but mostly because everyone was rescuing the thief when he went off and did stupid stuff on his own. It's in some way self-correcting; if he keeps wandering off alone while bleeding out and barely able to move, something will eat him. As it is, he only survived because I drew the interior of the Moathouse two sizes too small.

Finally, the Manual of the Sea really makes me happy. It's quite valuable, but also quite heavy, and a little crazy to boot. It presents a conundrum to the players and is also the reward to that conundrum. There was talk of clearing out the Moathouse and setting up a museum, even. And it's all thanks to the random tables in Dungeon Fantasy 8

Friday, March 22, 2013

Deceptive yak shaving

You're not stealing it if you say "Martin asked me to post this to see what people thought."
If you say "Look at this awesome thing I made (unless it sucks, then Martin made it)" and I link to it from the forums, it's also not stealing, and pretty funny.
If you actually  claim ownership, then I sic Katz on you.  :)   - Martin, a player in my game

 As an outgrowth from the tactical discussions that happened in previous posts (and will continue to happen, though I haven't gotten back around to them yet), I asked Martin to come up with a short sheet of fill-in-the-blank options for players to have in front of them. He did, and I think it looks fairly nice, though next session I need to pause to make sure people actually fill it out with their own damage and skill levels. (Otherwise it's useless of course.)

While completing that project, he got side-tracked with what he calls "Deceptive yak shaving." Specifically:

So while digging around learnin' about combat strategy for the cheat sheets I idly wondered what the best deceptive attack strategies were for various attack skill/defense roll combos.

A few hours later and a lot of Yaks ended up shaved.  Deceptively shaved.  Boy are they gonna be surprised when they find out.  - Martin again
 And after a quick side trip to a thread on the forums where he tried to pin down exactly how much more "damage" a critical hit was worth than a regular hit, after accounting for the fact that you will hit, and including relative effects like crippling and dropping of weapons, he came up with a really cool chart that lays out your optimal Defensive Attack strategy based on relative offenses and defenses:

For best results, use a yak-hair brush and lather with Mama Bear's handmade soap pucks.

I like this chart for many reasons. First, to defend its relevance, especially at higher defense levels: your base-line opponent in Dungeon Fantasy has Skill 14. With a Medium Shield, that means a defense of 14/2 = 7 + 3 for defense + 2 for shield + 1 for retreat = 13. If you make it a Large Shield and give the opponent Combat Reflexes, that's a 15, which is already pushing the right edge of the chart. (Also: yowza. That shows you right there that "eating up a defense so the Knight can hit" is actually quite useful, not a waste of time and talent at all.)

Second, it broadly validates the first-pass recommendations by +Douglas Cole that lowering your skill to 14 or 16 is the way to go if you want to maximize your chances. There are certainly exceptions, like when you have Skill 22 and your opponent has Defense 15, but they're exceptions around the edges, and you're not too far off from optimal if you stick to the recommended course.

Third, it is supporting evidence that Defensive Attack is doing its job. With the exception of that 22 vs. 18 slot, when your skill goes up and your opponent's skill goes up, you're better off taking a higher defensive attack. (That exception is sensible if you think about it: 22-6 = 16, maximizing your chances for a crit.)

Of course this chart isn't the end-all and be-all of GURPS combat recommendations. It assumes a man-to-man fight on level ground with absolutely no interfering effects. It's a fun little thing to noodle around, though.