Friday, March 8, 2019

And another Kickstarter

And there's a second GURPS-related Kickstarter going on right now: Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 2. If funded, it also will bring another printing of the boxed set. And my players get more monsters to kill them pretty artwork!

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Game log: 3 March 2019: Day of the Triffids

Dramatis personae

Mayhem, short barbarian
Caleb, wizard
Xóran, fox-man swordsman
Ash, squire
Kôštē, cleric (NPC)

Quid occurrit

Kôštē healed Mayhem as the others buried Uruk. Xóran, out of grudging respect, insisted that they bury Uruk with full gear, other than his arrows (which Xóran took) and food (which the others took).

Once they filled the grave in the cave with the draugr, they wandered through the dungeon a bit more. They went back to the room from which they had turned back before, and went through it, taking care to stay away from the basin on the side. They left the room, and Mayhem took care to light the torches in the crude sconces along the tunnel. Once they went down a tunnel without any sconces, and found it to be a dead end. The ogres, while mostly being stupid, didn't waste sconces on dead ends.

They at last made it to a door. Caleb listened at it and, having heard nothing, let the others open the door. Once they did so, they found the bodies of eleven dead ogre women and their five dead children. That wasn't as grim as what else they say: six nine-foot-high green plants walking on three legs. They had no arms but instead three branches, while atop each plant was a funnel with a long lash. The plants were eating the dead ogres with their funnels, and these jerked up when the door opened.

And I really got hot
When I saw Janette Scott
Fight a triffid that
spits poison and kills
These plants were, of course, triffids.

Mayhem, of course, charged into the room. Caleb charged an Explosive Fireball, while the nearest triffid lashed its stinger at Ash, who shot it as he got out of the way of its lash. Another one's lash slapped Mayhem's side, but it didn't hurt him through his armor and tough skin. The others lumbered nearer.

Into the room dashed Xóran to smack a triffid, though it stayed up. Mayhem likewise put his axe into a triffid that didn't fall from the blow. Ash dropped his bow and pulled out his sword, while Caleb kept charging his spell. Three triffids struck at Mayhem, though only the one on his flank harmed him, while two more struck at Ash, not harming him. The last one got nearer to Ash.

Xóran swung both his swords at a triffid, taking it down. He screamed for the others to "help Mayhem" as Mayhem swung his axe and lost his balance, leaving himself an easy target for a triffid. Ash smashed his shield into a triffid. This did nothing, but Caleb's Explosive Fireball burnt one to a crisp, burned another, and made the air near Ash and Xóran hot. The one by Ash moved away, while the three on Mayhem each took a smack at him. Two of them hurt him a bit through his armor, while one got its stinger on Mayhem's eye. Mayhem winced from the burning feeling, but somehow kept his sight.

Xóran moved to help Mayhem, who pulled himself upright again after his bad swing. Caleb started casting Flaming Weapon, Ash charged towards the fleeing triffid and traded misses with it, and the three triffids kept trying to hurt Mayhem though didn't. Xóran made it to the triffid smacking Mayhem's side and cut it badly, while Mayhem took down one of the triffids before his face. Ash and the triffid again traded misses, while Caleb got off his Flaming Weapon spell, making Xóran's magic longsword burn with fire. The triffids fighting Mayhem and Xóran tried to smack their eyes but missed.

The fire on Xóran's sword helped him hurt the triffid fighting him, but it was the other sword that ended it. Mayhem moved away towards the doorway. Ash slashed the triffid he was fighting, while Caleb, now weary, fired up a small Fireball. Kôštē the cleric moved from the hallway to the doorway, waiting for Mayhem, and the triffids missed their foes.

Again Xóran charged with his sword at a triffid, but this time, he dropped it. Mayhem stepped back, and Ash lost his sword when the triffid's stinger smacked it out of the way. Caleb lobbed his weak Fireball at the triffid but, still weary, missed. One triffid's stinger grazed Ash's eyes but he kept his sight, though lost his grip on his shield. Xóran parried the stinger of the other triffid, and Kôštē cast Major Healing on Mayhem for the second time that day.

Xóran, now down only to his magic sword, hit a triffid, while Mayhem moved back to help him. Ash gripped his shield anew, while Caleb lit up another small Fireball. One of the two triffids caught its stinger on Ash's shield, but the other hit Xóran in the eye, and its poison blinded him. Kôštē leaned forward and cast Lend Energy to give Caleb a boost.

Although blinded, Xóran fought onward, though his sword work now was like Chris Davis at bat. Mayhem rushed forward to help him, but also missed. Caleb dumped more might into his Fireball, and the triffid pushed back on Ash's shield bash. The shield likewise blocked the triffid's stinger, but Mayhem was unable to get himself between Xóran and the other triffid, and the stinger smacked Xóran, and its poison this time got into the wound.

Xóran staggered around, and Mayhem at last got his axe into the triffid, bringing it down. The other triffid pushed back on Ash's shield, but that was its last deed—Caleb's Fireball struck true, killing the triffid.

The gang sat around for a few days and healed up, eating triffid oil, until Xóran's sight came back.

Res aliae

Steph, who normally plays Mayhem, was gone this week, so Roman, who plays Xóran, also played Mayhem. Brandon, who played the late Uruk, didn't have his new character ready, so he played Caleb, who is usually the one grandfathered-in "extra" character. (Chris played him, as well as Mayhem. He's easy for almost anyone to handle, and for me, the characters let a little bit of Chris still live on in the game.)

The triffid was a monster that I wrote from the John Wyndham book, and it shows why we playtest these things. As I had written it, when it hit the Eyes, it also did damage. This is not only not how it worked in the book, but it's superfluous. It did 11 points crushing to the Eyes, which I realized was a killing blow, not a blinding blow. When you're dead, you're automatically blind, so the roll to resist blindness was silly. While I don't want to coddle my players, this isn't what I was trying to have it do, so I had the damage instead lower the chance to resist blindness, by 1 for every 5 points of "damage." So, rolling 11 on 2d+1 meant that Mayhem resisted at HT-2. Which he made, while the blow that blinded Xóran was a mere 4 on the damage dice, giving him no penalty. Weird how that works out.

Thankfully, it is now back to exploring and travel again. Since we play short sessions and are slow to get going—really slow today since Brandon was late—we seem to have sessions of combat, sessions of exploring, and sessions of roleplaying.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Citadel at Norðvorn Kickstarter

We played Rifts last Sunday and it seems Jerry Bostock, my Jethro Tull-inspired crazy, may be about to make his last stroke, but that's not the reason for this post.

To make a long-story short, Douglas Cole, the one guy with a Dungeon Fantasy Role-Playing Game license, fellow Minneapolitean, and generally hoopy frood who knows where his towel is, has another Kickstarter for his Norse-themed Dungeon Fantasy: Citadel at Norðvorn. Back it.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Game logs 20 January and 3 February 2019: Binder of Glory

Dramatis personae

Mayhem, short barbarian
Caleb, wizard
Ash, squire
Kim, procurement expert
Xoran, fox man
Grymalkus, not quite as whiny as usual cleric
Attikos, holy warrior
Uruk, orc soldier
Kôštē, cleric of farming

Quid occurrit

The gang healed up until noon. Then, aside from Kim and Attikos (who was still passed out), they went down into the cave. They chose to go away from the undead, into another room. After blowing past that door (Caleb critically succeeded twice in a row with the Rive spell), they turned back. (I have no idea why.)

They went back to Fort Rénnutēs, dumping healing spells for two days into Attikos so he'd wake up without dying of dehydration. (I missed having him roll HT to wake up in the evening, though this would have been near result if he had failed.)

On the way, they saw a weird-looking chicken by a cave. As there were few settlements in the hills, they guessed it was a lone cockatrix. Mayhem made a mating call (Mimicry), making it randy and having it come near them. However, as it came nearer, it made Grymalkus and Ash ill. Caleb missed with Fireball, but Uruk shot it twice.

Back at Fort Rénnutēs, Kim, Attikos, and Grymalkus left, while Kôštē the cleric rejoined. The next day, they went a little southwest and tracked down the six orcs who ran from the attack on the fort. 

From there it was mostly a slaughter fest. Mayhem asked, “Where the orc women at?” The orcs, not having seen the gang, turned. Xoran plunked one with an arrow, Caleb started casting Blast Ball, and Mayhem said, “I want some!” The orcs pulled out their bows and falchions, and moved to fight.

Xoran shot the orc again, which rushed Mayhem and missed. Caleb got off his Blast Ball, which scorched all three orc archers, and spoiled the aim of two of them. Xoran dropped his bow, whipped out his swords, and moved to strike but missed, as did Mayhem.

Two orcs hit Mayhem, which just made him mad. Ash blocked the blow of the third, and the archers drew their falchions. Caleb fired up Sunbolt, and Xoran got one in the neck. Mayhem, now mad, took out two with neck shots. The orc archers chose to keep fighting, however, and moved to fight. Xoran took out another, and Ash poked the last one in the neck. He kept fighting, however, and Xoran missed him as he moved to fight. Mayhem, however, wasn’t so unlucky, and lopped off his head before killing the last orc.

They set went north from there. After passing a hole one day, they came to a big cave the next, where Uruk stomped a rattlesnake to death.

The day after that, they made it to the ogre cave early, but after first finding a rock covered in odd oil (which Caleb held back from burning) then a falling rock smashing into Uruk. Uruk led everyone to the room with the undead, and opened the door. He announced, "Remember me, bitches?" Nothing happened, so he smashed open the first casket.

The dead body in the casket was a draug with an axe, which it swung at Uruk, making him go berserk. The other caskets opened, and the heroes went into the room. Mayhem smacked his axe into the neck of one of the draugr near the door, while Uruk hit draug that had made him mad. The draug smacked Uruk right back, while the one near Mayhem reached up and hit Ash, who was standing nearby. Unlike most other blows, this one got through Ash’s armor. The other draugr sat up.

Xoran, Mayhem, and Ash all tried to take out draugr, and all three failed. Uruk, however, hit the one on him, while Caleb shot Acid Jet at the nearby coffin, which had the draug that Mayhem and Ash were fighting. The one by Mayhem and Ash missed Mayhem, while the one by Xoran dropped its axe as it tried to hit him (critical success Parry). The others stood up.

Mayhem at last took out the draug by him, and Xoran got in two neck shots on the draug near him. Uruk got a good whack on the draug fighting him, while Caleb started casting his old friend, Blast Ball. The draug by Uruk hit him, while the others got out of their caskets.

The draug fighting Xoran at last stood up, just in time for Xoran to take off its head. Mayhem tried hitting the hand of a draug near him, but it blocked his axe with its shield. Uruk flailed at the draug fighting him but did nothing, and Caleb lobbed his Blast Ball, but the draugr near ground zero got out of the way.

The draug on Uruk kept hurting him, while the one fighting Mayhem lost its balance from Mayhem’s parry. The others rushed in to fight, and missed; Ash at this time smashed one in the head, which didn’t seem to do anything. Xoran turned and tried to take off the leg of a draug that had rushed to fight him but didn’t get through, while Mayhem again had his try to take off the draug’s hand blocked. Ash missed the skull of the one on him. Uruk dropped his shield and axe, then grabbed the hand of the draug fighting him. Caleb again fired up Blast Ball.

The draug on Mayhem hit him and wrecked Mayhem’s grip on his axe, though he somehow held on. Mayhem went berserk, either from was the pain or the bad grip. Xoran parried both of the draugr fighting him, but a blow from one got through Ash’s armor. One by Uruk harmed him, but whose hand Uruk was holding couldn’t break free.

Mayhem got his axe ready, and both Xoran and Ash missed the draugr by them. Uruk twisted the hand of the hand of the draug up to its head, then crushed in its skull with his hands. Caleb lobbed Blast Ball and scorched two draugr from behind.

The draugr by the upset Mayhem and Uruk both hurt them, but the one on Ash met his shield and the one on Xoran met his swords. Xoran then use one sword to fake out the draug while planting his sword in its neck. Mayhem at last got his axe to the draug’s hand, crippling it and making it drop it axe. Ash feinted with his sword, while Uruk grappled the other draug by him. Caleb low on fatigue, lit up a small Fireball, while Kôštē, holding the door nearby, cast Lend Energy on Caleb.

Mayhem’s armor and Ash’s shield took the blow from two draugr, much as did Xoran’s swords from two more. Uruk’s draug was unable to break free of his grip. Xoran again tricked a draug with a feint, and then took it down with a neck blow. Mayhem, in his rage, saw this, and did the same feint and neck blow takedown trick. Ash’s feint also worked, and he gave the draug by him some nasty neck damage, though it still stood. Uruk again crushed the skull of the draug he grappled. Caleb threw a Fireball at a draug, but both it and Ash got out of the way.

The draug on Ash tried for his open face, but missed, while the one still fighting Xoran had its blow land on one of his swords. Xoran tried to hit the neck of that draug but missed, while Mayhem’s axe met the shield of another draug. Likewise, Ash also missed. Uruk then grabbed yet another draug, and Caleb cast a bigger Fireball.

The draug on Ash swung a bit low and hit him on the Armor of the Ape, not hurting him, but knocking him back a few feet. The one Uruk was grabbing slowly wiggled free. Xoran got one draug in the chest with a stab, but it still stood. Mayhem’s axe again met shield while Ash’s sword again met steel. Uruk imposed more grip on the draug he was grabbing, while Caleb’s Fireball again missed both the draug and Ash.

The draug grappling with Uruk again started to work free while the one fighting Ash lost his grip. Xoran lost his balance as he tried to stab a draug, while Mayhem and Ash both missed. Uruk grabbed the draug tighter, while Caleb fired up yet another Fireball.

The draug with Uruk tried to wiggle free, while the one fighting Ash smacked him in the face, taking him to the ground. Xoran stabbed a draug’s head from behind, taking it down, and Mayhem planted his axe into the torso of another, taking it down.

Uruk crushed the skull of the last one. He looked up, and fell down, now dead from his wounds.

Res aliae

The fight was against 8 draugr. They were helped by the first few draugr having to fight from lying down, but the ability to do 4d6+2 cutting damage has a way of equalizing that.

Mayhem and Uruk both went Berserk. Uruk took so much damage that he dropped dead of the fatigue loss at the end of combat. (He was spending fatigue on mighty blows.)

Xóran learned the worth of feinting. With two swords, this is a great idea, especially since someone with Broadsword-20 has more skill than most foes. He also didn't get a scratch on him owing to parrying with two swords.

Grappling is a good idea against draugr with 27 HP, but not foolproof. They can impose 2d6+3 control points right back. But it turned their shields into liabilities, turning their main defense from a Parry or Block of 12 +2 DB for the shield to a Dodge of 11 -2 DB for the shield.

Ash also took damage, namely smacks to the face but also 4d6+2 cutting to the body. Having a DR 14 breastplate may be great against bandits, but not against someone with ST 22.

Having these guys go down at 0 HP made this fight much easier. With their obscene HT 15, they could have functioned below 0 HP had I chosen not to call them meaningless mooks. Having said that, I see that I missed that they shouldn't have been able to parry as much as they did, having axes.

The death of Uruk

Psycho Dave: “Weasly your character is dead, since there are no clerics nearby you may add your character sheet to the binder of shame.” 
Me: “What exactly is a Binder of Shame? And why is it so large?” 
Psycho Dave: “Every D&D game has many binders but each D&D game must have a Binder of Shame and a Binder of Glory. The player characters that die heroic deaths are saved forever in the page protectors of the Binder of Glory. The characters that suffer, humiliating, soul-crushing deaths go into the Binder of Shame. It’s a sign of quality GMing to have a Binder of Shame three times the size of your Binder of Glory.”

Uruk goes into the Binder of Glory.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Hex Ed: Wilderness Hex Crawls in Dungeon Fantasy

Well, here's a promised full article that never ran in Pyramid. This one is in part my try to make my own version of the One-Page Wilderness System using only d6s. This is somewhat informed by use, advising folks to not to fill every hex with an encounter, leaving the lesser encounters up to pure random rolls. Honestly, I use the original system myself, with my only tweak being a 12 is a purely random encounter. Yeah, it's a d20 roll, but so what? I also always make the standard four rolls for morning, afternoon, evening, and night encounters, not the two recommended here, which was hewing nearer to Kromm's recommendation to one random encounter a day.
Regardless, I think all encounter rolls need to hem to the idea that not only do you need truly random encounters, but you also should have a roll to trigger any nearby encounter. This goes back to early D&D, with the roll to see if someone comes out of a castle if you pass within a few hexes of it.
Not long after writing this, I understood what Rob Conley meant when he told me that getting lost rolls were more trouble than they're worth, and went to a failed Navigation roll lowering how far you get in a day, and something you roll only once a day. I am leaving the rules for getting lost for those folks who want them, however, as I did use them early in my campaign. I also have better ways of handling % In Lair, which are elsewhere on this site. For encounter distances, see the post about the ibathene.  

With GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 16: Wilderness Adventures, Dungeon Fantasy comes out of the dungeon. A hex crawl can make a wilderness like a dungeon, but more open-ended.

A hex crawl is a set of adventure sites in a wilderness that delvers can explore. Unlike a dungeon, these sites are not linked together. Indeed, the dwellers in those sites may have little to do with each other, and could well have their own dungeons.

Hexes in a hex crawl are like rooms in a dungeon. Hexes show where things are, and give limits to movement and sight.

Making a Map

For a hex crawl, you need a map with hexes. Hexes can be of any size, which is typically a number of miles. Most hex maps have hexes that are 4 to 12 miles across. Bigger hexes won't have many encounters from nearby hexes happen, while smaller hexes will have many more. You can get your map however you like, whether you make your own, you download it from the Internet, or you take it from another game. The original Dungeons and Dragons game took its hex map from Outdoor Survival, an Avalon Hill game.

When making a hex map don’t worry about filling every hex with an encounter if you are using smaller (4 to 6 miles) hexes! Only worry about the bigger encounters. Empty hexes can be like empty rooms in a dungeon, which give a break. You need not fill more than a third of the hexes, and can get away with filling a sixth of them. Fill them with settlements, lairs, landmarks, you name it.

Beasts can move between hexes. They're even more likely to do so, since there aren't walls and doors to get in the way. Hexes can even have dungeons in them, which let you run a dungeon crawl inside your hex crawl.


In a hex crawl, “lairs” are all nests, buildings, caves, dungeons, and other places in which dwell monsters and other foes. For each monster lair, note the following:

  • How many monsters are in the lair.
  • How much treasure is in the lair.
  • Whether the lair is hidden.
  • Any special defenses the lair has, like traps or guard beasts.
  • Whether the monsters leave the lair.
  • If the monsters leave the lair, how many of them are in a group, how far (in hexes) do they wander, and when in the day they wander, typically day or night.

A lair itself is a place that might need a map, especially if you think the players might spend a lot of time there. Lairs often have non-fighters, like children or elderly, guard beasts, slaves, prisoners, or whatnot. There might be other lairs nearby, and they might be foes of the monsters in the first lair. The whole lair can be a dungeon, which is a nest of smaller lairs.

Moving from Hex to Hex

The rules for Travel (Wilderness Adventures, p. 20) handle most movement issues. Each hex has a cost to move through it. This cost is equal to the size of the hex in miles, divided by the travel speed for the terrain (Wilderness Adventures, p. 22). Each hex should have only one travel speed. A boon of hexes is that you need not worry about mixed terrain, since each hex has its own modifier for this worked out beforehand.

The delvers’ final travel speed (Wilderness Adventures, p. 23), multiplied by the daily travel time (Wilderness Adventures, p. 23), gives the total movement in miles they can go for the day. This is the budget the delvers can spend to move through hexes. To move from a hex, the delvers must spend the cost of the hex in miles. If the hex has a bigger cost than the delvers have miles of movement, they stay in the hex. Keep track of the number of miles they spend each day, since they can put many days’ travel together to push through a hex. Sometimes, it is best to make a hex map of a bigger hex if the explorers are moving around inside the hex and you need to keep track of where they are in it.
Example: A band of explorers have Move 2, which means they move a mile each hour. They take out two hours for foraging, so they get 10 miles of movement for the day. The band wants to move through a 5-mile hex of dense forest, which is ×0.20 to travel speed. Thus, the hex has a cost of 25 miles. It will take the delvers two-and-a-half days to go through the hex.

Getting Lost

When hex crawling in the wild, with no landmarks or road, make a Navigation roll to go into each hex instead of each day (Wilderness Adventures, p. 22). Success means the group makes it into the hex with no problem, while a critical success shaves off a mile of the effective width of the hex. A failure means the hex costs more to go through: raise the cost to move through the hex by +20%. A critical failure means the group has wandered into one of the two hexes to the sides of the hex into which they wanted to go. Pick one of them randomly, or the one with terrain most like that of the hex they wanted. A Per-based Navigation roll means someone has figured out that the group is in the wrong hex.

Ignore the above whenever the characters can see where they want to go! It’s a little hard to miss the big mountain or the hustle and bustle of a town from six miles away.


Check for encounters whenever delvers go into a hex, and one more time for each day and night. Roll a d6 twice to find out which hour of the day or night; if the second die comes up 4-6, add 6 to the first die to find the hour.

For 4 to 6 mile hexes, roll 3d on the table below. The extra roll for each day and night happens in the hex in which the delvers happen to be at that hour.

Encounters (4-6 mile hexes)

Roll (3d) Result

3-8 Nothing happens.
9 Clue to an encounter keyed to a nearby hex. Roll 1d, and count the hexes clockwise starting from the top-right hex. If this hex has no encounter, or the encounter keyed to it does not wander between hexes, nothing happens.
10 Clue to an encounter keyed to this hex. If the group is not moving or there is no encounter in this hex, nothing happens.
11 Random encounter. The GM should have a table of random encounters that are the lesser encounters in the wild. These foes can have a prefix (GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 1, pp. 36-38). You can roll randomly for these. Roll 2d. On a 2 or 3, that foe has one of the prefixes in that tome. If one of the delvers has Weirdness Magnet, the foe has a prefix on a 2, 3, or 4 instead. You should make a list of which prefixes monsters can have, and roll to see which prefix the monster does have. For monsters with lots of treasure or a complex lair, it helps to write up a lair before the game.
12 Encounter keyed to a hex two hexes away. Roll 1d, and count the hexes clockwise starting from the top-right hex; roll another 1d, and if it comes up 4-6, count another 6 hexes clockwise. (If you have a d12, you can roll that instead). If this hex has no encounter, or the encounter keyed to it does not wander two hexes away, nothing happens.
13 Encounter keyed to a nearby hex. Roll 1d, and count the hexes clockwise starting from the top-right hex. If this hex has no encounter, or the encounter keyed to it does not wander between hexes, nothing happens.
14-16 Encounter keyed to this hex. On 16, this happens near the monster's lair if the group was moving; otherwise, it happens outside. If there is no encounter in this hex, nothing happens.
17-18 Roll twice. Both results happen at the same time.

For 8 to 12 mile hexes, roll 2d on this table instead:

Encounters (8-12 mile hexes)

Roll (2d) Result

2-4 Nothing happens.
5 Clue to an encounter keyed to this hex. If the group is not moving or there is no encounter in this hex, nothing happens.
6 Clue to an encounter keyed to a nearby hex. Roll 1d, and count the hexes clockwise starting from the top-right hex. If this hex has no encounter, or the encounter keyed to it does not wander between hexes, nothing happens.
7 Random encounter. See the notes for 11 above.
8 Encounter keyed to a nearby hex. Roll 1d, and count the hexes clockwise starting from the top-right hex. If this hex has no encounter, or the encounter keyed to it does not wander between hexes, nothing happens.
9-11 Encounter keyed to this hex. On an 11, this happens in the monster's lair if the group was moving; otherwise, it happens outside. If there is no encounter in this hex, nothing happens.
12 Roll twice. Both results happen at the same time.

Clues are just that: hints that are about the encounter in question. These can be sights, sounds, smells, droppings, tracks, dead victims; you name it. The only need is that they have something to do with that encounter. If the players want to find out what left that clue, let them make a roll. They might roll against Heraldry (for an old banner), Naturalist (for droppings), or Survival (for an old camp). A critical failure gives wrong information ("Wild horses can leave claw marks too."). If the players want to follow the clue, let them make a Tracking roll to their way to the lair. A critical failure means they go the wrong way and alert one of the other deadly beasts in the wild.

The GM needs to put the lair of a random encounter onto the map when he rolls the encounter. To do this, roll 1d-3. Add the Size Modifier of the monster, or the Basic Move if it is lower than the Size Modifier. Subtract one for each of Bestial or Loner, and add one for Flight. If the tally of this roll is positive, fivefold that in miles is where its lair is; roll 1d for direction as in #6 above. (If using 4-6 mile hexes, skip multiplying it by 5, and read the number as hexes.) If the roll is 0, then the monster's lair is in this hex, but the encounter doesn't happen in it. If the roll is negative, the encounter happens near the monster's lair.

For a hex with a keep or a settlement in it, roll on this table before the group reaches the keep or settlement. The result on the table happens before the group reaches the keep or settlement. The keep or settlement is usually the keyed encounter for the hex. If the result is an encounter in the hex, then it will be guards or dwellers from the keep or settlement.

Let’s Split

Gamers have long held splitting the party to be dangerous. In a hex crawl, if a party splits up, like in Scouting (Wilderness Adventures, p. 25), each group coming from the split makes its own encounter rolls. Since each group will be smaller than the party as a whole, it is less able to fight whatever shows up.


Encounter Distance

When starting an encounter, each side makes Perception checks to see who is surprised. Let each player roll for his own character. For NPCs, roll against their highest Perception, and give them a bonus for the number of them there are. Use the “Size” column of the table on p. B550, but read “yards” as “NPCs.” For in-between numbers, use the lower bonus.

If no side is surprised or both sides are surprised, let the encounter start with 6d×2 yards between the two sides. If one side is surprised and the other is not, let the side that still has its wits about it choose what to do about the other. It can get to 3d yards from the other side before the other side becomes aware of it. If it wants to get nearer, it needs to make Stealth rolls, opposed by the higher of Hearing or Vision. Again, let the players make their own rolls. For the NPCs, roll against the highest number. The number of NPCs is a bonus for spotting stalkers, but a penalty for stalking. Use the same bonus as to Perception for surprise when spotting stalkers, but treat it as a negative to Stealth for the stalkers.

Finding Dungeons and Lairs

Most landmarks are easy to find. After all, what good is a town if nobody is there? But some spots, like dungeons or lairs, are hidden. If they were not, someone else would have already looted them! To find a hidden place, make a Tracking roll, and apply the Long-Distance Modifiers (GURPS Magic, p. 14) for the hex or other area size. (For 4- to 8-mile hexes, this will be -4; for bigger hexes up to 30 miles, this will be -5.) This is a thorough search, and the time the search takes is the same time it takes to move into the hex. Having a good map gives a bonus, and anyone with Area Knowledge for the place in question can roll against that instead. Failure means the delvers do not find the place, but may look again. Critical failure not only means they don’t find the place, but also that they alert whoever lives there! Anyone who fails can try again as much as he likes until he finds the place, gives up, or a grue eats him.

On a Clear Day You Can See Three Miles

A human can see about 3 miles in clear land. If one climbs a tree, he can see 9 miles. In hilly land, about 200 feet from sea level, he can see 19 miles. In mountains, about 1,000 feet above sea level, a human can see about 42 miles.

Realistically, size changes this. A smaller creature has its eyes lower to the ground, and can't see as far; a half of a mile less for each Size Modifier below 0 works for PC races. For each Size Modifier above 0, a creature can see another mile. For all but pixies and leprechauns, this isn't a big deal, and pixies can fly to make up for being vertically challenged. Don't worry about size if the looker climbs a tree or is on a hill, since the height of the tree or hill is now what is key.

To tell what something afar is, the delver makes a Vision check, as on p. B358. This is at +10 most of the time, since it is in plain sight. The relative Size Modifier of the target to the looker is a modifier to the check, as is terrain. For all but Mountain or Underwater terrain, dock another -2 for being in hilly lands.

Vision Modifiers

Terrain Modifier
Arctic -2
Desert -2
Island/Beach -0
Jungle -7
Mountain -4
Plains -0
Swampland -7
Woodlands -6
Underwater -8

Further Reading

Conley, Robert. How to Make a Fantasy Sandbox. This is a step-by-step guide to making a sandbox fit for a hex crawl.
Sorolla, Roger S.G. One-Page Wilderness System. This is the inspiration for the encounter table; the original has a Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0 license.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Histoplasmosis aka spelunker's lung: a disease for GURPS

I still want to get my diseases article published, so this is only an excerpt. However, it’s the most important one, since it should have been in RPGs since at least Blackmoor. Both the supplement and the game; Arneson was fond of diseases. It’s so damn important that you’re getting D&D stats for it, too.

Quick note about illness in general: if you do adventurer things (swimming, climbing, hiking, fighting), your HT (or whatever) rolls to resist are at -2 or your Encumbrance level while doing those adventurer things, whichever is worse. If you stay indoors and do nothing but sleep, sip soup, and get up to use the porcelain god, you get +1.

Histoplasmosis (Spelunker's Lung)

Histoplasmosis, or spelunker’s lung, is an infection that comes from a fungus that grows in soil mixed with bird or bat droppings. As such, it is common in caves where bats dwell. Since nobody ever heard of a roleplaying game in an underground labyrinth with lots of bat guano, this should be a seldseen disease. It is quite common in the Ohio River Valley but happens throughout the world. To rouse the spores, something needs to disturb the soil.
Patients with histoplasmosis will have a fever and a cough, as the spores get into the lungs. The pain someone who has lost more than a third of his hit points will feel will be in his chest, and maybe a headache. Harsher cases of histoplasmosis can turn into serious lung problems.
Statistics: Respiratory (from the spores of a fungus that grows in bat or bird droppings); HT to resist. 3d+1 day delay; 1 point toxic damage; 12-hour cycle with 12 cycles. Symptoms include coughing and moderate pain (p. B428) after the loss of 1/3 HP, and severe pain (p. B428) after the loss of 2/3 HP. Not contagious.

D&D 3.5e: Inhaled, DC 15, Incubation 3d6+1 days; Damage 1d2 Con.

Game logs for 25 November and 9 December 2019: Wow, do ogres hurt you!

Dramatis personae

Mayhem, short barbarian
Caleb, wizard
Ash, squire
Kim, procurement expert
Xoran, fox man
Grymalkus, not quite as whiny as usual cleric
Attikos, holy warrior
Uruk, orc soldier

Quid occurrit

The heroes awoke to a chilly day. Mayhem easily led them to the ogre's lair, which was a cave in the middle of a copse of trees. The ogres made the last bit easy, as they left a trail of copper coins leading up to the hole. The ogres likely thought the last touch was clever.

Nobody thought to ask them, however, even though there were two of them out on watch. Everyone easily spotted everyone else, and the ogres came out to greet them with their mauls.

Xoran and Mayhem waited for the attack, while Kim and Uruk drew their bows. Uruk, however, dropped his quiver while trying to load two arrows. Kim’s first shot hit but didn’t do much. Uruk’s first double shot missed.

Mayhem and Ash came up to fight the ogres when they got near. One ogre parried Mayhem's axe, but Ash did hit with a shield slam. Attikos also lobbed a javelin at an ogre and hit. The ogres chose to fight Ash and Xoran and missed. The spellcasters, Grymalkus and Caleb, got busy: Grymalkus tried to cast Haste but failed, while Caleb got a big Fireball ready.

Xoran tried to hit the legs of an ogre but he defended, as did another who got out of the way of Mayhem's axe. However, Ash gave an ogre a hard blow to his body, knocking him down, while Uruk cross-checked the other ogre with his spear, knocking him down, too. Grymalkus cast Might on Attikos, while Xoran, Mayhem, and Ash went to work on cutting off heads.

No sooner had they beheaded the ogres did eight more ogres show up. One had ugly fetishes around his neck, and the other, unlike all other ogres, had a sword and shield. The sword wasn't ogre-sized, but had a hawk on the blade. The ogre with the sword mumbled something as he stepped forward.

Mayhem started digging out oil. Xoran yelled at Grymalkus, “Go to work, whelp!” then told Uruk, “Handle the horde, Grymalkus and I will take on the leader.” Attikos threw a javelin at leader, which went into his shield. Grymalkus cast Might on himself.

Uruk shot an ogre in the kidneys. The ogre leader reached Attikos, who blocked his blow. Attikos drew his sword and shouted at Grymalkus,  “If Grymalkus dies, you die raccoon-boy!” The ogre shaman told Attikos to drop his sword, but Attikos's hand stayed on it. The rest of the ogres started smacking the heroes, but hit none of them, one of the ogres even pulling his shoulder muscle trying to hit Ash.

Caleb lobbed his Fireball at the shaman, burning him. Kim shot another ogre to little avail. Grymalkus and Attikos had their blows meet maul and shield, respectively. Xoran stunned an ogre by roaring at him but not only did the stunned ogre parry the blow, Xoran dropped his second sword, Mayhem at last got his oil lit.

The shaman again told Attikos to drop his sword, but Attikos's mind was too strong. Another ogre dropped his maul and tried to punch Ash, but Ash parried the ogre's arm with his sword, which wasn't a good time for the ogre. Two ogres went after Xoran; one missed, but the other smacked Xoran so hard that he went both down and back. The leader again tried to hit Attikos, who again blocked him.

Attikos and Grymalkus both failed to land blows on the lower half of the ogre, but Ash rammed his sword into an ogre's chest and Uruk shot the shaman twice, dropping him and the deputy. Xoran started to stand up, and Caleb cast Explosive Fireball. The ogres missed Grymalkus and Attikos right back.

Grymalkus crippled the foot of an ogre with his hammer. Caleb lobbed his Explosive Fireball at the shaman which burned him to death, and Kim’s arrow got into an ogre’s armor. Ash cut the jugular of an ogre, and Uruk shot one twice in the chest. On the down side, the ogre leader hit Attikos, sending him staggering back, Xoran, now standing, tried to roar and it came out like a puppy's yip, and Mayhem charged and missed.

One of the last two ogres started to pull out, while another missed Mayhem. The leader hit Attikos in the shield. Grymalkus tried to cripple the foot of another ogre but the ogre's parry was so strong that it smacked the hammer out of Grymalkus's hands. Caleb, now low on juice, pulled out his sword, worried that an ogre would draw nearer. Xoran stabbed an ogre in the chest, while Mayhem planted an axe in the ogre's side. Ash charged the leader but missed, while Uruk shot him in the skull, and Attikos cut his neck.

The ogre by Xoran and Mayhem had one more trick, which was smacking Xoran so hard that he passed out. That was his last trick, as Mayhem killed him as he watched Xoran fall. Grymalkus grabbed his hammer, though Ash told him to grab the sword from the leader. Kim shot the the fleeing ogre, and Caleb singed him with a little Fireball. Uruk, however, lost his footing and grip as he tried to shoot the runner.

Mayhem turned toward the leader and smacked him, and Grymalkus ended his life. Kim shot the running ogre again, dropping him. Grymalkus picked up the leader's sword, and it hummed in his hand.

They were badly hurt. Ash bound the wounds of Xoran and poured a healing potion down his throat. Mayhem bound the wounds of Grymalkus, who then cast healing spells on Attikos and Xoran until he was too weak to do more.

Mayhem spotted amber sap on a willow near the cave entrance as Uruk and Kim picked up coins. Mayhem saw that this tree was a goo tree, and told the others not to touch it. Kim started digging out the coins under the tree with a stick, and her hand got too near a branch. The branch smacked her hand, crippling it and coating it in sap. She fell back then kipped up away from the tree. Grymalkus looked at her hand, and it dawned on him that he needed acid to get the sap off her hand. So, Caleb cast Acid Jet on Kim's hand, getting the goo off and crippling her hand for the next six months. Grymalkus healed her hand damage, but it was still crippled, so he started praying for Restoration.

Ash and Uruk looked into the cave, and heard some faint sound inside. Thinking there were more ogres down there, they chose to smoke out them ogres, but Uruk wanted to look around first. After some wandering inside, Uruk found a secret door, and pushed it open. He found eight caskets in it, and opened one. Upon opening, a body in the casket punched Uruk, though not with enough strength to hurt him. Uruk grabbed his knife and buckler to fight, but the other caskets opened and Uruk ran. The dead bodies did not come after him, and slammed the door. As he scampered, a loud howl came from further down the cave.
Roman surveys the scene as the ogres show up near the cave opening.

After a few more minutes, six ogres showed up. Kim snuck off, knowing her hand wouldn't let her help much. Uruk shot an ogre and felled it. Caleb cast Explosive Fireball 4d as the others waited for the ogres to come nearer.

Uruk shot another ogre and misses, but hit the one behind him in the arm. Attikos hit another with a javelin. Caleb threw Explosive Fireball, but the ogre nearby dropped and dodged. Mayhem tried to rush and hit one in the legs but the ogre parried. Uruk again shot at an ogre and missed him but hit the ogre behind him. Twice.

One ogre missed Mayhem's head, while another moved towards Caleb and Attikos. The one on the ground started to stand, and the last rushed at Uruk. Uruk stepped out of the way and Ash got a swing at it, but the ogre smacked it aside.

Uruk took down an ogre with a bodkin shot to the head, but Kim's backstab with her off hand didn't get through. The ogres parried Mayhem's and Ash's blows. Attikos tried to grab and trip an ogre, but he pulled his leg out of the way. One ogre stood up, while the other two missed Attikos and Mayhem.

Caleb lobbed a fireball at an ogre. Again, Kim feebly stabbed the leg of another, and Mayhem hit the leg of a third, sending him to the ground. One ogre tried to bop Caleb on the skull but missed, while another tried to slam Uruk but failed.

Caleb, now worried, cast Acid Jet. Kim yet again feebly stabbed an ogre on the neck, Ash smacked one in the leg, Uruk kicked a another, trying to send him down into the cave, and Attikos get smacked a third in the leg. The ogre got revenge for his leg, bopping Attikos on the skull and knocking him out. The other two missed Ash and Kim

Seeing his friend Attikos fall, Grymalkus steeled himself and grabbed his axe. Caleb hit an ogre in the leg with a stream of acid but didn't do much damage. Kim tried to stab the eye of the downed ogre but missed but Mayhem smacked it in the neck. Ash cut one in the leg, and Uruk shot two arrows into the ogre on Caleb. Indeed, Mayhem, Ash, and Uruk each took down one of the last three ogres.

Res aliae

Two sessions, and those were intense fights. The latter fight wouldn't have been so tough had Xoran still been awake, so the group was left with two melee monkeys, two missile monkeys, and the tweeners who are Kim, Grymalkus, and Attikos.

Attikos's head blow took him to -3×HP, and Roman, running him in Joe's absence (Joe is having some school issues), made the first three HT checks, leaving Attikos alive. After those three, he failed the next one, so he fell down and passed out, but you'd rather fail that one than the first three. But that's why you wear helmets, kids: without one, Attikos's failed HT roll would have been on his fourth death check.

Unrelated to the game, but Pyramid magazine went kaput. I'm going to be posting some of my unpublished articles as blog posts. Some others I'll keep to see if I can't get a supplement or part of one out of them.