Sunday, June 22, 2014

Game log for 22 June 2014

Cast of characters:

Yémos, human male cleric of Dōsaútōr, goddess of magic (Eric)
Anêr, human male swashbuckler (Eric, NPC)
Mayhem, short human male barbarian do the Dragon Claw Clan (Chris)
Caleb, human male wizard (Chris, NPC)

18 Žnēâns 2852, deep in the Eldalîvā Woods (2418)

The group made camp and a lean-to, and passed the night smoothly. The next morning, the day was pleasant, though Mayhem felt crummy that day anyways (missed a daily HT roll). They didn't make good headway through the woods, though much of that was from the density of the trees. They needed to forage for food, since Caleb's rations were out. Yémos got some nuts and berries, and Mayhem and Caleb got a few little rabbits. Luckily, nothing struck them through the day or through the night, in spite of their badly-made lean-to.

The next day was more of the same: a nice spring day, wandering south through thick woods, while Mayhem and Caleb had some bug bites while sleeping. They ate their small game and berries, then made camp and went to bed.

Between midnight and daybreak that night, however, Mayhem spotted a being walking towards their camp. He roused Anêr, then tried to sneak up on her. She turned and pointed at Mayhem with her spear. She asked him who he was, and he said he was Mayhem.

"The Mayhem?"

She was none other than Alligên, a woman of Mayhem's Dragon Claw Clan. She was wiry and her face was narrow, her dark brown skin was pockmarked and she had braided her brown hair and dyed it green. The two were far kin, Mayhem thought a third cousin or something.

After chatting a bit about bygone days, she got to asking why he was in the woods with the "townies," who had woken and come towards them. Mayhem told her that they were looking for a druid and some fauns at the behest of Praitanêr. This didn't make Alligên too happy, and she told Mayhem that she was the druidess.

Alligên would not help the gang, though nobody held that against her, though they thought she needed to settle down and maybe find a boyfriend. She did tell Mayhem that the men of Dībités Rock had to be following them, and of some of the other pitfalls of the woods, like the werewolves, the ettercaps and their big spiders, who had left the spider silk strands they found the afternoon of the 18th. Mayhem asked her if she could talk to the ettercaps to see if they would help for a snack of some bandits, but she would not, and said the spiders would eat them if they tried to do it themselves. She then stormed southward, and the gang went back to bed.

That morning, the 21st, Yémos took a look to the west, where Alligên had said the ettercaps dwelled, and saw nothing but thick woods. They instead slowly went to the southeast, caught their game, and went to bed. Luckily, nothing bothered them that day, nor the next, as they headed back towards Dībités rock, but staying to its south.

On the morning of the 23rd, they passed by a two-foot wide hole in the ground, and an hour later, saw a gang of six monks and a fighter taking down a bunch of man-sized spiders. Yémos knew their reddish tabards and bejeweled swords meant they were followers of Punšástōr, god of war. The man in mail armor and an old wig spoke to them, and asked them what they were doing so far out in the woods. Yémos said they were only wandering, to which the bewigged man said, "Yessssss, bullshit." Since nobody could think of anything else to ask each other, the two gangs split and our heroes wandered westward for the rest of the day. They were now out of food, and that night, the grind of the day kept Yémos from conjuring enough food to feed everyone.

A few hours after nightfall, Yémos saw a big cat the size of a man. He roused the others, who remembered it to be the caterwaul they had fought on the 12th. He cast Shield on Anêr, and the gang plugged their ears before the caterwaul's howl. However, the howl still struck Caleb with fear, and, with the wear of the day, the bad sleep from not building a right lean-to the night before, and missing dinner, Caleb passed out from fear. The caterwaul came nearer the gang, and pounced on Anêr. However, he did not do enough harm to knock down Anêr, who tried to strike back, but the caterwaul swatted away his rapier. Mayhem came and tried to strike its flank but missed, while Yémos came nearer. Now Yémos and Mayhem could see why the caterwaul was so eager to pounce: he had a big hard-on.

The horny cat tried to claw Anêr, but Anêr swatted his paw. He tried to strike his body as well but missed, but Mayhem stepped forward and buried his axe into the caterwaul, killing him. The next day, they ate Hello Kitty steak (as Eric dubbed it) for breakfast, found the cave of the caterwaul and its gems, and made their way northwest to the gnomish village of Káddrakos.


The characters got 6 character points. The gems in the caterwaul's smelly cave was the first big haul they had, since they ran away from the evil cleric in the goblin caves and striking Dībités Rock would be suicide.

We gave the rules on GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 16: Wilderness Adventures a workout, which did take up quite a bit of time at first. This does make camping and navigation much harder without good gear; Eric said he wanted Yémos to buy a tent when they got back to civilization. Foraging was a big concern since they were running out of food. I'd like to cut down on the rolls, but taking extra time doesn't give more food, it only makes you more likely to find one meal, so there's not a big carrot there, much less a big deer.

A big takeaway from this is that the Survival skill is boss. It lets you forage, move farther, set up camp, and set up shelter, and those are only the daily rolls. If you run with wilderness exploration at all, not having Survival is like putting a gun to your head and hoping no one pulls the trigger. It's even better of you have Survival for the right terrain: Mayhem has it for Plains, which befits a barbarian from the hills, but they were in the woods.

If the weather looks good at dawn and nobody in your group has a good Weather Sense skill, don't try to make that roll. Mayhem is the only one who has it, and it's only a 9. They are in spring, before the rainy season, so failing the roll takes away more than making it gives them.

I also found to speed things up that only the slowest men in the group, Yémos and Caleb, should roll Hiking. Mayhem and Anêr walk too fast to have even a critically failed roll do anything. We wound up often having a fractional hiking pace, so they hiked for 10 hours to get a round number of miles (mostly 9 or 11, as it happens: both Caleb and Yémos have laden Move 2), then they forage for an hour in the morning and another in the afternoon to get the full 12 hours.

The daily HT roll for comfort had some oddities, but made for an interesting situation when both Yémos and Caleb, the two spellcasters, failed their rolls by 5 and 6 respectively on the 23rd. This meant they were down many FP when it came time to fight the caterwaul. When Caleb failed his Fright Check, he lost enough FP to put him to 0 as well as being stunned, so he was down for the count before anything started. It gave a bit of randomness and drama to the fight. No, I don't know that a caterwaul would have fought like that, but I rolled that he was looking to mate, and I wanted to have at least one fight.

I remembered to roll for disasters most days, but none came up. I made a roll for both the ones that weather affects and the ones it does not, but none of them came up to the 5 or less on 3d that I had set. I wanted to set the woods on fire, man!

One thing that even with simulationism, you have to look at a roll to make things interesting. I normally would not have had the druidess out at night, but I had her show up anyways when I rolled her to make things less of a grind. And I do know why she was out at night, rest assured. It was Chris who came up with the third cousin bit, I only had her as one of the same clan. She is also about the only NPC with whom Mayhem would have a bonus to his reaction rolls.

A bit of chatter that isn't in the log is that Yémos and Mayhem thought it better to get the food that Praitanêr wanted from Mīstássun and bring it to him rather than bring his bandits to the fauns. I have no idea how that will work out, being that wizards are quick to anger and that adventurers are crunchy and taste good with catsup, but it does give the wizard and bandits what they want, in a way.

Monday, June 9, 2014

We didn't get to play Sunday

The title says it all. One of the two main players, Chris, is in a rehab center with a bad foot. Don't ask, don't tell. Eric, the other player, and I went over a bunch of hexcrawl stuff and GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 16: Wilderness Adventures, which both of us bought. He wound up agreeing with my idea for a daily list of things to handle, which is below.

  1. GM determines weather (Nasty Weather, DF 16, p. 30) and disasters (Disasters, DF 16, p. 32).
  2. HT roll for comfort (Harsh Climates, DF 16, p. 30).
  3. Roll against skill for movement (e.g., Hiking, Riding, Skiing) (Trudging, Trotting, and Trundling, DF 16, p. 21).
  4. Roll against Weather Sense to mitigate weather (Nasty Weather, DF 16, p. 30).
  5. Calculate movement rate (Covering Ground, DF 16, p. 23).
  6. Roll for morning random encounters.
  7. Roll Navigation in secret each time group goes into a new hex. GM makes Per-based roll to see if the group realizes it's off-course. Roll for random encounter in new hex.
  8. Roll for afternoon random encounters.
  9. When done for the day, resolve foraging rolls (Food and Water, DF 16, p. 42).
  10. Set up camp (Camping, DF 16, p. 24).

The number of rolls is more-or-less the same, with the HT roll for comfort taking the spot of the Survival roll to sadistically inflic damage. In the stead of random generic damage, there are disasters. There's no specified rate of how often they happen, and I thought a 6 or less on 3d (or about 10%) would be good, but some happen more often in bad weather and some don't, so I'm going with a roll for each kind, 5 or less on 3d. I have tables for each terrain kind; here are Woodlands, which are what will kill the players in two weeks:

1d  Static Woodlands Disasters
1    Disease (generic; roll HT or suffer -1 to all attribute and skill rolls for 1d days, or -3 on a critical failure)
2    Fire
3-4 Stinging Plants
5-6 Swarm

1d  Weather-Affected Woodlands Disasters
1-4 Falling Tree
5-6 Sinkhole

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 16: Wilderness Adventures: A Review

This is one dense supplement. It is in three parts. In the first, "Who Goes There?" Sean Punch updates what has come before (all supplements, but nothing from Pyramid articles) for the wilderness. It gives ways to tweak each template for wilderness adventuring ("From Delvers to Outdoorsmen"), and that has a hidden gem on page 5, "Wilderness Training." While he gives it as a 15-point lens to boost any delver's wilderness skills, it also works as a list of which skills you'll need in your hexcrawl. 

In the section for tweaking buddies, "Allies," there's a new henchman template, native guide, that you can put afore your delvers and take damage first, after leading everyone to the dungeon. And there's more about furry friends too. 

In the third section in this part, "Equipment," he talks about gear, including the gear about which I wrote not long ago, as well as some new thingies.

The second part, "Braving the Wilderness," is the meat of the book. There are 26 pages of so much crunch that Nestlé is getting free advertising. The first section, "Travel," is relevant to me. Of course, I care about hex crawling, but at no point does he write about hex crawling; travel stays in miles. It might be best to set hexes to "effective miles" to handle this best. Say, a five-mile hex with a road (1.25) costs 4 miles; with some hills (0.50) and no road, it costs 10 miles. It's easier math with 5-mile hexes, but 6-mile hexes match the idea of Move=hexes. 

The next section, "Camping," does add a bunch of new detail over which I skipped before. It isn't too much, however. It's only about a page.

The third section, "Exploration," handles a bunch of little tasks, like scouting ahead and getting lost. On that last one, this is something else that using a hex grid could help, since it lets the GM know where a gang of murder-hoboes wander when lost. There's also a bunch of little movement nuances which won't suit every terrain or game. 

The fourth section, "Dangers," has a short weather section. To adhere to it, I rated the 64 days of weather I had already rolled with one of the four levels. There are also the afore said ways of Mother Nature fucking over PCs, six traps, and almost four pages of combat notes. 

The last section in this chapter, "Mother Nature's Bounty," has ways of getting food, loot and gear out of the wild. Of note is the "Despoilers" sidebar, since it touches on how Mother Nature herself can take offense and go on the offense. I had wanted something like this for my game, and was winging it. There isn't a formal rule, so I'm still winging it, but with a little more guidance.

The third part is "Outdoor Adventures," and gives guidance about how to use what you've just read. "What Could Possibly Happen?" has a list of ways to adventure in the wild. It only loosely touches on hex crawling and other location-based adventures. Most of it is handling wandering and hacking monsters from point A to point B, then using a wilderness as a dungeon.

"Under a Big Sky" goes in another way, that of world building. This is nothing that has been in a DF supplement before, which was intentional. If you're in a dungeon, who cares about the rest of the world? With the rest of the world an adventuring locale in of itself, it needs some love.

"Wilderness Woes" talks about how the players can handle how the world causes damage. It's a look back at the big uncharted wild through which the rest of the book has trod.