Sunday, February 28, 2016

Game log for 28 February 2016

Dramatis personae:

Anêr, swashbuckler
Mayhem, short barbarian
Yémos, cleric
Caleb, wizard
Kim, thief


Kúflaug, orc

Quid occurrit:

Yémos cast Watchdog near the door between the rooms, and the gang started healing themselves. Kim and Yémos checked out the altar, and Kim got the idea that it was giving off bad vibes and making folks hate each other.

They dined on frog, but after many hours, the door opened, and Watchdog went off. A gaggle of orcs came through, and one saw Kúflaug, and screamed, "Free the slave!" Yémos unlocked Kúflaug's slave collar, which made the orcs stop for a second. The orc yelled again, "Let him come with us and join the Biting Tooth Band."

Yémos asked Kúflaug what he thought, and Kúflaug sighed. "I will look for you wherever there are dead bodies." Yémos said Kúflaug was welcome back any time, and gave him the collar and key. The lead orc asked the gang if they were with the dwarves, and they told them of the dwarves's strike on them. Then, Kúflaug and the Biting Tooth Band went to look for the dwarves.

Then they went down the hall. First door on their right had a smell behind it, but it wasn't locked. When they opened the door, they saw the piles of rusted armor and the five holes carved into the seats in the back. It was an old latrine, and the orcs had used it before coming into the room. Kim saw a door on the left wall, and went through it. In there, she saw old workbenches and a man-sized box with two holes in it: one at eye-level, one at waist-level. She put some bones into the hole at the top and it did nothing. The heroes then left the latrine and the workshop.

They walked around a bend in the hallway, and saw that the floor was going down. Right after the bend, they saw a cabinet. Caleb smelled something odd about it, almost chlorine, and Kim wrapped a rope around a handle and Mayhem pulled open the cabinet. This was a good idea; a box at the top of the cabinet squirted acid about where a man's head would be. Inside the cabinet, there were 80 copper farthings and 10 silver pennies.

After this, they went down the hallway, and Kim sprinkled the dust of skeletons on the floor to show if anyone will have trod on it the next time they checked. They took a turn to the left, and walked up some stairs. At the top was another workshop that overlooked the stairs, and a hallway. On the left, right past the workshop, was a door. They opened it, and saw the bodies of four men and women, all clad in robes—dead wizards. The heroes searched the bodies, and found a brindled deacon blue potion. Caleb tasted it, and found it was a potion of Major Healing.

As they searched the bodies, Anêr's sword started to vibrate. There was a ghostly sphere on the wall behind a latrine seat, through which one could see the wall. Yémos looked through it, and saw the wall behind the sphere flicker, and that there was a box behind the wall. He prodded the box with one of the wizards' staves, and saw the box budge. He stood over the toilet and reached into the sphere and took the box. In the box was 100 copper farthings, 25 silver pennies, and 4 gold pieces.

They didn't have much time to enjoy their loot because a dwarf with oily hair and rotting skin stood in the doorway of the bathroom. He said nothing, but lifted his mace and struck. Kim parried his blow, and Anêr came to stab the dwarf. His sword made it past the dwarf's defenses, but the dwarf didn't seem to feel hurt from his blow. Kim and Mayhem tried striking, but missed, and Yémos cast Shield on Anêr.

Caleb started casting Sunbolt, while the dwarf stepped back, dropped his mace, and his hand glowed. Anêr tried to stab the dwarf in the face. The dwarf dodged, but his hand stopped glowing. Kim stabbed him, and hit, but her blow didn't hurt the dwarf. Yémos drew his bow, while Caleb let his Sunbolt fly; it hit the rim of the dwarf's shield.

The dwarf crouched, and reached for his mace. Anêr tried stabbing the dwarf's face again, but the dwarf caught his sword on the rim of his shield again. Kim also tried stabbing the dwarf; he dodged. Mayhem, however, landed a blow on the dwarf. He felt it go into the dwarf's rotting flesh, but no blood came out. Yémos loaded an arrow and aimed, while Caleb started casting another Sunbolt.

The dwarf grabbed his mace and stood. Both Anêr and Kim again tried stabbing the dwarf, but he dodged. Mayhem's axe flew behind the dwarf as he tried to hit him. Both Yémos and Caleb shot the dwarf, but Yémos's arrow hit the dwarf's shield and the dwarf got out of the way of Caleb's Sunbolt. The dwarf then turned and ran down the stairs. Caleb cast an Explosive Fireball and got off a last shot, but it didn't hurt the dwarf.

With that, they checked out the area nearby. They didn't bother to go up the stairs, but instead looked at the slot on the floor on the left side of the hall. It had a rounded bottom, and there was a stone ball, about as big as a man's fist, with one hole in it. The slot went into a hole in the wall but a bit bigger than the ball. Kim pushed the ball into the hole; it did not come out. Afterwards, she took some tinder from the wreckage of some bunk beds at the other end of the hall.

They made camp for the night, and pushed the dead bodies out of the room. Yémos cast Watchdog, and they went to sleep, taking watch. On Kim's watch, the door opened: it was the dwarf wraith again. She roused everyone, and the dwarf stepped into the room and smashed Kim's chest. She staggered back in pain, while everyone started to stand up. The wraith stepped forward again and smashed Kim's chest, and she slumped to the ground. Everyone else made it to his feet, and Anêr and Mayhem drew their weapons. The wraith rushed to strike Caleb, but he missed. Anêr tried stabbing the dwarf's face but missed, while Mayhem's blow on the wraith knocked it hard, making it drop its mace. The wraith turned to go, and Caleb's fireball missed.

The heroes went to see if Kim needed healing, but they found she was beyond healing.

Res aliae

Obviously, we discussed what would happen with Kim, and at this point, they plan on bringing her body back to town to see if someone could resurrect her. I told them the cost would be $6,000, which didn't seem too high at all, but they didn't have the money. It would likely cost a quest. John would play a new character while Kim rested, if the roll to resurrect her worked.

On my way home, I realized that in my worry about what tactics the wraith would use, I didn't tell John to use an All-Out Defense. Big whoops, since John is still a bit new to GURPS. I'm not sure how much it would have helped, as I don't remember what John rolled to defend.

The reaction for the orcs suggested an immediate strike—I rolled a 3, which went down to 0 after the penalty for the altar—but I re-rolled after Yémos unlocked Kúflaug's collar. The new roll was a 7, which was enough since combat hadn't started. I already had rolled Kúflaug's loyalty before the session and it failed, but I knew Kúflaug wouldn't let the orcs kill the heroes.

I wasn't happy about killing Kim, but at some point, somebody had to die. Overriding the dice would have been worse for the game than fudging things to let her live. I like the ongoing story, and like having characters flee, but no reward is worth it without risk. John was disappointed, however.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Sola Scriptura VI

Dungeon Fantasy 2: Dungeons

Chapter 1: Dungeon-Crawling (part 1)

This chapter is long and so chock full of crunchy goodness that I’m going to split this post into two parts. I’ll do the switch on page 9, going through Traps and Hazards and picking up with Monsters. That way, the next post will mostly hone on fighting.

First up is Getting Ready to Go, and first in that is Getting Stuff Cheap. Alright, right now, I’m going to my spreadsheet to copy-and-paste the trait lists from Chapter 2 of the first supplement into a spreadsheet so I can make a combined index. Now, I’m going to go to the index of DF2 and put the skills, advantages, and disadvantages into the spreadsheet so I can have a reference of all the times they’re in this supplement. Yes, I know there’s a wiki for this; I happen to have put many of the page references in it myself. However, I want to see this crap for myself on my own sheet, specific to Dungeon Fantasy.

I’ll get back to this post in a few days. I still have two more mostly done that I have yet to put up.

Alright, it’s the next morning. My list for Skills has a page number for most non-combat skills. The exceptions are Architecture, Area Knowledge, Body Language, Engineer, Erotic Art, Falconry, Games, Hobby Skill, Jeweler, Leatherworking, Packing, Philosophy, Professional Skill, Running, Smith, Teaching, and Teamster. Some of these are plain to anyone how to use based on the Basic Set, but some others might need some help for those players who take them.

Back to the supplement we have. Getting Stuff Cheap is about, uh, getting a few items without spending money. There are entries for Scrounging, Crafting arms and armor, Brewing potions, Bargain Hunting by haggling, Black Market for illegal goods, and Shoplifting. The advice in the supplement suggests limiting PCs to trying for three or four items. I figure this is to keep the game about finding stuff in underground labyrinths and not in bazaars.

After this, there is Scoring Extra Cash, with which munchkins can get more stuff. It’s a vicious circle. There’s Dredging and Mudlarking for truly poor delvers, Bumming, Busking, and Haranguing for Bards, Gambling, Working the Crowd, and Debasing Coin. The last one gets the crook One Hand. Somehow, I don’t see it as worth it, especially since the most he can get out of it is $100. Speaking of crooks, there’s a short sidebar called Scum and Villainy, which is about Social Stigma (Criminal Record).

Now, for getting out of town. First is Finding a Quest. This allows for Rumors, Starving, Advertising, and Details. In Starving is the first mention of Cost of Living, which Dungeon Fantasy has as $150 a week, or one fourth of $600 for a month. I often handle this as $20 a day for when the murder hoboes are going from village to village. Besides, the weeks in my world have eight days, to sync up with the moon phases. (Months are 32 days, which is how long it takes the moon to go around the world once. There are 360 days, so every four years … aw, fuck it. This isn’t important. I just don’t use normal weeks.) After this is a section about Finding a Sponsor, to get someone else to pay for your trip.

Thus ends civilization in GURPS Dungeon Fantasy. There’s some stuff on pages 14-15 about selling off loot, but otherwise, this is it. Out of the box, Dungeon Fantasy is all on page 23 of DF1: “[T]own, where we buy and sell stuff.” There hasn’t been a little more, but not too much. GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 10: Taverns expands on this some; GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 7: Clerics hints at more but doesn't give much. GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 17: Guilds does have some expansion of this, but not enough to truly have an urban crawl. GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Treasures 1: Glittering Prizes has a lot about money and a little about cultures; you’d think that Matt Riggsby was some kind of historian or anthropologist. Anyways, this is fertile ground for a supplement. I have some economic rules from a rejected Pyramid article that I’ll either share or resubmit when someone does come up with that supplement.

Before we leave civilization, some last looks back. Making a living the easy way might pay for Status -1, but it isn't enough money for delvers, who are at least Status 0. Thieves and Bards make money their normal ways, and there seems to be more heed for their deeds than for others. As such, delvers being murder hobos is appropriate; this world looks like it owes more to Vance than to Tolkien. There are good reasons to look for money in the dangerous underworld.

This also gives us a default adventure, and shows us the holes. If you're like Peter V. Dell'Orto and tell your players to stay away from the curtain, then you won't need anything more than what is in here for a world. His game works because the characters gather information about the wilderness and the dungeon in town, then go through the wilderness to get to the dungeon, and do their fighting there.

If you want a game that takes advantage of town as a spot for adventure, however, your players will lift up the curtain at some point. Some things are fine. Fighting in the sewers, for example, won't make too many problems so long as no quarry leaves the sewers. Campaigns does have rules for many things in a game world, so if the Town Watch nabs the party, you can handle a trial in a couple of rolls and a Roger Waters imitation. However, if folks go prodding the power structure of the town, there will be problems when characters shake the structure, especially given that they start with 250 points out of the gate. They'll be mightier than that when this happens, and might legitimately be able to take on a small army by themselves and with their henchmen, their followers, and their supernatural allies.

On thinking about this, another thing the loss of a detailed civilization hinders is the domain game. I'm not upset at all about this, since once you made a domain, D&D became more of a war game. This was natural to Gygax, Arneson, Bledsaw, and the like, who started in war games, but to we kids who started with D&D, it was a shift of thinking that we mostly skipped. It would be a good spot for a supplement, however. It's much more of a game shift.

Now we have a page of Travel. Before I go any farther, I should note that GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 16: Wilderness Adventures is pretty much about what is on this page, and expands on it greatly. The stuff in this supplement is for when you tell the players, “Make a few rolls, fight a few random encounters, and you’ll be at the dungeon.” 

Getting There Quickly is right in that line. It takes travel down to three rolls: The Golden Path (Navigation), Wind at Your Back (Weather Sense), and Forced March (Hiking, Riding, Skiing, Boating, or Seamanship). Making a roll knocks travel time down 10%, failing raises it 10%, or 20% on a critical failure. Thus, travel becomes important only in terms of rations and random encounters. Get there faster, eat less food, fight fewer monsters.

Foraging handles the food. Camping and Posting Watches help with random encounters. There are notes under this for Wilderness Camps and Dungeon Camps, which I see that I’ve overlooked. Outdoors, this will bring out Mayhem’s Camouflage skill. Indoors, Kim will get to set some traps. In both cases, Mystic Mist will do its thing. Did I mention how handy this spell is? If you can’t cast it, Watchdog is the one you want. Back to the book. There’s a blurb about Sleeping in Armor, which mostly says yes, you can. There’s a last bit about Tracking, which handles finding the dungeon.

At last, we get to Exploring the Dungeon, which is the genre's key world. First, we have rules for Mapping. This handles the link between the game and the metagame, making Cartography handy. I see now that things get a little less meta than I've handled it, as the mapping character must have both hands free. I'll have to check to see if Mayhem, the group's mapper, has Fast-Draw, so I feel less bad about skipping this bit. Good thing the pipsqueak doesn't have a shield.

Then we have Light Sources. As I already wrote, these are more important than they seem at first, since they'll set indoor encounter distance. The rules herein are much easier than those of the Basic Set are are, which truthfully are fiddly for any game. Then there’s a bit about Marching Order that is mostly not specific to GURPS. It’s nothing you haven’t read before.

Plain as day under that are Hidden Doors. This makes clear the difference between Secret and Concealed Doors—secret doors need a roll to open, but both need a roll to find. Note that the rules here say you need to be looking to spot any hidden doors. Is there an advantage that makes this passive? Say, Elf Senses [5]. This was a common ability for elves in early games.

Beyond this is Scouting Ahead. Specifically, there is Sneaking, Information Gathering, and Dogging. There’s also a bit about using magic to do these things. Here’s a fun one: using Lip Reading to learn what monsters are saying. I hadn’t thought of that. There’s a bit about Signaling after this, which mostly reinforces the idea that communicating without words isn’t automatic. I’m waiting for someone to want to signal by making a sound like a dying giraffe. Would any monsters recognize it, or are there monsters that already sound like dying giraffes?

The next section is Breaking and Entering. I’m going to take a break here and say that we’re knee-deep in a lot of rules. While I appreciate much of this, being kind of a rules-heavy fellow myself, I’m starting to get overload here. There are many things to remember, or more to the point, many things to forget. It helps to know how to wing things in GURPS, which is often just rolling 3d and comparing to a skill or attribute on a character sheet.

And that’s much of what this section is. Thankfully. The first section is Dungeon Parkour, and first off is Balancing. That’s Acrobatics. Since falling off a rope while crossing a chasm is likely fatal, most folks won’t begrudge you looking up the modifiers for a slack rope or holding a ten-foot pole. Then we have Climbing, Diving (into a narrow opening, at -4), Jumping, Leg Up (Acrobatics at -2 for you, ST for your lifting buddy), Pull-Up (Climbing), Running Climb (Acrobatics or Jumping at a penalty that varies on how much extra air you want), Skidding (Skating at your footing penalty), Squeezing (Escape), and Swinging (Acrobatics). You might jump an open drawbridge, or Tarzan from a vine. Bridging Hazards is for helping the other guy over too. There’s a short blurb about Water Hazards under it.

And, to keep you from having to remember all those damn modifiers, there’s the sidebar “… With Spikes.” Each word modifying the obstacle gives it -1, so a “rotten, slippery rope” gives a -2 to walk over it.

Now we get to two sections about doors. The first is Picking Locks, which works exactly as you would think. There is a note about how odd all these locks are in dungeons. For when that doesn't work, there's also Muscling Through. Specifically, there's Bashing (doing damage to the door), Forcing, Bending, Lifting, and Hiii-yah! Forcing and Bending can get a little complicated; see Dungeon Fantastic for more about this and making it easier.

Now we have Traps and Hazards. If this isn't clear, we're in a Thief-heavy part of the book. First up is Dealing with Traps. Finding is a passive roll that the GM makes, unlike that for hidden doors. It, as well as Disarming, Rearming, and Stealing, needs a Traps roll.

After that are Tricks, which are not mechanical traps and need some GM thought. Portals get their own special graf. Beyond that, there's Dangerous Stuff, which are Gunk, Potions, and Evil Runes. Like tricks, they have their own skills for spotting, though they're more specific.

Last for this post are Curses 101. These are magic-heavy. Detection is for Clerics and Holy Warriors, or maybe someone with Occultism. Occultism and Theology help with Analysis. Cleansing and Treatment use Exorcism, letting Clerics and Holy Warriors shine again.  At last, Magic addresses just casting Remove Curse to solve the problem.

At first glance, the underworld is a dangerous spot, and that's before we get to the monsters. It's dark and filled with slippery ledges and traps. If that isn't nasty enough, much of it is behind a locked or somehow barred door. Why someone would knock down a door to get to a room with a trap is beyond me, but that's the genre.

From the standpoint of a rational human being, why the hell would you do this? It's like what Hermann Göring at Nürnberg told Gustave Gilbert, the American psychologist: the common people don't want war, since the best thing that would happen to them in one is they'd get back home safe. Change "dungeon" for "war" and you have our whole dungeon fantasy genre.

Oh, yeah. Gold and stuff. Instead of politicians and generals making folks want to kill someone on the other side of the world because of patriotism, delvers go into a dangerous underworld and kill creatures for gold. No wonder the overworld is so crapsack. It has to be to make you want to do this. There has to be wealth at the top, otherwise dragging out all this gold will make nothing but insane amounts of inflation; most folks likely don’t see much money. Delvers would waste their money on armies and hookers and blow, or whatever counts for blow.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Sola Scriptura V

Dungeon Fantasy 1: Adventurers

Chapter 5: Gear

Whoa Nellie, this is a big chapter. I have a feeling I'll learn more from blogging this chapter than from blogging the rest of the book.

Strangely for someone who plays fantasy games, I'm not a gearhead. I had no problems using default equipment lists for D&D 3e--in fact, I was pleased to see them when I first got the PHB. After years of picking out each little item of clothing to absolutely no benefit, this was just grab and go. It might be because there's no benefit in game to wearing a hat or a cap or a straw sombrero, and picking that stuff for no one else to notice got old.

We'll skip to the sidebar first, Buying (and Selling) Gear. Mostly, these are the rules for Wealth in Dungeon Fantasy. In case you haven't noticed, the default GURPS Wealth rules don't make a lot of sense in a game where characters are constantly buying, selling, and upgrading their gear.

(Random thought: why aren't the GURPS Wealth multipliers ×2.5 at 10 points and ×6 at 20 points? Those hem a bit nearer to the calculated values of ×10 for every 25 points, and give a slight boon to the players. I wouldn't bother changing them too much for disadvantageous Wealth—few folks are going to game the system with those, as they're not worth enough points, and the rounded values don’t like quite as neat. But intermediary higher Wealth levels? Hell yes. And since Wealth is of most weal at the start of the game, it does a little to discourage Temporary Wealth.)

Anyways, back to Dungeon Fantasy. Wealth, after character generation, represents what percentage of what he can get for selling things he’s found in a dungeon. There is no spot for Status, though Dungeon #3/58: Urban Fantasy II has the “Traits for Town” article, which is mostly reprinted in DF17.

Now on to the Basic Gear. First, we have Camping and Survival Gear. While what these do is obvious (well, aside from the Miniature Sundial, which needs an explanation), the game effects of many of these are in DF16. Without it, you’re left to wing what they do. Personally, I highly recommend DF16, which makes camping and wayfaring as much of a game as combat, but if you’re not going that route, knock down Survival checks one for each piece of missing equipment that you deem needed.

After that are Combat Accessories. These need no explanation, but I don’t see why there’s a whetstone in there. I’ve never heard of a Dungeon Fantasy-esque game wherein someone needs to worry about sharpening his weapon. Do Fine weapons lose their edge if you don’t hone them? This is an anomaly that we should either ignore or house-rule.

Then are Containers. These all have DR and HP, which leaves me to wonder why these weren’t with other items akin to them, like backpacks or sacks. Also, this hasn’t ever been in a GURPS supplement, but a good stat for a container would be its SM, and no container can hold anything bigger than its SM.

Next are Light Sources. There will be more about these when I get to DF2, but how far these shine determine at what distance encounters start. It leaves out the radius for the candles; DF2 says it is 1-yard. The light has weak light (-3) out to threefold this radius, so without magic, Dungeon Fantasy encounters in a dungeon will be at 6 yards from the light source.

Then we have Medical Gear. These are obvious, but this mentions that bandages are basic equipment for the First Aid skill and surgical instruments are the same for Surgery. What is all the basic equipment in here?

Alchemy: Backpack Alchemy Lab (-2 to brew potions in the field)
Armoury, Smith: appropriate Backpack Tool Kit
Esoteric Medicine: Healer’s Kit
Exorcism: Holy Symbol
First Aid: Bandages
Fishing: Fishhooks and Line
Lockpicking: Lockpicks
Navigation: Compass
Surgery: Surgical Instruments
Survival: Personal and Group Basics (Personal for most things, Group for making camp)
True Faith: Holy Symbol

It doesn’t say outright, but I assume the Healer’s Kit works as basic equipment for First Aid. Better, actually; it gives a +1.

Then there is Miscellaneous Hardware, and after that Musical Instruments. Both are obvious, but let me point out that contrary to classic D&D play, a ten-foot pole (and stop using those damn prime symbols, Steve Jackson Games! Nigel will thank you later) is going to be tough to bring into a dungeon. Once a hallway gets narrower than ten feet, you’ll have a tough time bearing that pole around corners.

Another thought: DR and HP for rope. While anyone should be able to cut rope with a knife, the DR and HP of rope will come up in GURPS combat, which is second-by-second. If you’re trying to cut the rope so the Man in Black doesn’t make it up the cliff, it is not inconceivable that you won’t cut it fast enough.

Last up are Tools and Writing Equipment, both varied. The text explains what isn’t obvious. The shovel has a short note in DF16, and DF4 has much more on writing.

Then we get to Special Orders. First up is Adventure-Wear. Appropriate for things like an anti-garrote collar and a quick-release backpack, these have long explanations. Note especially the helmet lamp. Not only does this free a hand, but this also has a five-yard beam of light. That’s longer than the strongest Continual Light. So, if a monster is coming from straight ahead, encounters will happen at 15 yards, which will give everyone a good chance to draw before he gets near.

Then we have Camping and Survival Gear. Again, there are details for these. Draw heed to the compass. That’s right, basic equipment for Navigation is a special order. I’ve been too kind with those Navigation rolls.

Then there are Combat Accessories. These more and more look to turn faux-medieval combat into more modern fights. A crossbow sight? A crossbow sling? Good thing a crossbow shoots much slower than a Colt .45. Also, there is a dwarven whetstone here that gives a bonus to first strikes. Fine, but it still doesn’t tell me what the human one does in game terms.

Covert Ops and Security Gear. This is a list made for Thieves and Ninjas (when we get to Ninjas in about 70 installments). Putting these in the special orders reinforces the idea that a Thief needs to make a Streetwise roll to get her lockpicks.

Then there are Esoteric Supplies, which are for mostly for Clerics. Here are the holy symbols. I wonder if blessed and high holy symbols give their bonuses to all Holy abilities, not just True Faith. I gather they do.

There are three items under Information, but they’ll have more detail in DF4.

Last, there are Optics. We have the ones that ape modern gear (bull’s-eye lantern, corrective spectacles, telescope), and the ever-handy mirror. Maybe I’ve played too much Dungeon Robber, but maybe outfitters in towns plagued by murder hoboes would sell Van Helsing Kits, with mirrors, wooden stakes, silver daggers, garlic cloves, and such. 

After all this, we get to Weapons. Admit it, this is what you wanted. There aren’t any weapons in this, but instead there is a list of modifiers to weapons. Some stuff, like Balanced and Fine, are common to GURPS weapons in general. (Cheap isn’t listed. Most weapons goons have will be Cheap, though not likely those of player characters.) Dwarven and Elven make the ethnic cool axes and bows, respectively. Silver stabs werewolves, while meteoric and orichalcum are tougher. Ornate ramps up the cost, mostly to ramp up FP in a power item. There’s also a blurb about making weapons bigger for barbarians. I use the ones in GURPS Low-Tech Companion 2 instead, but that’s neither here nor there.

Then we have Shields. Most of these are near the modifiers for weapons, which makes sense, since in a sense, a shield is a weapon mostly used for defense (it’s “parry,” which is a block, takes precedence over its shield bash). There is not a blurb about shields for giants, which I gather would have the cost and weight modifier of their armor. There’s a note about not using shield damage. Not only does shield damage add complexity, but also the shield damage numbers in the Basic Set are too high to be meaningful. I’ve always thought the authors took the table from the GURPS Basic Set Third Edition and left it without realizing that the edition changes left it useless.

Last of this trio is Armor. These again are akin to the modifiers for weapons, though there are some different ones. The ethnic cool modifiers for dwarven and elven are for plate and mail armor, respectively. There’s also dragonhide, which quickly gets out of the way the age-old question of what happens when we start wearing the hide of the dragon that we just killed. And there’s the obligatory “Armor for Giants” blurb.

Now, a sidebar, for Power Items. The idea of these is that a caster has a doodad that lets him give a little oomph for a spell. This helps with the idea that a caster has an item for which others know him, like a staff or a sword. A byproduct of this is that when dealing with enemy spellcasters, taking their power item is not only unpleasant to them, but can also be a sign that you’ve beaten him: “Bring me the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West!"

Back to the gear. Next up are Concoctions, which are Chemicals (and are “anachronistic science:” acid, alchemist’s fire, glow vial), Natural Preparations (anti-toxin, garlic, wolfsbane), Poisons (which do what you’d expect), and Potions. The last one is about what you really care. They’re a little different from the ones in GURPS Magic, and I would think that the ones in that book that aren’t in here would work fine. Somehow, a potion of dragon slaying wouldn’t be out of place.

Last, we have a list of Magic Items. There’s a list of common enchantments for Magic Weapons and Armor, and these are the typical enhancements for extra damage and DR. There are also a dozen Other Items. Some of these are common wizard tools in any game that they’re not too wondrous (Wizard’s Staff and Wand). Four more are alchemical amulets (Ironskin, Moly, Salamander, and Serpent’s Amulets), and three more are one-use items from Spell Stone (Gem of Healing, Necklace of Fireballs, Siege Stone). The last three, which are first from the magic of alphabetical order, are the Boots of Balance, which grant Perfect Balance to the wearer, the Bottomless Purse, which is a little Bag of Holding, and the Cornucopia Quiver, which keeps you from running out of arrows. They’re the norm for this genre. See DF8 for much more.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Sola Scriptura IV

Dungeon Fantasy 1: Adventurers

Chapter 4: Powers

The chapter starts with a short explanation of powers, likening them to psionics. As an aside, when I first got the Basic Set Fourth Edition, I had a hard time grasping the idea of powers. Coming from GURPS Third Edition, I was sure I was missing something like the skills.

Bard-Song. Bard-Song means you gotta play a tune, and be good enough to have skill 14+. The immediate effect of all this to me is that a Bard doing Bard things is never silent, and thus any time he uses Bard-Song or casts a spell in the dungeon triggers a wandering monster check.

An aside: wandering monster checks should happen often in a dungeon. Sound carries well in those little tunnels. Rather than going through the nitty gritty of GURPS Underground Adventures, just roll for a random encounter whenever folks fight, sing songs, muscle through doors, fall off cliffs, and so on. This will encourage both being quiet and trying to talk to monsters if the characters can. Do many checks with a low chance instead of checking seldom with a high chance. I just roll a d6; a 1 is a wandering monster, a 2 is a clue to a wandering monster if it makes sense (a clue doesn’t suddenly appear because the Bard started strumming a tune).

Back to the Bard. If the player starts singing, that’s an immediate wandering monster, and is automatically a tarrasque. Don’t worry about exact stats, and don’t bother to roll; we’re talking about a tarrasque, which lives to kill characters. The tarrasque is just hungry enough to eat the Bard, then it goes back to sleep.

Bard-Song abilities deal with making friends and influencing people. They can do some good in a fight; Terror can end a fight fast, and Rapier Wit can stop a foe for someone else to hit. What, did you think the Bard was going to get a smack? No; the effect ends if the Bard stops singing or playing, and anyone who plays a Bard and his him get up next to his foe to give it a whack warrants everything he has coming.

With two exceptions, Bard-Song abilities are only good against intelligent foes. Those exceptions are Mimicry and Speak with Animals. All this means that Bards won’t do well against mindless foes. If the game has loads of zombies, the Bard is going to be bored.

Chi Mastery. Again, we have a description of Disciplines of Faith (Chi Rituals). These will make a wilderness trek a bother for everyone, including the Martial Artist: he wastes valuable traveling time with his weird exercises, and he can’t go foraging since nuts, berries, and venison don’t work with his diet.

Chi abilities tend to fall into tough guy stuff (Catcall, Metabolism Control, Regeneration) or fighting stuff (DR, Extra Attack, Striking ST). You can get some cool stuff, but it isn’t cheap. A starting character looks like he’s stuck with one big ability (say, Super Jump 2), or many of the little ones (DR, Striking ST). The latter option seems boring, and doesn’t play to the uniqueness of the Martial Artist.

Druidic Arts. As I said last time, these suck in the dungeon, and are at -10% for each -1 spells would take. Don’t bother with this for Allies; as DF5 says, apply the penalty to the appearance roll. If a GM wanted me to adjust the stats of my Druid's animal buddy for when I went down into the dungeon, I’d find a new GM.

Allies, of course, might be the big fun Druidic ability, and the one good in a fight. Many of the Druid’s abilities involve talking to folks who won’t talk to the Bard (Animal Empathy, Medium (Nature Spirits), Speak with Plants). So in this, the Druid is the opposite of the Bard—a normal intelligent foe doesn’t work with Druidic abilities. If one bothers you, stick your bear Ally on it, or hit it with Spider Silk.

Holy Might. A goody-goody disadvantage governs these, and breaking this disadvantage breaks your Holy shit. To get it back, there’s a list of penance ideas: $1,000, fasting for a month, a quest; you get the idea. Honesty might be the most problematic disadvantage for a player, since that means the Cleric won’t take the Thief doing his Thief things in town. Sense of Duty (Coreligionists) is work for the GM, as it needs coreligionists.

This is the biggest hodgepodge list of abilities. Allies are here of course, as is Patron. Prayer works! There’s a little predicting the future (Blessed, Oracle), some good touch (Healing), and True Faith, the obligatory Mother-may-I?

A Mother-may-I? is an ability that only works under certain situations, and it was a common phrase on ENWorld during the D&D 3e era. I remember a fellow player in a D&D game who had a bonus to hit orcs, I think from a ranger’s Favored Enemy. Any time an encounter started, he asked, “Are they orcs?” It was funnier than it sounded, but the point was that he didn’t get his bonus to hit every time, and had to ask permission to use his ability.

True Faith only works against undead (and evil spirits, near enough); it’s a Mother-May-I? Characters are filled with all these little abilities, but Turning Undead is one folks expect Clerics to have, and it isn’t cheap for a starting character. A starting Cleric gets 25 points of Holy abilities, with maybe a few more he could scrounge up from his optional advantage points. Yes, he could go for True Faith; if you don’t have another idea what to do with them, that isn’t a bad choice, if you think you’re gonna see undead. However, there are other interesting abilities. I like being able to guess the future, with Blessed or Oracle, and nobody complains about an angelic buddy. In addition, there is the Turn Zombie spell, if someone starts bitching that you didn’t take True Faith.