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.


  1. Replies
    1. Something like that, though I'm told that blow doesn't do that. Regardless, this lends itself to Dave Arneson's "Wine, Women, and Song" experience system.