Thursday, March 10, 2016

Sola Scriptura VII

Dungeon Fantasy 2: Dungeons
Chapter 1: Dungeon-Crawling (part 2)

In our last part, we’ve gone into the dungeon, after traveling the world. Now, we get to meet interesting monsters and kill them.

Oh, yeah, and take their stuff.

We get a short definition of Monsters to start off this bit. After that, we get Recognition about how to know your foe. There are some skills that do this, and which one depends on the monster: Heraldry, Hidden Lore, Naturalist, Occultism, and Thaumatology. The system reminds me of D&D 3.5e’s system of using Knowledge checks to identify monsters and tell their weaknesses.

Next up is Negotiation, the part where you try to reason with it. I see a fundamental difference between Dungeon Fantasy as written and my games: the reaction roll is at -5, and is an afterthought. I roll the reaction roll if I don’t think the monster is automatically going to strike, like the hobgoblins in the dungeon under the mines, who obviously didn’t want the PCs to grab them. Here, the reaction roll happens only when the PCs ask for it. I don’t think I like this approach, having spent too much time reading OSR blogs and having them influence me a bit, though the -5 is a handy modifier for what the reaction would be if the PCs meet the monster on its own turf.

There are three points under this heading. One is Language: you know, remember to apply the penalties for not having a common tongue if these monsters don’t speak the common tongue. Another is Making Deals, which is a Diplomacy roll. The last is Skeevy Bastards, for when the monsters are dishonest. Kromm sure does love the word “skeevy.”

For when the player characters are skeevy, we have Trickery, and some quick rolls for quick tricks. After that, there is “Good (Three-Headed) Doggie!” which is trickery against beasts. Call of the Wild handles Animal Handling, Doggo handles Disguise (Animals), and Soothe the Savage Breast (and yes, it is “Breast” in my copy) lets Bards use Musical Influence on animals. (Or on boobies; take your pick.)

Doggo reminds me of the Binder of Shame, which you all should read. Specifically, this bit:

Deviant Boy: “Candi the mage has two great skills. One is casting prismatic spray from her crotch-”
Me: “For the last time, no it’s not.”
Deviant Boy: “Fine, then her only great skill aside from magic is making bear costumes. Now she carries two of them with her at all times. One is for special occasions but I think that in this case she’ll make an exception.”
Old Yellowbelly: “So we put on the bear costumes to try and fool the bugbears into thinking we’re part of the pack?”
Deviant Boy: “Exactly.”
Old Yellowbelly: “That’s so crazy it might just get me killed.”
El Disgusto: “Either your character does this or my ninja gets his murder on.”
Old Yellowbelly: “Rats. Ok I suit up.”

Alright, time to kill some shit, because now I'm at the Combat section. After the preliminary words about how you'll need the Basic Set to handle combat, we get Exploiting Weaknesses. First off, there's a reminder that Higher Purpose gives a +1 to rolls (hit, damage, defend, resist) when its relevant. Duh; this seems like padding. Then we have Supernatural Flaws, which is using Hidden Lore to learn weaknesses, which is an extension of the rules under Recognition. Turning Undead explains how True Faith (Turning) works, which is a rehash of the same rules in chapter 4 of Adventurers. At the end of this section we have Vitals, which says to roll against Physiology to know where the Vitals are for weird beasties.

And I went up there, I said, "Shrink, I want to kill. I mean, I wanna, I wanna kill. Kill. I wanna, I wanna see, I wanna see blood and gore and guts and veins in my teeth. Eat dead burnt bodies. I mean kill, Kill, KILL, KILL." And I started jumpin up and down yelling, "KILL, KILL,” and he started jumpin up and down with me and we was both jumping up and down yelling, "KILL, KILL." And the sergeant came over, pinned a medal on me, sent me down the hall, said, "You're our boy.”—Arlo Guthrie

Starting the next page is a sidebar, No "I" in "Teamwork" (No Profit Without It). This has three rules for helping out: With a Little Help From My Friends for having a helper roll on a related skill, Part of the Solution or Part of the Problem for having skilled delvers cover for unskilled ones, and Pulling Your Weight for feats of ST. The first two of these are greatly handy for any kind of skill roll; all three seem out of place in the Combat section. For example, I use Part of the Solution or Part of the Problem for Hiking rolls, rather than six rolls that will give me six movement rates, when all I truly want is the lowest one.

Next up we have Medic! for handling fast (1 second) healing at -10 to a roll. A better lead sentence for this paragraph would have been about "Onward to Victory!" which talks about helping out in combat. Advice is rolling Tactics to grant a boon, Encouragement is rolling Leadership to roll against Fright Checks and the like (which in my game would also be morale, since I use the same target number as a Fright Check), and Observation is rolling Strategy to guess the foe's plan. As these are the skills of a Holy Warrior or a Knight, a non-fighter who wants to help out isn't going to roll against these skills, and needs to find another way. He could instead be Playing Dead, which is as it sounds. 

Wizards can roll against Thaumatology for Recognizing Magic. For Thieves, there's a section about using Roguish Skills in Battle. First off is Backstabbing, which involves rolling against Stealth (almost always at a penalty) to duck out of combat, then to make a strike at a weak spot on his foe. This is a Telegraphic Attack, almost explicitly named in the rules but without the note that critical rolls aren't helped. Hidden Weapons deals with hiding weapons with Holdout. Practical Poisoning would have helped Laertes slay Hamlet faster, keeping him from a last monologue. Traps is for setting up simple traps for an ambush.

Now we have a few grafs that help Martial Artists, Swashbucklers, and Thieves: Speed is Armor! (If this is true, you’re gonna see alchemists brewing greenies.) There’s a note that the first dodge after any of these is an Acrobatic Dodge, which sweetens the pot to try these tricks. Let’s see … Acrobatic Evade is evading with Acrobatics instead of DX, Acrobatic Guard is something akin to an All-Out Defensive Feint, an Acrobatic Stand is a kip up, and Athletics in Combat says that the Dungeon Parkour tricks can be part of Move or Move and Attack maneuvers in combat. Tumbling looks like something I really regret overlooking—a successful Acrobatics check lets you add your Move to your foe’s range on the Speed/Range table.

Taunt and Bluster is kender taunt against all kinds of foes, and the text allows for a choice of skills to do this. There’s a whole graf on Intimidation, which has a few special rules. The list of skills even cites Singing, though that rewards high skill for some reason. I can see someone with Incompetence (Singing) having a special kind of Rapier Wit to annoy the hell out of his foes on a failed Singing check. Speaking of which, there’s no mention of it at all in this section. I suppose because it stuns foes rather than makes them strike you, but still.

After the Battle often has things that need to happen. Healing is the first thing of which I thought, but Prisoners is the first one that Kromm listed. Chains and Irons is about tying up foes. Whips and Thumb-Screws is about torturing them (hey, if you wanted Lawful Good players, you would have made them take Honesty and Code of Honor). Elbow-Length Gloves is about, uh, looking for treasure where the sun really doesn’t shine.

Patching Up is about healing. Owing to the many ways monsters can hurt you, there are many ways to heal up. Antidotes is about finding Pharmacy (Herbal) in the woods to cure poison. Bandaging is how it sounds. Bandaging in Dungeon Fantasy is TL3, so we can assume that for calculations and variables, Dungeon Fantasy is TL3, though with some TL4 goods. Bleeding says to ignore Bleeding except for special cases, and how to handle the special cases. Horrible Grubs are for when the GM goes full Gary Gygax and gives the Thief a case of ear seekers; it takes Surgery to get them out. Weird Afflictions need a Diagnosis roll to identify. Likewise, Poisons identifies poisons and Thaumatology identifies magically-induced misery. Fido and Ol’ Paint say you need Veterinary to patch up your animal buddies.

Two more sections before we get to the loot. Searching the Bodies … do we really need rules for this? I’m serious. Any idiot would find things, and if something is hidden, we can all guess that the skill involved is Search. Dead Monster Bits is turning a monster into a frog in a tenth grade biology class. There are rules for Poisons (Poisons and Hazardous Materials (Magical)), Mundane Parts (Naturalist, Physiology, Survival, and Surgery), and Magical Parts (Thaumatology and Surgery). You can look in the text for just how they work.

And at long last, the Loot. There’s a sidebar called Cracking Chests and Vaults, which talks about opening the container. The most notable thing here is that a trapped lock gets only one roll, that being with the lower of Lockpicking or Traps. Maybe it speeds things up a lot in some games, but this sounds like making intentional walks in baseball automatic rather than having to throw four balls—not much speed-up.

Identifying the Good Stuff has many ways of doing just that, and these make full use of a character’s combat skills. First is Coin, which gives us the copper/silver/gold monetary system of the Dungeon Fantasy world. Stones says that Merchant handles knowing which stones are gemstones. Connoisseur handles Luxury Items and Rare Artifacts, Armoury governs Superior Weapons and Armor. Folks with Holiness or Power Investiture can spot Blessed Items with a Perception roll, and some prayer and a Religious Ritual roll tell their stories. Magic Items are somewhat akin, as a Per + Magery roll spots them, but the Analyze Magic spell identifies them. Alchemy can do much the same, while Hidden Lore (Magic Items) identifies "legendary" items, whatever they are. Hidden Lore (Magical Writings) identifies just that, while anyone with Magery spots spell scrolls. There are rules for time it takes to read scrolls. Those with Magery can spot Potions, while Alchemy tells their effects.

Naturally Occurring Money handles Prospecting, something that earned a few words in old Judges Guild pamphlets, but there isn’t a hard number for how much the munchkins get or how fast they get it. Merchant handles Determining Value.

Now, I assume after getting back to town, folks need Disposing of the Loot. Keepers has the generic advice about splitting treasure, and Fixer-Uppers talks about refitting armor for new wearers. Hmmm … according to this, I shouldn’t have let the armorer cut down the suit of mail for the midget barbarian. Oh well, it played better, and makes some sense for something like mail.

Getting a Good Price does say that the munchkins need to get the loot back to town, so it looks like I made a good assumption. Its next graf says, “Coin always fetches its full value,” and everything else depends on the delver’s Wealth trait. This varies slightly from what the first book said at the bottom of page 23, that the Wealth trait determines the percentage that delvers get for coins and gems. That’s an important discrepancy, and as folks who played original D&D and AD&D might recall, gems (and jewelry) were the real treasures to haul away, as they brought more moolah for less weight.

After this, there are ways to “bend the rules” and get more money. “For you, a special price!” says to make a reaction roll at the start of a spending spree and that a 16+ gets more money. Haggling is a Quick Contest of Merchant with a generic skill 15; winning gets more money, losing gets less. Black Market is the same thing as Haggling, but with Streetwise. The Temple lets those with Clerical Investment sell items “suitable for a temple” and blessed items for more money, except not for money but for credit.

There are two more ways of getting money. Scrap is about carting off all the junk from a dungeon and selling it in town. Considering that the rate is $1d×100 per half-ton, that isn’t too good a way to make money. Copper is worth about 180 times more than scrap, pound for pound. I suspect that Naturally Occurring Money is worth the same as scrap. The delvers can also try Selling the Tale, which even the text says doesn’t earn much money.

Now, one last sidebar, Last Ditch, before some last thoughts about the world of Dungeon Fantasy. Seeking Guidance is a way to get an idea of what to do on a Meditation or a Theology roll. I’d gather Philosophy would work the same. It’s like a light kind of Common Sense. Praying is the chance of “god call.” Altars and Shrines handles turning unholy shrines into holy ones. I think it makes them holy; it would make more sense if it made them first not-unholy, and then holy. Pass the Plate reminds munchkins who got some godly help to give some moolah the next time they are in town to ensure they can get help the next time they’re in trouble.

We definitively have a TL for Dungeon Fantasy—TL3—and have the common coinage of the realm. Folks have a need of scrap, though it doesn’t pay well. I don’t know if it isn’t that needed, or there really isn’t that much money to give. I’m guessing the latter; using Writing to write a tale gets $100, or $500 on a critical success. A critical success doesn’t even cover a month’s Cost of Living. That’s bad by any standards. Again, this is a crapsack world. The world has armorers skilled enough to handle resizing; the text doesn’t say how much an NPC armorer would charge or how long that takes. That would be something handy to know.

There are gods, and they play an active role in the world. Kromm writes, “There are no atheists in dungeons.” I suspect that there aren’t any atheists in the world at all. Houses of worship are in towns and take donations, and have enough economic might to grant credit for goods in town. (Credit would be more common than actual money in this world, the more I think about it.) 

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