Sunday, May 25, 2014

Game log for 25 May 2014


Yémos, human male cleric of Dōsaútōr (goddess of wisdom and magic) (125 points)
Mayhem, dwa- er, human male barbarian of the Dragon Claw Clan (125 points)


Anêr, human male swashbuckler (ran by Yémos's player) (125 points)
Caleb, human male wizard (ran by GM) (125 points)


The game opens in the early morning of 14 Žneâns 2852, right after Mayhem killed the guard with iron plates for earrings. The other guards broke and ran (failed a morale check), and Mayhem shot the wounded, rough unshaven archer as they fled, killing him too. Caleb missed with fireball and set some brush on fire, though it didn't spread. Anêr and Mayhem tried to heal Yémos; Anêr failed, but Mayhem staunched his wounds, but Yémos is still out. They loot the bodies, finding 5 copper farthings on each body as well as armor, shields, bows and swords. Anêr put the mail from the guard with the big earrings on Caleb, as it wouldn't fit Mayhem, while Anêr took a bow and some arrows.

At daybreak, there was a short rain shower, but otherwise the weather was fine. The gang watched the keep, and saw some bustle, but no one came out to the thicket until evening, when six guards came and brought back the two bodies they had left out. The night was quiet, though only Caleb got a good night's sleep and healed a bit.

On the 15th, the day was again a nice one, and the morning was quiet. However, at mid-afternoon, two wolves, as big as ponies, came into the thicket, and both sides spotted each other. As the wolves walked towards the group, Mayhem and Anêr took shots, with the wolves getting it through their brains that the gang was shooting at them on the second volley. Mayhem at last hit for damage on the fourth volley, and the wolves made it to the bit of thicket where the gang had made camp.

When the wolves made it to the camp, Anêr lunged (All-Out Attack (Long)) and missed, while Mayhem put his axe into the flank of the wolf he had shot. Caleb missed with his big fireball. Then one of the wolves clawed Anêr, and the other clawed Mayhem. Anêr stabbed the wolf on him, but he wasn't strong enough to get through his thick hide, while Mayhem missed the other wolf. Caleb stepped back and started to cast fireball again.

The wolves kept up their fight, and one tried to claw Anêr again, who instead stuck his rapier into the wolf's paw. The other wolf clawed Mayhem. Anêr tried to stick his rapier into the wolf's eye, but missed, while Mayhem, mad from the claws, put the other wolf out with an axe smite. Caleb cast fireball, and held it in his hand to aim.

The last wolf kept coming at Anêr, but when Anêr stepped out of the way of his claw, the wolf fell to the ground. From there, the gang made fast work of the wolf, with Mayhem getting off two blows, one of which was the last. Mayhem could not get good pelts off the wolves, but did get seven meals of meat from their fleshy bodies, which were about 400 lbs. They spent the rest of the day smoking the meat and healing each other.

That evening, three thouls came to the camp, two of whom the group had met a few days before. Anêr hailed them, and the two groups chatted. The thouls asked for the wolf carcasses and pelts, and Anêr let them have them. The thouls did talk about the wizard or necromancer—they didn't know much about him—in the keep, though neither side told much about the other.

The night was quiet, and the group rested from its rough camping (Mayhem failed the daily Survival roll and everyone took damage). On the morning of the 16th, a pleasant spring morning, Yémos at last awoke, and drank the potion of Minor Healing in his sack. With everyone awake, the gang chose to break the seal on the letter that Mayhem had brought, and read it:

Esteemed Praitanêr, Master of Dībités Rock,

I need the blood of one of your summoned demons for an item I am forging. The cleric of Dōsaútōr has a suitable vessel in his sack to hold the blood. Usual payment offered.

Praidīvós of Mīstássun

After trying to seal the letter once again, the group chose to go up to the keep, and went over its moat by way of the drawbridge as a bunch of surprised peasants and guards saw the battered crew. Two men came out to greet them along with six guards, with four more around the heroes. One man wore one of the black with red trim sashes and was bald but not old, thin but not weak, and wearing armor. The other wore leathers but with cloth coverings of red with green trim, and had greying red hair. When Yémos offered the letter to Praitanêr, the red-haired man told the bald man to read it, who put down his visor, opened the letter and read it for a second before handing it to Praitanêr.

After some asking, Praitanêr laughed when he found that the gang didn't bring the "usual payment," which was bread, cinnamon rolls, and flour. Furthermore, it had killed two of his guards (and the woman in leathers and wearing metal plate earrings, wife of one of them, scowled when Praitanêr said this). But he gave the gang a deal: he would let the heroes heal up for the next few days at the keep if they handed over their weapons for the time of their stay, then go south and find a bunch of fauns and a druid for him. After that, he would give it the blood. The group agreed, and it rested for the next few days.

On the evening of the 17th, Praitanêr gave the heroes a tour of his tower, showing off the fake woods and the keepsakes from his late wife. When Yémos asked about the dying woods, Praitanêr said it was "a small price to pay for power." Anêr sold the manticore stinger to Praitanêr for 9 pieces of gold ($180).

The next day, the 18th, was a fine one, and the group got its weapons from the guards, and started south, as Praitanêr had said the fauns and druids made camp somewhere to the south-southeast. After trekking a few miles, the group chatted, and agreed that Praitanêr was up to no good, and wanted to kill the fauns and druid since he was harming the woods. That afternoon, they saw three wolves who followed the group from afar for a few hours. They heroes didn't strike the wolves, thinking them agents of the druid. That evening, they made their way south to thicker woods, and made camp, and Yémos scrounged up enough food for a meal. In these thicker woods, they found what looked like thick ropes, but didn't have the weavings of normal ropes, instead being whole. They pulled down one, and it had no knot nor loop, but instead had stuck to the tree.

We broke there.


A very good session, as we seem to have most of the kinks of play worked out. Five character points all around. Next session is hopefully in two weeks. Remember, making a log is worth character points. Also, drawing pictures of your character is worth it too, and I'll give points as well for making a picture of an NPC. After some chatter, Yémos and Anêr need to figure out their home town. Ideally, there's a short battery of things you should have written down about your character.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Weather or not

I'll start with an essay before I get to rules, which is why do we bother with the weather at all. Trudging through a snowstorm isn't too high on the cool scale in an RPG, unless the snow can fight back. (Now there is an idea, but to make it work, we have to have players interact with normal snow, so back to the essay.)

The first reason why we bother is a bit of hue to the game world. Verisimilitude. Giving us more of a reason to care about the game world by making it more true. It gainsays why we talk about how a monster looks, since we want to get a game edge by whacking its eyestalks or not hitting it with a fireball since it's made of water. It's a clear sign that you're dealing with a world with more to it than the dungeon of the night, and it's a way to tell one day from another. This reason has nothing to do with the game at hand, but rather to get the players to show up for the next game. If we want to have a weird weather effect in a game, it's much more effective if we have days of normal weather against which to gauge the weirdness.

The second thing weather does is it changes how much a group can move. Did I say "changes"? I meant "sometimes lowers." We assume that characters walk to the dungeon on a nice day with nothing to hold them back in the tavern aside from a hangover. (If it's a lovely day and you're down in a dungeon, you might be a munchkin.) If you're keeping track of game weather, on days with crappy weather it will take the group longer to get from place to place, like from a town to a dungeon. There will be days where it can't go anywhere. A good GM will have some adventures for when a group is stuck in town.

Coming from the last thing weather does we get to a third reason to keep track of weather, which is to make the game more about resource management. Some old-school types say RPGs were all about this back in 1980, which is horseshit since it was about fun, but there is fun in getting away with a trick in resource management. ("Hey, when we get out of sixth hour, let's get to Chuck's house fast so we can tick off our arrows and rations!") If a group of players scoffs at its GM as he makes them tick off rations and doesn't bother buying more since that cuts into how much treasure it can haul, then on the way home from the dungeon, it will either starve, which is truly not fun, or it will spend its time hunting and fishing instead of getting back home, which means it has more chances for a random encounter.
El Disgusto: "Camping? Why would I want to go camping? Nature kills! Haven't you learned anything the wilderness encoutners tables?" -- Al Bruno III, A Night at the Inn, a Day at the Racists
Some things that come from this. One thing is that a GM can be kind in giving out boosts to overland movement, since if a group moves too fast later, the GM can slow it down with a blizzard. If he's truly feeling like a dick, he can mess it up good with a tornado. Another thing is that if you have rules for this, players will build characters to exploit those rules. That's alright, since they're building characters that do something other than kill. Not that there's anything wrong with killing, of course.

Now for some rules. There are two spots in the GURPS rules for weather to give general effects: overland movement (mostly Hiking, p. B351) and the daily Survival roll (p. B223). I'm worrying about how common weather happenings change those, and not true fuckyouupforlife things like hurricanes or tornados or lightning strikes. My rule-of-thumb for things like those is if you get caught in one of them, you die. Someone who wants more detail can write his own rules for them, though death will be the most common result.

I've talked about movement in another post, but I'll post the same stuff again so I can have it all together.


Per p. B430, when the effective temperature drops below the bottom of a character's comfort zone (for humans, this is 35° F), his movement for the day drops by 10%. At 35° below that (0° F for puny humans), movement drops another 10%. For every 10° below that, that is another 10% drop in movement. If a character has an encounter at any point, he then makes the HT roll as described on p. B430 to see if he is down any FP at that point. The usual modifiers apply; roll 1d-2 FP if he failed the roll.

Keep in mind that movement happens in daylight hours, so for handling movement speed, look at the high temperature, not the low. Unless for some reason a character needs to get hustling at 3 a.m., we don't care about the low here.

Survival follows an akin pattern. If the low temperature for the day is below a character's comfort zone (35° F), his Survival roll is at -1 for the day. If the high temperature is also below a character's comfort zone, his Survival roll is at another -1. If the low temperature is 35° below the comfort zone (0° F), the Survival skill is at another -1, and it's at another -1 if the high is also lower than 35° below the comfort zone. So, on a day when it is at -5° F at daybreak, then rises to a balmy 20° F, the Survival roll is at -3 (both the high and the low are below the comfort zone, and the low is below 0° F), and the characters move 10% slower than normal (since it's below 35° F). That's assuming they're human and there's no snow on the ground or falling, of course.

If a character gets wet, then all penalties for cold are twofold. Feel free to screw over any character who goes ice fishing, then jumps in the lake, crawls out and goes sunbathing. That's pretty much killing yourself.

If the characters are making rolls against Survival (Arctic), then cold is the default assumption. Thus, there are no penalties to Survival for cold until the magic thermometer drops below 0° F (or 35° below a character's comfort zone, if you insist). This isn't for going through the woods near Verbobonc in December, but for truly being in an arctic zone. Also, this little boon is null and void for any characters who get themselves wet or don't dress for the weather.

A last note about temperature before we move on. When we say "temperature," we mean "effective temperature," which includes windchill. I'd eyeball what the windchill is instead of going through the math to keep play moving.
"Watch out where the huskies go and don't you eat that yellow snow." — Frank Zappa, "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow."


Per p. B434, when a character gets to the top 10° of his comfort zone (which, for humans and the like is 80° F), instead of losing FP, the character moves 10% slower for the day. For each extra 10° of temperature, the character moves an extra 10% slower. This is to assume that when a character starts to overheat, he ducks into the shade, and that's where the time is lost. If a character has an encounter at any point, he then makes the HT roll as described on p. B434 to see if he is down any FP at that point. The usual modifiers apply; roll 1d-2 FP if he failed the roll.

For Survival rolls, it's an akin tale. If the high is above the comfort zone (90° F), then Survival rolls are at -1. If the low is also above the comfort zone, then Survival rolls are at a further -1. If the high is higher than 30° above he comfort zone (120°F), that's another -1 to Survival, and it's yet another -1 if the low is also higher than 30° above the comfort zone. These penalties get another -1 for every 10° higher than 30° above the comfort zone.

Like cold, there's a Survival speciality that assumes heat. I lied. There's truly two such specialities: Desert and Jungle. There are no heat penalties for these specialities until you get to 120° F (30° above the comfort zone) so long as you dress for the weather. Sadly for munchkins, this likely means no armor.

Again, "temperature" means "effective temperature." For heat, this includes humidity, though this isn't as big a deal as windchill. It doesn't play into deserts at all; if it did, you wouldn't be in a desert.
"Hot, hot, hotter than hell
She'll burn you like the midday sun, yeah." — Kiss, "Hotter than Hell"

Rain and Snow

First, a little rant about precipitation in roleplaying games. Every goddamn weather chart I see is geared towards having me roll up how much rain or snow falls in terms of how many inches (or whatever it is for you metric folks). I don't give a shit about how many fucking inches of rain have fallen! Nobody in a roleplaying game gives a shit about how many fucking inches of rain have fallen! We care about when the rain falls, how long the rainfall lasts, and how hard the rain falls while it's falling. We want to know how it makes life hard for characters.

When on the ground, rain and snow modify the terrain as p. B351: rain and light snow halve speed, snow deeper than ankle-deep quarters it. Roads don't matter; none of them are any good. Rain goes away after the day; snow stays until the temperature has been over 35° for 10 days with no snow.

When falling, rain and snow halve movement for a time equal to the number of half-hour cells (I'm using the d30 Sandbox Companion) for non-severe storms, and stop it for severe storms. Or, in short, it's -2.5% per half-hour cell of non-severe storms and -5% per half-hour of severe storms. You can round to the nearest 10%, so a half-hour of light rain is no big deal.

Rain can have a penalty on Survival. For a light rain—an hour or less of non-severe rainfall—there is no penalty. For moderate rain—more than an hour of non-severe rainfall—the roll is at -1. For heavy rain—an hour or less of severe rainfall—Survival is at -2. For a downpour—more than an hour of severe rainfall—Survival is at -3.

For snow, sleet or hail, these penalties are harsher. For a light snowfall (or a sleet storm, or a hailstorm)—an hour or less of non-severe snowfall—there Survival roll is at -1. For a moderate snowfall— more than an hour of non-severe snowfall—the roll is at -2. For a heavy snowfall—an hour or less of severe snowfall—Survival is at -4. For a snowstorm—more than an hour of severe snowfall—Survival is at -6.

Weather Sense

Weather Sense is a complementary skill for both movement and Survival. The GM makes the roll. On a success of any kind, he tells the group the weather for the day. On a failure, the GM tells the group the weather for the day before. On a critical failure, make something up, but don't tip off that you're making something up. Tell the players the opposite of what the weather will be or something.

A success knocks off up to 20% of weather-related penalties to movement and -2 to Survival penalties from weather. A critical success lets you ignore up to 40% of weather-related penalties to movement and -4 to Survival penalties from weather. A normal failure has no penalties, but a critical failure lowers movement by 40% and gives a -4 penalty to Survival.

Rolling the Weather

You need a way to roll up the weather, and I don't have one. I'm not about to write one, but I'll make a list of ones I know:

d30 Sandbox Companion. Since you already have this, you can use the weather system in there, though you should nerf gap between the high and low, at least in temperate climates (the normal gap is 15°, and the gap on p. 12 is about 40°-45°). I roll a d5 for variation, and add +1 to the roll if the average temperature for the day before was more than 10° below the monthly average, and -1 to the roll if the average temperature for the day before was more than 10° above the monthly average.

What, you don't have this? Get the hell off my blog and buy it. You need it if you're running a sandbox game, or almost any fantasy game. It's only $5. You have no excuse other than abject poverty.

Wilderness Survival Guide. If you want to waste loads of time rolling up weather, this is made for you. I have it for loads of reasons, but when I was in junior high, I tried rolling up a day's worth of weather with it and it killed a half-hour. I don't think I could stand to do that on the fly, but it does have loads of little goodies in it.

Dungeon Masters' Guide 3.5e. The last version (I don't count the homesick abortion that is 4th edition) has an easy weather system. The system is free on the web, linked above, and is good enough for game purposes. I'll link to Pathfinder's version, buried down the page; I think it's the same.

Empire Weather. It looks like something out of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, and it's free. It's bare-bones and vague, and at some point, I'm sure you'll need to override a roll.

HârnWorld. Ah, made by a company that likes diacriticals on funny made-up words as much as I do. I've never tried it, but Hârn stuff is good if you buy into whatever assumptions N. Robin Crossby made with Hârn. It isn't cheap.

Wolfram Mathematica. If you want to ape a real-world spot, you could look up its weather from the recent past.

Look outside. No link for you! Stick your neck out the window. C'mon, I know folks say outdoor air hurts nerds. It isn't true. Really! Trust me!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Game log 18 May 2014


Mayhem, a short human barbarian (Chris)
Yémos, a human cleric of Dōsaútōr (Eric)

As NPCs:

Anêr, a human swashbuckler (run by Eric)
Caleb, a human wizard (NPC)


The group made camp on the evening of 12 Žnēâns 2852, and the night was peaceful. The next morning, they set forth for Dībités Rock, which they could see through the dying trees. They could see two things, in truth: something man-made, and something not, both in a clearing, rising just above the trees. In spite of the rotten wood, the weather was a nice spring day.

There is no hobgoblin, only thoul!
After a few miles of travel, they found an old rope around a tree, and a few broken arrows in the ground near it. Marching onward, two hobgoblins with sickly grey-hued skin and skull drawings on their shields came into their sight. The hobgoblins didn't strike the group, after learning that they did not work of "the Necromancer," who they said lives in the keep. The two sides chatted a bit, and the hobgoblins, who said their names were Fukuruk (who has deep-set eyes, and did most of the talking, though often just "Uh") and Soli (who has a beaked nose), said there was a cave with many ravens near it to the north, a pond to the north of the keep, and a thicket to the south. After getting to the pond, the group spotted the keep and the eponymous rock, a tent rock in the middle of the woods. Thinking that maybe the cave had a way into the tower, the group went there.

They walked inside the cave for a bit, and its path became a stairway leading down. At the top of the stairs was three dwarves, eating their nasty rations. One of them, an ugly stuntie with big forearms, told them to fuck off, that whatever was down in the cave was theirs. The other two, one who was missing an arm and the other who had shaved a Tengwar rune into his hair, kept eating and belching. When Yémos asked if there was a way to the keep from the cave, the big-forearmed dwarf lowered his axe to block the group from going down. Thus, it chose to leave the cave.

They instead turned south to the thicket, walking away from the clearing and reaching the thicket in late afternoon. They went slowly through the thicket, and saw six bandits with black sashes and scarlet trim at about 200 yards away. The bandits saw them as well, and ran towards the group, which hid in the thicket. After looking for the group and calling out that it would let it live if it gave itself up, the bandits walked back to the tower. Our heroes set up camp for the night, though not before Caleb got food positioning from some foraged food. Yémos healed some of Caleb's hurt belly with Minor Healing. The others only had little bellyaches. The nuts and berries of this woods seemed as woeful as its trees.

At about midnight, with Anêr on watch, another group of bandits came, wearing the same crimson-tinged black sashes. They came towards the heroes, and Anêr woke the others. The group held its ground, and when the bandits made it to about 10 yards, one of them, a man with a wrinkled face and mail armor, shot Anêr, but his mail stopped the arrow. Mayhem shot an archer, a rough, unshaven man,  who limped onward. One of the bandits, a woman with plates in her earlobes, ducked out of sight. Another archer, a woman with wild, messy hair, shot back at Mayhem but missed. Yémos held his ground, as did Anêr, and Caleb started casting fireball.

The bandits got nearer, and the wrinkled man rushed Anêr, who sidestepped his wayward blow. Yémos wasn't so lucky, as another man in mail, who also had plates in his earlobes, slashed him with his broadsword. Mayhem shot at the woman with wild hair, but missed, as she and her fellow archer knocked arrows and aimed.

Anêr and the wrinkled fighter traded empty blows, while the plate-lobed fighter gave Yémos another cut. Mayhem readied his sword, while the archers let loose at him: one missed, the other's arrow stuck in his side. Yémos swung wildly at the plate-lobed fighter, who parried his staff, and then he blocked Caleb's fireball.

Anêr got a good stab at the wrinkled man, but couldn't get through his mail. The plate-lobed fighter swung at Yémos again, this time knocking him out. Mayhem stepped over Yémos and gave the plate-lobed man a mighty blow, making him drop his sword. He still stood, but was hurting. The archers drew arrows again and aimed, while Caleb started casting fireball again.

Anêr's next blow still couldn't get through the mail of the wrinkled man, while the plate-lobed man stepped back. Mayhem pressed him and swung his sword, but the plate-lobed man caught it with his shield. The unshaven archer shot Caleb, who lost his spell in the pain, while the wild-haired woman missed Anêr. Caleb started to cast his spell again.

Anêr stabbed the face of the wrinkled fighter, and this time poked his rapier into one of his wrinkles. The wrinkled fighter wildly swung back at Anêr, who stepped away, and when the plate-lobed fighter went for his sword, Mayhem gave him a killing blow.

And there we stopped, since Eric (Yémos) had to get his son (Anêr, when he's there).


Yémos rolled Survival for the group both nights, and kept them from getting hurt. Anêr didn't do so well when foraging, getting an 18, and poor Caleb failed his HT roll and took the maximum 6 HP damage. Chris (Mayhem) said Caleb had the "King Kong"—stuff coming out both ends and his ribs hurt, like a big ape was squeezing him. The puke would make this campsite known for some time.

We went to critical hit and miss tables, but Eric didn't want hit location, until I said that Anêr, with his high skill and low ST, would be a perfect candidate for them. After a few blows didn't get through armor, Eric then asked what the hit location penalty was for the Face (-5).

We played for about two hours, less than half in combat. The group had a good reaction roll with the hobgoblins. And those weren't hobgoblins. They were thouls, from the Basic Set. Not the Steve Jackson/Sean Punch/David Pulver GURPS Basic Set, mind you, but the Tom Moldvay Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set. They're actually easy in GURPS, being hobgoblins with Paralyzing Touch (from GURPS Horror) and Regeneration, though I think they should have some intermediate level of regeneration so they're not as good as real trolls. Anyone care to make intermediate levels?

I didn't think they would go into the raven cave, so I whipped out a dungeon I had. Still, they didn't go far into it. I hope they go back at some point, though now I'll need to tweak it, since the dwarves won't sit there. The group had a bad reaction roll with the dwarves, but since dwarves aren't chaotic evil, they didn't strike.

The chase rules from GURPS Action 2: Exploits came out again, this time when the first set of bandits spotted our heroes. Eric, for the group, chose a Hide maneuver, and he made the Stealth roll, which wasn't too hard since the bandits started at Long range.

We played at the 1-mile hex level this game. Luckily, the group's pace came out to one mile an hour in the woods. Rolling for this level gave me some new lairs, like the ravens and the thouls. For the most part, however, I don't think hexcrawls should be this fine; kind of a pain to map everything. But since what will happen at the keep is up in the air, I thought it best to have many little choices.

I've long lost Caleb's character sheet, so he's more or less a wildcard skill at this point: Caleb!-13. He casts Fireball, Explosive Fireball and Continual Light, and knows a few wizardly skills (Thaumatology, Innate Attack, Occultism). Still, I'd like another player to make a wizard or at least fill this niche and chair. I keep trying to find more players, but scheduling, location, and my own feeble GMing skills keep me from getting any. Bother.