Monday, March 21, 2016

Sola Scriptura IX

Dungeon Fantasy 3: The Next Level

Chapter 1: Nonhuman Races

I like to take a bit of credit for this chapter. When DF1 first came out, I asked, “Where’s the elves?” Kromm said, “They might come later."

I’m sure I had nothing to do with it, but hey. They came about two months later.

First up is Affording Racial Templates. We’re dealing with buying templates that are a hindsight to the class templates. Action, and I assume Monster Hunters and After the End (I have neither of the last two), baked background lenses right into the templates. The first way is to use some of the Advantage Allowances; all templates have at least 20 points there. There are the Disadvantage and Quirk Points; only if you’re close, man. There’s Skimping on about a third of special abilities and spells, and there’s Overlap, as in, my ogre barbarian doesn’t have ST 27 but a bit less to let me afford to make him.

Next, we have a section about Choice and Marginal Professions. It's mostly about pointing out the obvious, like orcs are good in a fight but suck with spells, while elves are good with bows. There's also a short sidebar called Races from Other GURPS Books, which says that those races aren't all about killing and taking stuff so they might not work.

Let's dive in. Cat-Folk are anthropomorphic cats, made for anime fans, which focus on their DX bonus. Coleopterans are bug-men who are tough but dumb. Corpse-Eaters are creepy, culinary-challenged folks. Dark Ones are somewhat like the drow—nimble and demonic. Dwarves are, hell, you know all about them. 

Elves, the other white meat, are the first race we meet that has subraces. The text encourages making more elven subraces as well, to make elves more unpredictable. All elves but Half-Elves have a perk that lets them get elven gear 10% off, and a talent (Forest Guardian) that adds to elven skills—Bow, Camouflage, Fast-Draw (Arrow), Stealth, and Survival (Woodlands). Yes, there's a weapon in the talent. Dwarves and Dark Ones also have akin talents and perks, though the Dark One perk is Better Power Items instead of 10% off creepy goods. Anyways, there are Half-Elves, High Elves (elves with an IQ bonus), Mountain Elves (Telescopic Vision and Perfect Balance), Sea Elves (underwater), Shadow Elves (20 point drow), Winged Elves (what it says on the tin), and Wood Elves (Legolas). Winged elves bring a short sidebar about Winged Races; mostly, how to whack their wings off.

Now, before we get to Pixie Hollow, there's another sidebar: Tiny Tools. Making a supplement with many short races means making short weapons. These rules are downright mean next to the ones in Low-Tech Companion 2. Not only do their weapons do less damage, but they're also can't get through armor with Armor Divisors less than 1. They have thinner armor, a three-dimensional lowering, for only a two-dimensional lowering of the cost. There is a way to get rid of the Armor Divisor, which is to have Faerie make instead of Mundane. That keeps cost the same, but still lowers damage.

Think of the First Hobbit Legion for a bit. Frodo and friends would have swords that seldom get through orc armor, not only owing to low basic damage, but also to orc armor being worth fivefold against it. (The orcs would wear leather that will have DR 10 against the hobbit swords.) Either one alone is enough to make the orcs sure winners. Both, and the hobbits' DR penalties (I can't see them even bothering with armor), make no survivors when the orcs come to town. And no, the Halfling racial talent doesn’t do enough to make up for the orcs’ gifts.

I use the rules in Low-Tech Companion 2.

This is giving me a thought about the world this implies. Orcs would have hobbit slaves making their food for them. The orcs would often cut down poor hobbits to keep down the number of "Useless Eaters." (Shades of the Hunger Plan.) This is an even shittier world than I thought. Moreover, men would ward the hobbits, but there'd be payment for this. They'd be like thieving oompa-loompas, working for the men with the funny hats.

Maybe short people do have no reason to live.

And now the short people. First up are Faerie Folk. All of these have Dependency (Mana) and Sense of Duty (Nature). The latter has a write-up in the Elf section, and the former has a short note to start this one. A world could have No Mana zones set up to keep out faeries. Fauns, aka satyrs, are horndogs with goat legs who would be good Bards with their Musical Ability. Leprechauns are little (SM -4) guys with Ridiculous Luck and magical gifts who live on the covers of cereal boxes. Nymphs are Very Beautiful (and Kromm, you need to put the level in words in the trait write-up of the stat block) woodland faeries that likely are part of the reason Fauns are so horny. Pixies are pint-sized (SM -6, so that's literally pint-sized) winged faeries that—well, I'm not sure why you'd play one, to be honest. They may be strong for their size, but they're still weak, and they're not any better at being Wizards than anyone else other than racial Magery 0 is. Thieves, I guess, and for those of us with Tinker Bell-loving daughters who want to get them to play.

Gargoyles are stony men with wings. Barbarian is a choice profession for them, and that makes sense with their DR, Blunt Claws, and Tail Striker. Gnomes are, well, gnomes: little guys with a special talent (Widget-Worker) that helps with Lockpicking and Traps, among other things. The text suggests Thieves; Gadgeteer, in DF4, springs to my mind.

After the Gnomes, we have the Goblin-Kin, which is the main bad-guy fodder race of the world. First up are Goblins, who have Cowardice. Oh, yeah, and they're SM 0, which goes against D&D.

Going against D&D doesn't bother me, but it leaves a gap—there's no little bad guy who's nasty in hordes. I suppose the Horde Pygmies in DFM1 fill some of that gap, but there's something to be said for a more generic monster doing that job. I'd suggest Kobolds appearing in a later supplement to handle this, like DFM3.

Moving down the list are Half-Orcs, which are the Goblin-Kin without an IQ penalty. After them are the truly stupid Hobgoblins, who are the biggest and strongest of the Goblin-Kin, then the stock Orcs, who are, well, Orcs. They're kind of big but not too big and kind of dumb but not too dumb. All of these races make good delvers, since they all have either Infravision or Night Vision (that's the Half-Orc for the last one). That isn't a minor consideration, as it ends worry about a light source.

However, there is another issue in the sidebar Almost Monster. The Goblin-Kin, among other races, have bought their strength and Infravision with reaction penalties. Racial Appearance and Odious Racial Habits apply to almost anything happening in town, and make the Goblin hard to disguise too. Social Stigmas affect rolls for the whole party. Half-Breed hurts most reaction rolls at -1, while Infernal takes a -2 hit and -3 to helpful clerical spells. Both give a -2 to skill rolls, presumably back in town again to do things like find backers. Savage and Monster not only give harsher penalties, but also have a chance of not letting the party into town. Lastly, A Monster's Life says that anyone with a -3 or more in reaction penalties from racial Appearance, Odious Racial Habits, and Social Stigmas should get the shaft every now and then. Princesses might kiss frogs, but not orcs.

Since orcs and the like can't always get into town, there might be orc camps along the road outside of town, or an orc brotherhood. This also discourages orcs from becoming civilized, making their savagery a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Heck, what are the racial reaction bonuses and penalties for all races? For fun and learning, here's a list, first giving only those for Appearance, Odious Racial Habits, and Social Stigma, then giving an updated version if other traits that always bear reaction bonuses or penalties (like Voice or Stubbornness) are included:
  • Coleopteran: -6
  • Corpse-Eater: -5
  • Dwarf: 0 (-1 with Stubbornness)
  • Half-Elf: -1
  • High Elf: +1 (+3 with Voice)
  • Mountain Elf: 0 (react to others at -2 due to Loner (12))
  • Winged Elf: +1
  • Wood Elf: +1
  • Nymph: +5 (+10 with Charisma)
  • Pixie: +1
  • Gargoyle: -3
  • Goblin: -4
  • Half-Orc: -3
  • Hobgoblin: -4
  • Orc: -4 (-6 with Bully)
  • Celestial: +1
  • Minotaur: -4
  • Ogre: -7
  • Half-Ogre: -4
  • Dragon-Blooded: -3 (-5 with Disturbing Voice)
  • Lizard Man: -3 (-5 with Disturbing Voice)
  • Troll: -5
  • Wildman: -3

So, everybody loves Nymphs, and everybody hates Ogres. Again, I play a failed Bad Temper self-control roll as a dropping of a rung on the reaction table where applicable, which comes out to -3. The only race that I found would react to others badly would be Mountain Elves, though I'm sure I'm missing something.

Anyways, moving on to Half-Spirits. It starts with a short note saying, among other things, that these templates are stackable, so you can be half Elder-Spawn and half Corpse-Eater. Celestials have a horny angel as a parent, good stats, and can spend their spare points on many advantages, but demons will go after them and they have a Weakness around Evil sanctity. Elder-Spawn have a, aw, hell, let's quote the tale of Old Man Henderson:

The Deacon then, and I'm quoting the GM here (in the only good line he had the entire game), gave Henderson a Look. A look that can only be summed up as 'Dude, I fucked a Shoggoth and you're creeping me out'. -- A Self Called 'Nowhere' 
Anyways, they have the usual stuff from their squid parent: Double-Jointed, Slippery, Frightens Animals, Weirdness Magnet. They have that Innsmouth Look. Infernals are like Celestials, only that mommy got it down and dirty with a devil that wasn't just a bad date, but really was a devil. He might have been THE Devil. He left Damien Junior with 75 points of stuff, including Dark Vision.

There's a subset of Half-Spirits that are Infused with elemental might. Therefore, mommy had a hot date with a fire elemental, or daddy found a hole in the ground that turned out to be an earth elemental. We have Air-Infused, whose conception I can't even imagine and I've seen some sick shit, and who can Walk on Air; Earth-Infused, who can get naked and walk through stone, Fire-Infused, who can set themselves on fire and never #feelthebern, and Water-Infused, who can live underwater. Well, I might be messing up the politics here. With Flaming Hair, the Fire-Infused might be Trump backers. Water-Infused, of course, backed Rubio. Regardless of voting habits, they're all a bit alike: they all have DR against their element, and a Reputation with elementals of their element.

You know something? The whole business of half-races is filled with squick.

Kromm has said that Joe Pesci in Goodfellas inspired the Halfling, so instead of Tolkien-esque Cowardice, these have Kleptomania. Add Curiosity and Unfazeable, and you have Dragonlance kender. (Odious Racial Habits at your own choosing.) Minotaurs are somewhat boring, truth be told: they're big men with the heads of bulls. Ogres are big (SM +1) and pretty much beg to be Barbarians. Half-Ogres aren't as big, aren't as dumb, and lack Magic Resistance.

Reptilians are two races: Dragon-Blooded and Lizard Men. Both share Claws (Sharp), DR (Tough Skin), Nictitating Membrane, Peripheral Vision, Teeth (Sharp), Disturbing Voice, and Social Stigma (Monster). Dragon-Blooded are smarter and get to breathe fire; Lizard Men are stronger and faster. The shared traits are helpful for those who want to make their own Reptilians. Troglodytes? Take the shared traits and give them Bad Smell and a skunk-like attack.

Trolls are ones who aren't too big, regenerate, and don't like fire. Wildmen are primitive men, something like how we once perceived Neanderthals to have been.

This is a good list of most of the man-like races of fantasy. There are a few overlooked. The evil little guy niche is mostly open, and Kobolds are the most obvious ones to fill it. There are no Centaurs, though with their odd builds, they might not be suitable for going into dungeons. I could have said the same about Winged Elves and especially Aquatic Elves, however. 

This list also serves as a small bestiary, but it needs something else: roles. Not quite DF15: Henchmen, since we don't care about point costs for foes. Indeed, we want to keep choices to a minimum. More like Appendix B in the D&D 5e Monster Manual, or the NPCs in the Pathfinder Gamemastery Guide. I like the D&D ones better since they're less frilly, but either gets the point over. The NPC henchmen in the back of Mirror of the Fire Demon or those in DF10: Taverns are in the same vein, but the idea is to take an NPC formatted like a monster, pick a weapon, slap on a racial template, and play. Anyone can add roleplaying details and traits beyond the minimum that must be on the template (say, Duty for a Town Watchman), of course. The NPC's needed gear is also on the template. Call the supplement DF23: Foes or something like that.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Sola Scriptura VIII

Dungeon Fantasy 2: Dungeons

Chapter 2: Mastering Dungeons

This is the part of the book that the players aren’t supposed to see. Frankly, I don’t see the issue since the details won’t be the same from game to game, dungeon to dungeon.

Anyways, diving in. First up is Dungeon Design, and the first choice is Archetype. The book gives some quick ones, with few GURPS stats: Cave, Cellar, Labyrinth, Mine, Prison, Sewer, Tomb, and Warren. The only thing remarkable is a note that it is “traditional to give the party a clue when they change sectors” and goes on to suggest skill rolls. I’ve never heard of that tradition.

And now, a sidebar, Tavern Tales and Moldy Books. This is about Rumors and Details of the dungeon. It’s basically a note to say that you’ll need these. Here’s one where I’d want to have some advice about what is a good rumor or tidbit that a Research roll would find. I’ve seen too many crappy, irrelevant rumors, and frankly I’ve written those on tables too, only to ignore them when I get that roll to my horror.

After that, we get a bit on dungeon Maps from the GM’s perspective. Other than Walls, which have DR and HP for walls (duh), none of this is GURPS-specific. For the record, the E-Heads are Scale, Walls, Ups and Downs, Area Labels, and Legend.

The Area Information has a little more. There are Doors and Locks, which again have DR and HP for those, as well as for Metalwork. There’s a graf about Inhabitants. After these are Nasty Surprises, and those start to get a little interesting. There are Traps and Curses, which will get more detail later, and Evil Runes. Christopher Rice’s article “It’s a Trap!” in Pyramid #3/62 gives quite a bit on these; it’s a needed part of the Dungeon Fantasy line. There are also bits on Gunk and Tricks; Gunk especially would be a good, short Pyramid article.

Beyond this are Obstacles. The big takeaway I get from the start of this is that you should have the height and width of any obstacles written down. In case you haven’t gotten the memo yet, but dungeon adventures often have a lot of detail with them. But for those who don’t feel the need to fret this stuff, there’s always the One-Page Dungeon. Anyways, there’s a new table for Falls, which beats breaking out the calculator to calculate falling damage, and notes about both Pits of Death and Water.

Next up are Special Features. There are the old standby of Altars, then Enchanted Fountains … hold on. Here’s something that’s unique to dungeons—the idea that folks go around jumping in strange fountains on a whim. And there are loads of D&D monsters that are hats or cloaks or other pieces of clothing, because after all, the first thing you do when you find an intact hat in a dungeon is put it on your head. Anyways, back to special features. There are changes in Mana and Sanctity, weird Statues, and Natural Features, which include ore veins and weird fungus. Here’s another oddity of the genre—folks eating random stuff in a dungeon. If you see a glowing blue-green fungus, the first thing you’d do is eat it? And yes, I have played a character who did eat the fungus. Trust me, it was in character for him.

After all this, there are two more bits. The first is Secret and Concealed Doors, which just repeats the stuff in the last chapter. There’s a note about Booty, which says that there well might be some.

The next section is Fiendish Traps. If you’re thinking that I just talked about traps, you’re right, I did. Now going through this closely, I must say I’m more impressed with the organization of the first chapter than of this one. I do suppose that bad organization could be an homage to Gygax, though this isn't stuff that's hard to find, just redundant.

Back to traps. The subheadings have how to Detect the trap, how to Disarm it, how to Circumvent it if you know it's there, whether you can Evade its Effects if you do set it off, how many Shots it has and if you can Rearm it, and whether you can Steal it. This is top-notch writing of the game mechanics of traps, and should be in the Basic Set, as it would work well in any genre. One thing that sticks out is how the Traps skill floats to many attributes: to Perception for spotting, to Dexterity for disarming, to Intelligence for stealing. This shows a 4e idea that some folks missed.

After that we have three sample traps: a concealed crossbow, frozen runes, and an illusion-covered pit. In light of traps being new to GURPS as a statted element, I would have liked more, so again I guide you to "It's a Trap!"

I don't want to blow off this section so lightly; it's one of the handiest in a GURPS book. One of the marvels of Dungeon Fantasy and Action (I don't have Monster Hunters; the genre doesn't interest me) is how Kromm gets so much utility out of so few words. Much of it is because most of the background work is in the Basic Set. It's a shame that it took so long for him to come up with the worked example supplement. Had Evil Stevie published something like this back in 1989, when there were more tabletop RPG players in general, it could have pushed GURPS higher in market share. It would have been behind D&D, of course, but it could have picked up GMs that GURPS's genericness and toolkit approach otherwise put off.

There's a short blurb about Monsters and Player Knowledge, which says to change up monsters to screw with the peeking munchkins. Then it's on to Perilous Encounters: the monsters. 

First up are Encounter Types: Wandering Monsters and Set Encounters. Kromm rolls 3d to see if a wandering monster shows up, which seems cumbersome to me. It does allow for players to be stealthy to shun encounters, though that means always shifting the target number for clues, which should usually be possible. Maybe an encounter usually happens on a 7 or less, which a Stealth roll can change, while clues always happen on a 14 or more? Regardless of the number of dice, rolling more often for loud or otherwise obvious parties makes more sense to me than raising the target number. I did like the idea of “9 or less chance of 2d orcs,” which would enhance the idea that monsters in the dungeon have lives.

Creating Monsters gives not only advice for doing just that, but it also gives a new (well, new for December 2007) stat block and some advice for using it. The biggest changes from the Bestiary chapter in Campaigns are putting DR with the attributes and writing out attacks. That last one should be in a new printing of Campaigns, no waiting for a new edition. 

There are monster classes, which are mostly for skill rolls to recognize them. Some folks take these classes more seriously than I; to me, many of the monster classes are too generic to mean much. Both dragons and orcs are Mundane. In terms of identification and basic effects? That's fine. In terms of trying to handle them in-game, or build a new monster off existing ones? Don't kid me. One of the reasons to have pre-written monsters is to use them as a base for new ones. At a minimum, the hit location table involved needs to be in the notes if it isn't obvious.

A few more notes on this format. In the right stat column, there's a blank spot in the middle. You can make use of this. In the official bestiary format in the Steve Jackson Games formatting template, you'd put the weight there. For most monsters, this isn't a big deal. Also, if your monster has a Block defense, you'd put it on the line with the other defenses, and move up SM and DR. The shield-bearing monsters in Mirror of the Fire Demon have this.

Another minor quibble is that, at least in this book, the monsters don't have how many hexes they take up on a battle mat. Likewise, melee attacks herein lack Reach and ranged attacks lack Range and Accuracy (and Rate of Fire and Bulk, when those would be relevant). 

Now, onto the Sample Monsters. First up is the Acid Spider, which is, uh, a big spider for the third act that injects acid when it bites. Then we have the as-Sharak, or the rakshasa, a weretiger/demon. There’s the Crushroom, a big walking mushroom. There’s the staple of the Dire Wolf, then Doomchildren, which are little demons that explode when you kill them. Think of the Bomb Bobs from Marathon, for those who remember Marathon. The next page has four monsters that are exactly what they say on the tin: Erupting Slime, Flaming Skull, Flesh-Eating Ape, Foul Bat (Batchala). The next page also has four monsters that are exactly what they say on the tin: Frost Snake, Giant Rat, Golem-Armor Swordsman, Horde Zombie. Next we have the Mindwarper, a mind flayer knockoff, the Peshkali, a six-armed demon, and the Siege Beast, a giant with a hammer riveted to its hand. And then we have the Stone Golem, which should need no introduction, the Toxifier, a demonic poisonous cloud, and the Triger, a nasty three-headed tiger.

This is a good starter list of monsters. Personally, I’d like for someone to crack open the Chainmail fantasy supplement and make versions of the monsters therein. These are basic monsters, and common for what many folks want to do with Dungeon Fantasy: play old D&D adventures. There needs to be some more Plants and Faeries, since there aren’t many of them yet and they have some common characteristics. They could have supplements like Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 2 was for Slimes.

Oh well. You do reviews with the supplements you have, not the supplements you don’t have, and back to this one. Balancing Encounters has some notes about, well, balancing encounters. There are entries for Offense, Defense, and Mobility, but I can sum all of this up in that if it can’t do damage to your players’ characters at all, or if your players’ characters can’t do damage to it at all, maybe it isn’t a good combat encounter. The text gives three levels of toughness: Fodder, Worthy, and Boss. There isn’t hard-and-fast advice for what monster gets what level, nor should there be. Think about D&D Challenge Ratings and all the hell they make. I'm not big on encounter balance anyways. Players gotta know when to walk away and know when to run. And for that, I'd offer up GURPS Action 2: Exploits, which has a chase system in it.

More relevant on this page is the sidebar about Combat Rules. Trademark Moves means your players should come up with their common attacks in advance and write them down. I was in a D&D game about 10 years ago wherein we got higher attributes if we did this, so think about awarding character points for a player who does this. Dumb Monsters means monsters shouldn’t try stuff like Deceptive Attack or Feints. Personally, Deceptive Attacks and Feints should be characteristics of monsters with IQ 10+, not for your common ogres. “And Stay Down!” says that fodder monsters should go down with any damage, while worthy monsters should die at 0 HP. I have all fodder and worthy monsters dropping at 0 HP, which saves rolling, especially as few such monsters would make their HT rolls more than once or twice anyways. Having fodder monsters drop after taking even a point of damage leads to metagaming, which was common in D&D 4e games with minion monsters, which had this rule in effect.

And now there is another section about Treasure. Among the notes are that Rare Artifacts might be objets d’art. Uh, that isn’t the definition of Rare Artifacts that I’ve always understood. Mine’s “rare and mighty magic items that can fuck up the world and corrupt you if you abuse them.” Weapons and Armor need their stats right away. Magic Items and Blessed Items will want prices to become power items. Magical Writings and Potions are what you expect. Unique Items are more in line with my idea of artifacts. You don’t always need the underlying spells and the prices, though power items need prices because their FP is keyed to their non-magical price. Is there a quick and dirty way to estimate prices of magic items?

How Much? advises us to not worry too much about Monty Haul campaigns, which is mostly right and contradicts Gygax’s biggest fear. Playing Hard to Get deals with hiding the treasure. Dead Bodies need a Search roll. Containers have stats for common ones. Handily, there is a rule for how to handle fragile items in trunks that players have smashed. Troves are, well, piles of loot, maybe behind a door.

Beyond the Dungeon has advice on two other kinds of adventures. The first are Wilderness Adventures, which again are in DF16. Town Adventures mostly talks about the “urban dungeon crawl,” which aren’t quite all of town adventures. I suspect a supplement sometime down the line. Making Everybody Useful is a graf for handling each template and making sure someone playing them has something to do.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Game log for 13 March 2016

Dramatis personae

Anêr, swashbuckler
Mayhem, barbarian
Caleb, wizard
Yémos, cleric

Quid occurit

After Kim's death, the rest of the gang slept through the night, then left the dungeon.

However, as they were almost to the tunnel out, they ran into five little children with bulging eyes and bloated heads, all bearing knives. The little doomchildren rushed at the heroes, and the heroes fought back. Nobody's blows struck true until Caleb shot one with a Sunbolt, and that little bugger blew up. Caleb, Mayhem, and the horse all took some of the blast. Everyone got up from the ground, then started fighting again, though Anêr tried grabbing at the leg of one of them instead, which he could not do. When they got up, another doomchild stabbed Anêr, who was still on the ground. Caleb, thinking that his spell made the first doomchild blow up, stepped forward and stabbed one, and …

Chain reaction. When the heroes looked up, they saw only the burnt husks of the doomchildren and their knives, which they took. They healed each other and their horse, then took off down the tunnel out. In the tunnel, they fought off six centipedes as big as men, killing four before the others ran off.
When they got out of the tunnel, they walked out to see a lovely sunny morning. They headed out of the woods, and after two days of no bother, they spent the night in Lúrās, in the home of Dergíā, a middle-aged widow with deep-set eyes. After breakfast the next morning, they walked towards Mīstássun, where maybe someone could resurrect Kim.

On the road, about midday, they saw some folks in the bushes along the side of the road, and both Mayhem and Caleb ducked away from their hail of arrows. Mayhem and Anêr rushed to fight the goons who came out, Caleb started casting an Explosive Fireball, and Yémos got his bow ready. Caleb singed three of the bandits before one bandit each shield rushed Mayhem and Anêr.

Anêr stabbed the bandit who had rushed him, and with a twitch of his sword, he gave him a good slash that the bandit could not block. The bandits then struck, and all either missed outright, saw their blows parried, or only hit armor. However, they did step aside so their bowmen could shoot Mayhem and Anêr, who took their arrows in their chests. Mayhem then killed the goon afore him with his axe, and Caleb lobbed a Fireball at one of the goons, who got out of the way.

Anêr stood fast, and both he and Mayhem parried the blows of two of the goons. The other four turned and fled. Mayhem knocked down one of the two goons left, while Yémos missed both him and Mayhem with a bow shot. Anêr gave a quick feint and a stab at the heart of the last one. Afterwards, the gang ransacked the bodies and found 201 copper farthings, 201 silver pennies, and 14 gold pieces. Yémos bound the wounds of the two goons who still breathed, and they went on to Mīstássun.

Once in Mīstássun, they went to the church of Saundīvós, where the midsummer Festival of Light was wrapping up. The guards went to fetch Bašêr, the high priest, while the heroes ate the last of the cheese with caraway seeds and crescent rolls with bacon and onions. Bašêr came and seemed glum, but after a two-hour ceremony with as many lay worshippers as he could find, he brought Kim back to life.

Since the heroes didn't have anywhere near the 6,000 copper farthings, Bašêr instead told them of a quest. As Bašêr wanted to make a bigger church but couldn't get the money for it from the main church in Gōkêsun, he thought having a holy relic would raise the worth of the church in Mīsarkênē. So, he told them of the Boots of Saint Hubbins, the patron saint of quality footwear, which were in the swamp.

That night, they went back to the Pantry, where there was only four folks. Arrūnús told them that the Princess of Gold, a bard from Kešūmménē, was in town, playing the town's taverns. Tonight she was at Wild Cats, a tavern in the Smelters Ward, so that is where the crowd was. One of the four folks in the Pantry was Ash, a young man who was well-armed and looking to link up with a group of heroes.

Meanwhile, the next day, Caleb went to the sage Prainêr, and looked through his books for anything about Saint Hubbins. He found that Saint Hubbins's last battle was against a big—like 100 ft. long big—snake with an eye on an eyestalk.

Res aliae

As bad as all the random encounter rolls were last session, this time they were good. Little happened. They made it back to town with few hitches, and they got a quest in the swamp.

The battle with the bandits was a random encounter, which took the place of the idea I had of running a mock battle so the players could try combat tricks without any problems. The bandits were weak enough, so John started trying things like Feints and Hit Locations. I don't think he'll have trouble remembering All-Out Defense as well. The more they remember this stuff, the more I can remember other things.

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.) 

Monday, March 7, 2016

GURPS One-Page Adventures

About three years ago, I asked about folks doing something like the One-Page Dungeon Contest for GURPS adventures. I got no takers. Regardless, I'll ask again: would folks be interested in doing something like this for GURPS? They could be for any of the sub-lines—Dungeon Fantasy, Action, Monster Hunters, After the End—or for none of them. This is GURPS, after all. As proof-of-concept examples, I offer up:

The Demons Beneath the Town
The Haunted Village Crypt
Lair of the Frogmen

I had to cheat on the one-page thing a bit, putting stat blocks over on the GURPS Repository. But you get the idea.