Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Review: C2 The Ghost Tower of Inverness

This module has sat, unread, in my collection. I remember not buying it because my cousin had it and I was going to play it, but that didn't happen.

This is one I really enjoyed reading. I'd never read the whole thing - this was part of what I inherited from my cousin's collection. My only memory of it was hearing the intro text, and using the 25,000 gp to buy magic items from the Duke's collection. That's it - not a second of actual play. Probably we got sent outside to play because it was a nice day or something.

In the weeks ahead I'll try to get through the other adventures people requested I take a look at, and others from my collection I especially want to talk about.




by Allen Hammack
20 pages
TSR 1980

This module was originally a tournament module, for (according to the intro) Wintercon VIII in Detroit in 1979. The copy I have is the release version from 1980.

The adventure is basically a dungeon crawl, penetrating a ruined fortress seeking a McGuffin desired by an NPC. The tournament setup is that the PCs are coerced into the adventure - four prisoners from the Duke's prisons, and a monk indentured to the Duke as payment of taxes. Oddly, they come unequipped, but get 25,000 gp to buy normal equipment and select magic items from the Duke's treasury. I wouldn't want to try that with an inexperienced or rusty game group, because buying equipment (especially mundane gear) is always time-consuming. Selecting magical gear is pretty fun, though. I remember doing it myself with these lists, and it's a lot of competing trade-offs between powerful but costly items that limit your overall choices and cheaper items that might just not get the job done. Still, "here is 25,000 gp worth of gear you can take from my treasury" seems a really contrived way of putting the item choice into the player's hands.

On to the adventure itself. It is basically a big puzzle made up of puzzles. It's a find-the-keys puzzle with nested puzzles. Enter the dungeon, find the key, find the door, back off, try again until you get all the keys. Then complete the one-path-only way to the McGuffin.

The puzzles are pretty cool - they reward general caution, player skill, character abilities, and knowing when to take bold action. You can't easily get through them all with cautious 10' pole pokes and refusing to do anything dangerous, just as you can't easily get through them all with bold action and straight combat. And that's without even touching the scoring bonuses the tournament players would get for choosing the right course of action for each puzzle. Some of them are player-facing (player skill resolved), most are at least equally character-facing (resolved by character abilities, if correctly applied.) Add on top of that a time limit in the tournament and it must have been pretty tense, choosing between boldness and caution in turns.

Some of the puzzles require combat - for the tournament, monsters all do specific (sub-average) damage. There is an interesting range of monsters in there, but they're clearly chosen for a mix of thematic appropriateness and level of challenge.

The non-tournament additions are just more encounters embedded in previously empty rooms, or additional monsters or traps stuck into the more puzzle-like encounter areas in the Ghost Tower. Some of them are probably appropriate for a regular campaign, others seem like they'd just make the encounter more complex (and bloody) for little real gain.

I mentioned scoring. The scoring is individual and team, with a winning team and winning individuals being given prizes. Scoring is for loot, damage given, minus damage received, plus all sorts of bonuses for handling specific encounters and even for making observations about the environment.


Some nice bits:
- lots of blown-up maps of special rooms you can show to players (and smaller ones for the GM).

- pictures of the "keys" so you don't have to explain them without a visual aid.

- an umber hulk illustrated by Jeff Dee and one illustrated by Erol Otus.


Overall, I was quite impressed with this one. It seems like a killer dungeon with a poison cookie for a prize, but looking at it from my perspective now, I feel a bit differently. It's a real challenge adventure, with a dangerous prize you probably wouldn't want to keep (unlike, say, some of the weaponry from S2 White Plume Mountain.) Like S2, it puts more emphasis on using your head than your weapons, but you need both. Also like S2, it will find a way to fit a trick or puzzle in even if you need to suspend your disbelief a bit to swallow it being there.

All in all, it's one I wished I'd played. If you have, let me know how it was in your game in the comments!



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

GURPS Sale purchases

So there is a 23% off sale on GURPS stuff until Thursday over on Warehouse23.

I picked up:

GURPS City Stats

GURPS Social Engineering: Pulling Rank

Pyramid #3/44: Alternate GURPS II

How to be a GURPS GM

If there is something you think I'm missing . . . you have until Thursday morning to let me know.

Gamma World: what's with all the fish?

The Gamma World editions I have sure have a lot of mutated sea creatures.

Not counting stuff like flying fish, there are a lot of acquatic-only, shoreline-only, and

It's a system surprisingly well stocked for exploring underwater.

Metamorphosis Alpha - 0 fish, as befits a spaceship, I suppose.

Gamma World, 1st edition - 45 bestiary entries, 9 fish or mainly aquatic creatures.

Gamma World, 2nd edition - 58 bestiary entries, 11 fish or mainly aquatic creatures/plants. Plus at least 1 more that is dual-use (land variant, aquatic variant.)


Either the writers really liked mutating fish, or Gamma World expects GMs to send the players into rivers, lakes, and oceans with regularity.

It's just a curiosity, really - that seems like a lot of water-centric encounters. I don't recall encountering many of these or using basically any of these back in my GW games. I've stolen some for fantasy games (stone fish, say) but that's about it.

Any Gamma Worlders out there think, finally, a system with a lot of fish? Or did it seem strange to you, too?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Drokk it, we need GURPS Judge Dredd!

Just giving more weight to Doug Cole's post.

GURPS Dredd need marketing, badly

By grud, we need a GURPS Judge Dredd. If Munchkin gets one, why not GURPS?



Need more convincing?

How about a movie?



No, how about some Anthrax?

I Am The Law!*

No?

How about some old comics?

Fighting the Sovs from East Meg in the Apocalypse War?



Versus Mean Machine Angel?



I have the old GW game, and I've played it. It's . . . okay, as over-engineered 80s games could sometimes be. It's true to the source but the system is a bit clunky and dated. I haven't tracked down a copy of the Mongoose line, but I'm still policing up (heh) missing issues of the comics I missed, so I've been giving that a miss for the time being until I've gotten the comics all together.

But GURPS, especially built around GURPS Lite and the Action line, could do this easily. It's just a matter of writing up the stats for stuff like Lawmasters, Stub Guns, Lawgivers, Rad Sweepers, Walter the robot, etc. GURPS has the system to run it easily already built right into the Action line.

Nicely, Foundry already has minis ready to go. Which reminds me, I do need to finish painting the Judge Dredd mini in my half-painted mini pile. And find where I stuck the one-armed resurrected Mean Machine figure I have, too.


I just want my Joe Dredd in GURPS terms, that's all.



* I never did get my hands on an Anthrax judge badge t-shirt I wanted so badly in High School. I should rectify that.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

DF Felltower: Stat Booster Magic Items

One of my players asked me, basically, "Oh yeah, what about stat-boosting items?"

Magic items that raise stats permanently while worn. GURPS Magic calls these out as rare, so will I allow them?


My thought on this is basically, yes.

If I waved a magic wand and everyone spent 100 character points to get +1 in all four stats, would that substantially change the game?

Probably not. +1 damage, +1 to hit, maybe a +1 to parry depending on the breaks, a few spells here and there that fail to overcome higher resistance, a few more already-boosted death checks made. Would characters getting better rolls at things they already do really well break the game?

No, I doubt it. I'm more concerned by immunities, special abilities (always on Flight, for example), and unstoppable special attacks than by being better at stuff you're already good at.

So should I allow them? I decided I'd take a look.

ST

Might is 1500 per point for Always On. That's $30,000 per point, up to 6 (assuming Magery 6 enchanters are out there.) Seems okay, especially since it won't stack. 1500 per level and my assumptions that NPC enchanters work in circles of 6 (Enchantment 20, -5 for 5 helpers, for a power 15 item) means it takes 1500/6 = 250 days per +1 for a custom ordered one.

They're rare enough that you can't find one for sale randomly; they must be special-ordered.

DX

Grace is 2000 per point for Always On. So $40,000 and 333 1/3 days per point. +1 DX is pretty awesome, but if you order one now, you can have +1 DX next year.

IQ

Wisdom is 2000 per point, and it doesn't raise spells, just IQ, Per, and Will. Same cost as DX - $40K, 333 1/3 days.

HT

Vigor is 1500 per point, so it's identical to Might. $30K and 250 days.

What about secondary stats?

Will

Strengthen Will is 1000 per point, so $20,000 and 166 2/3 days. Not a bad deal, because of Will being so valuable in play.

Per

This one is interesting - a specific sense roll is only 150 per point - $3000 and 25 days via Keen (Sense). All senses are Alertness and 300 per point - $6000 and 50 days per point. $36K and 350 days is a big investment but +6 Per is amazing!

However, neither says "Always on." GURPS Magic is very specific about "Always On." Spells like Climbing specific it's a maximum castable bonus, which is also how GURPS Magic for 2nd edition GURPS specifies the Haste item is setting a maximum casting level, and so that is probably what's intended here. Always on, no cost Per increases should probably be 500-1000 for all senses, 250-500 per individual sense. Probably on the higher end - 1000 and 500 for Per/individual senses seems fair for what you get, and puts the cost at $20K and 166 2/3 days per point and $10K and 83 1/3 days per point respectively.

Basic Move

Haste doesn't have an "Always On" item, as I mentioned above. So you'd need to use Power, possibly re-costed per this post, although that would make +3 Basic move a low, low, low $23K. Not cost-reduced, it's a more reasonable $55K for +3 Basic Move, $30K for +2, $15K for +1. So perhaps I wouldn't want to re-cost Power, after all, if only to avoid +3 Basic Move being even cheaper.

So should I allow these?

I'm still inclined to say yes. I can't see what harm it'll do, and I know for a fact some stat-increasing items (and stat-increasing opportunities!) are already in Felltower. Is it so bad to let people spend their hard-earned cash buying a stat bonus?

It doesn't seem so, especially considering the cost and the time.

Of course, my game being my game, all of these can be ordered from Black Jans, instead - if his tower is there (it's a random roll, one try between delves). He can do anything in one week . . . for double cost. So $60K-$80K per +1 for the stats, $20K-lots for the sense and secondary stat boosts, but it's faster. It would be amusing to have someone drop $480K to have Black Jans hand over a +6 DX item a week later, but I bet you can find a lot more useful things to do with $480K.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Review: Pyramid 3/70: Fourth Edition Festival

Here is a brief review of Pyramid 3/70: Fourth Edition Festival.



The central conceit of this issue is celebrating the 10th anniversary of GURPS 4th Edition by having authors of major GURPS books (well, those that had the time to get an article in before the deadline) look at something they did before, in light of books that came out later. Basically, what else could you do with what you wrote if all this stuff was out already?

Destination: Abydos by David Pulver.

Remember when I reviewed this and said it would be interesting but need tweaking in Dungeon Fantasy? David Pulver wrote those tweaks.

This article looks at the city of heretics (and zombies) and tells you how to run it with Dungeon Fantasy tropes. And what counts as suitable dungeons, too. If you liked GURPS Abydos, and you like DF, you'll love this.

Not only that, but he also turns in full GURPS Mass Combat stats for Abydos's legions and those of their foes. Time for a war . . . maybe led by some DF vets.

Ten for Ten by Sean Punch.

This one is fascinating - it's 10 rules (plus 2 extras, plus 9 honorable mentions) that could have/should have made it into the Basic Set, had they been around when Basic Set was written.

Douglas Cole will be pleased, because his playtest-time suggestion for a Tactics rule made it into GURPS Martial Arts, and it's called out here as one of the Big 10.

I'm deeply flattered, because Sean took the Loyalty rules I wrote up (well, dramatically expanded from Basic Set) and suggestd they'd made a good addition to the Ally rules. Wow, that's awesome.

Other rules I deeply enjoy using - Complementary Skills, the Alternative Benefits for Talents, Team Efforts, and the TDS from Martial Arts - all made it in, too.

Gaming in the Ancien Regime by William H. Stoddard

Bill Stoddard famously (well, in GURPS online circles) ran a game centered around fencers in France. He used GURPS Martial Arts extensively, but also created many rules for the social engagements of those swordsmen. Angling for rank, social cutting, impressing people, etc. - all of that came from here and became GURPS Social Engineering. So Bill takes a look at what happens if he spun around and had the final rules in place when he started that game and how it would all look in light of GURPS Social Engineering.

It's a nice way to look at how to combine the social and martial in a game where sticking someone with your sword isn't necessarily the whole point of dueling.

Into the Wilderness by Matt Riggsby

Matt Riggsby takes Dungeon Fantasy: Adventure 1 and looks at it in light of Dungeon Fantasy 16: Wilderness Adventures. You get a few loadouts, and a random encounter chart tied to the many hazards highlighted in DF16, and specific recommendations for using DF16 in the desert around the fire demon's lair.

It's excellent, and improves on an already fine adventure - one that served as a "one-shot" that turned into my current multi-year DF game.

Elemental Xia Champions vs. The Shenguai by Jason "PK" Levine

Jason Levine wrote GURPS Monster Hunters. Then, later, Bill Stoddard wrote GURPS Thaumatology: Chinese Elemental Powers. And here PK combines them into a Xia-centered game fighting ancient Chinese monsters!

So if the idea of 400-point Xia tickles your fancy, and you want to fight nine-headed snakes and demons and poisonfeather birds using your five-element powers again them . . . yeah, this is awesome.

Horde Ninja by me.

I wrote this one, so I can't say much about it aside from it being Ninjas-as-monsters, and has a rule explaining why the last ninja from the pack are always the hardest to defeat.

Why I wrote this one is interesting. When the issue was first proposed, I said I'd write something, please get back to me. Steven Marsh and Sean Punch did, and said the deadline was approaching, what did I have?

Well, nothing. And after wracking my brains for a day, I couldn't think of anything a) fast, b) tight, and c) easily doable. So I asked for suggestions - and Steven shot off an amazing email full of things he'd like to see from me, and Sean punch drilled the list down even further. From there, the idea of looking at DF12 in light of what we put into DF15 and DFM1 was a natural. I pulled The Last Ninja Rule down from where it was sitting half-written for a couple years, and bang. It was concept to finished in days. With the right inspiration, I can write well and quickly, and Sean and Steven supplied that in spades.

Revisting High-Tech by Hans-Christian Vortisch

Hans wrote High Tech back in 2007, but 7 years later, Hans shows ways he'd have done things differently in retrospect. It's short but to the point. He hits two topics:

- how machine pistols are handled in the game

- another way to do shotgun pellets instead of the sometimes troublesome rules from Basic Set.

Random Thought Table by Steven Marsh

Steven Marsh takes a look at rules from 8 different books, and suggests ways to build an adventure if not a campaign around them. My favorite? That he highlights "Faking It" from Martial Arts - the rules look at people pretending to know kung-fu. Heh. Hilarity ensues.

Odds and Ends

There is a bit here from Steven Marsh explaining how he comes up with his RTTs, and a City Stats look at Paris by Bill Stoddard - in the era of the Ancien Regime, of course.


Overall, I'm pleased with this Pyramid and I'm very proud I'm in it.

Friday, August 22, 2014

GURPS 23% Off at Warehouse23

Until noon CDT on August 27th, 2014, all GURPS products are on sale on Warehouse23 for 23% off.

You can read the details here:

August 22, 2014: Warehouse 23 GURPS Sale!

I'm going to not-humbly suggest you take a look at my author's page and buy some of those.
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