Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Other People's Posts 12/13

Not to turn my blog into a list of other people's blog posts, but again today I'd like to highlight some blog posts I read that I really got a lot out of:

The Twilight:2000-themed minis blog It's 500 Miles to the German Border has a great post on weathering vehicle minis. Wear Value 5 comes from the game scale wear value of vehicles in T2K. Vehicles are valuable but hard to maintain, and since many if not most military units have broken up into small bands vehicles are worn-out, parts-starved, gear-covered combination wagon/fighting vehicles. This is just a nice bit of advice for taking any modern vehicle and making it loot used.

Joseph Mason has more issues with GURPS Dungeon Fantasy than I ever did, but has one of the same issues I've had - he can't put it down and walk away. I've said this before and I'll say it again - we played a playtest of Dungeon Fantasy Adventure 1 just because we'd been board gaming but hadn't roleplaying gamed in a while, and then turned that into a DF game. That DF game was meant to be "mess around until we get bored" . . . and that hasn't happened yet six years on. In fact, that biggest and most consistent complaint about my DF game isn't my GMing, the wildly unbalanced encounters I use, issues with XP systems or treasure, TPKs, etc. but that we don't play often enough.

Greyhawkery has a very evocative post listing the swamps of Greyhawk. The post "Poll Result: Most Dangerous Swamp really highlights what makes each one interesting and dangerous. I love swamps, marshes, and river deltas as adventuring places, and all of these put me in mind to encourage my players to explore the Cold Fens a bit more . . .

This is pretty much what happens in my game when people decide the best rear guards are the Per 10 hirelings they hired for 1/3 of a pittance each (success only):




And finally, the roper in this picture always makes me think it's a guy in a costume. It just looks like a guy in a costume to me, maybe for Halloween or maybe in a surprisingly well-made low-budget movie.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Magic item special ingredients

Blog of Holding has recipes for every magic item in the dungeon master’s guide. Apparently Xanathar's Guide to Everything (on my wish list, but I haven't gotten it yet) has/suggests a rule that you need something special for each magic item.

This is not a new idea, but that idea combined with this list is pretty excellent. This list is really evocative, too. Needing "gloves stolen from a thief" is one of my favorites - it reminds me of how magic is crafted in the James Enge "Ambrose" books. This could make a good quest list - "A local wizard is paying top coin for otyugh eyes" is way more interesting than merely cutting horns off of random monsters and seeing if you can't sell them.

This idea is easily stolen for GURPS Dungeon Fantasy and the Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game.



If players want to buy any of the magical items described inMagic Items, decide if you want it in the game or not. If yes, let them . . . but require them to supply the unique or special component necessary to make it. "Of course I can make you a Puissance +3 sword, if you can get me the edge of a dragon's claw or a nice chunk of mithral." Or perhaps "Sure, rechargeable greater wand of explosive fireballs? The heart of a flame lord."

You can either make a specific list of items ahead of time, or simply ad hoc make them as needed.

The lesser the item, the lesser the component. Or the more varieties allowed. The greater the item, the more specific - and it need not be (I'd say should not be) merely the physical component.

The mention above of the gloves was deliberate - I want to highlight that it's not always the component, but how you got it. Magic is more magical when it's not just science with "otyugh eyes" instead of "DNA from a creature with wide-spectrum low-light vision" or "elf blood" instead of "riboflavin*" - so make it so. You can't just hack a thief to death and take his gloves and use them for Gloves of Thievery (or gloves that are a Casting Item for Lockmaster and give Grace +2). They need to be stolen. You might need blood from an elf slain on the 13th day of the 13th month for your arrow of elfslaying, and figure out what day in your 12th month calendar counts as 13th of 13th in the orcish calendar to know when to draw such blood. It's not science, it's magic, and making part of the elements of some items specific in a non-scientific way is critical to making this just some generic commodity. It should make it part of the challenge. "No, I need to slay an elf tomorrow, not today - let him go, but cast Trace on his and keep it going" or "no, steal his gloves, don't borrow them or kill him and loot them."

It's a nice list that Paul created, and it's both fun to read and inspirational for DF/DFRPG.


* Critically important for time travel.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Gygax dungeon level on Zenopus Archives

If you're interested in old-style dungeon levels, this is a really neat post over at Zenopus Archives:

Gygax's Dungeon Level from Hall of Many Panes

It's got a great breakdown of the level visually, themes common in Gary Gygax dungeon levels, and elements you can see I learned from for my Megadungeon mapping lessons and my Felltower levels.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Felltower Page Maintenance

I did some quick updates to the Felltower pages today:


- the Monsters Encountered page has been updated to include the golden swordsmen and goldcat and ooze.

- the Race and Template page has been updated to discuss DFD: Swashbucklers and DFRPG.

- minor updates to the layout of the DF Campaign page.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Easiest templates for DFRPG for a returning player - my take

Yesterday I asked about what the easiest templates would be for a GURPS 3e player returning to 4e-based play.

As promised, here are my comments.

My recommendation

What I said to the player was this:

"In terms of rules-know-how required to do really well, from easiest to most complex, the templates seem to go:

1) Thief, Artificer
2) fighter-types of all kinds
3) spellcasters of all kinds

2 includes barbarians, knights, martial artists (possibly the hardest of the fighter types), scouts, holy warriors.
3 includes clerics, druids, bards, and wizards.

Spellcasters are just tough because you have to learn the casting rules, deal with spell prereqs, track [energy from a power item, fatigue, and an energy reserve, etc.

It's totally doable [. . . ] It's just something you'd need to learn on top of knowing all of the other stuff.

Fighting is a little more complex than 3e, but if you read Exploits and a house rules doc I'll email to you (I need to clean it up to be readable) fighter-types are simple.
"

So that's how I ranked it.

Why are thief and artificer the easiest? Basically because:

- there is no combat complexity

and

- most of their skills are "decide what to do, describe it, and roll."

Not a lot of opposed rolls in there except against skills you're very good at (Stealth, for example). Most of the time, within your niche, you're top dog and roll against very high numbers.

Fighters are next. I think martial artists are the most complex, because of the combo of low armor values generally and specialty skills. We've had a heavy armor martial artist with weaponry, but a) he died and b) I'm not sure how effectively that leveraged what martial artists are actually good at.

Spellcasters are harder because of all of the things to track. Lots of rules to know, and all of them are critical to doing your job right. A non-optimized caster is a drag on the group, and one who either does too little or too much equally weights down the party in bad ways.

Ranks within Ranks

But how would I rank the fighters?

Easiest to hardest:

Knight
Barbarian
Holy Warrior
Swashbuckler
Scout
Martial Artist

In terms of making choices and playing the character, the Knight is the easiest. There is no bad set of choices for a Knight on the template. You're good at combat, largely melee combat. Melee combat really comes down to a few basic choices and understanding the rules for Deceptive Attack - something easily mastered. The numbers you roll against rarely change during a session. And you're probably going to either take cutting or crushing weaponry as your main weapon, and both are good choices against everything except Diffuse creatures (who you aren't good against anyway.) They're simple in actual play. "I drop my skill to 16 or 17 and then hit it in a random location or torso" is rarely a bad choice. It might not be the best choice, but it's almost always a step toward victory. Plus they're defensively sound unless you are a big risk-taker.

Barbarians are simple to design. Holy Warriors take a few more nuanced choices, as you need to decide if you're a demon-hunter or an undead-hunter and hopefully make choices that support that.

Swashbucklers can be tough - "Speed is Armor" means knowing how to leverage your speed. And knowing the rules for doing so, or depending on someone else to know for you.

Scouts aren't hard, but I don't think they are actually easy. You need to know:

- the range table
- the hit location table
- the rules for Homogenous and Unliving targets
- how the Chinks in Armor rules work
- how ACC works
- the Aim rules
- the rules for Fast-Draw and cumulative Fast-Draw.

Plus, you need to buy and track ammo. And have a good bow or two.

It's actually a more complex template than most melee fighters. It's not like a new player or returning player can't handle all of that. But it's very easy for players to think scout works like this:

- I shoot everything in the vitals or face and it dies.

I've literally had to pull aside every single scout's player save one - Galen's - at least once and say, "Please learn (some or all of the above list)." It's very frustrating for a player to expect they just shoot arrows and everything dies, then find out most of the foes they encounter in DF are most effective against their best damage types. Watching scouts shoot Unliving targets with broadheads, or accept advice from well-meaning friends who say, "Use bodkins points against those golems!" when Homogenous gives a 1/5 divider on injury, or not really get how the Range table works, or ask to shoot Chinks in Armor with a cutting-head arrow against a foe with only natural DR . . . it's frustrating as a GM. I end up needing to intervene to teach people how to run their guy. GURPS really needs less system mastery than people suppose, but for a scout you do need some. If you get buy with "I shoot it in the vitals!" or "I shoot it in the face!" and basically play Impaling McFaceshooty, you're going to spend a lot of time rolling relatively low damage and having the GM multiply it by x1 or x1/2 or x1/5 and ticking off arrows from your sheet.

None of this is to say Scout is a bad choice, or that this player couldn't run a Scout. It's just not the easiest template, it just on the surface presents the easiest choice. I still think a melee-oriented Knight, followed by an equally melee-oriented Barbarian or Holy Warrior, is the easiest way to go. You have more options in front of you, but no need to use them to be an effective character.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Easiest DFRPG template for a returning GURPS player?

One of my players is going to drop in and play DFRPG with us sometimes in my DF Felltower game.

That got me thinking, for someone conversant with the basic concepts of 4e but not the details, what templates are easiest to start with?

I have my own ideas and I've shared them with the player in question* - but I figured I'd see what you guys, the people who follow and comment on my blog, think on the subject.

What template-based characters are easiest to run in a DF game for a returning player, and why? Please share in the comments, I'm sure it will help him choose.



* Someone with a long history with me with GURPS 3e, Revised, but whose only encounters with GURPS 4e have been fairly heavily house-ruled.

(I shared my own thinking in this post.)

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Area spells trick

The other day, Sean Punch put up a great series of tips for spellcasters:

Dungeon Fantasy Tips for Superior Spellcasters

Great stuff.

But he missed a small but vital trick:

Trading energy for skill for area spells - Don't forget you measure your distance penalty for an area spell to the nearest edge of the area. You can make an area spell bigger, and thus closer to you, to ensure a good effective skill. A few extra points of energy for a larger spell can mean a slightly better chance at overcoming the resistance of targets in the area.

My players use this one all of the time, trading off recoverable energy for an easier chance at getting off a critical spell. For cheap area spells that depend on a good margin of success, such as Awaken, this is a vital tactic to know. Add this one to your repertoire.
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