Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Technical Grappling + DF = Awesome

I mentioned a couple times that we're using Technical Grappling for Dungeon Fantasy.

At first glance, this must seem odd, especially given my emphasis on stripped-down combat for DF.

But actually, it's not that crazy. Admittedly, we're using a stripped down set of rules from TG, not all of the bells and whistling going with all of the rules for realism turned on.

But we basically aren't doing any of the cinematic rules for it, either.

The key here is the basic utility of the underlying mechanic - Control Points (CP).

First, realize that TG in DF is for the monsters. It's not for the PCs. It's not a way to make a grappling badass who choke-slams and arm locks monsters two per second - although you can do that. It's a way to make grappling monsters both scarier and a more nuanced foe.

We had a fight with crushrooms last time. ST 40, 4d crushing bite, Constriction Attack. By the Basic Set rules, a graby by that is game over - it bites for 4d, it holds on, and crushes you to death while you hope you and your friends can kill it. It misses, nothing. That binary switch (grappled & hosed, not grappled & fine) is so coarse it means when they hit people assume they're dead. Or at least, suffer -4 DX and wait for the crushroom to do a Takedown (easy) and Pin (easier) and end it.

But with CP-limited grapples, even with the massive CP they can inflict (one did 34 CP on Vryce, enough to reduce a normal map to total immobility almost twice over), there is a cap to the badness. Even as the penalties for being grappled are so much more harsh (Vryce was at -17 ST and -8 DX at one point) the ability to treat a grapple as a progressively counterable effect is dramatic. A few good rolls by Vryce and he whittled the CP on his arm down until the crushroom's grinding constriction was merely dangerous instead of potentially lethal - that added to a sense that trying to get free is worth it even when the odds are against you. The direct correlation between the quality of the grapple and the ability to act despite it is also crystal-clear with TG.

So there is a chance of a marginal grab. There is utility to using Break Free to whittle away at CP so a hold is progressively loosened, without the non-drama of "I roll vs. ST 20, it rolls vs. ST 40, oh look, it won!" There is the chance for a so-so grab to merely slow you down in your monster-killing.

But at the same time, a grab-specialized monster can now inflict ridiculous top-end effects. No longer is being grapples by 6 tentacles from a tentacled horror just "-4 to DX and I can't Retreat" but it could take you all the way to effectively pinned and helpless in seconds, all because you couldn't stop its initial grab. Running CP so that toothy maws grabbing onto your plate armor and - despite not penetrating - holding on means bite-based grapples suddenly become a continuing problem even if their damage is too low to be a direct means of killing you.

So monsters that grapple now have a wider breadth of lethality - not just yes/no. Counters to being grappled are now set so even weaker PCs can slowly work out of the grasp of monsters, so attempting to break free is much more often a useful exercise.

The change from a binary grappling system to a CP-based system has made grappling better. What's more, it makes the game flow more smoothly. No one argues, or tries to explain why they can somehow pull off X or Y despite being grappled, or groans that they'll need a new guy because they missed that Dodge roll vs. the crushroom bite. It's all clear, nothing is insurmountable, and the effect-based rolls for grapples fit smoothly into how GURPS does things otherwise.

All in all, using TG for DF is why the crushroom fight last time was such a fun one and a dramatic one, not an excuse to sigh that even ST 40 gets you nothing special when you chomp and hold on. Oh yes, it really does. But with a CP pool to whittle down, it's not the end of the fight.

Good stuff. It's improved my game.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Finally Matte Spray Weather

Finally, we had:

- humidity under 50%

- temperature around 70 (but feeling like 75+ in the sun)

- no rain

- and no real wind.

So I was able to matte seal 37 minis, including:

- finally re-sealing my frosted 6-man gladiator set. That still didn't work out well, but see below.

- two 100 Years War archers (they'll make good hirelings)

- an old AD&D priest figure turned armored wizard

- a Reaper Battle Nun

- fully-to-somewhat-intact Star Frontiers robots.

- some Hundred Kingdoms minis I'd been meaning to finish for years.

- a re-paint of a 70s-era mini I'd inherited but wanted to fix. You'll see him when I bust him out next game session - he's a perfect volunteer hireling.

- my Spanish sword-and-buckler men.

It was about time, really. I hope we get some days like this, since I'm all caught up on the finishing and the next batch of minis need to get finished painting.

Speaking of those Star Frontiers robots, I have another boxed, shrinkwrapped and new. I keep waffling between "sell it!" and "paint them!" It's a tough call because I really don't need 6 more robots, especially when they're just not-damaged versions of the ones I have now. Broken ones are pretty Gamma World, too. But they're fast to paint and pretty fun, and I don't have a lot of robots. We'll see how I eventually decide.

And speaking of frosted, sandpapery minis, I've tried a few methods:

- re-sealing (no effect)

- gloss sealing (looked fine) and then re-matte sealing (reverted to frosted, snowy, and sandpapery)

- the olive oil treatment. This had some effect. I basically covered the mini with olive oil (I used the cheap stuff, not extra virgin), rubbed it a bit, then washed the mini off in warm, soap water. It dramatically improved one mini, and noticeably improved another in the patches I was able to abrade a bit with my fingertip.

I kind of doubted it, and so I just tried the warm, soapy water on two other minis from the set. No effect at all on those. So the olive oil is clearly having some kind of effect - possibly stripping off the finish without stripping off the paint. We'll see, as I will repeat the treatment. I will also try brush-on varnish once I get some. But although I've read a few people saying the olive oil treatment can't work and doesn't work well, it;'s at least moved some of my minis into a better state. I may ultimately leave them in that state and not spray-seal them, I may try one mini again, we'll see.

But at least those minis are starting to get better. Had I only waited for a day like today in the first place. Oh well, I didn't realize the weather wasn't sealing weather until it was too late last time.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

DF Session 47, Felltower 38 - Crushroom Combat

September 14th, 2014

Weather: Cool, clear.

Characters: (approximate net point total)
Asher Crest-Fallen, human holy warrior (250 points)
Dryst, halfling wizard (350 points)
     Father Keef, human initiate (125 points, NPC)
Galen Longtread, human scout (360 points)
Red Raggi, human berserker (?? points, NPC)
Vryce, human knight (444 points)
     Gort of the Shining Force, dwarf adventurer (unknown point total, NPC)
     Jon Blackbart, human swordsman (unknown point level, NPC)
     Larry the Crossbowman, human crossbowman (low point level NPC)
     Orcish Bob, not-orcish orc brute (approximately 125 points, NPC)
     Boohee, pig
     Swoinch, pig

Still in town:
Bern Brambleberry, gnome artificer (265 points)
     Mark Strawngmussel, human laborer (62 points, NPC)
Borriz, dwarven knight (308 points)
Chuck Morris, human martial artist (303 points)
Galoob Jah, goblin thief (256 points)
Honus Honusson, human barbarian (302 points)

Christoph, human scout (258 points)

Christoph the scout was basically retired, as he'd fallen so far behind while his player was unable to game for much of the past year. Rather than be a backup Galen, he chose to make a new PC and settled on a holy warrior. That's a template you could use to make a Paladin, or a religious zealot. Asher kind of straddles the two. He'd have gotten along well with Inquisitor Marco, and probably is just from a branch of the order that deployed the Inquisitor way back when.

We started up in Stericksburg, as usual. Vryce cemented his reputation as a Dragon Slayer, but the others let it ride (Raggi too, sadly, for lack of points.) We joked that in a short time the story will be of heroic Vryce battling the dragon as his cowardly companions stood outside, shaking at the terrible sounds of battle within. Heh.

They gathered rumors, including a warning to beware of snake-bodied demons, that demons can use blood to power spells, that the six-fingered vampires wear necklaces of blood, of the inability to scry the dungeon below the third level down, and others. Also, the orcs have been excommunicated, they say, so now it's legal to kill them. ("That's retroactive, right?" asked Galen, and "Uh, how far back does that cover me?" asked Raggi)

The group replenished their supplies, and the loot they spent pushed the town up another wealth threshold, so a lot more general adventuring supplies were available. They added their new members, and culled down a very large group of volunteers down to a handful, of whom they took only a few volunteers (Gort, Blackbart, Larry) and one half-share member (Orcish Bob.) They also picked up two pigs, intending to find the twelve-legged worm and pay him in pigs for passage. Gort admitted to wrangling pigs back in the Shining Force, so he and Bort aka Jon Blackbart were assigned duties.

They headed out of town, out the northern gate, across the Old Stone Bridge over the Silver River, past Sterick's Landing with the statue of Sterick on his rearing horse, axe and sword upraised, and trekked up to the ruins of Felltower. They turned off partway up the mountain and headed to the dragon cave.

Once there, they spotted some signs of traffic - orcs. Booted and muddy feet left prints and dirt and hobnail scratches. Graffiti on the wall with orc names ("Glarg was here." "Bruk rules!" and so on, some crudely crossed out) was a dead giveaway. They moved in, past the shattered barrels and chests and scattered coins of the dragon's hoard and down the split cavern. They passed a side passage and went into the batchala lair. They found three badly eaten orcs, and then were attacked by some foul bats. 11, total. Last time a buffed Vryce took them down. This time, they swarmed the group - but the result was the same. With Galen there, bats fell two per second for a few seconds. Vryce and Raggi told for others. Then the last one, the tough leader, fled, but Galen shot it up with arrows and killed it. All dead inside of a few seconds.

The group began to wind their way through a series of caves. An echoing roar, distant drips of water, and occasionally fluted whistling noises (not like wind, but like something or someone whistling lightly) echoed about. They mapped as best they could, as the tunnels and caverns rose and fell and twisted. Even with Absolute Direction all they were assured of was good distances and relative direction, not an unerring ability to put down sizes on maps.

They found a 30' cube room with four exits, which felt vaguely of old magic. They recalled finding one before, right before the trog fight, but this turned out not to be that room. They found another, later.

Making a lot of wandering short, they eventually came to tunnel that was unnaturally smooth-walled and which ended in 20+' tall, 10' wide double doors. The doors were made of iron, covered with magical runes and wards and holy symbols of all kinds (all from the religion of the Good God and his saints, though.) The runes weren't enchanted but were generic wards. The holy stuff? Father Keef didn't know and Asher admitted he was in the monastery on a full athletic scholarship There was an inscription in slightly-old common that read:

Go not into the center,
Danger lurks within,
That which should not waken,
All should not enter,
Rests but not rests therein,
Turn back now, Return not again.

Based on the big rings and giant hinges, they could tell the doors weren't locked but were probably a foot thick or more. Like, say, the big giant doors on the Doomchildren room. They decided to leave well enough alone until they were clearly short on making their loot threshold for the trip.

Heading back, they wound around into a room full of mushrooms and rotting vegetation. Some of the mushrooms ambled toward them on tentacle-like stumpy "feet." Dryst torched the entranceway with Create Fire and they backed off.

More exploring brought them past an area where they sensed some supernatural beings, demonic, perhaps, according to the sensitive Asher. They avoided it, though, and using Sense Earth found some nearby silver. They headed there.

They found a room with a chest with a skull (elven, it turned out) sitting on it. The chest was chased with silver. They send a servant in to retrieve the skull, and it brought it back. Nothing special. It went back to the chest, and couldn't open it. Galen popped the latch with an arrow, but still nothing. So then Galen started shooting the floor after he noticed there was an odd line across the room about halfway to the chest.

That did it - the whole floor moved toward them. They decided it was a trapper. It didn't last long. Even the giant 7 yard diameter thing didn't do more than make it part of the way to the party before Galen shot it full of arrows and Vryce, Raggi, and Asher slashed it to an oozing but dead mass. Raggi finished it off, and Galen started the job, so they jointly called it their kill. Underneath the group found a carpet, a chest with some gems in it, and three potions (they'd much later turn out to be 2 major healings and a plant control potion - like the spell).

More exploring and winding found another cube room. Off of that, they ran into the mushroom room again, and once again used Create Fire and backed off. The next room nearby was more eventful.

They moved in from a narrow corridor into a larger cavern, and saw a big shape in the middle. But as soon as they saw it, it saw them - it was a giant rhino beetle. It charged, going from motionless to full speed in a split second. It trampled the Created Servant without slowing down and then slammed and trampled Galen a moment after he put an arrow into each gigantic eye then tried to tumble out of the way (default Acrobatics). All of that failed and Galen ended up under it, facing its huge crushing mandibles. His situation was dire, and the group was stuck in the hallway plugged up by a giant beetle. Raggi, Vryce, and Asher struck. They did enormous damage to it despite its heavily armored front plate, and stunned it.

As they fought, though, a big rock flew out of the darkness behind the rhino - a giant, it's owner! The rock slammed into Asher's shield, breaking it and knocking him aside but not down. The beetle kept getting pounded, keeping it from killing Galen. Asher drew his spears one after the other and put one into each eye, Raggi kept hammering the beetle, and Vryce waited for the giant's attack with its 10' long "axe."

When the giant struck, Vryce interrupted and struck his axe, twice. One hit and damaged it heavily, but didn't break it, and he dodged the axe blow itself. Dryst, who first Great Hasted himself, Great Hasted and Shielded Vryce.

 photo photo1s_zps2705f31b.jpg

Larry put a siege crossbow bolt into the giant, wounding it horribly. Vryce clambered over the rhino beetle and went face to face with the giant. Raggi dropped his axe once the beetle seemed dead, and grappled its corpse to try and lift it off Galen. Vryce tried to Evade past the giant but failed, and when the giant backed off and clubbed him with the shaft of his axe (stopped by the Shield spell, but still knocking Vryce back), Vryce was able to recover and attack. That did it - the giant was dead, all the way past -5xHP, in two seconds of slashing.

They finally got Galen free, and looted the giant of what little enough he had (a pelt, a chunk of ivory, and 1200 or so silver coins in a bag.)

From there they headed out the other side of the cave, and found the source of the whistling - shrieking fungus. They fled, as some of the PCs and NPCs picked up Hard of Hearing from the keening. They hid and waited until they were better, then snuck past the fungus. Eventually they found the moving mushrooms again, and decided, let's attack.

They engaged 6 crushrooms and 2 tough crushrooms in a big brawl. The crushrooms used slams, telegraphic attacks, and tramples to engage the group, trying to get in a bite. They rarely succeeded, but drove everyone back. Sadly for the crushrooms, they group really does handle being pushed back well, and left spacing, retreat channels, and covered hexes for everyone. Still, crushrooms are tough, and Asher was slammed and trampled, Vryce bitten and held onto (once for over 30 CP!), and Raggi driven back. It was a hard fight, as the crushrooms couldn't stop being hit but take a ferocious pounding, and their bites and slams threatened to overwhelm the group. In the end, Dryst shocked one badly and fireballed one down, Asher was trampled but rescued by Galen wielding his shortsword, Gort waded in, and Raggi kept systematically backing off and hacking. Vryce eventually got bitten on his right arm and kept trying to free it from the crushroom, which ground away at his arm for damage that would have killed lesser men, but which merely hurt Vryce (and didn't even cripple his arm). Vryce eventually took 29 HP of damage past his 17 DR on his limbs, but it never got him down. The last crushroom went down under shocks from Dryst, sword hacks from Asher and axe swings from Raggi, and arrows from Galen, all while Vryce tried to pry it off of his arm.

 photo photo2s_zpsaf29bb7f.jpg

It was getting late, so the group searched the room (finding nothing) and then headed back to the double doors. They took a rubbing of the inscription, used Gift of Letters to ensure they missed nothing, and then headed home.

On the way out, they stopped to rest and systematically find the copper and silvers they'd missed before in the looting frenzy of last session, and finally made sure they had it all. It didn't amount to much, but it was something.


Vryce left his undead-slayer at home, now that he has three swords. He's thinking of putting the undead slaying tassels on Gram, which would make it a +1/+1, +3/+3 vs. Undead and Dragons, Undead and Dragon slayer. Wowsers.

Foul bats now how the most names in my game. In one session, they were called all of:
- Stink Bats*
- Skunk Bats
- Mobats
- Foul Bats
- Batchala
- Giant Bats

* "The Stinkbats" would be a good bad band name.

I'll admit right now some of this area - and in fact, part of the map, too - is directly stolen from a published adventure. If you recognize it, please don't tell say so. It's changed enough that my players don't have any useful meta-knowledge, but it's possible a couple might if they knew the name. I'll tell them (and everyone) once it is done.

Detect has suddenly become a big part of my game. The Holy Warrior has sunk 18 points into Detect (Supernatural Beings) and Vryce now has Gram, which can Detect (Dragons and Dragon Kin, Vague). They use these all the time. That's fair and fine, but it's a noteworthy event in any case.

Speaking of which, Asher's player went pure Holy powers on his advantages. This was probably a good idea, as he can improve combat power later but for now he suddenly added a whole raft of new powers to the party's arsenal.

The magic carpet? Very cool, but no one wants to fly a vehicle that doesn't let you hover around and retreat with ease, so they sold it.

Yet another upside to having a professional artist as a player is that he'll make a Giant Rhino Beetle counter during combat to make up for the GM not having one. The "giant" is a Chainmail Ogre Mercenary, but he's too big to be an ogre in my game, but good for a giant.

We used CP to determine how pinned Galen was under the Rhino beetle. That was better than "keep rolling until you get a crit" or wasting time figuring out the weight of a rhino beetle vs. Raggi's ST.

Crushrooms do 4d crushing and 8d CP, simplified as one roll with x2 CP. This is bad news unless you're Vryce, and think, 34 CP? Man, I might miss with one of my Rapid Strikes into close combat against the crushroom on my leg! ST 20 pays off well. Amusingly, the crushrooms tried ST-based parries to stop Vryce systematically breaking free (it seemed to fit, for sure), but they failed roll after roll after roll - it only worked once, despite very high ST! And yes, 17 DR. You read that right. Vryce's armor could stop a round from an M4 carbine cold.

But yeah, once again, Technical Grappling proves perfect for DF, especially with some simplified effects rules to keep it flowing fast.

Oh, and the dragon bits? They made elixirs from one horn (Dryst did it), Galen is searching for a bowyer who can make a bow of the other, and they divided up the teeth amongst themselves to turn into magical arrows. The rest, they sold and pocketed the cash.

The pigs, and orcish Bob, didn't do anything useful this session. Oh well. Half a share, and $900 on the two pigs, down the tubes. The pigs, though, will be around next time, but they'll have to pay upkeep on them. Heheheheheh. Sadly, I don't have pig minis. Maybe I have counters in my Cry Havoc set somewhere . . .

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Revised GURPS Magic: Resist Water

This is just a quick one today, noticed, naturally, when someone wanted to access to this spell.

Resist Water basically keeps you dry.

All I did was:

- remove the DR 2 vs. acid. I don't see why that's there. It doesn't help vs. steam, ice, etc. And there is a specific spell to stop acid!

- noted the spell clearly keeps you dry but doesn't keep you from contact with the liquid. Otherwise, it would help vs. steam, ice, etc.

- this spell doesn't help you swim, breathe water, or keep you from drowning. You'll be nice and dry, but dead, if you're submerged in water, inhale water, etc. and drown.

Basically, it's all about the dryness. This is excellent to keep equipment safe and clothes clean and people dry for purposes of illness, disease, resting in damp conditions, etc. But it won't save you from the acute effects of water.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Charlie and the Megadungeon

"The place was like a gigantic rabbit warren, with passages leading this way and that in every direction."

"We are now going underground! All the most important rooms in my factory are deep below the surface!"
"Why is that?" someone asked.
"There wouldn't be
nearly enough space for them up on top!" answered Mr. Wonka. "These rooms we are going to see are enourmous! They're larger than football fields! No building in the world would be big enough to house them! But down here, underneath the ground, I've got all the space I want. There's no limit - so long as I hollow it out."

"The passages were sloping steeper and steeper downhill now."

All of this is on page 62 of my copy of Ronald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Mr. Wonka is surely a megadungeon designer. He:

- stocked it with diminutive workers with strange outfits and attitudes, since he couldn't trust the people who dwelled near his factory-lair

- pulled back from human contact to conduct further experiments

- and filled his enourmous underground factory complex with his special, secret works he couldn't share with anyone . . . until the time was right.

Then he uses tricks and guile to whittle down the visitors until only one remains, who he-copts into running the dungeon. We all know how that turns out. He does clearly label all the rooms, though, depending on misunderstanding and the flaws of the delvers to spring any traps upon them.

In my world, we call that a megadungeon run by an evil wizard. Only the loot is any different.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Rule of Cool (Improvised Weapons)

Here is a rules option I just banged out in response to a thread on chain weapons over on the SJG Forums. I didn't want to lose it, so I'm reposting it here in a cleaned-up and edited form.

People make dedicated weapons for a reason. Part of this is because the form and quality needed to have a man-killing weapon that won't fail against other weapons and armor doesn't match that of a similar tool. The axe developed from a tool, but the features you look for and need (and don't need) in a work axe are not the same as a weapon. Swords, even more so - compare a rapier and a machete and you'll see what I mean more clearly. Even simple weapons like clubs have weaponized versions along side improvised versions.

But the Rule of Cool insists that dedicated weapons are not as effective as improvised weapons. A stool or frying pan is a better club than a club made for war. A handful of sand in the face is worse than a spray of mace. A fireman's axe is better than an axe made with the express purpose of killing people, because grabbing a fire axe off the wall to fight with is bad ass. By the Rule of Cool, the tow chain/chainsaw chain/whatever will be a better weapon than a kusari, just like a broken off glass beats a knife.

Thus, I present the following Rules Option:

Rule of Cool (Improvised Weapons)

When you first use an improvised weapon in combat, it is an inherently superior and more effective weapon than actual dedicated weaponry. The weapon is only -1 to hit (no penalty, with the Improvised Weapons perk), does +1 damage compared to the weapon it most resembles, and the penalties listed under Cross Cultural Encounters (Martial Arts, p. 212) apply to all of your opponents even if the defender is familiar with the basic weapon you are aping.

This normally lasts only one combat, extended scene in an adventure (breaking into a complex, escaping the prison, that first day in gladiator school), or action sequence.*

Another variation of this rule says the improvised weapon is always better. Pick one aspect of the above - improved skill, improved damage, or penalties to the defender, and apply them whenever the weapon is used. This never changes, although a different improvised weapon of the same type might give you different bonuses (a heavier umbrella might be +1 damage while a lighter one only removes the skill penalty.) Such weapons never count as cheap quality.

* This is the Jackie Chan rule. Pick up a ladder, fight with it, abandon it.
** This is the John Steed/Tika Waylan/that guy with the stool from the Brust books rule.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Games I'd Like To Play

Douglas Cole posted about this yesterday.

So this is my go.

Dungeons & Dragons, 5th Edition

Like Doug, I want in on a game of this. I've read the Starter Set and the free rules, and I'm impressed. It looks a lot like how I'd have liked AD&D to run back in the day, and what I'd have liked 3.x to be.

Sadly the only people who invited me in run games on Mondays, and Monday nights I have clients who never, never miss sessions, so that day is out.

I could conceivably run this game, but I don't have time to run another campaign with a rule set I'm new to. I'd like to play it first.

GURPS Action

I'd really like to get in on a GURPS Action game.

This is something I could start up easily, but I couldn't run easily. I'm just not that good at episodic play and paced action. I don't really know how to set it all up and keep it interesting and flowing. But man, I'd love to play in a game run by someone who gets those things. Not a really tight game - not an Action-inspired modern gritty but high powered game. No, explosions and kung fu and fast cars and one liners. That would be awesome.

The James Bond RPG

The old one, from Victory games.

I've read the game many times, but I never really got a handle on the difficulty bidding system, or how to really structure an adventure so it flows like a Bond movie. I know Sean "Dr. Kromm" Punch used to run this game, and AFAIK that's where "Dr. Kromm" made his first appearance.

But the game is very attractive, and I know from hearing about how it played that it was a fast and good system. I'd be way into that. I know that what I understood of the system made it seem like a lot of fun. It would be fun to confound Bond villains and meet with "Q" and get cool gadgets and all of that. But it's not a game I could run effectively myself. I feel the same about superhero games - I can get my head into that space, but not construct it.

And those are the three RPGs I'd like to play sometime.

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