Saturday, January 21, 2017

The next batch of minis

These guys came today. No time to prep and prime them, sadly, but maybe if this mild winter keeps up I will get time to do a few.

Mostly Hundred Years War era infantry. Mostly.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Revised GURPS Magic: Quick March (rough draft)

Back when we played around in the Lost City, the Quick March spell was considered to speed up travel through the jungles. It was eventually rejected.

It seems like a nice spell, but no one uses it, because "double daily movement rate" combined with "must sleep 8 hours" is a real drag. To be effective you need at least 1 ally who has twice the movement rate of the slowest PC and who can skip out on 8 hours of sleep. Not only that, it lacks built-in effects for a lot of traits that should affect this - Very Fit, Less Sleep, etc.

Another big problem is Haste. A wizard with Haste-15 can reliably boost an entire small party's Move up +1 and maintain it forever. No additional FP loss, either. So you end up with people calculating the estimated overall travel time and then trying to split off time with Haste instead of Quick March. In DF level terms, that's a better choice and less costly in lost time.

Here is a rough draft pass at how to revise it.

Quick March

Doubles a subject's long-distance travel speed. At the end of the day's march, the subject loses 8 FP in addition to the normal FP loss for encumbered travel. This additional FP loss can only be recovered by sleeping, at a rate of 1 FP per hour. Subjects with Doesn't Sleep are awake, but must rest quietly to recover. Subjects that neither have nor expend FP don't lose any FP, not do they need to sleep, but cost to cast is doubled.

Duration: 1 day's march (maximum of 12 hours marching, or 24 hours from casting time, whichever comes first.)
Cost: 4. Double cost on subjects that neither have nor expend FP.


It's possible to consider this FP loss as a physical effect, in which case Very Fit should halve the cost. I'd phrase that as "This is physical effort; Very Fit halves this normally. FP can only be recovered by sleep, at a rate of 1 per hour."

At least at first glance, this seems about right - costs you +8 FP, need 8 hours sleep to recover it all, even if you normally don't need 8 hours of sleep. You can stay away with Doesn't Sleep but you can't ignore the effects of the spell. You can push on with sufficient FP (like our Druid who was like 18) but eventually it'll catch up to you.

A caveat restricting this from being used on vehicles, etc. - maybe it only works on willing, sapient subjects - would prevent the "Quick March Zombie army" or "Speed Your Wagon" effect without the need for doubling costs for those subjects.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Review: UK3 The Gauntlet

This is a review of the second half of a paired set of modules - UK2 The Sentinel and UK3 The Gauntlet.

For more, see my reviews page.

By Graeme Morris
Published 1984 by TSR
32 pages plus tri-fold folder cover (with monster roster and maps)
$6.00 in PDF

UK3 The Gauntlet is a sequel to UK3 The Sentinel. In this adventure, the PCs who recovered the Sentinel in the previous adventure (or in a mini-version of it, if you want to skip right to UK3) have to seize a castle in the mountains held by forces carrying the Gauntlet, an evil mirror of the sentient good artifact.

The PCs have to assault the castle, but thanks to their artifact can bypass some of the defenses. Also, the chaotic evil forces that hold the castle are pretty lackadaisical - and many of them are drunk, in what is the only use of the AD&D intoxication rules I remember coming across.

Once in the castle, the PCs have an issue - their foe holes up in a hidey-hole and an army, led by a giant, comes to the castle to retrieve his kidnapped daughter (all part of the evil bad guy's plan). The PCs need to repel and assault and then figure a way out of the mess they've fought their way into. There is a pretty clear way out but many options are open if the PCs care to try alternatives.

Like the previous adventure, the keep feels lived in. Drunk guards, long-abandoned areas, interesting monsters (again, lots of Fiend Folio here), nice touches on the foes to make them memorable beyond just some HP without making them into true characters (mostly) . . . the adventure areas just feel natural and unforced.

Great, useful touches are a set of maps that depict the keep from outside and above with the giant's army unit paths, an army organization table with cross-out boxed for casualties with monster stats on the same page directly above it, and useful and actually effective battle tactics by the giant.

Like the previous adventure, the art is good, plentiful, and useful.

Nice touches in this adventure - in both, really, but more noticeable here - is that backstory more or less emerges from play. Where the PCs in the first adventure can succeed without really getting the who, where, and why of the previous adventure, in this one it is both more important and easier to discover.

War Stories

As I mentioned in my review of UK2 The Sentinel, this module figured into a few campaigns. In my last GURPS game, we had some very memorable moments in both adventures. This one in particular, though, had some great moments, high and low. Lows include a PC getting killed when he made a foolish tactical choice in a fight with some gnolls; the next session his player brought a new PC who I had them discover as a prisoner. That one promptly died in the very next room fighting an ogre. Sigh. The big mass combat brawl was exciting, with PCs using magic from the murder holes, fending off the flying attackers (I swapped in giant ravens and orcs riding hippogriffs) from the roof and from within the keep, and one half-ogre PC holding the door against incoming orcs (swapped in for the hobgoblins) all by himself. It was really exciting and memorable.

The PCs handled negotiations with the giant - named only Bloodfire in the module, named Bloodfire Vorsthammer in my game (and his daughter, Moldred Vorsthammer*) - quite well. They talked (everyone does eventually), they freed his daughter, and they sent him on his way. The final resolution with The Gauntlet was also quite cool, and the PCs held on to the remnants of the Gauntlet stuck with the PCs for a long, long time until they traded them to a powerful wizard for timely help.

Really, this adventure had a great impact on the game I launched with it. I love the mixed aspect - assault the fortress, hold the fortress, deal with a deadline and a puzzle combined with deadly combat. It's a lot more tightly focused than The Sentinel in that it's almost entirely within a single structure, but it plays well and feels like the logical conclusion of the combined adventure.

How is this for GURPS?

Like UK2, this one rolls fine with GURPS. It takes conversion but again, for a moderate-point fantasy party (mine was 150 points in 3e terms) it's challenging without being murder to complete.

Overall: This and its predecessor are a couple of my favorite adventures of all time. I highly recommend checking them out - they read well and play even better than they read. Highly recommended.

* Moldred coming from Frank Zappa, who suggested that as a name to Howard Stern when the radio host was having a daughter. The name stuck with me forever, so, I had this giant name his daughter Moldred.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Review: UK2 The Sentinel

Periodically I like to review game materials I really enjoyed. This is the first of a paired set - UK2 The Sentinel and UK3 The Gauntlet. Part II should go up tomorrow, time permitting.

For more, please see my reviews page.

By Graeme Morris
Published 1983 by TSR
32 pages plus tri-fold folder cover (with monster roster and maps)
$6.00 in PDF

UK2 The Sentinel is one of the UK-originated AD&D adventures. The entire UK line plus the U line and some of the I series were from UK-based writers, many are marked with the UK flag, and they all have an interesting flavor.

This adventure concerns a village harassed by skulks - sneaky murderers from the Fiend Folio. By attempting to track it down the PCs get to trek around a small hex-mapped area around the villages in the area, and find it's a little more complicated than find-and-whack-the-monster.

The adventure has a lot of features associated with the UK series - a wilderness with both wilderness and dungeon encounters, lots of short encounters that connect directly or tangentially to the main task, and a lived-in feeling to the areas. By lived-in I mean you often encounters places in transition. A monster lair with the original monsters evicted. Another dungeon area with a mix of monsters interacting. Some abandoned areas with touches that make them feel like people have been around. Ultimately the adventure is about getting an artifact called The Sentinel and heading off to part II of the adventure, UK3 The Gauntlet. There is a way to hand off the artifact to an NPC if they aren't interested (or just avoid the task to enjoy using The Sentinel.

While the module does appear to be a railroad, it doesn't play like one. The PCs get a mission, and if they follow up on the clear path ahead, each step will take them to the next. It doesn't feel forced, it feels logical, progressive, and driven by player decisions.

It's full of monsters from the Fiend Folio - skulks, xvarts, symbiotic jellies, sheet phantoms, and more, plus two related unique ones (which I haven't seen anywhere) the Presence and Whisps. They're portable and interesting but not easily so - they're monsters you can't easily just drop in because you rolled up a random encounter. There are more typical monsters, but back in the day it was refreshing to get some FF monsters in adventures.

One especially interesting aspect to this adventure is that you pretty much pick up and get to use a sentient magical item with its own quest. It has unique and interesting powers, and you do get some of them temporarily and some of the permanently if you follow through on the adventure path.
It's really interesting and well set up, and combines a plot with lots of player-directed action that is pulled along by the plot instead of driven in front of it.

There is a lot of good, useful art - it's appropriate and depicts the contents and personalities of the encounter areas. I'm not sure who did it - but it's a UL artist and the potential foe Lavinia and her sons really have a 2000 AD look. The skulk and Detrak, especially, resemble Fink Angel. When I've run the module I've inevitably used the pictures to show what the PCs see.

War Stories

This is one of my favorite adventures. I played through them multiple times, at least once end-to-end with 1st edition AD&D (twice, if I recall correctly), played parts of it for a solo PC (also with AD&D), twice with GURPS (1st edition and then 3rd edition). Three of those times it was the beginning of a long campaign or featured very prominently in the campaign.

None of the players complained of being forced anywhere - mostly, they'd be so eager to follow the next clue it was hard to get in the intermediary encounters (a trade caravan, a monk who needs help) without the PCs trying to just rush by and get to the "real mission."

A couple of PCs in my games carried The Sentinel, and in my last game items picked up in this adventure and the sequel influenced play for years.

I'd use this again and again except close to 100% of my current group has been through this at least once.

How is it for GURPS?

This is flat-out one of the best adventures for GURPS. Fights are appropriately sized for a small group. They aren't just masses of fodder with masses of HP but generally are interesting encounters. It would be rough with DF unless you upgunned it a lot, but for lower-point fantasy PCs, it would suit them as-is.

Overall: One of my favorites, and I'll expand on more when I review UK3. An excellent adventure that reads a bit like it'll be either too loose or too tightly scripted but actually plays as a smooth player-driven quest. Well balanced for AD&D, and a lot of fun.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Moldleaf (S&W Light)

This is my Swords & Wizardry Light PC. I'll update this as we go.


Magic User
Level 1

INT 16
WIS 10
CHA 10

AC 11 (None, plus Ring of Protection)
Save 15 (+2 vs. Magic)
HP 6

Number of Delves: 1

Spells Known: Charm Person, Detect Magic

Silvered Dagger (1d6-1)
Backpack, bedroll, flint and steel, 6 torches (burn 1 hr and shed light 30’), 50’ Rope, crowbar, 7 days rations, and a water skin
Ring of Protection +1
Potion of Healing x2

50 sp
111 gp
2 glass "gems"

Sunday, January 15, 2017

"Traits for Town," for Stericksburg

I'm thinking of making some of the "Traits for Town" from Sean Punch's excellent article (reprinted in the Pyramid issue Dungeon Fantasy Collected, discussed here) in my game.

Some of them seem very useful and relevant for PCs with points to spend and annoyances to avoid. Although "town" is just a series of rolls in my game, punctuated with color to make it a weird mishmash of Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stories told second-hand plus "Another Day, Another Dungeon," video game towns, and one-upsmanship jokes about Raggi and/or Dryst's Create Servant abuse, these traits can help. Mostly because they really do spin the focus from what you'd expect - focus on town - to the DF standard - focus on the dungeon itself.

Here are ones I think are especially useful in Stericksburg, although I'm open to arguments for specific others from my players if they like them.

Claim to Hospitality already exists; it's possible to get it for Stericksburg. You do have to name the inn you stay at or the association or family you're working for, though, under pain of me naming it for you. Heh.

Legal Enforcement Powers is also fine. Both levels - Town Watchman and King's Man - make sense in this game. The second is probably overkill, but if you really want to spend 15 points to make ration expenses a thing of the past, you're welcome to do so. Naturally, you can't requisition Elven or Dwarven rations. The first level is a good deal, though - 5 points, as long as you don't do "work"-like actions you get paid enough to cover basic upkeep, and the ability to do a shakedown for cash with weapon skills augmented by a complementary skill roll.

Thinking of using weapon skills for shakedowns, I'd probably force you to float that to the worse of DX or IQ, on the assumption that you need smarts to know who to do it to and agility to pull it off. That's slightly more complicated but it seems appropriate. Still for most of the PCs this is a 15-20!

Legal Immunity is only really worth it in my game if you're seriously going to attempt criminal acts every time in town and expect to roll badly occasionally. Skippable.

Rank is priced appropriately and I'd allow it as written. I'm not sure how useful it would be. One issue I'd see with this is that players will want to leverage rank to sell things in town even when it's inappropriate - "Can I fence this jewelry to the Thieves' Guild for extra cash based on Rank? How about this Wand of Destruction and that owlbear pelt? No? Then the wizard will sell those to the Guild and use his bonus!" Broadening it would make it more useful, but then it'll trample over Wealth. Mostly useful for a bonus to rolls with your own in-group and the professional discounts. Allowed but make sure you're really benefiting here without arguing that your barbarian tribe or church or whatever wants to buy used orc swords at a higher than market rate. Where this overlaps with DF17, we'll use DF17.

Reputation works as written and already exists; it provides a bonus to all rolls in town in Stericksburg. Yes, all of them, unless it's not an effect roll (+1 on the rumor table = why, exactly?) or really bizarre (like spell rolls). This one you need to earn, though, not just buy - kill the dragon, then buy Dragonslayer - which keeps the heroic PCs more heroic.

Status doesn't give you anything that ignoring town except as color does not already. We enforce no consequences for either wandering around town in armor or armed, or wandering around without any. The other effects are cheaper on their own. Skippable.

Tenure is a good deal, but implies a lot more acceptance in society than I think is funny. So I don't plan on using this.

So if you like town more than Survival rolls to live outdoors in the Birdbear Woods, but want more bonuses and less consequences to actions, take a look at these. I'm open to the ones I rejected if one of my players can make a case that it is useful and appropriate to their PC without turning the focus to town. Town is just a way to explain all the stuff we do outside of adventuring. We may do an urban fantasy game someday, do a "serious" game that involves town with real consequences again - and may even do that using Stericksburg. But for now, this should suffice to make town more interesting or less annoying with just a few points.
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