Thursday, April 28, 2016

Cheap Lousy Sacks for DF

I mentioned that a frequented topic in my group are the vastly overpriced sacks of GURPS Dungeon Fantasy. $30 and 3 pounds of weight? Crazy! That it can hold 40 pounds without the GM saying, sorry, your bag ripped because you put too much in it, well, that's a non-starter. They should be cheaper.

So what about cheap junk, can you get some? Seems reasonable. I'm always happy to let players cheap out on the gear they use to stow their weapons and carry their treasure.

Now you can.


Flimsy: Any container or combat accessory. Halves HP (round up). In addition, in stressful conditions (loaded more than 50%, running at move than half move, moving through snagging brush, grappled, etc.), roll for breakage against the item's HT 10. On a failure, the item has suffered damage and HT is reduced by 1; repeated failures are cumulative. On a failure by 3+, the container or accessory rips or breaks and is useless! -0.6 CF.

Awkward: Any container or combat accessory. Ergonomically poor and badly designed, these items give a -1 to routine use of the item and -1 DX overall in when in active use. -0.6 CF.


Those can be combined, for a total -0.8 CF.

Flimsy comes from my experience with cheap bags - they work, and work well, for a short period of time, as long as you don't push them. Awkward comes from every bag I have that has handles that just don't adjust right, has a shoulder pad that doesn't grip when it's properly loaded, or has handles that cut and tear into your hands instead of resting in them well. You can get a cheap, awkward chain lanyard for $3, for example, but it's -1 DX on your wrist (damn thing keeps snagging and sliding around), -1 to Fast-Draw and fighting (it's not well designed), and it's easy to break (HP 3). Or you can get cheap, awkward sacks for your henchmen at $6 per, and they'll be fine as long as you walk slowly out of the dungeon and don't need to climb, swim, jump, or run.

Both of those should apply automatically to the standard "improvised stretcher," too - you know, the one made out of two "nearby saplings" or orc spears and someone's shirt or a cloak and "I must have some string or spare bootlaces in Personal Basics." Also sacks made out of shirts, vine baskets woven by the PC of the guy who says "I did it once in camp, it's easy," and so on. Especially if the PCs are in a hurry and dedicate all of 5 minutes, tops, to assembling them. If you prefer to leave this up to skill, apply a penalty to the skill roll use to assemble the item. On a failure, you get one awkward or flimsy. On a failure by 3+, you get both. Better to use good materials and the Time Spent rules from p. B346.

And to the guy who knows this post is about him, sorry. It had to be done. I'll seriously use these, though.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Best Practices of DF Monster Stocking III

Here is a third post in the series I started a couple days back.

Just one best practice today:

Monsters, not Monster

I said this back when my blog was young - one-on-many is death for the one in GURPS.

Especially in DF, think multiple monsters. You can make a single opponent a fight against a group, but it's got to be an overwhelmingly powerful individual. Even then, being one big target isn't very good for the one big target. Two ways to avoid this with a monster is to make it monsters, plural.

You can do this by adding lesser minions. You can do this by including multiples of the same monster. Don't feel restricted by the "usual" number of a type of monster. Doppelgangers usually operate solo, there is usually only one dragon, there is only one tarrasque. Okay, but not this time. Even a second monster means the delvers have to decide how to split their attacks and how to defend to avoid getting double-teamed.

Players, not much I can tell you here. Don't assume monsters that tend to come singly in fiction, D&D, or video games is going to come solo in GURPS DF. It's always worth having a high-Per hireling or PC watching your six, just in case there is two of something. Keeping a tactical reserve isn't a bad idea, either.

Irregular Webcomic Kickstarter

Quick note:

Irregular Webcomic Kickstarter!

David Morgan-Mar is organizing the first 500 fantasy strips of his webcomic, Irregular Webcomic, into a book. It's only $6 US for the PDF, more for print.

David Morgan-Mar gave the the advice I needed to start painting minis again back in 1999. Which craft paints to buy, brush selection, primers, basic technique guides, and so on. It wasn't only him, but I still have the printed out message board messages and most of them are David. So I have to give him a shout out for his Kickstarter. Thanks to Eric Tenkar for posting about it, I'd have missed it otherwise.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

GURPS Gamma World, 20th Homeland - Session 7 - Boomtown II

The seventh session of our Gamma Terra game was on Sunday.

Characters:
"Fatbox" (John M) - demo/EOD
"Hillbilly" (me) - medical specialist
"Momma's Boy" (Tom P) - computer programmer
"Princess" (Andy D) - cryptographer/sniper

Present but NPC'ed:
"Love Handles" (Vic L) - demo/EOD
"Short Bus" (Mike D) - computer programmer

In reserve:
"Caveman" (Jon L) - demo/EOD
"Barbie" (Mike H) - demo/EOD (MIA)

We picked up where we left off last session, in Boomtown. We had the same crowd as last time - clearly Short Bus and Love Handles were really into guarding our stuff and ignoring the delights of Boomtown.

We picked up after having done some buying, selling, and schmoozing last session. We rested up, met back up with Eo, our telepathic translator. We hit breakfast at the mess hall. There, an old man named Elk came up to us with some free tea made from that same hallucinogenic stuff. Princess and Hillbilly refrained, so Momma's Boy and Fatbox doubled up. Elk gave us the rundown of the situation. Pretty much as you'd expect - tense non-violent struggle between the Triumvirate (run the Sheriffs, provide the food) and the Iron Men (founded and run the town, organize the trade, stockpiling artifacts) over the town and the reactor aka the Fountain. Also, the Triumvirate has a segmented potato shaped robot thing that patrols the wastelands and protects the Fountain. We didn't see it, though.

After that we went to the hospital and meat a healer of the White Hand, a 60-something mutant humanoid woman. Turns out they heal people for free, no matter who they are. They get some of their medicines from the jungle-like forests nearby. Princess arranged to meet the healer later, and she'd provide him some sketches. A couple of us, not including Hillbilly, helped out around the hospital. Momma's Boy did a terrible job with binding a broken rib or two and hurt his patient. He got scolded by the healer so he used a dose of one of our red healing injectors on the guy. Hillbilly complained at him for it - he's just chucking away priceless resources to make someone feel a little better!

We did a few more things that are jumbled up in my head in order:

- we talked to the Restorationists some more. Hillbilly is trying to put the moves in on the main one, but it didn't work out.

- we ate a meal with some of the toughest, best professional scavengers. They work for the Iron Men. From them and from Elk we found out who they are - we got their four names, and descriptions. Sounds like big (literally big) nasty humanoid types, including Psyclo, a telepath.

- met a local who offered us a map for 250 domars that lead to a "talking wall" who spoke "like you guys speak" in the Ziggurat. We eventually took him up on it, for 250 plus he comes with us. We have trust issues, although ironically bringing him along made things tougher for us and could have been a disaster if he'd really been a setup.

- decided we needed to go loot the Ziggurat, which the Restorationists called an "Earthscraper." It's a ruined arcology built into the ground instead of the air.

- we checked out Xorn's shop again, and got a glass dagger for Hillbilly which he got inscribed as "Hoopslayer." The logic was we might need a really effective armor-penetrator if we had trouble.

- we killed some time in the desert trying out the headlight-lasers (still no luck, Hillbilly is so done with them), and Princess practiced his electro-whip.

- went to the Sheriff's and asked to see the Triumvirate. Their bird-like deputy wasn't terribly sensitive to our need for a quick meeting but a bribe of a watch to match her feathers by Fatbox swayed her. "Do you happen to know the time?" "No, I don't." "Well, now you do, with this beautiful timepiece that matches your feathers." Hillbilly told her to tell them that we needed batteries, and we'd make a good deal to get them.

Later that night Princess picked up his nurse friend at closing time and got the sketches of medicinal plants. Also, she warned him that we stand out, because we have five "pure strains" with us, and they're unusual around here.

We slept for the night.

The next day we found out the Triumvirate would see us, and we'd get a ride on the boat to their island. It would come in a few days, and then stay for a few days. So we geared up - crowbar, sacks, lots of rope - and headed to the Ziggurat. We had the usual argument that sacks cost too much. ("$30 for a sack? That's crazy." "They hold 40 pounds without ripping." - this happens literally every time.) We left behind some valuables and our pass cards so they wouldn't get confiscated when we returned.

It took two days of hiking including a stopover at a safe rest area everyone uses, but we made it safely.

We climbed down into the Ziggurat, with our guide showing us to the "talking wall." We'd been warned it was in a heavily picked-over area.

We found the wall and Fatbox talked to it - it activated when we showed up. Turns out it was an info kiosk for residents with two personalities - "Kurt" and "Greg." Kurt was pretty curt. Greg was laid back. We got a lot of information out of them:

- the locations of some still-powered apartments in the complex
- locations of the nearest hospitals (my idea), powered or not
- the current date (May or something in 2122)
- the political situation (the Faction Wars are going on, but some group called the Apocalypse is trying to bluff everyone into stopping, which Kurt said, "Clearly they were full of ---t, because nothing happened.")
- the identity of the building owner, Mr. Morrow - turns out he's the brother of our old commanding officer, which tells us longevity really jumped if our CO was alive 106 years after we got stashed away!)
- a rundown on the pass card color meanings and stripe meanings

We couldn't convince them we were guests or potential buyers who needed unlimited access, and the kiosk couldn't point us to security areas. But it could send an armed escort for us - an android with a stun-stuff. Hillbilly had to pry open a door to let it get to us, but it did. With our escort, we headed for the areas that still had power. We left our guide behind, for his own safety. He was in awe of us (the walk talks, robots come to help us, etc.) anyway.

We moved around in the complex for a few hours. We found, pried open, and looted a pair of apartments. One half-empty (we took some Logan's Run inspired clothing, though) and another full of knicknacks and books. We took some books, a bunch of random knicknacks, drank some beer ("Hey hoser, this beer is 400 years old! And irradiated!" "Chug-chug-chug-chug"), and found two electronic super-Kindle books. Well, maybe Nooks, in that they're e-book readers with no ongoing support. We found a lot, but carrying it might be an issue. Fatbox asked our guide bot, aka Smiley, to get us porters. Four porter-bots came with rollable luggage dollies and we loaded them up. We didn't find any weapons, cards, or really useful gear.

After that, we found a clinic. It wouldn't help us until we claimed to be hurt - Fatbox and Hillbilly both went through full-body scans by the clinic-bot while Momma's Boy snuck around super-looting. We ended up getting a bunch of anti-rad solution, a couple medi-kits, some medical gear would couldn't ID (and no one in town could, either).

We also checked out the area the bots came from and examined the chargers. Nothing worth taking, though.

We did have a big discussion of loot. It started to go all "how do we conceal as much loot from the authorities as we can?" but Hillbilly jumped in. "Who cares? What do we want it for? What do we need the money for? If we show up with a metric ton of unique stuff, great, we show we're the best Finders Boomtown has ever known. The Iron Men will come talk to us, and the Triumvirate will hear all about us." That's basically what we settled on.

Hillbilly did suggest murdering our guide if we had to keep stuff secret. Momma's Boy suggested we bribe him, so we decided we'd cut him in right away instead.

In the end, we left the bots behind before we met up with our guide again. Momma's Boy did take a stun staff even though he can't activate it - bots only, it seems. He's convinced he'll find a way around that. We headed back in an uneventful trip after giving our guide a bunch of books, some clothes, and some knicknacks.

Our stop at customs was disappointing. We didn't find any cards, we didn't find any artifacts (they didn't ask about books), etc. They didn't even know what to do with the intact stuff we brought. The next guy in line had a seat cushion, and people cashed in bent bits of metal. They told us to give the Restorationists first choice and keep the rest. Hillbilly was annoyed - better they know it's all great and take it. Oh well.

It being late, Hillbilly hit the sack. The other three went out and celebrated in the bar. They got work that Psyclo wanted to meet us, through the veteran Finders we met earlier. Word was we'd done what few had done, and brought back stuff no one could even identify.

The next morning, we dumped off all of our books, etc. at the Restorationists. We told them to pick what they liked and we'd sell the rest. We took some time to borrow tubing, etc. from the hospital and use a full dose of anti-rad on all of us. After that, we met the boat and headed out to the island.

The boat was a catamaran with three banks of oars. No slaves, though, and no one answered to either Spartacus or Ben Hur. We chatted about the big fish in the sea on the way to the island.

There we met a serene giant Chewbacca-alike who greeted us and brought us inside the island's building. Inside, we met a blind woman in a wheelchair who spoke English, who sat in a nice office with a big binder atop a flat rock

Spoke English, like I said. How well? Natively. So Hillbilly asked her name ("Amy") and then said, "Heard of the Tomorrow Men?" and Fatbox added. "20th Homeland?" She did. "We're them." She said, "Are you Gamma?" Nope - gamma was the wave before us. We're the next batch. She was disappointed to hear of our paltry numbers. But we traded notes - how Mike-Mike is doing, what happened with the Bal'Kree, etc. We didn't mention warbot but we did mean we had a vehicle that needed power.

Long story short, you need a sighted pure strain human to work the reactor. Amy was the last - the other Triumvirs are a mutant human (the Wookie) and a musk oxen named Rachel or something like that, Hillbilly wasn't listening. We could potentially repair Amy's eyes with a medi-stick, but she's got shrapnel in it. Better we get her to the medical center in the Ziggurat. But before we do that, we need to deal with the Iron Men.

We made a deal - actually, we just agreed to side with the Triumvirs and do what they want. Amy's 20th Homeland, after all, and her goal seems to be a peaceful community. The Iron Men want to wipe out the humands and organize an army to destroy the Knights of Purity at all costs to everyone that isn't them. Momma's Boy suggested they give us our guns back if we help them. Hillbilly said, no, give us our guns now and retrieve our stuff and we'll kill the Iron Men, restore the reactor, and kill only the folks that prove they need killing. Which he mostly really means, too, although he's bad tempered so their might be last-second additions to the list. The Triumvirs, it turns out, can't control the robot but might make it not attack us. So it seems like we have two big tasks:

- defeat the Iron Men and their allies, without too much collateral damage
and
- turn the reactor back on, bringing the big binder of Operating Instructions to it and have Momma's Boy operate it.

That's where we left it.

Notes

Hillbilly's callsign was assigned to him, so that tells me a lot. Either he's the least hillbilly like guy in the squad or he's the most. I went with, he's the most and makes that a point of pride. Got a stereotype? Hillbilly owns it, so you better step aside. That might just be the Jersey in me. Yeah, I am - you got a problem with that?

Things to do list:

      - learn the local language, or what passes for a trade pidgin at least;
      - find out about ammo reloads;
      - find out about warbot zone range extension;
      - find out what the heck kind of nickname "Amy" is. Short Bus. Fatbox. Barbie. Those are 20th Homeland callsigns. Heck, maybe it's a real name, but that would be odd.

There were a lot of names, and I promptly forgot them all. Others at the table remember them, though, so I may add them back in to this summary later.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Plan as you Go - from Gothridge Manor

Tim Shorts wrote a great post about planning:

Developing A Plan on the Go

It's a great piece of player advice.

Often you get really caught up in the minutia of tactical choices, decisions about small things, and thinking extremely long term and often somewhat meta.

You can easily end reacting to situations without a clear idea of what you want.

Having a goal makes a lot of that go away. Using some recent examples from our games:

Need to recharge your warbot? You make a lot of decisions about "who is most likely to help us do that?" and "who would benefit from not letting us do that?" and joining the first and fighting the second.

Need to impress the locals? Then you stop worrying so much about how much tax they change when you come to town and start thinking, geez, let's bring a crazy about of taxable goods into town and wow them.

Want to make contact with some people and you aren't worried who knows? Just go ask.

Knowing your goal - impress the locals, make contact with the bigwigs, get some battery juice - helps immensely. It sped along our Gamma Terra group. Whenever a fork in the road came up, the decision was pretty clear - which of these options gets us closer to our goal? We could toss a number of options out the window, too, because they led away from our goals.

Good, thoughtful stuff by He Who Rolls Ones.

(Yeah, I'll get to my Gamma Terra summary tomorrow. Busy, busy day, and I don't want to start the summary writing at 10 pm so . . . tomorrow.)

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Gamma Terra pre-summary

We had a really productive Gamma Terra session today. If I have time, I'll do the summary tonight - but I doubt I will. This might have to do.

Despite having only four of our six players, we managed quite a lot. We:

- made friends with some of the professional scavengers

- met an old guy named Elk who told us more of the situation

- bought a glass dagger, so I could go all Roberto on people

- made a deal to met the Triumvirate

- took a trip to the ziggurat and found our about the Faction War and the Apocalypse (back in 2122)

- found some androids, cleaned out a clinic, looted some still powered residences, and otherwise played Dungeon Robber.

- avoided killing a hapless NPC

- met the Triumvirate and found out one of the three is 20th Homeland. Dun-dun-daaaaaaaah!

Fun session. Lots of stuff got done. We'd have done more, even, had we had our two others. Next time . . . details to follow.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Best Practices of DF Monster Stocking II

Here are two more points to follow up on yesterday's Best Practices of DF Monster Stocking.

More Mixed Monster Encounters

Make sure you combine monsters with each other.

Trolls and rust monsters are natural allies. Trolls and stirges are natural allies. Demon-apes and gargoyles are natural allies. Shambling mounds and druids with the Lightning spell are natural allies. All at least according to my players.

Why is that? They've encountered them together (or had one pile in to a fight with the other) or thought about how nasty they'd be as an encounter together. Sometimes it's a strange symbiosis - trolls don't have weapons, so they don't mind feeding delver armor bits to their rust monster. Sometimes it's an obvious pairing (druids can heal plant-men). But having two, three, or more types of monsters together potentially makes the threat fundamentally worse.

One monster may have an exploitable weakness, but their fellows do not. For example, a mix of flying and non-flying monsters means flying ranged weapon using delvers can't just fly up and shoot them to death. Or a monster might be especially vulnerable to magic but is coupled with a monster that can only be effectively fought with magic - do you focus on taking out the ones with the weakness or use your magic against the otherwise invulnerable enemy? The class wizard-backing-fighters approach is exactly this - each aids the other and covers a weakness.

A mix that doesn't enhance one or the other is just different in color, not kind. An ogre with some orcs is a nice combo, but it's just a physical big foe with physical strong foes. Sufficient sword skill will see them off. A wizard with three apprentices - or just four different wizards - are just a magical threat. Sufficient Magic Resistance, Will, and HT rolls will shrug off their non-physical attacks and if you can dodge a wrench you can dodge a Fireball. You might need Resist Fire and Resist Lightning and Resist Acid to fight them, which is more challenging, but it's just like the ogre and the orcs. One might be stronger but the threat is identical.

Add a wizard to the orcs, or have them summon an illusion-casting demon and you've got a very different encounter. Give those four wizards a few excellent melee fighters or draugr bodyguards and you'll need to choose between Resist spells and other buffs. Do you bum rush the wizard and give up your flank and your squishies, or do you play like-fights-like?

And don't confuse the origin and color description of an attack with its effect. An nearly-unkillable demon doing 4d+4 with its mystical demonic thighbone club and an ogre doing 4d+4 crushing with a club are the same offensive threat. A jet of flame that can be blocked with a shield is not that different from an arrow that can be blocked with a shield. A paralytic touch attack resisted with HT and a paralytic contact poison delivered by touch and is resisted with HT aren't terribly different, either - both are easily handled with the same Dodge score. Understand the game effect of the color and what it'll play like when mixing threats. A mix of ghouls, wights, and deathtouch wizards is all one threat with different damage types - it's keep away. The same mix with Curse-spell casting evil clerics might be a wholly different encounter.

Players, keep all of that in mind. Each fight isn't "find the tactical puzzle solution." A single monster might be that - hey, they're good at melee, let's not do that. A multiple monster fight will force you to prioritize. Make sure you actually do that on some level. But don't miss the forest (winning the fight) for the trees (finding the best tactic to neutralize the combination).

Telegraph the enemy

Leave clues. As a GM, it's tempting to make all monster encounters a surprise. But especially in GURPS DF, the templates come with serious investments in knowledge skills. Physiology to spot vital points. Hidden Lore to know secrets about types of creatures. Current Events and Research to gather knowledge in town. Naturalist to understand animal types. And so on. If you can't use them except when the monster appears out of nowhere to attack, it feels like they have less value.

Think about what those creatures would do to their environment. Do trolls sharpen their claws on walls? Do eyes of death shoot down every damn squirrel in the area (yes!)? Do peshkali have a snaky musk? Do giant apes leave dead snakes and dinosaurs lying around?

Color like that works in several ways. First, it's more immersive in the game world. Only in Munchkin, Dungeon!, and video games do monsters just sit in rooms and get generated by a random element when you kick the doors down. Second, it gives the players a reason to use their skills on their sheets. Third, it gives the players to use their own brains and attention to in-game details ("What, peshkali? WTF?" "Dude, didn't you hear him say 'a snaky musk' and mention the sounds of swords being sharpened?") Finally, it encounters scouting and looking and sneaking, because that's how you get these before the first sign of horde pygmies is, "Oops, dart in your neck!"

Players, this means you're rewarded for looking for clues. Oh, and listening while the GM is talking. Sure, that was a good parody video you saw yesterday and it does remind everyone of that time with the orcs and the barrel of alchemist's fire . . . but what's going on around you now? Scout, look, listen, use your own knowledge to spot incoming threats . . . then use your character's skills, basic testing, and your own experience to confirm them. If you don't pay attention to clues, the GM won't bother to put them in. If you look and the GM didn't bother, that's a hint that you want them!
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