Saturday, April 18, 2015

Ways to Differentiate Melee Weapons In GURPS

Expanding a little bit on my "pointed swords relatively poor at thrusting should just do less impaling damage" idea buried in the comments on Thursday, here are some ways to make weapons functionally different. As in, ways to let them reflect relatively small changes in weapon design that can have a material difference on how they fight in battle.

Pretty much there are a few ways you can differentiate muscle-powered melee weapons on the actual tables - among them damage, damage type, reach, ST, cost, weight, parry. Buried in the weapon descriptions, though, there are more. All of these examples come from GURPS Low-Tech. This isn't exhaustive, or in order.

Throwability: Can you throw it effectively? That's such a big change it changes the name of at least one weapon (the Throwing Axe.)

Chinks in Armor: Some weapons target weak points well. The estoc and stilleto ignore -2 of the penalty to attack such weak points.

Fragility: Weapons made of fragile materials, such as the tebutje or macauhuitl, which wear out quickly against DR 2+.

Inflicts Defensive Penalty: The shotel is -1 to Parry or Block because its curved tip lets it stab around shields and parrying weapons. The entire category of flails does this too, to a lesser or greater extent.

Gets Stuck: Picks, barbed weapons, and most swing/impaling weapons have this feature. They go in, and do extra damage on the way out.

Hard to Disarm: Rondel daggers get this one - they're designed to pair up with locking gauntlets so you can't drop them or have them disarmed easily, so they resist disarms.

Armor: Some weapons have built-in armor, usually in the form of hand protection - the cutlass and pata have this.

Good at Disarms: Technically a table note, like Gets Stuck. But some weapons are especially good at disarms, and ignore the inherent penalty for using the move.

Remove Foe's Options: Partisans (and boar spears) have a crosspiece to let you ignore the optional rules for foes running up a spear (GURPS Martial Arts, p. 106).

Extra Attack Modes: For these, see LTC2. Some weapon variations have more ways to strike you due to hammer heads on the peens of picks and axes, axe heads on the backs of picks, spiked tips for stabbing, etc.

That's not an exhaustive list, but coupled with basic changes to the weapon, such as giving a sword bad at impaling lower basic damage (so it's functionally bad at impaling), or an excellent parrying weapons a Parry bonus, and so on, you have a lot of options to make weapon variations vary. And those matter a lot in combat, which is yet another thing I like about GURPS.

Friday, April 17, 2015

What I Like About Swords & Wizardry

It is Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day.

I play Swords & Wizardry with Erik Tenkar.

Why S&W?

Well, Tenkar chose it. He's the GM. But it's a choice I'm glad he made for three main reasons:

Simplicity - Really, it's not that complicated. Or complex. It's got a little more depth to the rules that what I saw in the white box D&D set, but not so much there is a lot to learn. It's heavily dependent on GM adjudication, but it's got some very simple systems for resolution that make it a breeze to run. The rules are well-written, too, so it's pretty clear what the intent and the wording are meant to have you doing.

It's a simplicity that makes for smooth additions to the system. If you want to add some detail to a specific area, you can. If you want to port over elements of other retro-clones or D&D, that's easy. Good example? Erik uses different stat bonuses. We roll with 13-15, 16-17, 18 for +1/+2/+3. Nothing else down the line needs to get changed. Perhaps it's just as easy in other retro-clones, but really, the more that is already there the harder it is to add something on without banging into unforseen consequences. S&W had just the right level of "enough to make play go smoothly" without getting fiddly just for the sake of getting fiddly.

Versatility - Do you like Attack Bonus-based combat and ascending AC? Me too! S&W supports that. Crossed your arms and scoffed at such new-school ruinations of all that is Gygaxian and Arnesonian about gaming? S&W does descending AC and table-based combat resolution.

There are a lot of natively-supported options in Swords & Wizardry. That's what I like about it. It's not even "as written except" but "as written." You can pick and go.

Flavor - Look at that cover art (all of them). Read that old text. Look at the way the monsters, items, and rules are written. It epitomizes the old-school feel without a lot of the old-school cruft that came from exploring new ground.

While I single it out for occasionally dipping into "don't tell me what you aren't" it is does what it intends to and does it well.

I'm glad that we're using S&W for our B-Team game.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Little GURPS Weirdnesses

There are some weird little bits in GURPS. Or at least, little bits I've always found weird. Here are two, plus a bonus musing.

Long Weapons & Occupied Hexes. You can attack through a friendly-occupied hex with a long weapon with no penalty, as this is part of the training with a long weapon.

This makes perfect sense for polearms, such as spears, halberds, and glaives. It makes some sense for two-handed swords, especially used to thrust. It makes pretty close to no sense at all for long one-handed weapons, like rapiers and jianns. So I sigh every time someone says, "Have the fencer stand in the back rank, she can stab through the front rank with her rapier!" I just can't see how this works without a lot of coordination by the front rank fighter, and even then, it's not as seamless as a two-handed overhand reach and stab down. It would probably make a huge amount of sense to say this rule only affects pole weapons and naturally two-handed swords while held in two hands (so you can't stick a second hand on your rapier for a long-distance stab.)

Thrusting (sword). Ever since Man-to-Man, GURPS has made the assumption that larger one-handed swords and all two-handed swords are, by default, blunt. Sharp ones are the exception.

I don't think that's true. But even if it is true, I think it would be so much easier if swords were assumed to be top-end models. So you'd have:

Broadsword ($600, thr+2/imp)
Blunt Broadsword ($500, thr+1/cr)

and so on for the other swords. It would save a lot of new player confusing, spare the "is it a thrusting sword?" questions on loot, every single time looting of swords happens, and save a lot of typing.

Small (weapon). Actually, on a related subject of names, I've had players complain about how heavy axes and maces are. Yet the weapon tables contain smaller versions. No one takes them, basically ever, because they want the biggest one with the highest damage. And then moan the weight is too high, historically or otherwise.

Which is probably true. But even if only a few 4 pound war axes and 5 pound maces were out there, it's worth including them on the weapon charts as actual historically available weapons if there were at least a few. I wonder, though, what if we renamed them?

Instead of:

Hatchet (2#, sw/cut)
Small Axe (3#, sw+1/cut)
Axe (4#, sw+2/cut)

Small Mace (3#, sw+1/cr)
Mace (5#, sw+2/cr)

If we had:

Hatchet (2#, sw/cut)
Axe (3#, sw+1/cut)
Heavy Axe (4#, sw+2/cut)

Mace (3#, sw+1/cr)
Heavy Mace (5#, sw+2/cr)


I think you'd have less complaints. "Hey, the heavy axe is really heavy!" Yeah, go figure. Or "I'll take a mace." "Want a heavier one?" "Nah, not worth it." instead of "Small mace? May as well take the normal one." The bottom end ones would still be heavy-ish, although not crazy - 24-28 oz tomahawks and hatchets are available for sale online, and covers and belt loops and such and rounding to save sanity would take care of a lot of that gap up to a round 2 pounds. And if you really need a Small Mace, use the Knobbed Club stats. A really big one? Go get a Gada or Maul. (Incidentally, the maul is only 14#. Know what we called the 16# sledgehammer at the gym I used to train at? The little sledgehammer.) Basically reset what the normal expected weapons are. Similarly you could do this with knives (make the small knife into Knife), although I see a lot of small knives anyway.

I'm sure I'd still get complaining (and probably will in the Comments section) that the weights are still too high. But I think they're close enough, reasonable, and you would see a lot more people using the "small" weapons if they were the normal, expected version instead.

ST and exceeding ST. Back in 3e, GURPS used to let you ignore the re-readying requirement on unbalanced weapons if you had +5 ST over the ST stat (then called MinST) over the weapon. In 4e, it's +50% over. That's nice, in that it's normalizing to ST 10 and then smoothly moving them up as the ST score of the weapon goes up. You got the same, say, Knockback, which was normalized to ST-2 instead of per 8 points of basic damage (something we tossed out years back in favor of just using straight-up ST or HP, which better represents difficulty shifting things with force and is way easier to deal with.)

But it's odd. A ST 12 weapon in 3e would need ST 17 to use without re-readying. ST 12 could lift 20% more than a ST 10 person. ST 17 could lift 70% more. But in 4e, a ST 12 person can lift almost 50% more than a ST 10 person, and ST 17 can lift almost 3x as much (and double that of the ST 12 person.) So in other words, in terms of raw lifting ability, raw ability to move weight around, 4e requires a lot more. I've wondered for a while if shifting that down (to 30% over, or merely +3 over ST in the interest of simplicity) would be better. It would bring the actual physical muscular strength needed to better control the weapon down to more reasonable levels. It wouldn't always work out to be exactly the same amount of lifting capacity change if you went with the plus, but it would be easier.

Those are just some little oddities that I see. Any that you folks want to comment on?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Talisman on my PC

I forgot, or maybe deliberately blocked out, how addictive Talisman is.

I bought the Humble Bundle Weekly Bundle with just enough for Talisman and the other two starter games.

My first taste of Talisman was playing at the original tiny location for Timewarp Comics & Games (the one across the street from where it is now). I played with some guys who would hang out at the shop. I remember my first game was just watching this one guy doing a death march to victory. We knew the basics of the rules, he knew them inside and out, and got a character who could shift Craft points to Strength and used that relentlessly to kill everything and just go win the game while the new guys were still floundering around the board not sure what was a good approach. Same guy would run a paladin in a one-shot I ran and be exactly the paladin everyone complains about - to solve a potentially impossible problem he chose to abandon his quest for a holy artifact and leave the equally LG priest he was helping to die and said that was how LG people would solve the problem. Lucky for me, he wasn't my regular player.
Anyway, despite that taste of Talisman, I always liked the game . . . and maybe it's a good thing I don't have a mobile version of it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Arnegar, aka the Centurion

This guy gave the PCs a pretty rough patch:

 photo swamps-edge-ep-2_pic-2_jerry-is-down s_zpskhftk4m5.jpg

That's him, lording it up over a fallen, ambushed Gerry.

I'm pretty sure, by the time this guy flew up to engage the PCs in Cold Fens 1 while Great Hasted, the player had elevated him to #1 threat. By Cold Fens 2 Part II, I think he'd gotten elevated to a death machine in plate, with DR 10-12+, massive skills, a raft of advantages, and so on. It doesn't hurt that I've used that mini before, but only for pretty tough special NPCs.

In the interest of him not being elevated in death into some kind of unstoppable super-zombie spoiled by a double leg chop, or a knight worthy of a massive party takedown, or the now-dead heart of the bandit force, without whom they are a shattered, empty shell, I figured I'd post him up here. He's basically a boosted-up Squire from DF15, with extra points on top to make him a worthy solo fighter.

Anyway, here are his stats, straight up. In the first fight, he used his potion, and had Great Haste. In the second, he didn't have any buffs that came up in the fight, but still used his Gem of Healing (which he'd kept in his left hand.)

Arnegar (ST 14 (1/2) DX 13 IQ 10 HT 13 HP 14 Will 13 Fearlessness 14 Per 11 FP 13 Speed 6.00 Move 4 SM +0 DR 6 (skull 10/8) Dodge 8+3 DB Parry 12+3 DB Block 12+3 DB. Fine Broadsword w/Puissance +1 (17): 2d+3 cut or 1d+4 imp; Large Shield (16): 1d+2 crush; Punch (15): 1d-1 cr, Reach C; Kick (13): 1d+1 cr, Reach 1; Traits: Born War Leader 2; Combat Reflexes, HPT, Shield Wall Training; Weapon Bond. Skills: Leadership-13. Tactics-13. Fine Thrusting Broadsword w/Puissance+1, $7400, 3 lbs. Large Shield DB 3 $90, 25 lbs. Plate Armor $4040, 89.5 lbs. Knife $40 1lb. Potion of Flying, Gem of Healing.

He's done up with the newest version of my combat writeup, so he doesn't have his skills and stats and disads listed. I played Arnegar as if he had mild Overconfidence, though.

He's good, but he was at best a one-on-one worthy foe. Not a boss. Not a match for either of the front line fighters heads-up. He benefited from a couple of great rolls in the first session. He also fought with a pretty careful approach - mostly swings to the body, Deceptive Attack -1 (for a net 15, risking slightly more critical failures) or Deceptive Attack -2 (for a net 13). He stabbed Gerry with an All-Out Attack (Long), which was risky, but let him strike without putting himself into a bad spot. He mostly made his defense rolls, although not always. He also paid horribly in both sessions with a timely "3" from Bjorn. In the first, that was nearly enough to take him out ( but he got his own timely roll to stay awake and unstunned.) In the second session, that was enough to make him permanently combat-ineffective.

I also made sure to deploy him - after that desperate blocking move in the first session - alongside compatriots. He ambushed the group in the second combat, but only had to hold off people on his own for a short time. It would have been even shorter if not for Hannibal's Smoke spell disrupting the charge. Being a pretty tough fighter backed by allies made him much tougher to kill.

I just figured everyone would like to see the stats of the guy who was able to put up such a good fight. Feel free to use him and his stats for your own.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

DF Game, Session 60, Cold Fens 2 Part II

We left last session off in the dungeon because a big fight had run long and I couldn't stay late. Today we finished it. This might be a little confusing, and there are a lot of little details I left out. A full-session fight, consisting of a lot of little combats, is like that.

I wasn't originally thinking we'd spend the whole session on one fight, but it was a good fight and a good session, so, hurrah for that!

Characters (in the dungeon): (approximate net point total)

Asher Crest-Fallen, human holy warrior (270 points)
     Koric, human guard (~70 points)
     Orrie, human guard (~70 points)
Bjorn Felmanson, human barbarian (252 points)
El Murik, dwarven cleric (254 points)
Galoob Jah, goblin thief (256 points)
Gerald Tarrant, human wizard (250 points)
Hannibal the Flammable, human wizard (254 points)
Rahtnar the Vegan, dwarven martial artist (254 points)

We picked up where we left last time, which was mid-fight in the dungeon.

We also had Bjorn's player there. Since it was only his second session, it felt less fun to have him run one of the PCs of a player who couldn't make it (this session, only Galoob - Gerald being unconscious). So we went with Option 3 on the Bjornforcement roll. At the suggestion of Dryst/Rahtnar's player, I didn't tell them the target numbers, just success or failure. Heh. That was a great addition.

The "bad guys" (Or "good guys", as I always insist on referring to NPCs as) had gone, and the PCs took their turn.

Rahtnar was now alone, the zombies having fallen. The halberdiers and their axe-wielding leader were closing in on him, and the archers were in the darkness aiming at him (probably). So first Rahtnar engaged the swordsmen's leader and slashed him badly on the neck, inflicting a terrible but not fight ending wound. He then axed his foot and put him down, even as Great Haste petered out. His foes formed up and closed in.

So Rahtnar charged right into the darkness, so no one could engage him. He ran along the edge of the dim light from the Continual Light stone, trying to circle around so he could either engage without risking back shots from arrows or move to a better position. He managed to do so, but just as he circled around and attacked, he was blasted with a fireball from behind that lit his backpack on fire.

Meanwhile the fight at the doorway went badly right away. Asher scored an immediate hit on the sword-armed red-crested swordsman, going for a maxed-out Deceptive Attack and making his roll. The -3 he inflicted was enough to cause his foe to fail to defend, and he hit . . . but roll a pathetic minimum damage and just pinged off of his plate armor. His opponent returned the favor in short order with a swing and a spearman with a stab that put Asher right down, stunned and gravely wounded. They'd follow up almost immediately after that and knock him out, with a slash and another stab. That let them form up on the doorway.

El Murik backed up, as the swordsman moved in and the spearmen and their leader re-arranged to stab more effectively.\

Meanwhile the spearman lit on fire by Galoob kept trying to roll out the flames, so Galoob did an All-Out Attack (Strong), rolled max damage, and pierced his vitals for 15 injury. The guy stayed awake for a few seconds longer, but that was it, and passed out while burning under alchemist's fire, and eventually died.

As this happened, Bjorn dropped down to the top of the stairs, huffing from the exertion of, uhm, running full speed into the fight and not stopping to gaze longingly at the sleek, watery, busty, naked forms of the murder nymphs. Any dampness about his shirtless person was not from groping or clasping or anything, but merely from exertion from running, and you have no evidence to the contrary. (I'd chosen 6- with a +1 each turn, and he rolled a 9 on turn 4).

The other spearman fenced with Hannibal a bit. Hannibal put a Burning Touch spell on his staff, but he didn't get to land it. The spearman and he faced off for a few seconds, but his companions cried out, "Form up, form up!" and he ran back to rejoin them.

Meanwhile Hannibal laid down two one-hex smoke clouds to obscure vision, just as the fiery embers of the Fire Cloud spell wound down and Bjorn ran up.

Rahtnar kept fighting with his foes, but it didn't go well. With a -2 DX for his backpack being on fire, and some terrible damage rolls meant he'd spent more than 3 seconds face-to-face with a lightly armoured inferior foe and barely managed to cripple a leg to put him down. That meant he not only couldn't follow up, but that he was being pressed badly.

Another fireball smacked him from the darkness, but still didn't inflict any harm. His scale armor helped a lot here, as did his native Dwarven DR. The halberdiers pressed him, and their axe-and-shield carrying leader ran wide and around to cut off Rahtnar. Rahtnar maneuvered to keep them all in view, giving up his back to the mage in the darkness, holding them off despite some injuries. But then he failed a defense roll and took a shot to the leg from the axeman and went down with a crippled leg. Although he'd become unstunned and hold on for a while after re-readying his axe from the floor, that's all he did. It would be significant, in that it let the doorway fight wind down first, but he didn't take anyone else out.

The doorway fight continued. Bjorn was pressed back by the swordsman and his spear-toting friends, but a timely 3 put a max-damage shot into a random location - right leg. He did so much damage (26 basic damage!) that it hacked clean through the leg. He made his roll to hit the other leg, and sheered through that, too. Ouch. The swordsman fell face-down, but was neither stunned nor unconscious, and cursed Bjorn! Bjorn responded with an axe to the back, inflicting more damage, but still he wouldn't die.

Bjorn backed up, and took more injuries, including some arrows from the archers who'd fled from Rahtnar's charge and re-formed up by their mage buddy. They fired the bodkin arrows they'd had ready to deal with Rahtnar's scale armor into the steely and Shatnerian chest of Bjorn, which hurt him badly. That, plus more wounds from swords and spears, put him in a bad way. Meanwhile El Murik had engaged in melee and put his pick into a foe, but couldn't take the time to pull it out and simply left it in him as he backed off. Meanwhile Bjorn accidentally hacked himself in the left arm.

Galoob tossed the first of a couple smoke nageteppo to disrupt line of sight, which kept more arrows from coming in.

Eventally Rahtnar passed out, and his foes put in a final round of hits and then formed up and advanced on the door. Meanwhile Hannibal kept up some fireball fire, systematically damage his foes and igniting them on fire - he toasted their leader into a human torch, who fled in raving terror only to die elsewhere from the flames. El Murik put a Sunbolt at the mage but missed, and then had to move to stay alive.

Bjorn dropped unconscious after another hit, even as Galoob handed him a healing potion. Galoob bravely stepped up and stabbed at incoming foes, as did El Murik, who left his pick embedded in a foe he'd engaged in the doorway earlier but tried to shield-bash a foe aside. Hannibal just kept fireballing, and no one took a swipe at him because they had more direct problems to either side until he'd gotten himself relatively clear.

With Bjorn down, El Murik started casting Awaken. It took 3 tries, but on the last one he got him awake. Bjorn managed to stay awake long enough to (Q)uaff a Potion, and grabbed his axe and stood up. Even as he finished readying his shield, the halbierdiers arrived.

It didn't go well for them against the group. Hannibal had hurt them with an Explosive Fireball earlier, and Bjorn dealt some serious damage. Galoob got in a timely and effective vitals stab with his rapier (which stands at least as tall as him). Meanwhile one of the fighters who'd lost a foot had been Levitated and sent into the fray but he was torched by Hannibal and killed by Bjorn.

At this point, the fight suddenly went quiet. The enemy mage put a Darkness(?) spell over himself and his archers, and the PCs backed out of view. Bjorn hacked down the door to use as a mantlet.

They spent a few minutes discussing what to do, even as the enemy was heard regrouping and dragging off wounded.

That pretty much ended the fight - the enemy abandoned the field (which turned out to be 100' long, 70' wide, with another door on the far end and double doors to either side) and anyone out of easy reach. They'd stabbed Rahtnar a good one before they left him for dead, not wanting to mess around too much. They left his axes, mysteriously, despite their obvious value (cough, cough, Signature Gear) but otherwise were gone.

The PCs finished off the wounded, and dragged those with valuable stuff to the surface. They stripped those there and left the dead for dead, and headed out.

Long story short, despite some Boating roll mishaps, they managed to make it safely back, with barely enough food to make it (Bjorn didn't have enough, so they all had to chip in). But they were alive, and well, and had done some serious damage to the opposition.

Final loot was some saleable armor (including the suit of plate, which Asher deemed too heavy), a Potion of Strength (kept by Rahtnar, since Bjorn said, "I AM a Potion of Strength," a fine thrusting broadsword with Puissance +1 (kept by Asher), and some assorted weapons. Most of them were sold, but Bjorn kept a knife and an axe as backup. No cash, because like Col. Bat Guano, the bad guys didn't go into combat with loose change in their pockets. Still, with what they sold, they made enough for full XP.

MVPs: First session, Hannibal (nominated by Hannibal, for his excellent fight-shaping spells), and Bjorn (by everyone, for his timely 3 that double-dismembered the foe they feared the most.)



Why didn't that axe-wielder use that Potion of Strength? You can't take two doses. He'd taken one (and rolled a lousy 1, too, boosting him all the way from a 13 to a 14.) He carried the other because you never know.

We went with the always-5-hex-diameter 1-2/3-1/3 damage bands for explosive spells. Only one was used but it was fun.

The foes in this fight are still going to be there for the next fight - albeit in a reduced state, what with so many casualties. They were mostly much weaker than the PCs, one-on-one, but contrived whenever possible to not be one-on-one with the PCs. That came true in this session more than the last, which is why the PCs suffered for the damage they caused. A good example was Bjorn, who felt a slam attempt against the big guy was risky, but worth it. Almost 20 damage later, and having done nothing but get shield-checked back (a Block), he realized that one vs. many is bad even if the one is much better than each of the many. That probably saved him later - he wouldn't rush ahead to finish the fight, instead they backed off to regroup, use the door as a mantlet, and - as the former U.S. Marine who runs Hannibal put it - stack up, and then advance with cover and in unison.

Having Rahtnar run ahead in the first place was to not "waste" any seconds of Great Haste, but there was some discussion that maybe putting on Great Haste right away on the fast guy was the wasteful tactic - perhaps next time it'll be better to wait until the fight develops, and put it on someone right in the thick of things. That way there isn't the "run out and use this before it runs out" issue to be concerned with. Plus, I think everyone felt like they'd made a mistake frittering away some resources early. They went all-in on the fight, though, to good effect.

Bjorn immediately purchased Slayer Training (Axe/Mace Swing to Neck) and improved Axe/Mace with his leftover points. I like the offensive bent of this guy. He's not defensively weak, although some awful rolls mean that he took a lot of damage. He missed a pile of easy rolls. But when he hit back, you knew it.

Asher is considering putting points into Broadsword and pushing off his Cleric lens until later - he's already bought the +1 IQ, but the PCs desperately need more offensive melee firepower right now. Asher's plan dovetailed nicely with the original lineup, but now he's one of the guys they needing fighting from. We'll see what he does with it. I generally stay out of what they do, but I did let Asher know it's fine to partly buy the Cleric lens, and then come back for the rest later.

I'll post some details on the casualties they inflicted, and some pictures, tomorrow night.
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