Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Houserules for Apollo's Bones (GURPS)

A selection of GURPS houserules for the megadungeon campaign, with commentary following each entry. I fully expect to revisit these once the Dungeon Fantasy box set is released -- it sounds like that will include a lot of rules simplifications suitable for dungeon crawling.

All-Out Attack (ranged) - If performed at melee distance with a crossbow (quarrel pressed against the target), you may take the +4 for an All-Out Attack (Determined) instead of +1. Of course, the target can defend as against a melee attack too (but any Retreat must be a Sideslip or Slip (MA 124), or Dodge and Drop). This was originally a houserule for guns, but it's a nice option for crossbows.

Ambidexterity costs 10, not 5. I think reducing the cost of Ambidexterity in GURPS 4e to 5 pts was a mistake -- it made the Off-Hand Weapon Training technique senseless, and we ended up with single skill ambidexterity as a 1 pt perk, which doesn't fit my sensibilities at all.

Armed Interdiction - see here, basically allows a Parry-2 roll, out of turn, to perform a half-damage strike as an interrupt on someone running by. Uses up a Parry. What a great idea - this helps skilled combatants control the space around them better, which is often lost in the GURPS single second turn structure, with combatants who have a perfect tactical picture of their surroundings.

Armor uses the Edge Protection rules from Low-Tech p.102, making it more difficult for cutting damage to penetrate heavy armor. (Cutting damage must overcome 2x DR to get the cutting multiplier, otherwise damage is crushing only.) Swing damage needs to be nerfed a bit in fantasy games, or else a broadsword and ST 15 turns into a freakin' lightsaber.

Armor Layering - As per LT103, layering armor reduces DX by 1 for that location. This almost always affects combat skills. Houserule perk: Armor Layering (X & Y) allows you to pick two broad armor types (Ex: mail and plate, scale and cloth) and suffer no DX penalty for that combination. This is a Style perk (MA 49), requiring 20 pts in combat skills as a prerequisite. It's tough to get high DR values at TL3, this should help players who want to tank up while ensuring they're paying an opportunity cost for doing so.

Attacks targeting the Torso that succeed by 3 or more hit the Vitals instead. Impaling, piercing, and tight-beam burning attacks only. This has worked well in previous campaigns - it doesn't make sense that a well-aimed torso hit would never strike the vitals, and I disliked the extra roll and randomness of just making 1/6 of torso hits into vitals hits.

Characters may have a single skill at 0.5 point at any time. Skill level is -1 from the 1-pt level of the skill. I like the extra granularity of being able to give out half-points for experience, and this is a way to spend it.

Character death: New PCs' base points will be the average of 150 and the current lowest-value PC. Lower-point PCs will have faster advancement due to lower treasure thresholds for bonus XPs. We've found that brand new PCs built up to the same point level as the experienced PCs play and feel pretty different. The ability to focus those extra points on an attack technique or power set makes them a little unbalanced alongside a PC who has been putting a point here and there into utility skills.

Clerics will use the Divine Favor rules. I'll loan interested parties my hardcopy. I adore having completely different magic systems for priests versus mages, and Divine Favor really feels like it comes from an outside power source.

Combat Talents - The following combat-focused Talents are available:

  • Hitter [7/level] - all unarmed combat skills 
  • Man-At-Arms [10/level] - all armed melee combat skills 
  • Skirmisher [10/level] - all ranged combat skills (thrown, projectile, etc) 
These seem balanced between the cost of DX and the cost of skills. I think that the taboo against combat talents (already broken by Pickaxe Penchant) should mainly prevent player-designed and abusive custom Talents.

Crit results: 9-11 on the crit table treats damage just like All-Out-Attack (Strong): +1 damage per die, or a flat +2, whichever is better. It always felt disappointing to roll a crit and get nothing -- sure, your attack hits with no defense, but you knew that before you rolled the crit dice. This is just more fun.

Enchantments to be priced differently, probably no Quick & Dirty, but enchanters can invest Magery power pts per day. Enchantment is sooo slow, this is an attempt to make it more viable for talented enchanters. Even if they're NPCs.

Evaluate in addition to the standard +1 per turn to skill on your next attack, you also get +1 to defend against that opponent (max +1, not cumulative) and an Observation roll to notice something interesting about him/her/it. Spicing up Evaluate a little, to make it more attractive and encourage combat lulls, especially in duels.

Extra Attack: Multistrike not permitted - I want to encourage a more freewheeling, swashbuckly feel with secondary attacks (butt/pommel strikes, kicks, etc). This has worked well to encourage melee fighters to develop secondary attacks and not just spam the Broadsword attack.

Extra Effort: Heroic Charge still eliminates the skill cap of 9, but retains the normal skill penalty of -4. Just toning this one down a little, it's still a game changer in a fight.

Grappling will use a stripped down version of Technical Grappling, details TBD. The core idea of Technical Grappling is fantastic, but the developed version is far too complex for my tastes - needs a Lite version.

Heroic Archer, Trained By A Master, and Weapon Master provide some special benefits:

  • They open up certain esoteric skills and techniques. 
  • Only characters with at least one of these advantages may use Extra Effort in combat or Deceptive Attack with ranged weapons. 
Extra Effort is a huge advantage in combat, and I don't want any old goblin from using it - this creates a barrier for entry and makes these character builds that much more impressive.

Knockdown and Stunning: Failing this roll only stuns you. Failing by 3 or more also knocks you down. It seems like it should be possible to be stunned by an injury without falling down. It seemed odd for hand injuries in particular (my players aim for the hands a lot).

Language Talent halves the cost of languages (half-points may be spent in this case). The version in Basic always played a little funny (no languages at Broken, ever?). Also, another use for half-points!

Luck: Occasional Luck [10] usable once per session. It's OK to buy Luck several times, perhaps with different modifiers. The entry level version of Luck, still worth it.


Parrying Unarmed Attacks As (B376) but damage to the unarmed limb/extremity is just the unarmed attack's own damage, modified to imp/cut/cr as appropriate. We houseruled this as half normal weapon damage for a while, which worked well enough. This is an experiment to see how animal/monster attacks fare with the critter's ST and mass taken more into account.

Shield: Strapped and buckler shields use the same skill, there is no -2 familiarity penalty between them. This always seemed a bit nitpicky, let's just have one Shield skill please. Ditto for shotguns, rifles, and muskets, but I digress...

Shortswords: In Close Combat, shortswords are at -2 instead of -4, but only for thrusting attacks. Speaking of nitpicky, I always felt like shortswords should be handier in Close Combat - it seems like the gladius et al were designed to be useful in a clinch. This gives them a little love.

Skill Assistance: When applicable (not always), two characters may assist each other on a skill roll. The character who succeeds best has their result modified as follows:

  • Helper critically fails: Critical failure affects both characters. 
  • Helper fails: Margin reduced by 1. 
  • Helper succeeds by 0 to 4: Margin improved by 1. 
  • Helper succeeds by 5 to 9: Margin improved by 2. 
  • Helper succeeds by 10+ or critically: Margin improved by 3. 
These are rather more generous than the assistance rules in various GURPS publications. I'm of the theory that an extra roll which only grants a +1 advantage to the main roll isn't worth the table time.

Slam Momentum: When starting from a standstill, Slam velocity can be no more than 2x distance moved this turn. This is still "committed velocity" and you may be required to move the velocity amount on an opponent's Dodge, as normal. Momentum on the one second tactical scale is tricky to model.

Strength Damage will use the modified progression here, which reduces swing damage at higher ST levels for both PCs and monsters, with the intent of making mundane armor useful at high levels of human-capable strength.

Telegraphic Attack is allowed (+4 to skill in exchange for +2 for the defender to defend), but those who have made an All-Out Attack may try to defend at -4! Telegraphic Attack just seemed too automatic against the All-Out Attackers. I think I got this idea from the forums.

Weapon Defaults: Instead of defaulting a melee weapon skill from DX, you may default it from your best melee skill at the same penalty as DX. I feel like some fundamentals of footwork and body mechanics probably bleed over between melee weapon skills, in a way that isn't reflected by pure DX. In other words, I wouldn't feel comfortable handing a hatchet to a broadsword master and saying his training is totally inapplicable to wielding it effectively.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Alternate Strength Damage for GURPS


One of the holdovers from GURPS' early days is its peculiar Strength Damage Table.  It's a pure table lookup, with odd breakpoints and some effects that inform the game in unfortunate ways.  It's also one of the most-discussed systems for houserules, with many heavy hitters like tbone and even the GURPS Line Editor Sean Punch suggesting new ways to figure damage.
This is my own rewrite of the Damage Table, using a different progression for thrust and swing damage. Past ST 7, thrust damage increases by 1 step every 3 ST, and swing damage increases by 2 steps every 3 ST. A bonus is that there are no 'dead zones' in this progression, unlike RAW 7-8 or 27-28 or 31-32, where damage doesn't increase at all, giving you limited value for your 10 points.
Why bother?  By the book, swing damage increases too quickly, turning modestly strong characters into human guillotines who can ignore most low-tech armor as if it wasn't there.  Using Edge Protection rules (aka "Blunt Trauma and Edged Weapons" from Low-Tech p.102) helps with the armor problem a bit, but even so, swung edged weapons have so much power that they remain the go-to against targets in heavy armor, which is the exact opposite of what history shows us.
Additionally, at the high end of the RAW progression, swing damage tops out at 2d more than thrust damage, which doesn't make sense to me.  If the swung object is supposed to be a lever, it should multiply the effect of your ST, instead of adding a flat +2d whether you're Spider-Man or the Hulk.
Speaking of Supers, there's a lot more to be said about how to handle super levels of ST in GURPS (yes, another thoroughly discussed subject that I will nonetheless weigh in on).  I'll do that in another post.
RAW progressionmodified progression
thrswSTthrsw
1d-61d-511d-61d-5
1d-61d-521d-51d-5
1d-51d-431d-51d-4
1d-51d-441d-41d-4
1d-41d-351d-41d-3
1d-41d-361d-31d-3
1d-31d-271d-31d-2
1d-31d-281d-21d-2
1d-21d-191d-21d-1
1d-21d101d-21d
1d-11d+1111d-11d
1d-11d+2121d-11d+1
1d2d-1131d-11d+2
1d2d141d1d+2
1d+12d+1151d2d-1
1d+12d+2161d2d
1d+23d-1171d+12d
1d+23d181d+12d+1
2d-13d+1191d+12d+2
2d-13d+2201d+22d+2
2d4d-1211d+23d-1
2d4d221d+23d
2d+14d+1232d-13d
2d+14d+2242d-13d+1
2d+25d-1252d-13d+2
2d+25d262d3d+2
3d-15d+1272d4d-1
3d-15d+1282d4d
3d5d+2292d+14d
3d5d+2302d+14d+1
3d+16d-1312d+14d+2
3d+16d-1322d+24d+2
RAW=Rules As Written

Monday, May 22, 2017

Ogrish Weapons for GURPS

A selection of weapons for larger (SM+1) combatants.  As my friend Greg says, "The bigger they are, the harder they hit."
The commentary below the table is specific to a campaign in which the Ogres of Loren'dil (see GURPS Banestorm) were brought to an alternate Earth, although these ogres are rather more intelligent and civilized than the exemplars from Yrth. 
Ogre Weapons
Melee Weapons
Weapon (Skill)DamageReachParryCostWeightSTNotes
Ball-and-Chain (Flail)sw+5 cr1,20U$16012 lbs18-4/-2 to be Parried/Blocked
no Fencing parry
Fighting Knife (Knife)sw-1 cutC,1-1$802 lbs9
thr+1 impC,1-1---
Great Flail (Two-H Flail)sw+6 cr2,3*0U$20016 lbs20-4/-2 to be Parried/Blocked
no Fencing parry
Mancleaver (Broadsword)sw+2 cut1,20$6507 lbs15Cheap, includes DR 4 cup hilt
thr+2 crC,10---Hilt Punch (uses Brawling or perk)
Ogre Spear (Spear)thr+3 imp1,2*0$808 lbs15Fine spear $240 for +1 damage
w/two handsthr+5 imp1-3*0--14
Ogre Staff (Staff)sw+3 cr1-3+2$208 lbs11
thr+3 cr1-3+2---
Polearm/Spear Butt Strikesw+3 cr1,20U---Uses Staff or perk
thr+3 cr1,20---Uses Staff or perk
Shield bashthr cr1No---
Spiked Axe (Axe/Mace)sw+3 cut10U$24010 lbs18
sw+2 imp10U---Backspike, may get stuck (B405)
thr+2 imp1,20---Topspike
Throwing Mace (Axe/Mace)sw+5 cr10U$4010 lbs18Cheap
Throwing Mace, Small
(Axe/Mace)
sw+3 cr10U$306 lbs15Cheap
Warglaive (Polearm)sw+3 cut2,3*0U$16012 lbs14
thr+4 imp1-3*0---
Missile Weapons
Weapon (Skill)DamageAccRangeCostWeightSTBulkNotes
Throwing Mace (Thrown Axe/Mace)sw+5 cr1x0.33/x0.5$4010 lbs18-7Cheap
Throwing Mace, Small (Thrown Axe/Mace)sw+3 cr1x0.5/x1$306 lbs15-5Cheap
Ball-and-Chain - A favored weapon of stronger ogre warriors due to its devastating damage and difficulty to parry, often paired with a shield for defense.
Fighting Knife - Handy enough to serve in Close Combat, the great strength of an ogre can make even this modest implement a fight-ender.
Great Flail - With limited defensive options, this is a weapon for the well-armored, the experienced, or the foolish.  Its Reach of 3 can be a terrifying surprise for those unprepared for it, however.
Mancleaver - Human smiths are sometimes surprised how specific an ogre's request for an upsized broadsword with an enclosed hilt can get, not understanding that the çybyklamakynsan is a weapon with a considerable pedigree on Loren'dil.  A properly proportioned mancleaver of even Good quality ($1625) would make a fine presentation gift to an important ogre. 

Ogre Spear - Not every ogre has ST 18. This is an inexpensive weapon that can still do 1d+5 impaling damage at Reach 3 when wielded by a ST 14 ogre.

Polearm/Spear Butt Strike - The perk 'Weapon Adaptation (Butt Strike to Polearm/Spear)' comes in handy for this, especially if the campaign permits Extra Attack, but not the Multistrike enhancement (as I typically run).
Spiked Axe - A one-handed axe possessing both a backspike and a topspike, this weapon is often pointed to as an example of ogrish savagery.  However, in the hand of a skilled user it's surprisingly versatile, akin to a one-handed halberd, with the topspike used for thrusting at range or when in a defensive posture, and the backspike reserved for defeating armor or Hooking techniques.
Throwing Mace - An inexpensive mace or hammer, typically hurled at Range 2-3 just before closing to melee.
Warglaive - Formations of ogres are typically equipped with this, as its reach and power in ogrish hands make it difficult to counter.  Expert practitioners with Staff training and the Form Mastery perk (Martial Arts p.50) can be terrifying.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Feats for simple d20 play (TAFFT system)

There's A Feat For That (TAFFT) is a d20 variant, where Feats, gained every level, define both character abilities and many of the game mechanics.  I'm still struggling with exactly how to handle the idea of skills (inc. Rogue abilities and Notice checks), so this will probably see some revision.

Feats (v0.3)

General Feats
Action Dice: Twice per session, you can add a d6 to any hit, damage, or skill roll.
Expertise: You may opt to roll 2d10 instead of d20 for a single weapon or skill.
Finesse: Use your DEX bonus instead of STR for Melee attacks with Light weapons.
Improved Initiative: +4 Initiative.
Lucky: Once per session, reroll any hit, damage, or skill roll, and take the better roll. May be used on any of your rolls, or an enemy's attack or damage roll, but not enemy saving throws.
Quick: +5 ft Move (may exceed racial limit).
Rapid Reload: Reload times for crossbows reduced by one round.
Resistant: +3 divided among Saves as you like.
Self-Improvement: +1 to one Stat.
Skilled: Pick one from Arcana, Acrobatics, Athletics, Bluff, Diplomacy, History, Insight, Intimidation, Locks & Traps, Medicine, Nature, Notice, Religion, Stealth, Survival, or any Background.  You have +3 on any skill checks.
Veteran: +1 AC.

Cleric Feats
Armored Saint: Your temple provides you with plate armor and the training to use it.
Devout: Once per day, cast an additional spell.
Prophet: Wear no armor, Twice per day, cast an additional spell.

Fighter Feats
Armor Mastery: Armor penalties reduced by 5 ft Move, skill penalties halved.
Cleave: If you drop a foe, get a free attack on another within range.
Combat Reflexes: If an adjacent foe uses a missile weapon, casts a spell, or readies anything that isn't a weapon, you may take a free attack
Flanker: You and an ally both get +2 to hit when you stand on opposite sides of your target.
Heir: Start play with plate armor and a masterwork longsword (+1 damage).
Melee Aggro: +1 Melee Attack.
Missile Aggro: +1 Missile Attack.
Pole Fighter: +1 AC and damage with glaives, halberds, spears, or staffs when used two-handed.
Rage: Once/day, +4 STR, +4 hp, -2 AC for one encounter.
Rapid Shot: Two missile attacks per round at -3, no movement allowed. No crossbows.
Two-Weapon Fighting: Requires a light weapon in your off-hand. You get +1 to hit, even 'to hit' rolls hit w/the primary weapon, odds hit w/the off-hand weapon.
Weapon Specialist: +1 to hit and damage with your chosen weapon.

Mage Feats
Air Affinity: Attack target with blast of air. Target must make Fort save or Small creatures knocked prone, Medium creatures unable to approach.
Arcane Conduit: Cast touch spells to 10 ft with your staff.
Battlefield Adept: May use shortbows or light crossbows.
Cold Affinity: Shoot ray of cold for 1d3 damage at d20 + level + INT bonus at will.
Diviner: Detect Magic at will, active use only.
Earth Affinity: Invest 3 pebbles with elemental potency, +1 to hit, 1d6+1 damage.
Familiar: A small creature is your eyes and ears.
Fiat Lux: Flare or Light at will, only one Light active at a time.
Fire Affinity: Shoot fiery darts for 1d3 damage at d20 + level + INT bonus at will.
Ghost Hand: 5-pound telekinesis.
Illusionist: Dancing Lights, Ghost Sound, or Ventriloquism at will.
Versatile: one extra spell in your spell list.
Water Affinity: Breathe water for 1 x level hours/day.

Rogue Feats
Roll With Blow: Once per encounter, take half damage from any physical attack, and move d6+1 squares directly away from the enemy.
Tumble: On a turn when you move but do not attack, any successful attacks on you must reroll to confirm the hit.


Friday, May 19, 2017

There's A Feat For That (TAFFT) - an approach for d20 fantasy games

When I first heard that 3rd edition D&D was a thing, and that Feats would be one of the major features, I thought it was a brilliant idea.  Rangers, Cavaliers, and Barbarians could all just be Fighters who had chosen particular Feats to express their flavor of martial prowess, making it easier to shade between character classes and play the characters we want to play.  Alas, instead we retained all the class creep, and got new Classes and Prestige Classes as the defining feature of any given character.  Splatbooks reigned supreme.

I took my notion back to my lair like an old bone, and gnawed on it until I came up with the TAFFT system.  There are existing d20 systems that take a similar approach, True20 notably, and I probably need to take a look at ACKS (Adventurer Conqueror King System), but here's the basic idea:

Design Principles

1) This is D&D. Character classes, leveling up, polyhedral dice, fireball spells, etc. The goal is to have a very simple d20 system at its core, pulling in rules and complexity only when desired. A whole group of people should be able to create new 1st level characters in 30 minutes or less, and just start playing.

2) Four character classes only: Cleric, Fighter, Mage, Rogue.  All character concepts should be doable with those, in combination with what Feats you choose.  Multiclassing is allowed and encouraged.

3) There's A Feat For That - Do you want to be a barbarian who rages, an archery expert, a wizard who specializes in necromancy?  There's a feat for that.  By using Feats, you can customize your character to get just the character you want to play.  Feats are also where game mechanics lie dormant until needed. How does Flanking work?  It doesn't exist in the game until you take the Flanker feat - now you get a +2 bonus under certain conditions, and nobody else has to worry about it.  If you personally like Action Points (where you get to add some bonus dice to a roll that needs a bump), or a Luck mechanic for re-rolls, you can take that as a Feat and play that way.  The rules stay simple except when they come into play for your character's special abilities and your own favored style of play. Because feats provide so much definition for characters and game play, you get a Feat every time you level up.

4) Use the SRD, but sparingly.  For things like magic and equipment, it's useful to rely on the phenomenal resource that is the d20 SRD, but only as necessary.

Character Creation (v.0.2)


Roll for stats in order, best 3 out of 4d6 for each.
Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution, Charisma
Swap any two stats to help play the class you want.

Choose race

Human: bonus feat

Dwarf: -1 Dex +1 Con
     Blindfighting
     Low-Light Vision
     Toughness

Elf: -1 Str +1 Dex
     Bow +1 to hit
     Hearing +2
     Speak w/Forest Creatures

Goblin: -2 Str +1 Dex +1 Con
     Missile Attacks +1
     Sneaky

Trollblooded: +1 Str -1 Wis +1 Con -2 Cha
     Low-Light Vision
     Magic Resistance
     Passes for human
     Smell +2
     Sunblind

Choose class

ClericArmor: Any but plate. Weapons: Any simple. Hit Dice: 1d8.
     Access to Divine magic.  Saves: +1 Fortitude, +1 Will.

Fighter Armor: Any. Weapons: Any. Hit Dice: 1d10.
     +1 to all Attacks, Expanded feat selection for combat.  Saves: +1 Fortitude, +1 Reflex.

Mage Armor: Cloth. Weapons: Dagger or staff. Hit Dice: 1d6.
     Access to Arcane magic.  Saves: +2 Will.

Rogue Armor: Leather. Weapons: Sword, bow, and any simple. Hit Dice: 1d8.
     Thief skills and backstab ability.  Saves: +2 Reflex.

Calculate stat bonuses:

3: -4
4-5: -3
6-7: -2
8-9: -1
10-11: 0
12-13: +1
14-15: +2
16-17: +3
18: +4

Examples:  A 13 Strength gives a Strength bonus of +1, and 9 Charisma provides a Charisma bonus of -1.


Calculate secondary attributes:
Melee attack: Str bonus
Missile attack: Dex bonus
Hit Points: Roll class hit die three times, take best roll and add your Con bonus
AC: 10 + equipment bonuses + Dex bonus
Move: 30 ft, or as dictated by armor.
Dwarves max 20 ft, Goblins max 25 ft.
Saves:
     Fortitude: 10 + better of Str bonus or Con bonus
     Reflex: 10 + better of Int bonus or Dex bonus
     Will: 10 + better of Wis bonus or Cha bonus

Apply race/class bonuses
All classes apply modifiers to Saves. 
Race and class may affect attack bonuses as well.

Background/Profession
Pick 2 from the following list:
Alchemist, Blacksmith, Brewer, Carpenter, City, Cook, Desert, Farmer, Fisherman, Forest, Healer, Herbalist, Herder, Hunter, Jeweler, Magic, Mason, Merchant, Military, Miner, Mountains, Musician, Nobility, Nomad, Potter, Sailor, Scholar, Scout, Scribe, Sea, Servant, Squire, Steppes, Swamp, Temple, Underground, Weaver.

Notes: Dwarf must take Underground.
Elf must take Forest.
Cleric must take Temple.
Mage must take Magic.

Coming soon: Feats!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Axes of the Dwarves! The Dwarves are upon you!

"But a small dark figure that none had observed sprang out of the shadows and gave a hoarse shout: Baruk Khazâd! Khazâd ai-mênu! An axe swung and swept back. Two Orcs fell headless. The rest fled." (Tolkien, The Two Towers)

A small selection of common dwarven melee weapons is presented below for your hewing pleasure. (These assume dwarves are SM 0, short for a human but broadly built, and serious melee combatants.  I can't bring myself to make dwarves SM -1, I think it makes them a little too comical.)
Dwarven Weapons
Melee Weapons
Weapon (Skill)DamageReachParryCostWeightSTNotes
Bearded Axe (Axe/Mace)sw+2 cut10$2504 lbs11Dwarven
Crow's Beak (Axe/Mace)sw+3 cr10$7006 lbs13Fine, Dwarven
sw+2 imp10---May get stuck (B405)
Dwarven Greataxe (Two-H Axe/Mace)sw+4 cut1,2*0$5008 lbs13Dwarven
Dwarven Warhammer (Two-H Axe/Mace)sw+4 cr1,2*0$8758 lbs13Fine, Dwarven
sw+5 imp1,2*0---May get stuck (B405)
Tunnel Spear (Spear)thr+3 imp2,3*0U$4205 lbs11Fine, Balanced (+1 to skill)
w/two handsthr+4 imp2,3*0--10

For the Dwarven modifier, see GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 1, p.26.

Bearded Axe - The head of this axe extends down towards the haft somewhat, making it especially suitable for the Hook technique (Martial Arts, p.74).  May also be used two-handed for +1 damage.

Crow's Beak - A one-handed hammer with a backspike, may be used two-handed for +1 damage.

Dwarven Warhammer - Built using Low-Tech Companion 2 rules as a Warhammer with a Hammer Head (p.14).

Tunnel Spear - Dwarves are experts in holding tactical chokepoints against hordes of foes.  Even a small settlement may have a rack of these placed near gates and bridges, to ensure an advancing intruder pays for every foot in blood.  Its lower Min ST requirement than the typical warrior axe also means that those too young or old for the front line can usefully contribute to defense, often All-Out Attacking from the third rank.



Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Crossbows in GURPS (Low-Tech)

For a recent TL4 game, I wanted an array of crossbows available for purchase, broken down by ST and performance, with commensurate weight, cost, etc.  Thrust damage has breakpoints at odd-numbered ST values, so I skipped the even numbers.


Crossbows

Crossbows
WeaponDamageAccRangeWeightMin STEff STDraw STBulkCostNotes
Crossbow ST 91d+2 imp3180/2255 lbs799-5$125
Crossbow ST 112d-1 imp3220/2756 lbs71111-6$150
Crossbow ST 132d imp3260/3258 lbs81313-7$175
Crossbow ST 152d+1 imp3300/37511 lbs91515-8$200
Composite Crossbow ST 152d+2 imp4375/4509 lbs81515-6$1000Includes Goat's Foot
Steel Crossbow ST 152d+2 imp4375/45015 lbs111530-7$750
Steel Crossbow ST 173d-1 imp4425/51019 lbs121734-8$850
Steel Crossbow ST 193d imp4475/57025 lbs131938-9$950
Steel Crossbow ST 213d+1 imp4525/63033 lbs142142-10$1050
Min ST - Lifting ST required to simply wield the crossbow's mass in combat, independent of its draw strength.

Eff ST - Strength of the crossbow for range and damage purposes.

Draw ST - Lifting ST required to draw the crossbow. Use one of the drawing mechanisms from Low-Tech p.79 to increase your effective Lifting ST.


Crossbow - A simple crossbow, with a wooden prod of ash, hazel, or yew.

Composite Crossbow - Has a nomad-style prod of laminated horn and sinew construction. This example includes a Goat's Foot drawing aid (Low-Tech p.79), allowing a man with Lifting ST 11+ to draw the crossbow while in the saddle.

Steel Crossbow - A steel prod can be much stronger, permitting higher tension and striking power, but cannot be drawn as far. This requires additional mechanical advantage to cock the crossbow.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

And the winner is...

And the winner is ... Megadungeon

The Apollo's Bones campaign.

When I offered my GURPS group some different campaign concepts to pick from, I didn't expect any of them to get a perfect score, but this one apparently hit all the right notes. Despite the heavy prep required (still working on it four years later!), this was one of my secret favorites that I hoped they would choose.

Wait, what's a megadungeon?

Definitions will vary, of course (what is 'a tall building'?). Let's start with "what's a dungeon?" and go from there.  A 'dungeon', to me, is a single location with movement constraints (typically but not always underground) with hostile inhabitants, and some compelling reason for the PCs to go there (loot the treasure, rescue the Baroness' nephew, destroy the evil altar, etc).

A megadungeon is that, but bigger. A single location large enough to sustain at least a dozen adventure sessions; in other words, an entire campaign's worth of adventure gaming in basically one location.

For further reading on megadungeons in the GURPS context, Peter Dell'Orto's Dungeon Fantastic blog has great ideas and links to further resources.

Why a megadungeon?

Several reasons, in no particular order.

1) Nostalgia - So many of the old AD&D modules that I cut my gaming teeth on included a passage that went off the map and invited the DM to place "further adventures" here. Later, as the idea of vast underground spaces and civilizations was refined, this typically became a link to "the Underdark". I think it was the publication of the D/Q-series modules, with their lizard caravans and Drow cities, that really expanded my idea of what could be done with underground spaces. Judges Guild's phenomenal Dark Tower module provided an example of a very large (not quite mega-) dungeon that wasn't just a collection of rooms and levels, but had a history and rationale that was significant to adventuring in it. So, yes, I'd really like to reconnect with the sense of wonder, possibility, and ADVENTURE available in a place that's too big to camp at the entrance and do "day trips" into.

2) Economy of effort - OK, this one is probably questionable. In theory, one big dungeon that uses the same campaign background, supporting town/city/market/NPCs, equipment price list, etc etc should be easier to put together than a bunch of smaller dungeons. In practice, I'm finding that there's some self-inflicted pressure to get it just right that I wouldn't feel with an adventure I know the PCs will enter, leave after a couple sessions, and never come back to.  Even with design principles like "town is a safe place where adventures don't happen", I feel a need to build the areas outside the dungeon with enough depth and integrity to support a campaign's worth of roleplaying, not just a session or two. So, this one is probably a wash.

3) Heroics and isolation - One of the major barriers to storytelling in the modern era is 'the cellphone problem' - why don't the protagonists just call a taxi or the police? The answer to this question drives many of the tropes we're used to seeing in TV and film. From "there's no signal" to mafia dramas and heist capers where the police are the enemy, the end result is to force the protagonists to rely on their own resources to succeed or fail. Similarly, a small dungeon can permit an adventuring party to quickly flee out the entrance if they get into trouble, whereas a dungeon large enough to force an overnight stay requires more commitment, and can create harder choices for the players as they gauge risk and manage resources like food, water, and light.

Why is it called Apollo's Bones?

Because Apollo's dead, murdered two hundred years ago by the titan Krios after his escape from Tartarus. Apollo's corpse, hurled from the sun chariot, fell to earth in southern Gaul, carving a vast pit into the ground.  The death of Apollo ushered in the Age of the Red Sun, in which crop failures, eruptions of undead, and monster incursions have tested humanity's survival.  Apollo's divine flesh, blood, and bones carry magical potency, and his fall attracted treasure seekers and mystics, who built a mine where his body fell. A century of activity left a few rich, and many more dead or insane, as the miners began to encounter odd caves and structures underground, and the attentions of their denizens.  Now too dangerous for organized mining, the area surrounding the abandoned mine is an undead-haunted wasteland.

Campaign Details

The group I play GURPS with runs with four regular players and a rotating GM, plus an occasional drop-in. Starting PCs will be 150 pts base, plus up to 25 pts in disadvantages,and 5 pts in quirks. This is significantly lower than the gung-ho Dungeon Fantasy 250+50+5, as I'm aiming for some of that "zero-to-hero" feel that old school D&D offered.

Similarly, I'm setting TL at 3, and sticking to medieval tech with less of the Renaissance trappings that tend to sneak in. No fencing weapons, articulated full plate harness, or portable spring-powered clockwork geegaws. I'm also planning on a few houserules that will appear in future posts.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Campaign Prospectus

My GURPS group and I were about halfway through a GURPS conversion of the d20 Iron Kingdoms published campaign The Witchfire Trilogy (highly recommended), when I decided that I wanted some guidance on what to run next time I was GM.  Taking a cue from the estimable WH Stoddard, I decided that a Campaign Prospectus for the players to vote on was a great approach.  So, I assembled a bunch of campaigns I thought would be fun, and let them vote.

What did the players pick? Tune in next installment to find out!

Campaign Prospectus 2013
(in approximate order of preparation required, least to most)
Please note your interest level for each, where
0 = not interested, 2 = somewhat interested, 4 = very interested

Clockpunk Dungeon Fantasy, continued 0 1 2 3 4

Inspirations: old AD&D modules, d20 Iron Kingdoms
Sketch: Witchfire PCs have new adventures in the Greek Empire
Sourcebooks: Dungeon Fantasy, Magic, Thaumatology, Low-Tech
2 PCs per player, 250-300 pts starting, slower advancement than Witchfire


The Rogers Agency 0 1 2 3 4

Inspirations: Leverage, Burn Notice, Sean Punch's The Company, Ronin, Nikita
Sketch: Gritty modern white-hat black ops - an elite team works undercover performing hostage and prisoner rescues worldwide, where governments can't or won't go.
Sourcebooks: High-Tech, Martial Arts, Tactical Shooting, Social Engineering
Likelihood of Weirdness (psi, vampires, aliens, etc): low
1 or 2 PCs per player, 200-250 pts starting, time-based advancement


Alexander's Companions, continued 0 1 2 3 4

Inspirations: Robert E. Howard, Mary Renault
Sketch: Alexander the Great's boon companions go necromancer hunting in northern Persia
Sourcebooks: Dungeon Fantasy, Magic, Thaumatology, Low-Tech
1 PC per player, 350? pts starting


Lassaka 0 1 2 3 4

Inspirations: Gamma World, Morrow Project, Hiero's Journey, Last of the Mohicans
Sketch: 23rd century Alaska after the Epidemic Wars that knocked humanity back to 18th c. technology, mutated everything, and flooded the world. Humans, mutants, talking animals, flintlocks, and lots of wilderness.
Sourcebooks: Low-Tech, High-Tech, Biotech?
1-2 PCs per player, 150-200 pts starting


The Dead Are Hungry 0 1 2 3 4

Inspirations: classic zombie movies, Walking Dead, The Colony (TV)
Sketch: PCs react, adapt, and plan to survive the zombocalypse.
Sourcebooks: Y2K, High-Tech, Zombies
Likelihood of non-zombie Weirdness (psi, vampires, aliens, etc): low
1 PC per player, 100 pts starting, time-based advancement


Beyond the Emerald Isle 0 1 2 3 4

Inspirations: History, fantasy, Celtic & Germanic Studies, plus the odd D&D module.
Sketch: Irish PCs (w/possible Norse & Saxon options) in the Alexander timeline corresponding to our world's 9th c AD, shortly after the death of Bel/Baldr/Apollo.
Sourcebooks: Low-Tech, Magic, Divine Power
1 PC per player, 150 pts starting


Death On Two Legs 0 1 2 3 4

Inspirations: MechWarrior, BattleTech
Sketch: Mecha lance stranded in hostile territory
Sourcebooks: Spaceships (mod. for mecha combat), Ultra-Tech, Space
Likelihood of Weirdness (psi, vampires, aliens, etc): low
1 PC per player, 200 pts starting, possibly additional support staff?


Free Trader 0 1 2 3 4

Inspirations: Traveller, Firefly
Sketch: PCs are the crew of a sci-fi tramp steamer. Nearby campaign worlds to be developed collaboratively in the first sessions using Diaspora.
Sourcebooks: Traveller, Ultratech
1-2 PCs per player, 175 pts starting


Exceptional 0 1 2 3 4

Inspirations: Freakangels, Bourne movies, The Matrix, X-Men
Sketch: There's something different about the PCs, and someone powerful wants them captured or dead.
Sourcebooks: Powers, High-Tech, Monster Hunters
Likelihood of Weirdness (psi, vampires, aliens, etc): very high
1 PC per player, 75 pts starting + powers


The Woods 0 1 2 3 4

Inspirations: Twin Peaks
Sketch: PCs are residents of a small town near Redding CA, where strange things are afoot.
Sourcebooks: Mysteries
Likelihood of Weirdness (psi, vampires, aliens, etc): high
1 PC per player, 100 pts starting


Starcraft 0 1 2 3 4

Inspirations: Starcraft (video game), Uplift War series
Sketch: PCs are humans and aliens forced by circumstance to work together.
Sourcebooks: Ultratech, Space
1 PC per player, ?? pts, heavily templated with some customization


Wheels Within Wheels 0 1 2 3 4

Inspirations: Alias, Delta Green, X-Files, Declare, Stross' Laundry
Sketch: Cells within the government try to discover or conceal The Truth.
Sourcebooks: Conspiracy X, High-Tech
Likelihood of Weirdness (psi, vampires, aliens, etc): high
2 PCs per player, one field operative and one patron of a different player's operative.
Starting pts: 250 pts operative, 200 pts patron?


Apollo's Bones 0 1 2 3 4

Inspirations: Old-school megadungeon crawl, Tolkien's Moria.
Sketch: When Apollo was murdered, his divine corpse fell to earth in southern Gaul, carving a crater into the earth and uncovering a forgotten underground city. Even more cursed and undead-ridden than most of the world, the area has reverted to a haunted wilderness, but ancient treasures and divine vis attract the adventurous, the desperate, and the unscrupulous.
Sourcebooks: Low-Tech, Magic, Divine Power
1 PC per player, 150 pts starting, advancement during downtime only


Life During Wartime 0 1 2 3 4

Inspirations: DMZ (comic), Life During Wartime (Talking Heads song), Safe Area Goražde (comic)
Sketch: The Second American Revolution (aka the Declared State of Emergency, depending who's talking) is happening. PCs are “domestic insurgents”.
Sourcebooks: High-Tech, Tactical Shooting
Likelihood of Weirdness (psi, vampires, aliens, etc): low

1 PC per player, 150 pts starting, advancement slow or time-based