Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Underdark Monsters, Session One

I haven't been doing much with the blog, lately, and I'd like to change that.  I've got a couple of campaigns going, and these logs are useful to me if for no other reason than that they make me take decent notes.  Since I'm starting a new campaign with my in-person group, I can start from scratch with this one, and go back to keeping logs of my online campaigns as well.

The theme for the new campaign was "monsters," as in everyone needs Social Stigma (Monster) either from their race or as a personal Disadvantage.  I didn't pick this, the players wanted to have a common theme.  I have been wanting to run another campaign in the Underdark for a while, so this seemed like a good place to start this group off.

This is for the session played Sunday, August 14th.

The New Characters

Balint Kiss, mute Bale Sorceror with Body Control and Earth spells
Rhadamanthus the Minotaur, a Flail-wielding monster with a PK Shield wild talent
Sir Balor the Death Knight
Slob, Doppleganger Necromancer
and Snarl, a Gnoll Archer.

The Set-up

The PCs are the last survivors of a Drow slave ship that crashed on the shores of a sunless sea.  A couple of them were slaves, and the others were passengers.  At least two of the party have Intolerance (Drow)  so the lack of other survivors was guaranteed..

They equipped themselves from the stores that weren't destroyed in the crash, and were faced with a sea to the east, the lights of a settlement to the north, a cliff and fungal forest to the south, and the sheer rock face of a cavern wall to the west.  They approached the settlement, and encountered a stockade populated by a group of shabby male Drow and their Dwarf slave-miners.

The leader of the Drow spoke with the party members who approached, and they chatted a bit about the local area.  The party learned a nearby Drow city had been conquered by an alliance of no less than three foreign powers, one of which was an imperialistic empire of heretic Drow from the east of the sea.  Seeing the party as disposable, the leader offered the group a cash reward for a spellbook from a nearby abandoned wizards's lair.

Heading west, Balint was nearly captured by a Cave Fisher, but saw the trap before he was caught.  The spiderlike form moved away, and Slob tossed a Fireball at it, missing entirely and sending up an "eat us" sign to the local area.  This was answered by an Ettin and his Hill Giant slave, who attacked in short order.  Snarl tried a quick Camouflage to hide himself in a few seconds, but rolled an 18 and failed miserably, making him target #1.

Balint kept the giant and the ettin down with repeated use of Tanglefoot, which was very effective against the two relatively low-DX monsters.  The Hill Giant was able to impale Snarl with the first attack of the battle, tossing his spear, and Snarl took 30 points of injury in that single blow, taking him more or less out of the fight as he struggled not to pass out.

However, a properly made Death Knight and Minotaur can do a LOT of damage, and with opponents struggling just to regain their feet, it was a short fight.  Slob created a Zombie out of the Ettin's corpse (SM 2, so it cost 24 energy.)  The Hill Giant took two big crits to the skull so it was too damaged to raise.

From there, the party traveled to the caves.  Snarl used Tracking to determine that the two opponents had come from the first of the caves, marked with a primitive totem.  Balint, using Heraldry (Religious), was able to determine that the totem was the symbol of a cult of devil-worshippers.  The third cave, the wizard's lair,  was high (around 30') up, but Snarl was able to climb to it and send a rope down, and with the help of the ettin Zombie the party climbed up.  We called it there.

The Mulligan Rule

I allow players to redo their characters after the first session a character is played, retconning whatever I need to to make the new version or character make sense.  This is mostly because GURPS is a system where flaws in a character's design sometimes don't show up until well into play.  So, when I'm running a campaign where combat is a regular feature, like fantasy, I always have a semi-tough fight in the first session to shake the characters down.  This usually works well, and I seldom have more than one or two players make big changes.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Magical Style: The Way of the Rookery

Point-blank, this style is inspired heavily by the Dishonored series of games, and there are many bits that call back to it.  The character classes from the first few Elder Scrolls games (especially Daggerfall) are also a big inspiration.  I've always found the Nightblade mage/assassin class to be an interesting concept so this style is based around making that happen.

The Order of the Raven

The Imperial Nightblades of the Empire of Man, the Ravens are the Mage-assassins of the most powerful and wicked nation in the West.  The leader of the Order serves the Emperor directly as a left-hand man.  Legend and rumor has it that they have “retired” more than one Emperor whose reign became a burden to the Empire, the People, or the Order itself.

The Way of the Rookery                                                           13 points

Style Prerequisites: Magery 1, Callous, and either Duty (to the Empire, Extremely Hazardous, 12-) [-15] or Enemy (Order of the Raven, 6-) [-15].

Athletic ability is as necessary as mental acuity to the Ravens, and they have the right within the Empire to conscript those they think would make able members.

The style focuses on stealthy killing and combines the elements of a martial and magical style.  A damaging blow from behind is preferred to open battle, but an Imperial Nightblade is expected to hold his own when a fight can’t be avoided.  Wrestling grapples followed by precise strikes to the vitals are the standard methods of attack.  As an assassin's style, a student is expected to pick his battles wisely and avoid armored opponents by striking them at a time they're unarmored.

A favored magical tactic is to use Beast Summoning to summon a Swarm of rats or ravens and using them to dispose of or to mangle a corpse (see the Basic Set, page 461.)

Required Skills: Acrobatics, Body Sense, Climbing, Crossbow or Guns (Pistol) or Guns (Musket), Shortsword or Knife, Stealth, Wrestling.

Required Spells: Dark Vision, Great Haste, Haste, Scryguard, Sense Foes.

Techniques: Acrobatic Stand, Arm Lock, Breakfall (Acrobatics), Choke Hold (Wrestling), Disarming (Wrestling), Evade (Acrobatics), Feint (Knife or Shortsword), Ground Fighting (Knife, Shortsword, or Wrestling), Head Butt, Targeted Attack (Knife Thrust/Vitals), Targeted Attack (Shortsword Thrust/Vitals), Targeted Attack (Wrestling Grapple/Neck).

Spell Techniques: Long Step.

Cinematic Skills: Blind Fighting, Flying Leap, Invisibility Art, Light Walk, Mental Strength, Power Blow, Pressure Points, Pressure Secrets.

Cinematic Techniques: Pressure-Point Strike, Roll with Blow, Timed Defense.

Combat Perks: Acrobatic Feints, Improvised Weapons (Any), Special Exercises  1-3 (Striking ST), Sure-Footed (Slippery), Sure-Footed (Uneven).

Magic Perks: Knower of Names, Reduced Footprint (Dark Vision or Scryguard), Secret Knowledge (True Name of the Raven Lord), Secret Spell (Summon Rat Swarm, Summon Raven Swarm, Summon the Raven Lord), Unique Technique (Long Step).

Secret Spells: Summon the Raven Lord.

Optional Traits

Attributes: Increased DX and HT.

Advantages: Combat Reflexes, Enhanced Dodge, Enhanced Parry (Knife or Shortsword), Fearlessness, Fit or Very Fit, Hard to Kill, High Pain Threshold, Recover Energy, Trained by a Master.

Disadvantages: Bloodlust, Overconfidence.

Skills: Acting, Disguise, Garrote, Jumping, Knot-Tying, Lockpicking, Mind Block, Poisons, Ritual Magic (Ceremonial), Swimming, Symbol Drawing (Ceremonial), Thaumatology, Traps.


These are the basic spells the Ravens consider to be necessary for any assassin.
Dark Vision
Great Haste
Sense Foes


A Raven focuses on spells of intelligence, access, preparation, and defense. Advancing to Junior Nightblade requires knowledge of no less than eight of these spells.
Beast Speech
Beast Summoning
Bird Control
Boost Strength
Detect Magic
Lend Energy
Mage Sight
Sense Life
Share Energy
Mammal Control

Junior Nightblade

Junior Nightblades begin to learn the Order’s spells of assault and stealth.  It’s normally unlikely that a Junior Nightblade will get a single person kill-order issued to them until it’s time to advance in rank.  For the most part, they take part in group actions, or act in support of those of higher rank.  To advance to Nightblade requires learning eight of the following spells, and the prospect must have completed an official solo kill mission to the satisfaction of his superiors in the order.
Rooted Feet
Wall of Silence


These are the true assassins of the order, and are capable of highly risky solo kill missions. To advance to Old Crow requires knowledge of four of the following spells, and the assent of the Left Hand of the Emperor.
Beast Possession
Dispel Magic
Magic Resistance
See Secrets
Shapeshifting (Great Pike)
Shapeshifting (Rat)
Shapeshifting (Raven)

Old Crow

Old Crows are expert killers, and are also the leaders of the order.  Seldom are they seen in each other’s company, and they are considered some of the deadliest people in the Empire.  They have access to the greatest spells of the Order.  The Left Hand of the Emperor is chosen from among their number.
Alter Visage
Divert Teleport
Summon the Raven Lord†
Teleport Shield
Trace Teleport

New Spell Techniques

Long Step                                                             Average

Prerequisite: Teleport at 20, Unique Technique (Long Step).
Default: Teleport-10, may not exceed base skill.
Additional Energy Cost: 3.

Long Step allows you to use your Teleport spell for a Step as part of an Attack Maneuver.  You may not move farther than 10 yards using this technique. It requires an immediate Body Sense roll for you to act after the Step, and if you fail this you Do Nothing.

Secret Spells

Summon the Raven Lord (VH)
As Planar Summons, but it specifically summons the Animal Lord known as the Raven Lord.  You can attempt to control him with the spell as for Planar Summons or Summon Demon, but he is widely considered a powerful spirit to anger and has the ability to Plane Shift so a bargain is usually considered wiser.

The Order of the Raven has a longstanding agreement with him to provide them information, but anything beyond a simple question will cost you...

This is an Animal spell.

Duration: 1 hour.
Base Cost: 100.
Standard Prerequisites: Unknown.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Interesting Problems in GURPS: Bullywugs

I haven't posted in quite a while, but I had an interesting problem come up while I was working on something so I thought I would share.  I wanted to create a Frog-man racial package based on the AD&D Bullywugs, as I've always found them an interesting bunch of swamp-dwelling jerks since the days I was watching the old Dungeons and Dragons cartoon in the '80s.

The problem I encountered was that in making their racial package, I wanted to give them a froggy tongue for grappling.  Most of the elements of that made sense to me: Extra Arms with Temporary Disadvantage (Mute), Extra-Flexible, and Long.  The problem I came across is that Long is just too expensive as an enhancement when it's applied to a limb that can't grasp a weapon (that probably applies to Extra Legs, too, now that I think of it.)  It's +100% for each level, and for a frog tongue at SM 0 you need at least two levels, making the final cost for a grappling tongue 33 points.  That's a bit much.

I can always just handwave costs, but I usually prefer a more methodical approach.  It occurred to me that it didn't count as a fine manipulator, so I applied the limitation for that.  I also decided that NFM should reduce the cost for the Long enhancement, halving its value.  It's just not as useful when you can't use the limb to handle weapons.  That made the cost a more reasonable 21 points, which is still above my own gut reaction of its being worth about 10 points, but  I can live with it.

One of the things I like about GURPS is that there doesn't even have to be an absolutely correct way to approach this issue or any related costs.  There might be a half-dozen people ready to say that advantage should be 33 points, or others who say it shouldn't even be 10, and there's nothing wrong with that provided you're prepared to do it my way when I'm running.

Here's what I came up with, if you're interested in the work in progress. I still need to figure out how to model the whole drying out thing (Dependency seems obvious), though I may not use that, as well as trying to get a ballpark for how long they can stay underwater.  I know some frogs breathe through their skin but I don't know if they all do.  Sadly, our GURPS community buddy Pizard has never done frogs so I'm on my own on this one.

Frog-men (27 points so far)

Attributes: DX +1 [20], IQ -1 [-20].
Secondary Characteristic Modifiers: Per +1 [5], Will +1 [5].  SM 0.
Advantages: Amphibious [10], Extra Arms 1 (Tongue; Extra-Flexible +50%, Long 2 +100%, Not a Fine Manipulator -40%, Switchable +10%, Temporary Disadvantage (Cannot Speak) -15%) [21], Super Jump 1 [10].
Disadvantages: Appearance (Unattractive) [-4], Bully (12) [-10], Callous (Not towards other Bullywugs, -20%) [-4], Social Stigma (Barbarian) [-10].  I'm not sure if the Social Stigma shouldn't be upgraded to Monster.


AD&D 1st Edition Fiend Folio
AD&D 2nd Edition Complete Book of Humanoids