Get this now GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Setting: Caverntown

Only $10 at warehouse 23 get it here

This comes very close to the way I run Northport.

What you get: 49 pages of how to run a slightly abstracted city that is built within bowshot of a collection of dungeons. There is significant interplay between guilds and a number of powerful (325-500pt) delvers who run the show, with agood feel for how they and your characters interact. No dungeons are presented, but plenty are suggested. It is a nifty and unique setting and a great way to base a campaign.

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Demons and survivors

About a year ago, my Wuxia DF group fought a bunch of conjured petty demons. As they had a celestial in the party, the demons attacked the BBEG’s troops in order to get through to her.  Di San Ge Er Zi, also known as Number three son, is one of the hardened guardsmen who survived the fight and quit working for his evil boss, becoming ronin. This is one of those cases of an NPC rolling exceptionally, and being found to have been underestimated, as per page 31 of DF15. I first discussed the Battle Hardened template for guards here,  and this is how he turned out, later making a bit of an alliance with the PC’s, and another group of PC’s who dealt with the effects of the unleashed toxifier reanimating all of the salt packed corpses…

Di San Ge Er Zi

125 pts
St 13 [30] dx 12 [40] iq 10 [0] ht 12[20]
T/s 1d/2-1 naginata 1d+2 imp or cr/ 2d+2 cut or 2d+1 cr
Hp 12 per 10 will 10 fp 12 DR 3 overall
Bs 7 mv 6 [5] dodge 10 parry 10
ADV:
15 Combat reflexes,
10 High pain Tolerance
4 Hard to kill +2
5 Higher purpose, slay Demons
1 Sacrificial Parry,
1 teamwork
1 Guild membership
Cultural Familiarity: Sahudese
0 Sahudese Native/Native
1 Aralaise Spoken only, broken.
DIS:
-15 One Eye
-1 Distinguishing feature (scar accross forehead/cheek)
-10 Social Stigma: Minority (Sahudese)
-10 Code of Honor: Soldier’s
-10 Enemy: Akira no Aku’s men

Brawling 1 12 wrestling 1 11 knife 1 12
Naginata (Polearm) 16 16
2 handed sword 8 14
staff 8 14
shortsword 2 12
Tactics 2 9
Armory: melee weapons 1 9
Carousing 1 12 gambling 1 9
Demon Lore 1 9
Climbing 1 12

Equipment:
Jingsah (DR 3)
Lamelar Armor DR 3 (Torso, arms, legs)
Cheap shortsword
basics in a pouch.
boots DR2

This is a survivor of a Demonic attack. Two demons faced in play included a Not-so-petty demon, who was gravely wounded by a couple of axe blows by one of the 125 point characters, who fled the fight by becoming intangible, and then was chased off with a turn spirit spell cast by Razakeel.

demon2.png

Not so petty demon
St 15 dx 12 iq 10 ht 12
Hp 18 per 12 will 10 fp 15

T/s 1d+1/2d+1

Claw 2d cut
Bite 2d cutting

Im to met hazards im to mind control high pain threshold
Very rapid healing
Night vision 5 sharp talons sharp teeth, striking st+2

Monstrous, bully, callous, sadist, bloodlust
Cannot harm innocents, selfish, social stigma monster
Intimidation 14 brawling 15

Can assume spirit form (intangible )for 10 min for 5fp

Affected by True Faith, Pentagram.
Speaks in backwards Armenian

(All of my demons can speak the language of whoever has ever summoned them, and can do so backwards.) At this point, he probably has the one eye disadvantage as well.

Dodomeki

In folklore, Dodomeki or Birds eye women, were a type of oni who had been thieves in life, and have hundreds of bird’s eyes on their arms as a punishment reflective of the small square holes in the center of coins, also called bird’s eyes.  In Northport, the Sahudese use large  quarter size copper coins with small holes, worth $4 each. The Aralaise locals use dime size coppers wort $1. A string of cash is consists of 20 of these coins looped on a copper wire, and are worth $80, the same as a gold coin.

For their second raid on Akira no Aku’s holdings, the Wuxia adventurers made a raid on his casino, which is in the basement of his restaurant, which I made very similar to the one in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. They caused a bar fight for diversion, and made the trip to the casino down a hidden stair accessible form the balcony level.  There, after a ninja led bit of surveillance, they discovered that there was a “box” area where customers exchanged cash and coin for paper betting slips and painted ceramic tiles, and could cash out. Periodically, a team of naginata wielding guards accompanied by a pair of dragon blooded brutes would wheel out a meteoric iron strongbox with a one way lid (like a mailbox), and collect the receipts from the box. From there the loot was taken back to a counting room.  The dragon men had keys to the box room, and to the shackles worn by the women in the counting room, and to their quarters. The magic proof strong box and a larger puzzle chest, also reinforced with magic proof locks could only be opened by the keys held by the supervisor of the counting room, a Dodomeki. Within the room, the money from the strongbox was counted and tied into small bag, and then transferred to the large chest. Eventually, Akira no Aku and his men would come through the undercity to collect the week’s receipts and haul them off with a large party of armed men.  The chest was a puzzle, the kind that needs either direct instruction or woodworking 20 to open, much like the puzzle box in Lost Inheritance.

My stats on the dodomeki are a little limited, as her HT was barely of consequence due to the highly specific means needed to kill her.

Dodomeki, Demon

ST 12 DX 14 IQ 12 HT 12

HP 12 WILL 12 PER 17 FP 12

DR 0/4 on hands MV 6

Claw 1d+1 impaling

Shriek: causes 1d6 sonic damage, affliction:Deafness, resisted by HT
Must have eyes put out and be be decapitated and wrapped in red silk
or have all of the eyes covered with pierced coins to be killed

Traits:

Immune to metabolic hazards, immune to mind control, high pain threshold,
Very rapid healing, Penetrating voice, 360 vision,
weakness to touching coins. (Takes 1d Fp/second when in contact with them)
Compulsive behavior, counting small things, Bully, Callous, Sadist, Cannot Harm Innocents. Affected by True Faith, Pentagram. Truly evil, will not negotiate.

Can only be killed by having her eyes put out and her bird eyes wrapped in red silk. This will kill it, but will cause the body to erupt into two hexes of starlings, doing damage as a swarm of strix.

 

Session Recap of Beneath the Fallen Tower Playtest at Manhattan Minicon 3

The Swords & Wizardry Continual Light game I just released, Beneath the Fallen Tower had a warm reception when I ran it two weeks ago at the Manhattan Gamer’s Guild event. Players included Erik Tenkar and his wife Rachel, Noah Green, Miguel and Patrick. Miguel rolled a spectacularly average halfling thief, even though we were playing with all three suggested house rules (max hp at first level, bonus clerical spell for high wisdom, and humans swap their lowest stat for 15). Because there aren’t really ability checks, or ability based skills like GURPS, and no penalties for low stats, the character, a ratcatcher working for Keela at the Wayside Inn, was very successful.

Patrick played a swashbuckler. Swashbucklers are usually a prestige class, with an extra cost for experience, but are no different in ability from thieves at first level, as everyone has the same basic hit bonus of 0 when starting. Nevertheless, his play style made the Dashing Swordsman very effective. We opted in a quick ruling from SW Complete for dual weapon use of giving the attack +1, and he made full use of it.

Rachel played an elf ranger with 15 Strength, and stacked her anti goblin bonuses effectively.  Her character was our tank, but unfortunately was cut down by the goblin chief.  I allowed a save vs death, and her character lived but was out of commission until magically healed on the way out of the dungeon.

Noah, having read the blurb about a necromancer, played a cleric of Nodens. The route they took did not end up giving him an opportunity to use his turn undead ability. A few more hours of play certainly would have done so, and his one cure wounds spell gained from a high wisdom score was very important.

Erik played a magic user, armed with the “Death spell”, sleep. He also rolled the highest stats, and being human snared an additional 15, which left him a combat monster with 15 Strength, 15 Dexterity, and 14 Intelligence. pretty much everyone took Charisma as a dump stat. When I used to play AD&D, I used Len Lakofka’s 5% tables from The Dragon, that disadvantaged sedentary types at low levels, and made fighters more effective, and the DF lite stats I worked up pretty much echoed that frame of mind. Erik’s character would not be a 75 pointer, but something closer to 150 points, and far more effective in combat because of the flatly even attack rolls everyone had.

I was calling the group the Champion Wiffle Ball Team because of the sheer amount of low die rolls going on. Erik disarmed himself at least twice during the game, and the only advantage was that their opponents were largely in the same boat.

Due to low charisma, very few rumors of use surfaced, and the group was focused on rescuing Wyatt.Wyatt0001.png Wyatt Ferris is a gamer who left us far too soon, and in this game, he was a merchant and 1st level bard, who attempted to take his four retainers and 3 mules laden with goods through the long abandoned north road through the forest, instead of taking the long way around. The group had a lot of fun flashing his wanted poster while holding their hands over the part that spelled out a reward.

Their trip up the road led them to encounter the Duke’s men, who were only satisfied that they weren’t bandits when they partially displayed the poster. They ran into the deer being chased by the wolves, and lost a mule to them. Then they encountered the pilgrims, who were going to “hasten the arrival of the god who comes” but avoided hostilities with them, even though they suspected them of being evil cultists, partly because they also ran into the fleeing peasants and some elves who gave them elven rations. both groups had suspicions about the shrine, and a little interaction between Noah’s character and the pilgrims confirmed the bias.

One thing about SWCL that I really liked, is that there is no alignment. While this certainly promotes conflict free murder hobo behavior, it also promotes a lot more parlaying, and makes things like wholesale slaughter more morally ambiguous.

They also encountered the young ogre, who they fed and added to their party.  He proved himself useful punching out wolves in the dungeon, and successfully returned him to mama on the way back.

The route by which they entered the dungeon proved very fortuitous; out of the three possible entrances, they took the covered well used by the bugbears. Now there were multiple ways in and out, but I had them all drawn fairly close to each other, so I cannot say that the dungeon was well Jacquayed. Janelle Jacquays does a lot in her designs to avoid railroading and creating quantum ogres, and my dungeon pretty much led directly to the goblins no matter which way you entered, but there was a certain advantage to sneaking in the back way; it put them two doors away from the prisoners and let them achieve their objective with minimal combat.  On the other hand, they used their one sleep spell to get rid of the Bugbears who were attacking them in the secret tunnels and their one healing spell immediately afterward, and had to rely on their wits from that point.

Naturally, there was an immediate plan to use a keg of oil to attack the goblins, but they used it to block their pursuers instead of risking catching the ogre in the flames.

They suspected Wyatt of having colluded with the goblins, until they realized he had just charmed the jailor in order to hold out until the ransom was paid.  I had included other prisoners Keep of the Borderlands style as potential replacement characters, but with only one near fatality, and a short time to play, they weren’t needed.

On the way back, they met with Mama ogre, the tinker, and a bunch of bandits wearing the soldier’s gear, who they promptly Slept, and took back to town as prisoners for a reward. All totaled their main loot came from the reward money, with only a few coins pocketed along the way; a good thing I wasn’t calculating out experience based on GP.

This adventure was set up with 4 different boss level fights, but the group only dealt with one, the bugbears, and avoided conflict with the ogress by returning her son safely. As to Aurelia and Melchior, they never met them.

As an added note, I really have to thank Mike Badolato for helping me with the vast amount of editing that had to be done after my initial passes through spellcheck. the late stages of the manuscript for the adventure had oodles of GURPS references in them ( like 1d-1 instead of 1d6-1) and all kinds of formatting issues that came about because I had used google docs on phone, tablet, chromebook and Word on PC to edit. I don’t recommend that to anyone. There were some issues I could not repair, like the unfortunate placement of a 2d6 table in location 12, that made location 13 conform to the formatting from that section… Word whatever are we going to do with you?

Grab the game, and enjoy it!

Reviews and Mail

20161019_131919

This great batch of  25 mm plastic figures come to me from Mike Monaco, of the Swords & Dorkery blog. Last summer I correctly guessed how deep into a mammoth cave system Mike was able to descend, and he sent me these. He had them packed up to go on a shelf in his garage, and just stumbled upon them. They are really great and appropriate to my current game. The dude with the blue shield looks like Haskell the Crafty, and the uge ensemble of naginata wielders resemble both one of my player’s Wuxia character, Chye Isuel (Translates to mean “Mountain Dew”) as well as a crew of guards with sacrificial parry and teamwork I had put in place to specifically block the attacks of the 17 ST, Tetsubo wielding Yakuza enforcer Jin.

Naturally, their planned deployment in x-parrying his tetsubo failed miserably; The players had just defeated a crowd of ninjas attacking from murderholes in the ceiling of their lair; a mixture of gas grenades and explosive fireballs striking ninjas festooned with bandoliers of nagtatapos smoked out the ninjas… and injured party members who had climbed up into the rafters with the ninjas as the attacks were made by the rest of the party.  We are pbp, and hours had gone by between posts, but they still dove into the areas as they were being firebombed.  Nearby they found a door without any metal fittings, and labeled in Sahudese with an advisement that fire was not welcome.  The players quickly figured out that this might be the armory where the black powder for preparing nagtapos were stored, and wisely decided to fire an explosive fireball at the room…

Had the spellcaster not been talked out of this plan, the adventure would have ended abruptly as the tunnels collapsed.  Entry into the ninja’s lair had been difficult enough. I had one character, who had some area knowledge and urban survival swearing that good rolls to those skills would let him find a handy manhole cover that would lead directly to the target location.  He was displeased to learn that good rolls would advise him that A) Tunnels existed in this part of the city, and B) where the locked buildings with official access for the Department of Sewers and Aqueducts were, but would not create a door by searching, as it might in Dungeonworld.

The actual entrance was inside a guarded warehouse with a basement, but not accessible through the basement, only through a trap door under a crated marriage bed surrounded by barrels full of salted corpses being shipped back to Sahud for burial. Definitely not a casual find…

So, with the squire/adept still holding a fireball he had burned HP to raise, the crack troop of coordinated Naginata wielders rounded the corner, ready to nerf the Yak, and got roasted instead, although not before Shima made an appearance…

Shima is a minor villain, who had organized a diversion of brawling laborers, that the party slaughtered, who is basically an honorbound sumotori brute with power blow, and one of the few npcs I had handy who could have ended the yak early. he had his hand smashed by Jin’s tetsubo, although it was since restored by another character currently in another thread.

The other groups are converging; Hitomi (now npc’d after the player bailed), travelling with a telekenetic mentalist, a Chye Isuel the errant knight/minstrel and the overbuilt nymph bard (run by the same player who has Gorgath, and is equally weaponized) are now linking up with the Juniors group, along with the last remnants of the team trying to rescue the goblin kwik and orc cheerer, mostly so I can render the groups npc free, as I am forever losing players but trying to keep the story going.

Deep underground, the group negotiating with the trolls had launched an assault on the city of the People of the Pit, defeating a giant berserker pit person, and discovering the mental abilities of an Unknowable thing which was whisked away by a giant tentacle from beyond when I rolled an 18 on a mental blast attack. Everyone gets colorful crits.

20161019_145821

Meanwhile in other mail  related news, I now have the two core books of John M. Stater’s Blood & Treasure 2e, and cannot wait to get a physical copy of Nod 30!

nod-30-cover

All three of these items are thick with my illustrations, and this issue is so full of clever gonzo old school references, from Robot monsters to excellent rules for character race generation. Plus, it is worth the 3.99 just to get the backstory on how these three races from the Undiscovered Country relate:

trio

John Stater isn’t just prolific, he is very imaginative and funny. I was paid for this work already, I make nothing from his future sales, save that they make him flush enough to continue to buy work from me, but there is a lot of good art of mine in his publications.

Another set of publications I advocate for are the wonderfully pulpy issues of Cirsova Zine. I grew upo reading my way through my Dad’s collection of Sword and Sorcery books; when I got my DM’s Guide, I didn’t have to search for too many items from Appendix N, he had most of them.  The collected authors of Cirsova 1 and 2 do an awesome job of bringing back the feel of adventure fiction penned around the future ruins of earth. Great stuff, all of it, and check out the blog – I am tempted to drop an ad for my work into issue 4.

 

 

GURPS Magic and Me

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One of the things that sold me on GURPS as a system back in ’88-’89 in addition  to the cool advantage  and disadvantage  write-ups  and the way skills were treated, was the magic system.  I had issues with Vancian  magic at the time, although I   keep Tales of the Dying Earth in a special place on my shelves, near The Magicians, The Name of the Wind, and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.

Also occupying a sizeable portion of my shelves is my collection of occult books. I am a practicing pagan, and my assorted collections of folk magic have a personal meaning to me. One of the authors in the world of neopagan publishing happens to be Isaac Bonewits , the only known person to have graduated  UC Berkeley  with a BA in Magic. He also wrote a gaming supplement  publushed by Steve Jackson  Games called Authentic Thaumaturgy .  I had seen it at a game shop  years ago, but only picked it up in the last few years.

Some of his concepts about the Laws of Magick made it into very popular  book The Master of the Five Magics, by Lyndon  Hardy.  Traces of them show up in Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden  books, and in David Edding’s Belgariad.  Some of them are dealt with neatly in Fritz Lieber’s ConjureWife, and Robert A Heinlein also approached them in Waldo and Magic, Inc.

The GURPS “vanilla” magic has little to do with these narratives. There was a hint of something in the improvised rules, a little in the Rune magic system in Magic, and some bits I don’t  recall well from a White Wolf Adaptation of Mage (there weren’t  enough pre scripted spell effects for my taste). When GURPS  Voodoo came out, we saw the birth of what would later become Ritual Path Magic . It was interesting, but my game operated at a much lower  point range.

Technomancer  was an awesome addition to the field; I used a lot from this.

A few years later, there was Unlimited  mana magery, or umana, which in some ways echoed aspects of the spell  failure system  from Mage the Ascension. A major campaign  event in my game was the result of a catastrophic  umana event.

Aftet this came 4e, and Thaumatology. Then came DF, the subsystem I play, (which has this awesome kickstarter as a game that makes a better intro to GURPS  than anything else, please go back this!)

There are a lot of in depth discussions about Thaumatology; some of the better ones are on Psedobobo’s blog Let’s GURPS.

There have been a number  of alternate systems for magic since then; Sorcery, which does a magic as powers thing, precedented with the introduction of Magic Bolt in DF 11: Power Ups, and in keeping with GURPS  Powers, but not holding a flavor I really like. There is also Ritual Path Magic, which has heavy fan support, but is a little mathy and sparse on the Grimoire end for my preferences. I am much more of a plug and play kinda guy; I am not trying to design advantages and rituals; I  have too many munchkins in my  game to not be checking the math, and it isn’t  my strong suit. Ymmv.

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Ghostdancer, my good friend Christopher Rice,  together with Antoni Ten Monros, has just released DF 19 Incantation Magic, which primarily  is RPM for DF, but has something rather brilliant in it.

One of Bonewits’ criticisms  of Vancian (and most roleplaying  game depictions of magic) is the ideas that spells, once cast, are forgotten,  and, that they can be cast quickly. He proposedthat one might, through a careful, lengthy, and preplanned ritual, build an “astral machine” designed to generate a magical effect, and store energy for the effect, that the practitioner  could then release later with a ritual shortened by autohypnotic trance; effectively building a spell in reserve before the adventure, and rapidly releasing it with an abreviated casting during it.

Not too  far fromt he characters in   the Dying Earth who would arm themselves  with a few spells, and feel them buzzing about in their heads until released.

Not far at all from Incanters attaching prepared and extensive rituals to their auras and quick casting later. I checked with Ghostdancer, and Authentic Thaumaturgy  was not on his list of researched books for DF 19;  great minds think alike, it would seem. Incantation  magic has it’s  casters preload spells to cast later, and are limited to otherwise weak improvised  magic. It sounds like classic dungeon wizardry, and should appeal to those who find the standard system  too vanilla. Go pick it p!

You All Meet in a Tavern…

This most recent  commission, for Erik  Tenkar’s  blog, is the most complicated  piece of inkwork I  have created to date. It is also the last piece I will sell at the rates I was working with. This went through 5 drafts and took over six hours.

The characters are not new, as almost all of them come from my stock art

(Available here) The characters come from Wizards, Characters, Dungeon Scenes, and Rise of the Lich.

Whle I have had characters meet up in a tavern (The Rusty Marlinspike, The Leather Mask, and The Wastrel’s  Hope) and produced a 125pt barkeep (watered down Inkeeper) that I should post at some point, the primary meetup for my game is at the Adventurer’s Guild. Guilds have some rules already in DF, although I add a perk of membership, that functions  as a benevolent society, allowing  free lodging at status -1 conditions, and counts as proof of “employment” to keep you out of indentured  servitude (the local penalty for vagrancy). Most of my players tick it off as a License.