Friday, November 17, 2017

Designer's Notes: GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 19 - Incantation Magic

Wow. It's finally out. The original idea for this article goes all he way back to early 2013 when +Antoni Ten Monr√≥s and I were thinking about how we'd do "old school vancian" magic. I suggested RPM and he liked the idea and threw the ball back at me "What if we change the paths completely?" Inner Me: "Ohhhh." That was a great idea. Then we thought "Hell, what about putting it into DF?" Inner Me: "Oh-booooooyy." That's even better. We talked to Steven a bit a few months later and he decided (rightly) this was just too big...but then suggested we might make it into a book. Inner Me: "SQUEEEEEEEE!!!" We decided to try and whip it into shape and work out the kinks ourselves. This lead to us securing +Emily Smirle gaming group (and our own groups) as a testing ground. By July 2013 we had a decent set of rules. (I really wish we hadn't because it caused issues in the first couple of book drafts - new authors reading this don't write until they tell you to. Just trust the protcol and find something else to do.)

It wouldn't be for over an entire year before we'd be contacted about this again. We'd both been waiting patiently, wanting to be "full authors" (it's like a full vampire, but with words). +Sean Punch helped both Toni and I hammer out a good outline (and taught us a ton in turn). By the end of September 2014 we'd signed contracts for "Dungeon Fantasy Incantation Magic." It was (and is) the highlights of my life. My first (of hopefully many and diverse) book contract(s). I won't lie, I cried a little. The next six months was the struggle of my early professional career. I worked feverishly on the manuscript. Night and day I wrote, edited, and revised. I put Antoni's version into the final notes and reformatted it because Open Office (which he uses) is useless for this. I didn't mind (and still don't) - Toni is my partner in crime and he worked just as hard as I did to make everything "just so." It even took us longer than we originally thought (with original submission in January and instead we took till the end of March). I sent in the revised draft with comments from Kromm. Next, I began quietly contacting the people I felt could contribute the most to the playtest. Most said yes. Some had issues during the playtest, but everyone contributed. The group of playtesters was intentionally diverse (and +Douglas Cole proved especially useful in revising - he was flat out the reason why I removed Greater/Lesser effects so if you hate that blame Doug. No. Seriously, don't that was the right call). Some had never used RPM before. Some had never played DF before. Others had never done either. Some had done one or the other. A few had done both. I was proud of that list of people. I slaved putting it together and agonizing over the choices. By the end of April 2015 the playtest had begun. The playtest ended in mid-June 2015 and I sent in the final draft on late July 2015. We ended up with a few more revisions and then sent it the final draft on time. We didn't hear anything from Steve Jackson Games for another five months when +Pk Levine contacted us (he'd had troubles of his own). He then began to do a final round of revisions. That took till around April 2016 and then finally +Steven Marsh gave us some "good news" (everyone). The book was just shy of the next price point for page count so he wanted more spells. Inner Me: "Squeee!" followed by "Oh, crap, I need more spells."  +Emily Smirle essentially saved our bacon here because both Toni and I were stressed to the max from life and other work. (We love you, Em! YOU ARE AWESOME!) The amazing and wonderful Nikki Vrtis began her arduous task of layout. Over the last several months we've seen production copies and hunted for errata and bugs (which we found few of - so I hope that means they weren't hiding, but rather just weren't there to be found). And now it's out. It's here and it's own sale and I really want you to go buy a copy because honestly, if you want more books out of me this has to do well. I will say that Steve Jackson Games put us right behind their Dungeon Fantasy Kickstarter and I really hope that helps make a difference and draw in all kinds of folks.

All in all it took us about 600 hours to write, 300 hours to edit, 60 hours worth of research (mostly reading Dungeon Fantasy books and various fiction/books on magic), and 1000 hours of revision. (These values include the hours Toni put in as well). Playtest email count was over 500 (it was a very active playtest).

A few words from my co-author:
Incantation magic is the latest addition to the Dungeon Fantasy line, and many will wonder, why? What does it bring to the table? 
It’s not a surprise that I don’t particularly like the standard magic system. Many of my works in Pyramid have dealt with using alternative magic systems in Dungeon Fantasy (Dungeon Saints, The Sorcerer,...). Incantation Magic started life as a Pyramid article, trying to adapt RPM to DF. I recruited the Master of RPM, Christopher, to help me do the tweaks I expected I would need. It quickly became apparent that we would need a lot of word count for this, but hey as Douglas Cole said, The Deadly Spring and The Last Gasp got in, despite being quite long, so we might as well try. 
Long story short, it did not (big surprise, given that you’ve never seen it, right?). We were told that it might live on as a full blown DF book, if the stars aligned (as there was an OGRE in the pipeline), and eventually it did! 
So now that we’ve got the history behind us, what does an Incanter bring to the table that other delvers could not bring? The main thing he brings, is spell slot based magic. Many people have clamored for some kind of spell slot based magic, and while I find most of those systems arbitrary and quite simply "unfun," RPM, with the charm slots, offered a version that was both interesting and sensical. Sure, given enough time, an RPG caster can do whatever they need to do, but slots allow them to cast now, launch later. This brings that often requested dynamic to GURPS, without the issues that plague other implementations: Why can’t I sit down with my spell book and slowly cast the spell, even if I didn’t foresee that I would need it when preparing my spells? Also, this kind of spellcaster fills a niche that is often requested: the blaster caster. Sure, a sorcerer is superior here, but a sorcerer is basically the sine qua non of blasting (if built that way), but an incanter that want to go that route can do so… at a considerable cost. An incanter that focuses on blasting will find that his spells get used up real fast, and that replenishing them takes a lot of time. On top of this, having such spells prepared means he doesn’t have other spells prepared. 
Regardless, we hope you'll find out book fun and interesting. 

I haven't really mentioned the real heroes (for me at least):

+Ann LS is my lovely and talented other half. I don't think I would have had as many "Ah-ha!" moments without her. (Also, "Perri" from the vignettes is her Dungeon Fantasy character.) Her persistence, mental fortitude, levelheadedness, and intuition have guided my hands for the better part of two decades. I'm not even half the man I am without her and she makes me want to be better. To do better. I love her with all my heart and soul. She gives me the courage to be myself and strive. "We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams," she'd say when I got down. Or something else equally encouraging "Christopher, you are smarter than this problem so figure it the hell out." And then I would. If someone believes in you so truly and deeply you can do anything. What can I say other than she's amazing and makes everything worthwhile?

+Christian Gelacio is my best friend. He never let me waver or feel sorry for myself, but reminded me (constantly) "I got you into GURPS, now don't embarrass me." (Not really, Chris doesn't talk much, but he was thinking it. I have telepathetic powers. Really. It's what he was thinking.) He was my rock.

Elizabeth "Archangel" McCoy. Beth has been my constant mentor for the past five years. She has been beating the English language into my head with a thick wooden mallet and a railroad spike. Her patience has been pretty damn legendary too and I wouldn't be here without all her help. One day, Beth, I swear I will repay you somehow.  You're amazing and a hundred times the editor I'll ever be and twenty times the writer to boot. Thank you for taking the chance on me and seeing something in me I didn't fully see.

My mother: She would let me talk for hours when I couldn't sleep and couldn't talk to anyone else about the book. I'd print out a copy of the material and read passages to her to see what she thought. Something of a (cloested) nerd herself, she understands enough of my work that she can provide an outsider's opinion and act as a sounding board. Like others, she never let me give up (and there were times when I was ready to throw in the towel - the stress to live up tp my own ideals was immense).

I also want to fully call out everyone who helped with this project in some way, but I couldn't thank properly in the credits of the book:

Robert "RevBob" Hood
+Kevin Smyth
+Nathan Joy
+Theodore Briggs
+Troy Loy
+Curtis Johnston

You'll note I have no real outtakes here. This is intentional, I've saved those for a Pyramid article for our Designer's Notes (set to appear whenever). This is more part mission report and part thank you letter. So again, for everyone I mentioned here and anyone I forgot...thank you. So much. Now go buy my book. :-)

Edit: The official in-Pyramid designer's notes can be found in Pyramid #3/109: Thaumatology V.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Carpe Blogiem: Crushed Under The Rolling Stone

It's been awhile since I posted and there are a couple of reasons why - I'm not ready to share all of them. Basically, right now I'm having to choose how I spend my writing and free time at the moment and the blog has simply fallen by the wayside (for the moment). It may stay this way until the end of December or beginning of January because I'm honestly hoping to take a week or two off to spend decompressing from this stressful year.

I'm hoping to periodically throw up posts when I've the time but most of my writing energies are focused on finishing paying projects I've promised or been contracted to do. My free time is spent running my campaign (so I can stay sane) and my work time is spent with a thousand tiny projects that just demand my attention. Patreon patrons will continue to see monthly releases per normal and I've got an outline for what I hope will be an interesting blog series for gamemasters and players both.

I've tried to change it as much as I can, but the circumstances are forcing me to choose my activities and projects and I need to be able to eat and afford my medicine so that means I have to take gigs that pay right now. It also means I've not been as active in the gaming community as I'd like or that I've been available for questions sent to my email or via PM.

This sucks. I'm letting you guys down again and I'm sorry. I'll do my damnedest to get back on track as soon as my work flow and personal life gets back to semi-normal.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

GURPS101: Art of the Wild Part II

Some more cuts from my “Born to Be Wild” Pyramid article...

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Note: the link to the actual content for patrons is here.

Boil and Bubble: Ritual Path Magic Spells – Path of Chance I

GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic is one of my favorite magic systems that GURPS has yet to produce. The flexibility of the system lets you do darn near anything. One of my favorite spell types is “luck manipulation” and here are a few spells I’ve made for my own games...

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Note: the link to the actual content for patrons is here.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Carpe Blogiem: Open Call To Players, The Return of the Call

Found out today I've got an open spot in my current GURPS campaign for my Monday group (B-Team). The game will be nominally from 7:30pm EST to 11:30pm EST. I'm looking for someone who can reliably be there, is friendly, who communicates, and can do a bit of roleplaying. System mastery is a plus, but not required. There is a bit of bit of requirement as far as the background goes that is not up for discussion:

The player character must have been a child present at the site of a terrible massacre where his or her parents were murdered. There is more to this, but I don't want to throw it out there as its a spoiler to other players. As in the email and I'll tell you. If you're interested, email me.

So here's the relevant bits:
  • The genre is supernatural horror/urban fantasy: monsters are real and so is magic.
  • The mode is mildly cinematic, with results skewing toward the PCs. It's a realistic world with somewhat larger than life PCs.
  • The austerity is mid to high: actions have consequences.
  • Point totals may vary, but you'll start with a predesigned bucket of points framework and I'll be ad-hocing some points to level you out with the other players.
  • Players are expected to deliver a fairly long character history (at least 500 words).
  • Players are expected to work together in a team environment. There is no PVP, no stealing from other players, etc. This rule will be enforced ruthlessly.
  • I don't do ruleslawyering. Please don't waste my time or the other player's time.
  • Heroic types are encouraged, but not required. Make sure your concept cares about SOMETHING other than himself (or phat lootz).
  • Play will be over Roll20 and Hangouts so webcam/mic are required.
I'll close this down when I get enough players who can make the game and go from there. If you emailed me about previous calls and are open to this time slot please email me again and let me know this! I may have earmarked your available and that means I may not be looking at you for this.

Edit: Call is closed down. Thanks everyone who sent an application!

Campaign Backdrop
The everyday plodding along of life hides something fantastic and terrifying. Beyond the veneer of mundane existence lies the world of the ceteri. A world full of wonder. A world full of fear. A world of impossible possibilities. This is the world that the Conclave has been hiding for millennia. The world that any logical, sane person would say is the result of too many bad movies, too many drugs, or too much drink. Or maybe they’ve just gone mad. This is the world of vampires and werewolves, of angels and demons, where Heaven and Hell are around every corner. Where ancient inhuman beings vie for power. Where sorcerers use magic to change the world around them. Where psychics send their souls outward to play in the aether. Where miracles happen to the devout.

The Conclave protects and polices this world, but they can’t be everywhere at once. Humanity has spread out to far and too fast and with them the various supernatural beings that follow them around for food, reproduction, or play. Thousands of years ago a sorcerer named Simon Magus separated the world of man and the world of monsters and set about his followers to watching over the wall he’d made. This was the beginning of the Conclave. Many who were not pleased by what Simon Magus had done went on to form a core part of the nascent Christian faith. Centuries later, Merlin would be born and he would lead the Conclave into a golden era with his friend Arthur forming the first custos (iconically represented in folklore as the Knights of the Round Table – who would later on become the Templar Knights, then the Venatori, and the modern Freemasons). These custos were warriors of rare ability and wielded powers both mundane and paranormal against the various supernatural forces that preyed on humanity.

For centuries, the various factions schemed against one another and were held in check by the Conclave. Eventually, the Conclave grew bloated with its power and prestige and concerned only with advanced itself and not carrying out its sacred mission of protecting mankind. The Conclave was “destroyed” in the late 16th century and those that remained fled to the New World to escape the madness of the Old World. The new Conclave rose up stronger than before and separated itself from the Houses (as it had been) to be a singular group welcome to all ceteri.

You are the victim of a terrible tragedy that forced your eyes open to the world of the supernatural and thrust you into the midst of a war you were not prepared for. Prepared or not - you have a job, no a calling. To act as a shield for the meek and a sword to the weak. You may just be human, but by God that's enough. You're a monster hunter.

(Note: the PCs are currently in the middle of a shadow war between themselves, other factions, and a group of vampires.)

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Boil and Bubble: Quick and Quirky Charms

Guest Post by Kalzazz

One of the things that has always seemed a bit peculiar to me is that the Quick and Dirty rules for Charms make it rather difficult to have quirks, and especially, much more difficult to quirk a spell than to botch it entirely. Further discussion on that here.

Now, for those of us who love seeing what kind of suffering quirks bring from the twisted mind of the DM (or enjoy being said DM), I offer a simple rules tweak. When using Quick and Dirty Charms, the first roll is as normal. However, the second roll is either as normal, or versus a target of 14 minus the bonus to the first roll, whichever is worse for the caster.

For instance, Jaina the Mageling wants to make a charm that is greater than her safe threshold, but less than twice her safe threshold. So she would roll 3d+1 vs 15 for the first roll. For her second roll, she rolls either her Effective Skill -1, or 13 (14 minus the bonus of 1 to the first roll), whichever is worse.

A more explicit example. Suppose Bob the Mage has Path of Energy 18, path of Magic 18, and Magery 6 (so pool 18) and he has a +3 Grimoire. Bob would like to create a Charm of Destruction, which is a Greater Create Energy clocking in at 291 (pg 41 of Thaumatology RPM), +15 energy to make it a charm (adding Lesser Control Magic) so he needs 291 + 15 = 306.

With effective skill 21 (+0 charm lab, +3 grimoire, lower of his two paths involved is 18) his Safe Threshold is 75. Using his 18 pool (from Magery 6) he needs to accumulate 288,

288 is over 3 times, but less than 4 times his safe threshold.

So Bob rolls 3d+3 and tries to get a 15 or less to see whether he casts the spell, or if it Critical Failures.

Now, the next step is to check for quirks. Under the normal rules Bob must roll against his effective skill (21) minus the penalty for exceeding safe threshold (so 21 - 3 = 18) as a skill roll. So he gets a quirk on a 17 or 18.

Under the Quick and Quirky rule proposed here, he rolls either vs the 18 as normal, OR, against 14 minus the Safe Threshold penalty, whichever is worse. So 14 - 3 = 11.

So, to avoid critical failure Bob wants to roll a 12 or better. Under the normal system Bob wants to roll 16 or better, while under this proposed rule 11 or better.

This means that quirks will generally be more common than botches, but still requires the same 2 rolls, and no more difficult of calculations.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Carpe Blogiem: Author, Patreon, and Blog Highlights - September 2017

Here's the highlights for me from September 2017 (And yes, I know I'm a little late - I try to do this at the beginning of the month. but stuff happened.)

Authorial Highlights
  • I submitted the article that needed to be finished (and oh-god-why-didn't-this-end-in-estimated-word-count). The article S. A. Fisher and I were writing was finished, reviewed by our peoples, and submitted. I finished the Designer's Notes for Dungeon Fantasy 19 and got my co-author to add his two cents. I'm not just wanting for him to toss the bio my way to submit it. I dumped the article I was writing Combat II - sometimes it happens and you just got to start over. So that's what I'm doing. I decided to write a sequel to my article "Mind and Body" and get the styles I excised from that article and a few more. Still working on that one. This still leaves Action, Alternate GURPS, and After the End - all of which I have ideas for or partially completed items.
  • The rejiggering of work flow is still an ongoing test as I had to stop and concentrate on one article to the exclusion of all else.
  • My article "Born to Be Wild" came out. Basically, I take Power-Ups 7: Wildcards and adapt a lot of those rules to Monster Hunters as a coherent framework. You can find my Designer's Notes here.
  • I'm doing another thing for GURPS that I can't talk about yet.
  • I'm working on the prelim for a couple of non-GURPS RPG projects. We'll see where this goes. (Note: If folks have DnD 5e books they are willing to sell or give me - I could use them. I'm playing catch-up in this department and could use any assistance I can get for it.)

Blog Highlights
  • The blog revamp might take until November. The guy doing it is having some issues and I'm not really a priority right now (which I totally agree with). It's still happening! Stay tuned.
  • I started cranking out some more blog posts for a healthy back log (shake that healthy back log!) 
  • I've continued plodding along with articles being delivered on Tuesday and Thursday of every week.

Patreon Highlights
  • This month's patron specials were four new wildcard skills I excised from this month's Pyramid issue and more Sorcery spells.
  • I lost patrons, gained them, had others modify their pledges so the new goal, "Set the Balloon People Free!," bounced around a bit. We're back to it again so November it'll be enacted and we'll see what people want to do.
  • The Patreon revamp is finished and I didn't hemorrhage pledges or patrons as much as I feared. Thank you everyone for sticking with me. I won't disappoint you!
  • I got 1 new patrons in September and $5 of additional pledges for Patreon.

Miscellaneous Related News
  • Work on fiction piece continued. Not as fast as I would like - but at least there was some work.
  • The kitten was trapped and tested - it did have FIV. Which sucked. But I ended up getting another one at the Humane Society and Nimbus now has a companion. They bonded pretty fast and within two weeks were cuddling at night and playing during the day. Check my twitter stream for pictures - it's littered with them.
  • Mom continues to convalesce at my sisters and will likely have a surgery to fix her knee soonish.
  • +Emily Smirle's character has been truly awesome and though we miss Mav's Cormac, Leo is pretty fun.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

GURPS101: GURPS, Justice, and the Dungeon Fantasy Way

My buddy +Douglas Cole just tossed up a kickstarter for his 5e adventure "Lost Hall of Tyr." I have been one of the lucky few he's shown the thing to pretty much from the beginning and despite my lack of comments on anything but the most surface of observations he's continued to let me see this thing grow and form. Overall, it's one of the better adventures I've had a chance to read in the last couple of years. While I am working my way through DnD 5e - it's taking me longer than I would like because I'm still working on my other projects at the same time.

So I thought "Self, what could you do to help out Doug?" and the first thing that came to mind was "Don't ever let him handle gasoline" and then I thought "Hey, maybe I can show that his adventure could be Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game material with a few tweaks?" So here they are:

When Gravity Attacks
Using the rules on p. 6 of the Lost Hall just treat this as a ST vs. ST Quick Contest using the listed ST. For control damage find the average roll of the listed die and then add 5 to determine what the listed ST would be.

DnD 5e coinage vs. DFRPG coinage
As a general rule of thumb, 1 gold piece is worth about $10 in DFRPG coinage. This isn't exact! Some things cost more (most armor), while others cost less (some hand weapons.

The monsters listed in the adventure are converted as follows

Awakened Tree: Use the stats for crushrooms in Monsters (p. 19).
Bear: Monsters (p. 16).
Bandit: No DFRPG equivalent. Consider using GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 15: Henchman - specifically the Brute template (p. 9).
Boar: No DFRPG equivalent.
Crushing Worm: Use the Frost Snake Monsters (p. 28), but increase it a poison follow-up attack on its bite to 3d instead of chill breath.
Dire Wolf: Monsters (p. 21).
Elk: No DFRPG equivalent.
Goblinoids: Monsters, p. 33.
Mountain Cats Use the stats for obsidian jaguars in Monsters (p. 19), but reduce DR to 1, and remove all traits making it a construct to turn it into a living thing.
Thurs: Use the stats for trolls in Monsters (p. 57).

There are some other critters in there, but they are obvious analogs.

Difficulty Levels
In general, "DC 10" is an average degree of hardness for a roll. Working from there we can assume that about every 1.5 to 2 steps up or down from there translates as a -1 or +1 to rolls for the DFRPG. So a "DC 14" roll would give you a -2 to -3 to rolls. Alternatively, if something makes sense as an opposed roll convert as a above and then add 10 to figure the resulting skill roll. For example, an opposed roll with a DC 8 would result in a DFRPG skill of about 9.

The Adventure Itself
I don't have any advice for converting stuff here - it's all pretty obvious to me in just about every case and fits very nicely in the "world" of the DFRPG - it works perfectly for adventures set in the "North" where the barbarians hail from.

Picking Over the Bones
If I were to ever run the DFRPG it would probably be something of my own making for a "serious campaign" but this adventurer is just perfect as a jumping off point or as a way to do demos that pack in a lot of flavor. Basically, go back the kickstarter, get your copy, and convert it. It's worth the price and GURPS has very few adventures as is - this would be a perfect thing to drop into your game for your players.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

GURPS101 - Art of the Wild Part I

I recently wrote a Pyramid article expanding wildcard skills for GURPS Monster Hunters champions. Not all of them made the cut for one reason or another, but most of the ones I did cut had little to do with actual monster hunting and therefore didn’t have room or make sense within the series...

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Note: the link to the actual content for patrons is here.

Boil and Bubble: Utility Spells for Sorcery II

GURPS Thaumatology: Sorcery is one of the newer magic systems for GURPS, but it makes use of one of the oldest of GURPS rules systems: modified advantages. Anyways, this is a follow-up to a previous post - here are a couple more "utility" spells for Sorcery...

...if you'd like to read more, consider becoming a patron!

Note: the link to the actual content for patrons is here.