Thursday, June 26, 2014

Melee Academy: Predictably Unpredictable



The Joker, Jack Sparrow, Murdock...you ever wanted to play that guy, the crazy bastard who comes up with quirky schemes in the middle of combat and then some how pulls them off? Besides buying a lot of Luck there are a couple of other ways you might be able to pull it off.


The Big Crazy Plan That Should Not Work
"You and I remember budapest very differently" - Deceptive Attack allows a character to take a -2 to their attack roll to give their target a -1 to defend against that attack, but what about planning for a larger battle? Allowing a "Deceptive Plan" option for Tactics or Strategy might be a way to go. If the GM allows then each -2 penalty accepted on a Tactics rolls gives the opposing side a -1 to their roll. If using the rules from GURPS Martial Arts (p. 60) each -2 penalty you accept on your roll gives you either one reroll using the abstract rules or one move if using the mapped rules - even if the character with the Deceptive plan fails the contest overall, he can use these rerolls/moves. He's essentially trading away victory (assuming he has a high skill) for some surety thanks to his tricky methods.


New Character Trait

Unpredictable
15/level
This Talent, like Jack of All Trades (GURPS Power-Ups 3, p. 11) is different and breaks mot of the rules for creating new Talents. It affects all rolls you make when you are trying to deceive others. This covers Feints, Deceptive Attacks, Dirty Tricks, Tactics rolls to set up an ambush, Body Control rolls to convince others you are dead, and so on. Such rolls are usually Quick Contests, but the GM may allow this bonus to apply to any situation where he feels it appropriate.

Reaction Bonus and Alternative Benefit: None.
Notes: This trait's point cost was calculated as follows per level: DX +1  (Only for deceiving others, -70%) [6/level]; IQ +1 (Only for deceiving others, -70%) [6/level]; HT +1 (Only for deceiving others, -70%) [3/level]. As the IQ increase raises Will and Per, it affects skills based on those scores, too.


New Techniques
I didn't come up with  Deceptive Strike, but it sure does belong in this post, The_Matrix_Walker over on the forums posted this technique in this post of this thread. I've modded it a bit for my campaigns - but it was his idea, not mine - though Quicksilver Strike is one I came up with for use in my campaigns.

Deceptive Strike*
Hard
Default: Skill-7.
Prerequisites: appropriate skill; cannot exceed prerequisite skill.

Your attack moves so quickly that opponents suffer a -2 penalty to all active defenses, your speed can be a detriment however, if you fail to connect, you must roll vs. DX or fall. If the GM allows the penalty for Active Defenses can be increased further - each -1 penalty to active defenses results in an additional -6 to this technique. This is a cinematic technique.

Statistics: Opponent's Defenses; Dodge -2 Penalty (-4 to default), Parry -2 Penalty (-2 to default), Block -2 Penalty (-2 to default) with the drawback "Must Roll vs DX or fall on a miss. (If a combined with a maneuver (ie. kick) that has this drawback already, apply a -1 Penalty to the existing DX Roll)."


Quicksilver Strike*
Hard 
Default: Skill-5.
Prerequisites: Any melee weapon or unarmed combat skill; cannot exceed prerequisite skill.

Use this technique, instead of your skill when making a Move and Attack (p. B00) with it; ignore the skill cap of 9. This is a cinematic technique.


Picking Over the Bones
When it comes down to it, playing a character who comes up with mad schemes amidst combat is a role-playing opportunity - not a roll-playing one. Players with character concepts like this are going to need Luck to pull off the impossible. Perhaps with the limitation "Aspected, Deception, -20%" or even "Aspective, Deceptive Warfare." Such characters will probably also want to set aside unspent character points to make use of Influencing Success Rolls.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Book Review: GURPS Power-Ups 6: Quirks


Gurps_power-ups_6_quirks_thumb300


This is another one of those books that is a straight up game-changer (for me at least). My players love to take quirks that are emblematic of how they see their character being portrayed. This book provides a comprehensive...no, exhaustive list of quirks, what their game effects are, how they should be roleplayed, and so on. More than that it explains to the reader how to create new quirks, assign them game mechanical effects, and then give them snappy names. It's basically 37 pages of how to make a character live and breathe. Out of all the traits I think my favorite is "Dishonest Face" - it's basically "I look like  thug" (which my "character sheet" probably has), but the opening line is funny as hell "You look untrustworthy. This is unrelated to your attractiveness, reputation, or how skeevy you really are!" I don't know why but I find this amusing. What's more the art is pretty good too (p. 16 looks like a shout-out to a Fish Called Wanda) and overall fits the book. There is not much else to say (it's a catalog book) other than it's well-written, well-thought out, and well-executed. There is a symmetry to the order of quirks as you progress through the book that reminds me of a school book - each new section builds on the previous one (and that's a good thing!). Player or GM, if GURPS is your system of choice (or if it isn't) I highly recommend this book.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Triple Threat - Hellhound



Hellhound
Hellhounds are large (about the size of a small pony) dog-like demons with burning coals for eyes and fur from jet-black to dirty dried blood. Like many “lesser demons” they are not very intelligent, but they do possess an animal cunning that makes them dangerous. They also possess the ability to seek out the souls of those who belong in Hell or who have been targeted by a specific Lord of Hell. Once they find them, they swiftly return to their home with their target firmly grasped between their jaws.

Any Campaign Setting...
ST: 16             HP: 18            Speed: 7.00
DX: 14            Will: 12           Move: 11/22
IQ: 6               Per: 14            Weight: 200 lbs.
HT: 12            FP: 12             SM: +1
Dodge: 11       Parry: 12        DR: 6 (Tough Skin)

Bite (16): 2d+1 cutting. Reach C, 1.
Claw (16): 1d+2 cutting. Reach C, 1.
Torso Grapple (16): No damage, but on further turns can squeeze (Choke or Strangle, p. B370) as ST 23 or worry.
Worry (-): This can only be used after a target has been bitten. It does the same damage as the bite.

Traits: Appearance (Monstrous); Bad Smell; Combat Reflexes; Dark Vision; Discriminatory Hearing; Discriminatory Smell (Emotion Sense); Divine Curse (Can be bound using True Name); Doesn’t Breathe; Doesn’t Eat or Drink; Doesn’t Sleep; Dread (Holy Ground); Dread (Religious Symbols; Cannot Be Trapped); Duty (Master); Energy Reserve 6 (Infernal*); Extra Attack 1; Fearlessness 3; High Pain Threshold (Accessibility, Not against holy attacks); Immunity to Metabolic Hazards; Injury Tolerance (Homogenous; No Blood); Insubstantiality (Affect Substantial (Only if Summoned); Powerful Reversion; Substantial Only; Difficult Materialization (Only if Summoned)); Intolerance (Religious or holy people and places); Invisibility (Substantial Only; Difficult Materialization (Only if Summoned)); Jumper (Spirit; Only if Summoned, Limited Access, Hell); Pacifism (Cannot Harm Innocents; Accessibility, Prevents direct harm of truly good folk only); Pack Tactics; Penetrating Voice; Quadruped; Resistant to Influence (+3); Sharp Claws; Sharp Teeth; Social Stigma (Demon); Soulseeker†; Striking ST+5 (Bite only); Terror 2 (Hearing); Turned Using True Faith;Unaging;Vulnerability (Blessed Weapons x2); Weakness (Holy attacks; 1d per minute); Weakness (Iron, 1d/minute; Fatigue only); Weakness (Running Water, 1d/minute; Variable).

Skills: Brawling‑16; Intimidate-14, Jumping-16; Stealth‑14; Tracking-18; Wrestling-16.
Notes: Affected by any magic that can affect demons; Natural Biter 3. The Pack Alpha has an IQ of 7, as well as a Leadership and Tactics of 12; other statistics are the same. If the GM is using Intrinsic Fright Check from GURPS Horror, (p. 139), Hellhounds have a modifier of -2.
* This can be spent on any demonic racial ability as well as Extra Effort for Combat or any other “hellish” power (e.g., magic fueled by demons).

† This trait is Super-Memorization 1 (35) (Limited, Trait, Detect, -50%; Magical, -10%; Requires Per Roll, -5%). The Detect advantage is attuned to a specific target and is built as Detect (Specific Target; Analyzing, +100%; Cosmic, Ignores Countermeasures (Accessibility, Targets who belong in Hell only, -50%), +150%; Cosmic, No die roll required, +100%; Long-Range 1, +50%; Precise, +100%; World-Spanning, All, +100%).


Dungeon Fantasy...
ST: 16             HP: 18            Speed: 7.00
DX: 14            Will: 12           Move: 11/22
IQ: 6               Per: 14            Weight: 200 lbs.
HT: 12            FP: 12             SM: +1
Dodge: 11       Parry: 12        DR: 5* (Tough Skin)

Bite (16): 2d+1 cutting. Reach C, 1.
Claw (16): 1d+2 cutting. Reach C, 1.
Fire Breath (16): 2d burning. Range 5/10; no range penalties.
Torso Grapple (16): No damage, but on further turns can squeeze (Choke or Strangle, p. B370) as ST 23 or worry.
Worry (-): This can only be used after a target has been bitten. It does the same damage as the bite.

Traits: Appearance (Monstrous); Bad Smell; Combat Reflexes; Dark Vision; Dependency (Mana; Constantly); Discriminatory Hearing; Discriminatory Smell (Emotion Sense); Divine Curse (Can be bound using True Name); Doesn’t Breathe; Doesn’t Eat or Drink; Doesn’t Sleep; Dread (Holy Ground); Dread (Religious Symbols; Cannot Be Trapped); Duty (Master); Energy Reserve 6 (Infernal†); Extra Attack 1; Fearlessness 3; High Pain Threshold (Accessibility, Not against holy attacks); Immunity to Metabolic Hazards; Injury Tolerance (Homogenous; No Blood); Insubstantiality (Affect Substantial (Only if Summoned); Powerful Reversion; Substantial Only; Difficult Materialization (Only if Summoned)); Intolerance (Religious or holy people and places); Invisibility (Substantial Only; Difficult Materialization (Only if Summoned)); Jumper (Spirit; Only if Summoned, Limited Access, Hell); Pacifism (Cannot Harm Innocents; Accessibility, Prevents direct harm of truly good folk only); Pack Tactics; Penetrating Voice; Quadruped; Resistant to Influence (+3); Sharp Claws; Sharp Teeth; Social Stigma (Infernal); Soulseeker‡; Striking ST+5 (Bite only); Terror 2 (Hearing); Turned Using True Faith;Unaging;Vulnerability (Blessed Weapons x2); Weakness (Holy attacks; 1d per minute); Weakness (Iron, 1d/minute; Fatigue only); Weakness (Running Water, 1d/minute; Variable).
Skills: Brawling‑16; Innate Attack (Breath)-16; Intimidate-14, Jumping-16; Stealth‑14; Tracking-18; Wrestling-16.
Classification: Demon.
Notes: Affected by any magic that can affect demons; Natural Biter 3. The Pack Alpha has an IQ of 7, as well as a Leadership and Tactics of 12; other statistics are the same. This is a "greater" hellhound, "lesser" hellhounds can be found in GURPS Dungeon Fantasy, p. 26.
* Remove the Tough Skin limitation and triple this DR against Heat or Fire attacks.
† This can be spent on any demonic racial ability as well as Extra Effort for Combat or any other “hellish” power (e.g., magic fueled by demons).

‡ This trait is Super-Memorization 1 (35) (Limited, Trait, Detect, -50%; Magical, -10%; Requires Per Roll, -5%). The Detect advantage is attuned to a specific target and is built as Detect (Specific Target; Analyzing, +100%; Cosmic, Ignores Countermeasures (Accessibility, Targets who belong in Hell only, -50%), +150%; Cosmic, No die roll required, +100%; Long-Range 1, +50%; Precise, +100%; World-Spanning, All, +100%).


Monster Hunters...
ST: 16             HP: 18            Speed: 7.00
DX: 14            Will: 12           Move: 11/22
IQ: 6               Per: 14            Weight: 200 lbs.
HT: 12            FP: 12             SM: +1
Dodge: 11       Parry: 12        DR: 6 (Tough Skin)

Fright Check: -2

Bite (16): 2d+1 cutting. Reach C, 1.
Claw (16): 1d+2 cutting. Reach C, 1.
Torso Grapple (16): No damage, but on further turns can squeeze (Choke or Strangle, p. B370) as ST 23 or worry.
Worry (-): This can only be used after a target has been bitten. It does the same damage as the bite.

Traits: Appearance (Monstrous); Bad Smell; Combat Reflexes; Dark Vision; Discriminatory Hearing; Discriminatory Smell (Emotion Sense); Doesn’t Breathe; Doesn’t Eat or Drink; Doesn’t Sleep; Dread (Holy Ground); Dread (Religious Symbols; Cannot Be Trapped); Duty (Master); Energy Reserve 6 (Infernal*); Extra Attack 1; Fearlessness 3; High Pain Threshold (Accessibility, Not against holy attacks); Immunity to Metabolic Hazards; Injury Tolerance (Homogenous; No Blood); Pack Tactics; Penetrating Voice; Quadruped; Resistant to Influence (+3); Sharp Claws; Sharp Teeth; Social Stigma (Monster); Soulseeker†; Striking ST+5 (Bite only); Terror 2 (Hearing); Vulnerability (Blessed Weapons x2); Weakness (Holy attacks; 1d per minute); Weakness (Running Water, 1d/minute; Variable). Additionally, roll once on Demonic Variety (Monster Hunters 3, p. 19).

Skills: Brawling‑16; Intimidate-14, Jumping-16; Stealth‑14; Tracking-18; Wrestling-16.
Notes: Affected by Path of Spirit; Natural Biter 3. The Pack Alpha has an IQ of 7, as well as a Leadership and Tactics of 12; other statistics are the same. Understands Demontongue, but cannot speak it. Use the skills listed under Demons in the Know Thy Enemy box in Monster Hunters 1 (p. 16). One hellhound is a fair fight for one to two champions.
This can be spent on any demonic racial ability as well as Extra Effort for Combat or any other “hellish” power (e.g., magic fueled by demons).

† This trait is Super-Memorization 1 (35) (Limited, Trait, Detect, -50%; Magical, -10%; Requires Per Roll, -5%). The Detect advantage is attuned to a specific target and is built as Detect (Specific Target; Analyzing, +100%; Cosmic, Ignores Countermeasures (Accessibility, Targets who belong in Hell only, -50%), +150%; Cosmic, No die roll required, +100%; Long-Range 1, +50%; Precise, +100%; World-Spanning, All, +100%).

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Gamemaster's Guidepost: Ritual Mass Combat

Demon's Souls fantasy dark apocalyptic post apocalypse destruction war battle magic wizard mage magician sorcerer evil creatures monsters landscapes ruins decay warriors soldiers art fire flames wallpaper background

Today is Patreon Day and the topic selected by my patrons was "Ritual Path Magic and Mass Combat." So...what do I have to say about that. A lot it turns out - I playtested both books rather extensively and got a writing credit for GURPS Thaumatoloyg: Ritual Path Magic. I'm going to make a few assumptions before I get into the meat of this thing. First, Ritual Path Magic is ideal for massed battles or warfare - unlike the basic spell system, Ritual Path Magic doesn't require FP to use - just time. Furthermore, casters are versitile. They can do damn near anything. For a sufficiently advanced caster this means they can launch fireballs, bursts of pure force, heal the wounded, and so on with relative ease. Second, I'm going to assume that casters while not rare, aren't exactly common either. They'll make up less than 20% of a given Force's Troop Strength. Finally, destructive magics are going to be easily adapted over - I'm going to concentrate on other things instead....

If yo'd like to read more, head on over to my Patreon and become a patron yourself!














Assembly Required: Development Step Two - Campaign Parameters


After you figure out what your campaign's foundation is you're going to want to figure out what type of game you want to run (the genre), how you're going to run it (the mode), how believable it is (austerity), what it's about (scale/scope), and, optionally, where it will take place (the location). Those familiar with GURPS Horror or GURPS Supers will notice that most of these terms are straight from there. I'm not about to try to reinvent the wheel. Or, as my granddaddy would say, "Boy, if it ain't broke, don't fix it." With that in mind if you're using a game engine with a specific built in setting (Night's Black Agents, D&D, Amber, etc.), then you're going to want to pretty much ignore this whole step, by choosing the game engine you've chosen these things as well. Since I'm a GURPS-guy, I'm going to assume that you're going to need to make those decisions.

Genre
The chosen genre for your campaign should be at most a couple of words (some weird campaigns may need a bit more) and convey what it's about fairly easily. It's similar to, but different than your Foundation statement. If you were writing an English paper on it, your Foundation statement would be the thesis, and your genre would be the sentence right after it. When designing a campaign you have a ton of options to choose from, but you probably have already decided on your genre while you were working up your campaign. The following scale uses some of my favorite novels as examples. Some options might include:
  • Fantasy: games that focus on fantastic worlds or places. Example: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum.
  • Horror: games that revolve around monsters, witches, and the like. Example: 'Salems Lot by Stephen King.
  • Historical: games that (usually) lack exotic powers or abilities and focus instead on the time period they're set in. Example: The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.
  • Humor/Silly: Games that are non-serious or comedic in nature. Example: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.
  • Speculative Fiction: games that are relatively "normal" except for one or two things. Example: Flashforward by Robert J. Sawyer.
  • Mystery: Games that focus on solve crimes, disappearances, etc. Example: The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett.
  • Mythological: Sometimes called "epic fiction," Example: Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Science Fiction: Games that take place in the future or near-future or have incredible scientific breakthrough's Example: the Forever War by John Haldeman


Mode
The chosen mode for your campaign is going to depend heavily on your players. If you try to run a gritty campaign, and your players are expecting a cinematic one you are going to either have a short campaign, or you're going to lose players - so you need to match your expectations up with theirs. Again, if you did your Foundation session right, you're going to know the answer to this question, but just in case ask your players again -yes, it is that important! The following scale uses some of my favorite "action" movies as examples.
  • Realistic: The campaign is as "real" as it can get. Guns don't cause you to fly back, falling anything higher than two stories result in real damage, you'll bleed to death if your wounds are severe enough, etc. Example: Ronin (1998)
  • Gritty: The campaign is still "grounded" in the real world, but doesn't use many "harsh realism" rules to better simulate reality, though it does use some. Example: Tears of the Sun (2003)
  • "Base Line": The typical GURPS baseline is a mix of playability and realism that favors the players (which is as it should be). Example: The Bourne Identity (2002)
  • Slightly Cinematic: Like gritty, but in the opposite direction, few or no "harsh realism" rules are in effect and at least one cinematic rule is turned on. Example: Shooter (2007)
  • Cinematic: Larger Than Life heroes tackle larger than life problems and are just too cool to die (or at least die without a dramatic death scene). No "harsh realism" rules are in effect and multiple cinematic rules probably are. Example: Shoot 'Em Up (2007)
One note with modes is that some campaigns a "mixed mode" might be desired. Such campaigns require a little more work, but the extra time could be more than worth it. To create a mixed mode campaign figure out what rules affect player characters, what rules affect non-player characters, and what rules affect both. For example, a gritty world where NPCs use the bleeding rules (p. B420) and can't have cinematic traits may lay side by side with rules exempting PCs from bleeding out, while they can have cinematic traits like Gunslinger or Trained by a Master. Heck, PCs might have access to the Flesh Wounds cinematic rule! (p. B417).

Austerity
Austerity is a measure of how the player character's actions effect the the campaign world. For example, in a low austerity campaign, a Charlie could kill his neighbor Jerry the Vampire and get away with it. In fact, he might have 99 problems, but a vampire ain't one. In a high austerity campaign, the reverse is true. Your actions have consequences. For example, in the above example, the police would get involved. Charlie's neighbor's home would become a crime scene, and he might very well be the lead suspect! The following scale uses some of my favorite TV shows as examples.
  • High Austerity:  Player character actions are treated just like they would be if they had occurred in the "real world." Example: Justified (2010 - present)
  • Medium Austerity:  Player character actions have consequences some of the time - usually in service of the plot. Example: Hell on Wheels (2011 - present)
  • Low Austerity: Player character actions rarely have consequences and when they do it's almost always in the service of the plot. Example: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997 - 2003)


Scale and Scope
These two are related so I've smushed them together.

Scale
Scale is the measure of how your player characters will interact with the world. Do they adventure on the side and still hold a job? Are they full-time heroes? Something in between? The following scale uses some of my favorite comics as examples.
  • Everyman:  Players are expected to deal with "real life" and "adventuring" at the same time. Example: Daredevil.
  • Heroic: The GM decides, but usually the players "adventuring life" takes center stage, except for the occasional "day in the life of" game session. Example: Iron Man.
  • Epic: The players' job is "adventuring!" Example: Guardians of the Galaxy.
Scope
Scope is a measure of how the player characters interact with the campaign environment and how it interacts with them. It's also a measure of how "big" the campaign is. Is it bound to a single city? A specific nation or group of nearby nations? Or is the world the oyster of your globetrotting player characters? The following scale uses some of my favorite anime as examples.
  • Local: The campaign takes place in a specific town, city, or other central location. This does not have to be stationary! A space station could be considered a "Local" campaign even though it could be revolving around a planet or moon. Example: S-Cry-ed
  • National: The campaign takes place in a specific country, nation, or planet (in a space-faring or planet hopping campaign). Example: Hellsing.
  • Global: The campaign takes place on a global scale. Game sessions are almost always in different locations around the global. In a space-faring or planet hopping campaign this is probably best described as Intersteller or Galactic. Example: Trinity Blood.
Multiple scopes may be possible, that is what the player characters see to begin with - and what they may see as the campaign progresses. See GURPS Horror p. 106 for more information on multiple scopes.


Location (Optional)
The campaign's location is really only important if the campaigns' scope is "Local" or the GM decides the players have a base of operation. Simply notate this by name, for example "Chicago" or "Alpha City 3."


The Worked Example: Something, Something Kill Monsters Urban Fantasy Secret Magic
So back to SSKMUFSM, the genre is "Urban Fantasy with Horror and Action elements." The last two are as important as the first because it reveals the nature of the campaign. It's going to be about secret magic, and monster killing, and all that, but it's also going to have some elements of horror in the form of personal conflicts with player character past, and it's going to be slightly action-y because the players aren't going to be low point characters. The latter also suggests the mode: something cinematic. But I've decided I'll do a "mixed mode" - player characters will start with a modified form of the Illuminated advantage (more like an Unusual Background than what that trait is listed as in the Basic Set). This allows them to purchase supernatural traits and buy paranormal powers. I've further decided that everyone in the campaign who doesn't have this trait has a 0-point feature in the form of Mundane Background. Austerity will be medium bordering on high. Player character actions will have consequences so skills like Housekeeping will be useful for cleaning up your prints or removing evidence you might leave behind. The scale will be Heroic - the player's lives and "day jobs" outside of "adventuring" will be useful and used, but mostly during "downtime." The scope will be Local. My players and I had previously discussed what we wanted in a city: it needed to be large enough to support a fairly high supernatural population, be on one of the coasts or near a large body of water, have a colorful history, and have a large underground network of tunnels, abandoned sewers, and so on. The location will be Boston (the city that we all agreed worked best for everything we wanted).

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Triple Threat - Tetramental

http://www.wizards.com/mtg/images/daily/stf/stf37_fusionElemental.jpg

Note: This particular critter was designed by Antoni Ten Munros, I am just tossing it out there for use at his request.

Tetramental
A artificial creation, this is what happens when you fuse together one elemental of each of element: Air (Lightning), Earth, Fire, and Water (Ice). They are often bound to a specific location to serve as protectors.
They look like a humanoid swirling masses of the four elements that compose them, solid enough to affect the material world, but fluid enough to be only slightly bothered by most attacks. This is the weakest variety and most often encountered. There are rumors of stronger Tetramentals that deal twice as much damage, and can use each ability once per turn and more reliably.


Any Campaign Setting...
ST: 20             HP: 20            Speed: 7.00
DX: 14            Will: 12           Move: 11/22
IQ: 8               Per: 12            Weight: 400 lbs.
HT: 14            FP: 14             SM: 0
Dodge: 11       Parry: 14        DR: Special*

Frostbyte (18): This deals 3d burning that will not start fires, ignoring all armor, but is resisted by HT. This ability takes -1/yard away from the target the Tetramental is.
Lightning Stare (18): Deals 3d-3 burning surge arcing with a stunning side effect and secondary paralysis to all targets in a 7 yard long, 3 yard wide cone. DR gained from metallic armor is treated as 1 regardless of its actual value.
Fireball (18): Does 3d burning explosive damage to a two-yard area; Acc 3; range 10/100; RoF 1.
Punch (16): 2d+2 crushing plus a linked attack from the Tetra-Elemental Aura ability.
Stone Missile (18): Inflicts 3d+3 crushing wiht double knockback; Acc 5; range 10/100; RoF 1.
Tetra-Elemental Aura (-): Anyone object or creature touching a tetra-elemental suffers 2d damage per second, of a random type determined as follows: Roll 1d. On a 1, it’s as per Frostbyte. On a 2, it’s Lightning State, on a 3 it’s Fireball, on a 4, it’s  Stone Missile. On a 5, roll again twice, ignoring any result of 5+, it deals 1d damage of the two rolled types. On a 6, roll twice as per 5, but it deals 2d damage per element instead.

Traits: Bad Temper (9); Doesn’t Breathe; Doesn’t Eat or Drink; Doesn’t Sleep; Flight; High Pain Threshold; Immunity to Metabolic Hazards; Indomitable; Infravision; Injury Tolerance (Diffuse); Sadism (9).
Skills: Brawling‑16; Innate Attack (Gaze)-18; Innate Attack (Projectile)-18. 
Notes: Affected by any magic that can affect elementals - cannot be banished or controlled unless the mage can banish or control all four elements of which the creature is composed of.. If the GM is using Intrinsic Fright Check from GURPS Horror (p. 139), Tetramental's have a modifier of -3.
*DR 10 vs fire, lightning, cold, crushing attacks, and missile attacks.




Dungeon Fantasy...
ST: 20             HP: 20            Speed: 7.00
DX: 14            Will: 12           Move: 11/22
IQ: 8               Per: 12            Weight: 400 lbs.
HT: 14            FP: 14             SM: 0
Dodge: 11       Parry: 14        DR: Special*

Frostbyte (20): This deals 3d burning that will not start fires, ignoring all armor, but is resisted by HT. This ability takes -1/yard away from the target the Tetramental is.
Lightning Stare (20): Deals 3d-3 burning surge arcing with a stunning side effect and secondary paralysis to all targets in a 7 yard long, 3 yard wide cone. DR gained from metallic armor is treated as 1 regardless of its actual value.
Fireball (20): Does 3d burning explosive damage to a two-yard area; Acc 3; range 10/100; RoF 1.
Punch (16): 2d+2 crushing plus a linked attack from the Tetra-Elemental Aura ability.
Stone Missile (20): Inflicts 3d+3 crushing wiht double knockback; Acc 5; range 10/100; RoF 1.
Tetra-Elemental Aura (-): Anyone object or creature touching a tetra-elemental suffers 2d damage per second, of a random type determined as follows: Roll 1d. On a 1, it’s as per Frostbyte. On a 2, it’s Lightning State, on a 3 it’s Fireball, on a 4, it’s  Stone Missile. On a 5, roll again twice, ignoring any result of 5+, it deals 1d damage of the two rolled types. On a 6, roll twice as per 5, but it deals 2d damage per element instead.

Traits: Bad Temper (9); Doesn’t Breathe; Doesn’t Eat or Drink; Doesn’t Sleep; Flight; High Pain Threshold; Immunity to Metabolic Hazards; Indomitable; Infravision; Injury Tolerance (Diffuse); Sadism (9).
Skills: Brawling‑16; Innate Attack (Gaze)-20; Innate Attack (Projectile)-20. 
Class: Elemental.
Notes: Affected by any magic that can affect elementals - cannot be banished or controlled unless the mage can banish or control all four elements of which the creature is composed of. 
*DR 10 vs fire, lightning, cold, crushing attacks, and missile attacks. 


For Monster Hunters...
ST: 20             HP: 20            Speed: 7.00
DX: 14            Will: 12           Move: 11/22
IQ: 8               Per: 12            Weight: 400 lbs.
HT: 14            FP: 14             SM: 0
Dodge: 11       Parry: 14        DR: Special*

Fright Check: -3

Frostbyte (20): This deals 5d burning that will not start fires, ignoring all armor, but is resisted by HT. This ability takes -1/yard away from the target the Tetramental is.
Lightning Stare (20): Deals 4d burning surge arcing with a stunning side effect and secondary paralysis to all targets in a 7 yard long, 3 yard wide cone. DR gained from metallic armor is treated as 1 regardless of its actual value.
Fireball (20): Does 5d burning explosive damage to a two-yard area; Acc 3; range 10/100; RoF 1.
Punch (16): 2d+2 crushing plus a linked attack from the Tetra-Elemental Aura ability. Made as a Deceptive Attack (-2 to defend against).
Stone Missile (20): Inflicts 6d crushing wiht double knockback; Acc 5; range 10/100; RoF 1.
Tetra-Elemental Aura (-): Anyone object or creature touching a tetra-elemental suffers 2d damage per second, of a random type determined as follows: Roll 1d. On a 1, it’s as per Frostbyte. On a 2, it’s Lightning State, on a 3 it’s Fireball, on a 4, it’s  Stone Missile. On a 5, roll again twice, ignoring any result of 5+, it deals 1d damage of the two rolled types. On a 6, roll twice as per 5, but it deals 2d damage per element instead.

Traits: Bad Temper (9); Doesn’t Breathe; Doesn’t Eat or Drink; Doesn’t Sleep; Flight; High Pain Threshold; Immunity to Metabolic Hazards; Indomitable; Infravision; Injury Tolerance (Diffuse); Sadism (9).
Skills: Brawling‑20; Innate Attack (Gaze)-20; Innate Attack (Projectile)-20. 
Notes: Affected by any magic that can affect elementals - cannot be banished or controlled unless the mage can banish or control all four elements of which the creature is composed of. Use the skills listed under Free-Willed Spirits in the Know Thy Enemy box in Monster Hunters 1 (p. 16). One tetramental is a fair fight for three to four champions.
*DR 20 vs fire, lightning, cold, crushing attacks, and missile attacks. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Gamemaster's Guidepost: Master of None

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Jack of All Trades is one of my favorite GURPS Talents and is among my favorite character archetypes. The everyman, with every skill is, after all, an awesome motif. Partly inspired by this post, I got to thinking how I've used Jack of All Trades in my own campaigns and what characters (PC or NPC) I've seen that embody the type so well. I've written up a couple of traits over the years for my own games or modified the rules slightly, and I thought I'd share.


The Renaissance Man
You've seen the type before, a seemingly brilliant genius with access to a wide field of knowledge for every occasion. Though a high IQ could be used here (something in the neighborhood of 17 or 18 would do the trick), that may not be something the GM or the player wants. In such cases, Jack of All Trades is a perfect trait. I'd probably peg the needed IQ at 17 - (levels of Jack of All Trades) to pull of most feats seen in fiction. This puts Very Hard skills at a base of 10, Hard at 11, Average at 12, and Easy at 13. But what about learning skills quickly? A new perk may be in order:
Polymath
Prerequisite: IQ 10+ and Jack of All Trades 1+.
You pick things up much more quickly than normal. This results in a decrease in the times to learn new defaultable skills or learnable traits by 10%. This does not apply to traits that have no Default to begin with. At the GM's option, you may purchase multiple levels of this trait, though it may never exceed your level of Jack of All Trades.
Alternatively, perhaps a new option for the Dabbler perk: If the GM allows, you may trade in two of your "slots" to be able to default a skill that normally has no default. Such a skill now defaults to the controlling attribute at -6 (or -7 if a Very Hard skill). The character must have any prerequisites required by the skill itself of course. GMs might also raise the cap on Jack of All Trades from three, to whatever level he has other Talents in the campaign at or whatever level, he feels comfortable with. Do note this might have unintended side effects though, as one poster said in the forum link, having Jack of All Trades at a high level effectively gives you "all skills for free" - this is a problem. A suggested fix is to (obviously) state that you cannot posses a defaulted skill level higher than what you would get if you put points into it. Ignoring Talents and other bonus granting traits that gives us the following:
  • Attribute-4 for Very Hard skills
  • Attribute-3 for Hard skills
  • Attribute-2 for Average skills
  • Attribute-1 for Easy skills
Another thing to consider would be a perk that allows you to "opt out" of the rule against double-defaulting (p. B173), it's effectively a Rules Exemption perk (GURPS Power-Ups 2: Perks, p. 20), but you'd need to specialize by skill category (all Occult skills, all Melee Weapon skills, all Military skills, etc.). Like Skill Adaptation the GM can decide to narrow this down even more, using the same model as Dabbler with its skill slots, but with half the slots available. For example, Rules Exemption (Double Defaults for Melee Weapon skills) might work in one campaign whereas Rules Exemption (Double Defaults for Diagnosis, First Aid, Physician, or Surgery) is appropriate for another.


Picking Over The Bones
So, no matter what, your Jack of All Trades level is you can never get higher than if you spent at least one point in the skill. Keeping this in mind, the highest Jack of All Trades skill level that would be tenable in a campaign is probably level 3, unless skills have a default of -8 or higher. Still, GMs might want characters to be able to pull off such stunts (i.e., having "free" skill levels). Do remember that Dabbler counts as having points in a skill so Jack of All Trades does not add it's bonus.

Edit: As Kalzazz pointed out over on the forums I didn't mention DX - this was sort of intentional, there are more IQ skills than their are Will, Perception, Health, and Dexterity skill put together! (IQ has 146, DX 93, HT 13, Will 12, and Per 12 - this doesn't include specialties, of course). There are also more precedents in fiction for the "renaissance man" than their are for the "uber athlete."

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Carpe Blogiem: Pyramid Mentoring Group, Year 1 Final Report



June 6th, 2014 was the last day for some of the proteges who were a part of my grand experiment in teaching others to write for Pyramid. This blog post serves as a sort of...progress report for the students, mentors, and reviewers (journeymen).

Where We Did Good:
  • Methodology: I don't know if it's because I've got some mild OCD issues or if I managed to plan it out with my fellow mentors, but we were able to communicate some of the more vital formatting lessons fairly easily. Showed a few tricks of the trade and otherwise excelled in helping others understand some of the more stringent requirements for publication. I'm exceedingly proud of this.
  • Output: We put out a lot of material. Twenty-eight articles (about 100,000 words total) from 11 authors. +Steven Marsh even commented on this fact here.
  • Quality: Nothing left the mailing list that was not up to the Steve Jackson Game's House Style. Nothing. If it left the list it had our endorsement, simple as that.

Where We Could Have Done Better:
  • Editing: I'm not a bad editor - but I'm not a great one either. Actually, I take that back, I'm very close to bad, just not actually there. This was a problem for some articles. It's a screw up and I admit it. We could have done better. This was one of the main reasons why I ended up retaining a couple of proteges - they're had good editing skills amongst their other laurels and I need folks who can do line edits.
  • Records-Keeping: I want to keep a log of what we've handled and while we did do it - it could have been a little less sloppy. Again, I'll have to think of a better way to handle this.
  • Organization: We weren't unorganized, but for a while it was just +Douglas Cole and myself pounding articles into shape. I know I personally spent a couple of hours a day sometimes making things work. There was also a weird line between who was a mentor and who wasn't. I've fixed this for next year's class.

Where We Failed:
  • Screening Process: This was...a mess. It needs work. That is all. On a side note, if you send in something to us and I say "This is great, but do X." If you do X...you will get in if there is a spot.
  • Available Spots: Being able to handle two to three students per mentor was...overreaching. This is going to be reduced for the next year which means I'm going to be even more selective. If you want to write, really write and put the effort into it you WILL succeed. I'll help you get there, but I can't make you do anything you don't want to do. If you're heart isn't really in it...well I can't put it there.

Where We Are Going:
I'm not trying to cause collective apoplexy for the Steve Jackson Game's GURPS Staff - but I think Year 2 is going to come about. I think it's a good idea for expanding the writer base, but not so rapidly that we cause issues. Remember, there is no slushpile - the slushpile is a lie - so what ends up happening is Steven gets more useable material than he knows what to do with. I refuse to make that man's life harder than it needs to be. I think we're also going to focus more on quality than quantity. I'm even tempted to come up with a curriculum and go from there. One thing I will be doing is launching a Google Hangouts broadcast for club members on a monthly basis and actively critique a draft and physically show how I format and edit a document. Maybe even write one. I'm told the shortcuts and tricks I use were highly helpful. I'm also considering the possibility of branching out into other systems and zines (so if you have experience there and want to help get a new generation of writers out there - contact me!). I'm going to end up putting up some Rules of "Pyramid Write Club" (other than we do not talk about it) to avoid a few internal issues we had. The "year" will be from September to November, with a month off for December, followed by January to June. Overall, we did really great and I'm happy with how it turned out. We had some people whose name you'll see very soon I think. Very innovative stuff came out of Year 1 and I'm hopeful and excited to see it get out there. Thanks again for everyone who participated. I'd like to wrap this up with my usual message, if you're a experienced writer for Steve Jackson Games (or other zines or companies) and want to help the next generation of writers, please contact me. If you are a aspiring writer and want to apply, please see this post in this thread. Good night and good luck.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Melee Academy: Martial Arts Training

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Based on this thread, a forum poster, Infornific proposed a pretty interesting "what if?" What if Job Training from Power-Ups 3: Talents be expressly allowed for the purposes of learning a specific style of martial arts? That got me thinking...that's not a bad idea. In fact, it's kind of awesome. As someone who has some theoretical knowledge of the martial arts (I'm an untrained brawler and scrapper myself), using a variant of Job Training for a martial arts style seems like a cool way to represent fighting well in one particular style, without being able to fight equally well in all styles.

Note: A good chunk of this came from a forum post and Power-Ups 3.

Martial Arts Style Training
Variable
You've spent hours practicing, teaching, or learning a specific form of martial arts. To acquire this advantage you must already have the Style Familiarity perk for it and have all its required skills at Attribute+0 or better. As long as you spend time training in this particular style, you gain a +1 per level of Martial Arts Style Training on every required skill for your template and techniques, which do not default to a particular skill (such as Retain Weapon for ranged weapons, which defaults to Dexterity). GMs may allow a player to choose optional skills that his particular teacher taught him, if appropriate. This is a task bonus, much like that gained from Higher Purpose or Daredevil. You can have at most four levels of Martial Arts Style Training. This can be broken up into one or multiple styles. GMs may waive this for characters with Altered Time Rate, Doesn’t Sleep, Duplication, etc.

Cost of Martial Arts Training
Each level of this advantage costs 2 plus 1 point per required skill or technique that doesn't have a skill default. For example, Martial Arts Style Training (Escrima) has three required skills, Karate, Main-Gauche, and Smallsword - so cost would be 2 (the base amount) plus 3 (for the three required skills) or 5 points/level. A PC could buy (up to) four levels of this trait and gain a +4 bonus to its required skills and attribute-defaulted techniques.

Acquiring Martial Arts Training
If you learn Martial Arts Training in play, you do so at exactly the same speed as individual skills – that is, at 200 hours/point, modified for the type of training (see pp. B292- 293). To qualify for it, you must spend points as noted above.

Maintaining Martial Arts Training
As long as you spend at least (final cost of Martial Arts Style Training per level) hours a week training in a particular style you retain your skill bonus. If you fail to do this, you'll soon lose the edge you've gained. You drop a level of Martial Arts Training every six months you don't practice. If you have the opportunity to
retrain at a future date, though, you’ll earn back the advantage at double the usual learning speed until you’ve reached your former level.

Drawbacks of Martial Arts Training
Martial Arts Training is priced at about the same cost as a "Smooth Talent" (see Power-Ups 3, p. 25), but has a couple of drawbacks:
  • It has to be maintained (see above). Though this doesn't necessarily mean a character will lose the trait (he might have time to practice while adventuring!), it does pose a chance for him not being able to make the time and thus losing his "edge."
  • It (obviously) doesn't benefit skills or techniques you don't know or know at the default level.
  • Because you're receiving a bonus to skill, but not actually a bump in skill, you don't get any of the benefits of having a high-skill  level (damage bonus, Trained ST, etc.).

Optional Rule: Moar Damage
GMs might allow the bonus from Martial Arts Training to add to damage rolls for those with Trained by a Master or Weapon Master in particularly high-powered  campaigns - though it should never be allowed to stack with the damage bonuses gained from high skill, Weapon Master, etc. This means, at its highest levels you're effectively adding an additional damage to all rolls - as long as you're using your style that is.


Optional Rule: You're Only Ninth Dan?! You Know Nothing of My Kung Fu
GMs might allow each level of Martial Arts Training to reduce the bonus vs. fellow stylist's Deceptive Attacks, Feints, etc. - just like they get from having Style Familiarity. This could be a additional reduction of -1 per level after first, or an additional -1 per full two levels, or just an extra -1 for having any levels of Martial Arts Training.


Picking Over The Bones
Being able to whoop butt with one specific style may just be too darned narrow for some gamers (and that's okay). Going this route instead of just buying more Dexterity, higher skill, or Strength is probably a better deal for someone who knows more than a few styles - in fact it is. The same could be said of just acquiring the style's cinematic skills and going from there.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Triple Threat - Hedleyspawn



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Hedleyspawn
The Hedley Kow is mischievous sprite from Northumberland in northern England. Though it was called the Hedley Kow, the spirit could transform itself into almost any shape to trick others. Wearing a cow’s shape, the tricky creature turned into a cow and let a farmer milk him, but kicked over the pail, slipped its noose, and ran away laughing. Another time it was said to wander into the farm’s kitchen scattering the cheeses, giving the cream to cats, and unraveling the spinning and knitting, When the exasperated farmer took a cane to the beast the Hedley Kow grabbed the stick and nearly beat him to death. Other times it appeared as a horse that would allow itself to be harnessed and ridden towards a nearby source of water where it slip the tack and toss its riders into the drinking, laughing the whole time. It also appeared as a bundle of kindling on the road, but as soon as someone tried to pick it up it would roll out of the way, giggling madly.
            It’s spawn are no better, though they’ve adapted to the times turning into technological items like laptops, cellphones, or even cars. While they are not particularly cruel, they do love to cause trouble and are more than happy to fight others. Unlike The Hedley Kow, Hedleyspawn actually look like oddly misshapen cow-like beings.


Any Campaign Setting...
ST: 10             HP: 10            Speed: 7.00
DX: 13            Will: 12          Move: 6
IQ: 10             Per: 14           Weight: 150 lbs.
HT: 11            FP: 11             SM: 0
Dodge: 10      Parry: 10        DR: 0

Bite (13): 1d-2 crushing. Reach C.
Claw (13): 1d-1 crushing. Reach C.
Other Improvised Weapon (8): Based on Damage 1d-2/1d.
Punch (10): 1d-2 crushing; Reach C.

Traits: Can Be Turned Using True Name*; Combat Reflexes; Curious (12); Danger Sense; Dark Vision; Divine Curse (Can be bound using True Name); Divine Curse (If asked something three times they must make sure it’s true/comes to pass); Divine Curse (Keep to the letter of any promise); Dread (Iron); Dread (Uttering their True Name aloud); Hidebound; Impulsiveness (6); Invisibility (Can Carry Objects, None, +10%; Glamour, Will-5, -5%; Substantial Only, -10%; Switchable, +10%); Magery 3; Morph (Active Change; Improvised Forms; Reliable 10; Unlimited); Odious Personal Habit (Capricious); Overconfidence (12); Revulsion (Iron); Short Attention Span (12); Trickster (12); Unaging; Vulnerability (Iron x2).


Skills:  Acting-16; Brawling-13; Camoflouge-18; Disguise-16; Stealth-18.
Classification: TBA.
Notes: Procreates by “budding.” If the GM is using Intrinsic Fright Check GURPS Horror, (p. 139) Hedleyspawn have a modifier of -0
* Use the rules for True Faith.


For Dungeon Fantasy...
ST: 10             HP: 10            Speed: 7.00
DX: 13            Will: 12           Move: 6
IQ: 10             Per: 14            Weight: 150 lbs.
HT: 11            FP: 11             SM: 0
Dodge: 10       Parry: 10        DR: 0

Bite (13): 1d-2 crushing. Reach C.
Claw (13): 1d-1 crushing. Reach C.
Other Improvised Weapon (8): Based on Damage 1d-2/1d.
Punch (10): 1d-2 crushing; Reach C.

Traits: Can Be Turned Using True Name*; Combat Reflexes; Curious (12); Danger Sense; Dark Vision; Divine Curse (Can be bound using True Name); Divine Curse (If asked something three times they must make sure it’s true/comes to pass); Divine Curse (Keep to the letter of any promise); Dread (Iron); Dread (Uttering their True Name aloud); Hidebound; Impulsiveness (6); Invisibility (Can Carry Objects, None, +10%; Glamour, Will-5, -5%; Substantial Only, -10%; Switchable, +10%); Magery 3; Morph (Active Change; Improvised Forms; Reliable 10; Unlimited); Odious Personal Habit (Capricious); Overconfidence (12); Revulsion (Iron); Short Attention Span (12); Trickster (12); Unaging; Vulnerability (Iron x2).

Skills:  Acting-16; Brawling-13; Camoflouge-18; Disguise-16; Stealth-18.
Classification: Faerie.
Notes: Procreates by “budding.”
* Use the rules for True Faith.

For Monster Hunters...
ST: 14             HP: 14            Speed: 7.00
DX: 13            Will: 12           Move: 6
IQ: 10             Per: 14            Weight: 150 lbs.
HT: 11            FP: 11             SM: 0
Dodge: 10       Parry: 10        DR: 0

Fright Check: 0 (-3 if it shapeshifts into a particularly frightening form)

Bite (13): 1d crushing. Reach C.
Claw (13): 1d+1 crushing. Reach C.
Other Improvised Weapon (8): Based on Damage 1d/2d.
Punch (10): 1d crushing; Reach C.

Traits: Acute Hearing 3; Combat Reflexes; Curious (12); Danger Sense; Dark Vision; Dread (Iron; Can be trapped only; Insensitive);Extended Hearing (Low);Impulsiveness (6); Injury Tolerance (Diffuse; Not against iron attacks); Intolerance (Religious or holy people and places); Invisibility (Glamour, Will-4; Reduced Time 1; Switchable); Jumper (Spirit; Costs Fatigue, 2 FP; Limited Access, Faerie; Special Movement, Must be able to walk; Special Portal, Any reflective surface; Tunnel, Takes Extra Time 5); Language (Tuath; Native); Magery 3;  Morph (Active Change; Improvised Forms; Reliable 10; Unlimited); Overconfidence (12); Short Attention Span (12); Trickster (12); Ultrahearing.

Skills:  Acting-16; Brawling-13; Camoflouge-18; Disguise-16; Stealth-18.
Notes: Procreates by “budding.” Use the skills listed under Free-Willed Spirits in the Know Thy Enemy box in Monster Hunters 1 (p. 16). One or Two Hedleyspawn are a fair fight for one champions armed with iron weapons, or one against two heroes armed only with normal ones.
* Use the rules for True Faith.