Thursday, April 30, 2015

Gamemaster's Guidepost: Bringing Newbies to GURPS


JMD (who, by the way, is one of my absolute favorite people I've met on the forums - he's the mad genius doing the GURPS Calculator) started this thread asking about why people don't like GURPS. If you can read through some of the bullshit, check out the Reddit thread. I rather like this little gem, because it sums up what I've been able surmise on the issue myself.
Because the idea that you don't actually need any of the rules beyond "roll 3d6 under your stat to succeed" isn't telegraphed very well and people end up thinking that you need the super-complex stuff to have a game of GURPS and that just scares off everyone.

When I ran GURPS Dungeon Fantasy at ROFCON I had decided early on I was going to under rug swept everything possible. I didn't want the players to see the versatility of the system by looking at the sheet. I wanted to show it to them while we played. I wanted it to be lightning fast play, but also (not so) subtly pointing out its strengths. Considering I got three players from that game into my permanent gaming group, I think I succeeded. But how did I do it? Was there some scheme involved? Does the Devil look after his own? Or am I just that personable? Well, Big yes to the first, small yes to the second, and so I've been told on the third. At my very core, I am a teller of tales and a spinner of stories, but I had a plan from the very beginning. This is how I did did it:


One on One Teaching
I sat down next to each player and explained to them every line of their character in as much depth as I could shove in 20 minutes. I asked them questions and I got them to ask me questions. I pointed out acronyms and let them take notes. I gave them a quick idea of what needed to be done to play their character.


Real World/Popular Culture/RPG Examples
When I explained the characters to their players, I did it in terms they could easily understand. "Your character can do a cling/pull of over 400 lbs." "Your skill with a sword is at the once in a generation level." "Higher Purpose (Slay Elder Things) is like DnD Favored Enemy." "Your ability to command skeletons is like a Diablo Necromancer." and so on. If you can make those connections you've just done half the work.


The Low Die, Riders a Little Higher
GURPS die rolls is summed up thus: roll low for everything, but damage and reactions. That's it. Us GURPSers know that...but it's hard to understand for some people because nearly every game system out there is "roll high." Because of this I suggest you often repeat that little mantra. "Roll low for everything, but damage and reactions." When a newbie asks you what they want to roll for their Broadsword skill reply ""Roll low on your Broadsword skill, but high on damage." If you do it enough, they'll get it. When they stop asking you what to roll is when you stop repeating it.


Sure, There's a Rule For That
"I want to [insert whatever request], how do I do that?" To which you reply: "Sure, this is GURPS, it's kind of like the RPG smartphone because there is a app for that. And by app, I mean rule." Seriously, this must have happened a dozen times at the table and every single time there was something covering the situation or enough of a rules extrapolation to cover it. Now, I won't lie, this takes a GM who knows the system forward and backward, but if you're familiar enough with GURPS and can do this it WILL win you converts. Even if you are not that familiar with the GURPS system the rules for Roll and Shout! (p. B497) apply here - even in a cinematic game. If you get bogged down by looking for rules the game will stall and you must prevent that no matter what.


Teach the System as You Go
"I'm better when I move!" has been my GM tagline since day one. I'm good at improv/thinking on my feet. I've found that most GMs who've done it for more than a few years usually are. Put those talents to use and showcase a single player's actions as a example of what can be done. "Okay, so what R.F. is doing here is called a Rapid Strike - it's kind of like how high level fighter classes in DnD get more attacks per round. Each additional attack is -6 to his skill normally, but he has Weapon Master, So R. how many..." If you do it right they will remember and you won't have to explain it again.


Jack Bauer Time
Pretend like you have 4 hours to stop the terrorist attack from succeeding and focus. Help the others focus too. If you let a player's attention wander too much the game will bog down and as I've said before YOU CANNOT LET THAT HAPPEN! The terrorists will win if you do - so don't.


Let the Players Be Awesome
Don't say, "No, you can't do that." Say, "Sure, but you'll be at a penalty." In short, let the players be awesome. Some might see this as the players "winning." It's not. It's about letting them shine at the things their characters were built for. Don't punish them because they want to do something that they weren't build for. Encourage them to try new things, but let them know ahead of time it might not work. Taking risks and being rewarded is one of the most satisfying things you can do in a game and it's those experiences that stick with a player the most.


Make It Interesting
Above all remember these three worlds: Make. It. Interesting. Be enthusiastic! Be happy you're there. Let them know that you are happy they are there. Because, damn it, you should be. Let them know that their character actions are cool. But more than that, run your game the way you would want to play it.


Picking Over the Bones
I'm sure I could come up with a few more, but that's what I went into the Con with. Most of this stuff is pretty common sense if you think about it, but getting it codified and laid out can help. What sort rules do you have for yourself when introducing newbies?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

GURPS101: Hordes, Hives, and Human Minds




I like to poke my head outside of my own bubble and work on topics that I might not otherwise pick. I think that if you're going to keep your mind flexible the best way is to solve a problem someone else gives you rather than one you decide needs solving. Over in this thread, Nerdvana asked:
If you are still looking for something to do, a group mind ability (as discussed in this thread or the likes of the Tines from Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep) would be intreguing. Basically a One Mind-Multiple Bodies issue. I had thought of Horde Intelligence but VickyM doesn't believe that would do the trick.

That's a interesting thought, how do you create a "one mind, multiple bodies" character? Well, Kromm came up with a useful method here. But that leaves the problem of the Ally/NPC angle. Basically, NPCs don't pay points for Allies, Patrons, Contacts, etc. and PCs don't pay points for PC allies either...or do they? Well, there are very specific cases where this rule simply does not apply and you might not even have noticed. This has been part of the design philosophy from Allie's inception (so I've been told) and I've personally always treated it as such, but for those needing a reference see GURPS Zombies (p. 50). This is clearly a case where Special Abilities is turning Ally into a supernatural ability versus a social one. In the same way that NPC wizards can purchase NPC familiars with Allies, so can NPCs purchase a ability to share one mind among many bodies. Kromm's method (and the best RAW model I think) boils down to:

Ally (individual of equal points; Constantly; Special Abilities, Can be played as PCs*, +50%) [30]
Mindlink (Allies) [varies]
Telesend (Racial†, -20%) [24]
* In effect, this Special Abilities enhancement lets you do what you like with the Allies, and is comparable to Minion, +50% in terms of waiving your obligations.
† "Racial" being used here as recommended for Duplication.


Yes, that's expensive, a 60-point buy in is nothing to sneeze at, but it levels off a bit after that. Each additional body would add another 30 points and require that you spend 10-points on Mindlink. Now, that assumes that your bodies all possess the same number of points you do. This doesn't always work for some builds because the "alpha-body" might possess superior capabilities, in such cases just lower the point costs. For example, if a super can force-link the minds of others and "slave them" to his own he might have his Allies worth only 25% of his total because they're "just folks." Similarly, you might consider amping up the telepathic abilities by adding Reliable, Broadcast, or Long-Range. Things get weirder when designing a race that's got a single mind with multiple bodies because the vast majority of their points are going to go to their ability to have multiple bodies. It gets even stranger when you add in IQ mitigated by the number of bodies you have to begin with. Were I designing this I think I'd ignore the base cost for Allies and instead charge a cost equal to the Appearance + Enhancements, It wouldn't be much cheaper, but it would decrease the cost some. I think this might also be a case where ignoring the usual rules for Group Allies might be appropriate. Perhaps create a entirely new enhancement:


Mindshare
+50%
Your allies are actually fully under your control and played as if they were PCs because you effectively share one mind between all bodies. This means that even if a body is killed, "you" are not because you've got at least another spare physical form. This does come with a drawback, however, if one of your bodies is becomes unconscious, make a Will roll, note your margin of failure as one of your other bodies also becoming unconscious for the duration. Additionally, use the rules for Ally Groups for over six bodies, despite the fact that each body might have its own personal traits. If your bodies are not susceptible to shared unconsciousness, add +25% to this value. This enhancement also assumes that you can eventually replace lost bodies, but the process is either costly, time-consuming, or requires a roll (pick two). If you only require one of these add +25%, if you require none of them - add +50%; if you require all three then reduce the value of Mindshare by -25%. This enhancement usually accompanies an appearance of Constantly, but this is not required.


Picking Over the Bones
Regardless of your method, this is a difficult ability to build properly and there are multiple ways you could approach it: Possession and Puppets, Duplication, Allies, Mind Control, etc. It becomes further muddied if you become more intelligent the more bodies you have, have a separate "mental body," and so on. It's probably best that you stat out your ability multiple ways to see which one will work best and then go from there. Even with other options I think Allies is the way to go because it makes a ton more sense than Duplication does and Possession or Mind Control would need to be heavily modified to work right. What sort of builds do you prefer? Any tips or tweaks? I'd like to know!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Designer's Notes: Cursed Thou Art

Pyramid078-cvr-final_1000
I've been thinking about coming up with guidelines for some of the fluffier disadvantages for a while now. And this article was the culmination on the one I felt needed it the most: Divine Curse. Divine Curse is one of those traits that is the equivalent of a multi-tool in the GM's toolbox. It can be used for damn near any and everything. It does need some guidelines given how comprehensive it can be and how much word count the Basic Set gave it. "Cursed Thou Art" will hopefully remedy that. It is, essentially, a entire article on how to construct (or deconstruct) Divine Curse for any genre or game you can imagine. Overall I wrote it in under 3 days (31 hours total), revised it in 3 days (14.5 hours total), and polished it up in a single day (2 hours total). I ended up having to remove a lot of content because I just didn't have the space for it - which sucked, but it happens. The editing was surprisingly easier than the writing because I tried to cover everything that I could think of. I went through every 4th edition GURPS book I own (which is to say all of them) and tried to make sure that my article jived with what was already in print - which I think it does. Here are some outtakes (including new Divine Curses). Page references without a listed book point to a page from Pyramid #3/78: Unleash Your Soul.


Outtake: Attribute Penalties
In all cases, having a blanket attribute penalty is not a good idea. Instead, buy down an attribute to whatever the desired level is as a “side effect” of the curse. Situational penalties to attributes, on the other hand, are de rigueur for curses. Applying limitations directly to disadvantages rarely yields fair results, as GURPS Power-Ups 8: Limitations (p. 6) notes. The easiest way is to take the lowered attribute at full value and then take an increase that counters it, then apply any limitations to that trait. For example, ST -2 [-20] would be ST +2 [20]. So if the penalty only applies in combat, instead of ST -2 (Accessibility, Combat only, -40%) [-12], it’s more fair to take ST -2 [-20] + No ST +2 (Accessibility, Combat only, -40%) [12], for a net -8 points. This does take more work on the part of the GM – but it producers more balanced results. The GM may also wish to decide what limitations are applied to the “counter” trait, subtract those from -100%, and treat the result as a special limitation for that disadvantage. In our previous example, this could be written as “ST -2 (Only in combat, -40%) [-8].” GMs may also wish to use Limited DX and Limited IQ (pp. 00-00) from Blessed Be.


Outtake: Box - Breaking the Curse
Divine Curses can usually be removed with the GM’s permission and are bought off in whatever manner is appropriate for the campaign. Spells like Remove Curse (GURPS Magic, p. 126) might do the trick for games using the standard magic system. A more generalized approach might be to use modified Neutralize (GURPS Powers, p. 97). Instead of it affecting a specific power source, it affects a particular type of curse (e.g., a Divine Curse stemming from a supernatural affliction). If it can affect all curse types, add Cosmic (+300%), if the victim has multiple curses, Precise (+20%) allows you to selectively remove one of them. All other options aren’t valid. If this is permanent, add another +300%, otherwise the victim can spend character points to buy off the disadvantage immediately. GMs may wish to generalize Neutralize for other circumstances as well. For example, Neutralize (Wards), might represent an innate ability to ignore magical force fields, supernatural bindings, or divine seals.


Outtake: Quirks
Divine Curses could have any number of quirks “baked in,” but a couple of appropriate choices from both the Basic Set and GURPS Power-Ups 6: Quirks are listed below.

Alcohol Intolerance and Horrible Hangovers (p. B165) can represent a curse by a vengeful deity of wine or alcohol. See Dionysus’ Torment (p. 28) for an example.
Cannot Float (p. B165) is often included in curses foretelling death by drowning or at sea.
Congenial (p. B164) is appropriate to curses that compel characters to be alone or seek solitude, as part of such curses is the longing to be with others again.
Damned (GURPS Power-Ups 6: Quirks, p. 34) represents the fact that no matter what virtuous acts a character performs during his life he’s going to end up going to Hell, Gehenna, or whatever plane of punishment is appropriate for the campaign setting.
Distractible and Dreamer (p. B164) are perfect for curses that causes misfortune on specific types of tasks.
Distinctive Features (p. B165), like Unnatural Features (p. B22) can have its bonus to identify you be made specific to a group of people.
Incompetence (p. B164) ­– often more than one – can represent a skill or task that is “taboo” for the cursed one to perform. If a character gains a Divine Curse in play that makes it impossible for him to use a skill he has points in, he doesn’t lose those points immediately, instead he treats all of his rolls as if they were defaulted, but at an extra -4. If he loses the curse later on, he gains access to his previous skill level.
Neutered or Sexless (p. B165) can be a curse bestowed by a vengeful ex-spouse or angry goddess of love ­– you still have all your “parts,” but they don’t work. And never will.
Personality Change (p. B164) and Appearance Change (GURPS Power-Ups 6: Quirks, p. 10) suit curses that show a character’s “inner nature.”


Outtake: Various Curses
I ended up having to remove a lot of curses due to wordcount issues, but like I always do, I write it and then I slim it. Here are a few Divine Curses that either didn't "pop" enough for me to fit them in or I felt were superfluous.


Enmity
varies
Suggested Types: Commandment, Cosmic Law, Self-Imposed, Supernatural Affliction, or Weird Science.

Maybe you angered an entire race or people and they marked you somehow or maybe your people and theirs have been killing each other for so long they don’t remember why they’re doing it anymore, they just do it. Whatever the reason, whenever you encounter a member of your acrimonious race they immediately attack you first and worst. Should it matter, treat this as a Disastrous reaction roll. This value of this disadvantage depends on exactly what dislikes you.

     Value Description
     -5      50% or less of the starting campaign point total.
     -10    100% or less of the starting campaign point total.
     -20    150% or less of the starting campaign point total.
     -30    200% or less of the starting campaign point total.
     -40    300% or more of the starting campaign point total.

This is further modified by how commonly encountered the group is:

     Multiplier    Description
     x1                Nearly everyone in your game world.
     x2/3             Everyone except a large class of people or a very large class of people.
     x1/2             A large class of people.
     x1/3             A small class of people.
     x1/5             A very small class of people.

This assumes that the group attacks them on sight or otherwise actively hinders them in a dangerous way. If this is not the case, use one of the following:

     Multiplier    Intent
     x1                Hunter: Seeks to harm or otherwise dangerously hamper the character.
     x3/4             Nemesis: Roll 3d, on a 9 or less treat as Rival, otherwise treat as Hunter.
     x1/2             Rival: Seeks to annoy and inconvenience, but not kill or cause lasting harm.
     x1/4             Watcher: Seeks to stalk or spy on you.

Finally, tally everything up. For example, if you are an angel and demons attack you first and worst on sight (Hunter, x1), are equal in point value (-10 points), but are somewhat rare in the material world (Large class, x1/2), then this would be worth -5 points.

Designer’s Notes: This is Enemy as a Divine Curse, p. 27.


Interesting Life
-15 points
Suggested Types: Destiny, Misfortune, Self-Imposed, Supernatural Affliction, or Weird Science.

Once someone said “May you live in interesting times,” since then you have. You really wish it would stop, but that wouldn't be interesting. So you continue on as you do. “Interesting times” can be mean anything the GM wants it to, but it usually means the character is directly involved in events that might happen to someone else once or twice in their life, except it’s always happening to them. He always walks into the convenience store just as it’s being robbed. He finds himself involved in a criminal plot to steal millions because

Designer’s Notes: This Weirdness Magnet [-15] retooled to be more cinematic than outright weird. The cost remains the same and can represent some of the logic used in action movies to explain why the protagonist is so often in the “wrong place, right time.”


Shadow of the Self
-10 points
Suggested Types: Destiny, Self-Imposed, Supernatural Affliction, or Weird Science.

The character’s shadow matches their “innermost self.” For example, if a character with this Divine Curse also had Sadism and Overconfidence, then his shadow might look like a demon or “classic torturer.” Whatever the effects, those who notice your shadow get the benefits of Empathy when using one of your disadvantages against you (this stacks with Empathy if you already have that trait). This also gives you a -2 to reaction rolls when people notice your shadow self and your real self don’t match up. As a side effect, characters with the ability to change their shape can be recognized by their shadow, which appears to be who they are in their normal form.

Designer’s Notes: This is Supernatural Features (Animated Shadow) [-10] with the bonus to deduce what you are traded in for giving others a bonus for skills covered under Empathy (p. B51).

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Gamemaster's Guidepost: Overcoming GM's Block



"We'll play next week guys...maybe, I just need to get over this block." It's happened to all of us at one time or another. Whether it's for fifteen minutes or 15 weeks, it happens to the best of us. Anyone who says otherwise is trying to sell you something. So when the ugly aegis of the Gamemaster's Block rears its ugly head here are a few things I've found that helps.


Change of Venue
Sometimes the best way to shake things up in your head is to shake up things around you. Humans like novel things and places and we can fall into funks when things stay the same for too long. Even small changes of your environment can help. Take your GMing notes out to your patio or yard and work. Go to a friend's or relatives house. If you can't do any of those consider writing in another room or changing the composition of your typical writing room around.


Change of Views
Running a fantasy campaign you can't get your head around? Run a modern supers game. Got a contemporary urban fantasy that just won't start? Run a space opera. It doesn't have to be anything more than one or two sessions, but coming at a problem from a different angle is often the only way to solve it.


Be the Player for a While
Sometimes you just need to play a game and not GM at all. For those who GM often (like myself), this can be hard because we like to GM in the first place and letting go and putting ourselves in someone else's hands is HARD. Sometimes you just have to do this, whether it's to get a fresh perspective or just to "veg out."


People Watch
This one is kind of specialized and might not apply to everyone, but one of the best ways to be inspired for a campaign is to go to a public place (shudder! I know introverts - I'm there with you, but bear with me) and people watch. Listen to the roar of the crowd, watch people carry on their life, and pay attention. Sometimes it only takes a snippet of conversation to spark the creative engine.


Get Out of the House
Grab a notepad and pen and then just leave your house and go somewhere. Maybe to your FLGS or maybe to the park. But go somewhere. If you can go to somewhere you haven't gone or rarely go, even better. Sometimes you can break a rut by simply going off road - it might take you a while to get back to where you wanted to go in the first place - but it's better than being stuck.


Consume Pop Culture
I've found that some of the best ways to be inspired to run a game is to watch, read, or listen to the sorts of popular culture you want to imitate in your campaign. For instance, if you want to run a supers campaign similiar to Marvel's premise it's time to gear up the MCU and DVR Agent's of S.H.I.E.L.D. One thing I'll note here is that sometimes watching, reading, or listening to material that has NOTHING to do with what you are trying to run can be helpful.


Do Related Activities
Sometimes you need to think about what you want to GM, while you are doing related activities. Having trouble writing down notes? Create a map or sketch out a relationship chart. Maybe do some research into the themes you're intended to run, whatever it is, work while you wait.


Soundtracking
One of the things that helps me clear my head the most is building soundtracks for my campaigns. Aural stimuli is incredibly important to me as a GM and my players have come to rely on it as well. I'll spend hours building the right "mix tape" for my campaign (or even game sessions). I find that it helps me focus on what's important and what needs to be done.


No Gaming
Sometimes you need to just break from the hobby. Take time off from gaming or thinking about gaming. Occupy yourself in other ways. I tend to binge on video games while I'm taking a break to let my creative batteries recharge. Videogaming is very zen for me because I play until I'm exhausted and then I sleep and do it again. Now, that's not for everyone because I set my own work hours so I can do that.


Time Isn't On Your Side (No, It Isn't)
Sometimes, no matter how much you may wish otherwise the only thing that's going to cure your block is to not GM. That's a hard thing to accept, but some folks just need to recharge the old fashioned way and time is the only thing that really works. Sometimes you just need to give your mind time to rest, recoup, and rejuvenate.


Picking Over the Bones
When it comes down to it, you've probably got a good idea of the sorts of things you need to do to get back in the game. Maybe you jam Eye of the Tiger before each session complete with air guitar solos - that's probably just me - or maybe you bingewatch Game of Thrones for the the fourth time in a month - also probably just me - but whatever it is...do it. Whatever you do, stay occupied and don't worry about lack of ideas. The ideas always come eventually, you just have to be patient.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sicatra - The Twisted Vault - Game Session 4



Adventuring Party
Bashir Al-Sah’a’den (PC – Desert Elf Scout/Holy Warrior of Justice)
Drej the Spider (PC – Half-Elven Dark One Thief/Wizard)
Perilous Moonglow (PC – Unknown Meistersinger/Mystic Swordsman/Thief)
Sir Rolf Stoneshield (PC – Earth-Infused – Knight)
Tantalus von Darkon (PC – Human – Necromancer)

Marko Blinz, Jr. (NPC – Dwarf ­– Squire [Secular Squire])
Talia Albinus Carnus Severus (NPC – Half-Elf – Unknown)
Tanor Rynson (NPC – Human ­– Squire [Holy Squire])
Vanor Rynson (NPC – Human ­– Squire [Holy Squire])
Wrykin (NPC – Human – Barbarian)

Muriss (NPC Ally – Orecile – Animal Companion)
Nebrija Dhamari (NPC Ally – Elf? – Unknown)
Alex Larre (NPC Ally – Servitor Skeleton)


Note: This was ran as a MIB demo at ROFCON 2015.


The Story Thus Far for Sir Rolf Stoneshield and Tantalus von Darkon…

Coming down from the north badlands to the south, Sir Rolf, Tantalus, and several other companions made their way along the caravan routes to Al-Madina. Once inside the borders of the town they were asked by the local blacksmith, Skorza, to see if they could assist another band of adventurers that had offered to help the town, but had disappeared into the copper mines. Following the road outside of town to the mines, Rolf and Tantalus came across the mine’s entrance where Talia Severus and her Warband lay guarding it to make sure nothing else could sneak in after the rest of the party. Talia offers to heal any wounds they might have and tells them if they want to follow them inside; they’ve got a rope tamped down leading to the trail of the large cavern. Once inside they find the odd glowing mushrooms and quickly hurry along. Finally, they hear the sounds of battle and rush to aid those caught in it…



Weather: 82º F; 3 mph winds from the south; overcast
Tenth Month, 12th Day, 789 of the Fifth Age
Old Copper Mines, Al-Madina, Tahwah-Sa

The delvers have tried to make their way to at least one of the doors in either the north or west sides of the cavern, but the seemingly endless supply of distorted townsfolk or fungoid zombies have made it difficult. Once Rolf and Tantalus join the fray the zombies quickly find themselves outnumbered thanks to the necromancer’s abilities and after a quick mop up the two groups of adventurers talk to one another before deciding to join up to find the cause of the villager’s disappearances. Getting into the western door is easy enough and the adventurers find themselves in a short corridor leading to another door that’s been trapped with a poisoned needle. Drej easily picks the lock and disarms the trap and the party find themselves in a large, well-appointed sitting room. The PCs quickly gather up anything of value and Tantalus keeps one of the sitting chairs, which, among other things quickly removes fatigue. 

Having several of his skeletal minions carry it about he directs them from his nearly acquired “comfy chair.” They end up in an alchemical lab (after sending in Alex to deal with the death runes on the door by walking into them and opening the it) occupied by two giant floating eyeballs of death, which they kill quickly. Afterward they loot the room and head to the next area, which turns out to be a storage closet occupied by mutated “phase rat” swarms. The rats quickly appear and disappear striking at the delvers and nearly killing Bashir as they get in close and under his armor. Perilous charms one of the swarms, which quickly cover her in a musophobic’s nightmare - though she doesn’t seem to mind as they chirp and squeak in happiness. Once the battle is over Peri performs some quick first aid.

From there they head to the kitchen. It’s only seconds before the various kitchen utensils, cleaning implements, and even the stove come to life and attack them. It’s clearly a case of magic gone wild and after they managed to put down the animated objects. Bashir ends up bashing an animated collider with a dancing chair and while it does break the collider and the chair…it also hurts himself. In the corner they spot what appears to be a man made of metal and cogs and after trying to activate it, they give up and Perilous puts the artificial being in her backpack.

Weather: 82º F; 3 mph winds from the south; overcast
Tenth Month, 12th Day, 789 of the Fifth Age
Lidis’ Workshop, Al-Madina, Tahwah-Sa

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Gamemaster's Guidepost: Mini-Location - Fantasy Smithy



Sometimes you just need to drop a location into your game that’s already ready to go. It doesn’t mean a GM is ill-prepared, but he can’t predict every player character action. So what’s he to do? Well, GURPS has quite a few supplements out there that can detail specific locations, but what about smaller areas? Maybe just a building or two? Today’s Gamemaster’s Guidepost seeks to explore that idea with a “mini-location”: a typical fantasy smithy, with map, a few adventure seeds, and game stats for both the building and its contents …

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


Note: This is an experiment for me as it took a lot of time to produce (and the artist to draw). I'd like to do some more "generally" useful locations like boat docks, warehouses, and so on, but I want to see how well this does (or doesn't do). So if you'd like to see more ready to drop in locations for GURPS, become a patron. :-D

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Triple threat: Nemean Lion




This huge lion was the scourge of Nemea until Hercules killed it. Unable to be harmed by mortal weapons, it took Hercules great strength to snap the creature’s neck. Afterward, he’d skinned the beast with one of its own claws and wore it on the rest of his labors. In GURPS, “invincibility” is not something easy to stat out and depends entirely on the campaign setting. Take the highest damage a average person can inflict with the setting's handheld weaponry and multiply it by six to determine its DR. Note: The Nemean Lion is a creature from the Grecian mythos.



For Any Setting...
ST: 30             HP: 35            Speed: 8.00
DX: 16            Will: 14           Move: 14/28  
IQ: 8               Per: 18            Weight: 1,200 lbs.
HT: 16            FP: 20             SM: +2
Dodge: 12       Parry: 14        DR: 72 (Cosmic)

Bite (16): 4d+5 impaling. Reach C-1. This attack ignores DR and is treated as a Striker, not a body part. Made as a Deceptive Attack (-1 to defend against).
Claw (16): 4d+5 cutting. Reach C-2. This attack ignores DR and is treated as a Striker, not a body part. Made as a Deceptive Attack (-1 to defend against).
Torso Grapple (16): No damage, but on further turns can squeeze (Choke or Strangle, p. B370) as ST 40. Treat this as a two-handed grapple. Made as a Deceptive Attack (-1 to defend against).

Traits: Catfall; Combat Reflexes; Compulsive Man-Eating (6); Discriminatory Smell; Enhanced Move 1 (Ground); Extra Attack 2; Fur; High Pain Threshold; Injury Tolerance (Damage Reduction 2); Limited Camouflage (Dense Vegetation and Shadows); Night Vision 9; Penetrating Voice; Perfect Balance; Silence 4; Striking ST+5 (Bite only); Super Jump 2; Temperature Tolerance 20; Terror 10 (Hearing); Unfazeable; Very Fit;  Very Rapid Healing; Vibration Sense (Air).
Skills:  Brawling-18; Climbing-20; Jumping-18; Stealth-18; Survival (Plains)-18; Swimming-16; Wrestling-18.
Notes: Its DR or Injury Tolerance (Damage Reduction) can only be negated by the hands of gods, demi-gods, or weapons especially blessed by a deity (in person!). It also doesn’t apply to fatigue damage such as that inflicted by a choke hold or through suffocation. If the GM is using Intrinsic Fright Check from GURPS Horror (p. 139), the Nemean Lion has a modifier of -6.


For Dungeon Fantasy...
ST: 30             HP: 35            Speed: 8.00
DX: 16            Will: 14           Move: 14/28
IQ: 8               Per: 18            Weight: 1,200 lbs.
HT: 16            FP: 20             SM: +2
Dodge: 12       Parry: 14        DR: 24 (Cosmic)

Bite (16): 4d+5 impaling. Reach C-1. This attack ignores DR and is treated as a Striker, not a body part. Made as a Deceptive Attack (-3 to defend against).
Claw (16): 4d+5 cutting. Reach C-2. This attack ignores DR and is treated as a Striker, not a body part. Made as a Deceptive Attack (-3 to defend against).
Torso Grapple (16): No damage, but on further turns can squeeze (Choke or Strangle, p. B370) as ST 40. Treat this as a two-handed grapple. Made as a Deceptive Attack (-3 to defend against).

Traits: Catfall; Combat Reflexes; Compulsive Man-Eating (6); Discriminatory Smell; Enhanced Move 1 (Ground); Extra Attack 2; Fur; High Pain Threshold; Injury Tolerance (Damage Reduction 2); Limited Camouflage (Dense Vegetation and Shadows); Night Vision 9; Penetrating Voice; Perfect Balance; Silence 4; Striking ST+5 (Bite only); Super Jump 2; Temperature Tolerance 20; Terror 10 (Hearing); Unfazeable; Very Fit; Very Rapid Healing; Vibration Sense (Air).
Skills:  Brawling-22; Climbing-20; Jumping-18; Stealth-18; Survival (Plains)-18; Swimming-16; Wrestling-22.
Combat Effectiveness Rating: 264 (OR 141 and PR 123).
Class: Dire Animal and Servitor of Evil.
Notes: Its DR or Injury Tolerance (Damage Reduction) can only be negated by the hands of gods, demi-gods, or weapons especially blessed by a deity (in person!). It also doesn’t apply to fatigue damage such as that inflicted by a choke hold or through suffocation. Its golden hide can be skinned from it and requires either a Survival-10 or Professional Skill (Butcher)-10 roll to remove without ruining it. Do note that you need to have a weapon that can actually skin it in the first place (its claws are perfect for this). Failure ruins it as armor. Success means the hide was removed in such a way that it can be turned into armor through the usual means, albeit at a -10 penalty to skill rolls. It provides 3 levels of DR per point of margin of success (up to DR 24). Such DR is not as tough as the lion’s was while alive, but has three levels of Hardened (critical success brings this to six levels). This fits a SM+0 delver; critical success lets it fit SM+1 delver!


For Monster Hunters...
ST: 30             HP: 35            Speed: 8.00
DX: 16            Will: 14           Move: 15/30 
IQ: 8               Per: 18            Weight: 1,200 lbs.
HT: 16            FP: 20             SM: +2
Dodge: 12       Parry: 14        DR: 72 (Cosmic)

Fright Check: -10

Bite (16): 4d+5 impaling. Reach C-1. This attack ignores DR and is treated as a Striker, not a body part. Made as a Deceptive Attack (-4 to defend against).
Claw (16): 4d+5 cutting. Reach C-2. This attack ignores DR and is treated as a Striker, not a body part. Made as a Deceptive Attack (-4 to defend against).
Torso Grapple (16): No damage, but on further turns can squeeze (Choke or Strangle, p. B370) as ST 40. Treat this as a two-handed grapple. Made as a Deceptive Attack (-4 to defend against).

Traits: Catfall; Combat Reflexes; Compulsive Man-Eating (6); Discriminatory Smell; Enhanced Move 1 (Ground); Extra Attack 2; Fur; High Pain Threshold; Injury Tolerance (Damage Reduction 2; Homogeneous); Limited Camouflage (Dense Vegetation and Shadows); Night Vision 9; Penetrating Voice; Perfect Balance; Regeneration (Regular); Silence 4; Striking ST+5 (Bite only); Super Jump 2; Temperature Tolerance 20; Terror 10 (Hearing); Unfazeable; Very Fit; Very Rapid Healing; Vibration Sense (Air).
Skills:  Brawling-24; Climbing-20; Jumping-18; Stealth-18; Survival (Plains)-18; Swimming-16; Wrestling-24.
Notes: Its DR or Injury Tolerance can only be negated by the hands of gods, demi-gods, or weapons especially blessed by a deity (in person!). It also doesn’t apply to fatigue damage such as that inflicted by a choke hold or through suffocation. Use the skills listed under Cryptids in the Know Thy Enemy box in Monster Hunters 1 (p. 16). The Nemean Lion is a powerful boss monster and a team will need serious preparation to take it out.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Book Review: GURPS High-Tech: Adventure Guns


Gurps_high_tech_adventure_guns_1000

Hans-Christian Vortisch is perhaps one of my favorite role-playing game authors and I think, one of the most underrated. The sheer amount of knowledge the man knows on things that go boom and other martial topics is...well, ridiculous. First, if you don't know who I'm talking about, go over to +Douglas Cole's Fire Squad interview with him in it. Done? Excellent. Onto Adventure Guns. I got got playtest this book, but like most of the playtesters, I didn't get a credit. The playtest was kind of dead. I don't know why for the others, but in my case it was two reasons: 1) the manuscript was extremely well-written and researched - I couldn't find anything wrong within the scope of my knowledge and my best friend's (an admitted "gun bunny") knowledge. I instantly put to use half a dozen of the listed weapons in my campaign and tried to see if anything nuts happened. It didn't. 2) I was nowhere near as versed in GURPS style and format as I am now (I doubt I would have found anything wonky anyways, Hans is extremely precise). The book itself is incredibly useful for both "pulp" and "wild west" games and features all manner of interesting weapons and bits of history. It's only flaw, and the flaw of all gear/weapon catalogs is that it is repetitive at some points. Still, Hans manages to make even repetition entertaining as he lays out where you can see such weapons in history, fiction, and cinema - something he does quite well (check out his "Famous Wild West Gunfights" - you won't be sorry). If you're running a game that feature TL5 to early TL6 tech that also has firearms, you need this book. If you're a gun enthusiast, you need this book. If you are running a game that has firearms period, you need this book. Overall, it gets 4.5 out of 5 pennies, despite the slightly repetitive nature of its text, which again, is something that all gear/weapon catalogs suffer and is not unique to this work. I personally would give it a full 5 pennies, but I am a gun enthusiast, so that colors my objectivity a bit.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sicatra - The Twisted Vault - Game Session 3


Adventuring Party
Bashir Al-Sah’a’den (PC – Desert Elf Scout/Holy Warrior of Justice)
Drej the Spider (PC – Half-Elven Dark One Thief/Wizard)
Marko Blinz, Jr. (PC – Dwarf ­– Squire [Secular Squire])
Perilous Moonglow (PC – Unknown Meistersinger/Mystic Swordsman/Thief)
Wrykin (NPC – Human – Barbarian)
Talia Albinus Carnus Severus (PC – Half-Elf – Unknown)
Tanor Rynson (PC – Human ­– Squire [Holy Squire])

Muriss (NPC Ally – Orecile – Animal Companion)
Nebrija Dhamari (NPC Ally – Elf? – Unknown)
Vanor Rynson (NPC – Human ­– Squire [Holy Squire])


Note: This was ran as a MIB demo at my local game store


Weather: 94º F; 9 mph winds from the south; clear skies
Tenth Month, 12th Day, 789 of the Fifth Age
Ahnir Homestead, Al-Madina, Tahwah-Sa

Nebrija manages to create a temporary one-use duplicate of the Hedgestone that once activated will act as a full Hedgestone, but for 48 hours only.  Saying their goodbyes to the Ahnir family, the PCs make their way back to Al-Madina to see if they can rally some townsfolk to head with them to check out the mountains/mines. Ambrose and Torqua volunteer to stay at the Ahnir farmstead to secure the food supply to the town.


Weather: 88º F; 11 mph winds from the south; overcast
Tenth Month, 12th Day, 789 of the Fifth Age
Al-Madina, Tahwah

Once back in town, the PCs encounter a Warband1 and their favorite healer – Talia – is there. Since Perilous and Talia were trained together they catch-up and when Perilous informs her what is happening in the town she convinces Talia to help her even though nearly half of the Warband protests. Rolf and his squires also offer to help further splitting the group. Grabbing supplies from the All-Goods Shoppe, the store-owner manages to foist his young “lay about” son onto the PCs as a henchmen “free of cost” if they teach him a trade. Perilous offers to help him become a bard, which seems to excite the young dwarf and after a visit Skorza’s smithy for some more adventuring gear the party of sets off to visit the mines.


Weather: 88º F; 11 mph winds from the south; overcast
Tenth Month, 12th Day, 789 of the Fifth Age
Old Copper Mines, Al-Madina, Tahwah

Bashir tracks the voidspawn2 from the Ahnir farmstead to the old copper mine. Within minutes they are attacked by dozens of voidspawn in a battle that lasts seemingly forever as the creatures pour endlessly from the mouth of the cave. Eventually, the PCs win and burn the bodies so they don’t contaminate the area. The PCs leave their camels and szith outside protected by a magically conjured watchdog and then head inside. Once inside the PCs are alarmed to find the walls covered in magically phoscerescent mushrooms glowing; the tracks from the voidspawn clear they follow the trail until they encounter a huge cavern that’s perfectly smoothed out with a single outcropping in the middle highly reminiscent of the pedestal and a semi-circular indentation on top. Inside the cavern are two manmade doors – one to the north and one to the west. Stopping a moment to catch their breath they decide which door to enter…

Weather: 88º F; 11 mph winds from the south; overcast
Tenth Month, 12th Day, 789 of the Fifth Age
Old Copper Mines, Al-Madina, Tahwah



1 Warbands are elite mercenary units who serve the church of Nyto and consider of healers, holy warriors, highly trained knights, and the occasional warsinger (who are deemed too rare to use but in the largest of warbands). Honorable, duty-driven, and fearless in battle, a Warband of Nyto is the next best thing to a personal army.
2 Voidspawn are what native Sicatrians refer to Dungeon Fantasy elder things.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Hurt Locker: The Golden Monk


Self-mummification is a real (and kind of squicky) practice. But what could possibly be better fodder for a RPG MacGuffin then a statue of a dead monk covered in gold? The following uses generic terms that could fit into any sort of campaign.


Description
Resembling a man sitting in the lotus position, the Golden Monk is actually a combination of lacquer, copper, and gold-leaf painted on the form of a desiccated corpse whose internal organs have been removed and the rest of his body allowed to dry over several years. The base is made of ceder wood which has been lacquered as well.

liuquan1.jpg


Brief History
At least a thousand years old, the statue holds the earthly remains of  Xi Quo Shan, a Buddhist monk of some renown. Before he died, Shan realized he still had more to teach his students and in a final act of fortitude used his very bones to create a conduit that he could communicate with others from beyond death. Passed down through the years, the Golden Monk has been in the hands of paupers and princes alike and is said to harness thoughts and still the mind. It has been in the hands of madmen, tyrants, and musicians who all claim that it's given them some special insight into their craft.


Secrets/Complications 
Depending on the campaign, any number of complications
Action: Recently, it's come up on a auction and their are multiple interested buyers who are not interested in actually buying it, but stealing it. Its "insight" granting abilities are purely a placebo effect - though one rich (and dying) billionaire Thomas Reva believes in. He hires the PCs to steal it for him (or to stop others from stealing it so he can outright buy it). Can the PCs work up the perfect plan to get in and out of the auction house before being seen? Will they live long enough to claim their promised reward?
Dungeon Fantasy: The delvers have just found the Golden Monk hidden in the recesses of a ruined monastery (or are going after it!). They've been charged by the Master of the West Wind to bring this holy relic back to the Order, but find in doing so they have given a corrupt martial artist access to unfettered power. The statue contains not only the soul of a powerful martial artist - but a demon who possessed the body of the martial artist (resulting in the monk mummifying himself to contain its spirit forever). Unleashing his wrath on his temple the Master of the West Wind summons demons and chaos monks to get rid of his brethren. Can the delvers assault the temple and stop this mad man from raining his wrath across the land? Or will they succumb to the temptation of power that the Golden Monk offers?
Monster Hunters: The Golden Monk is the tether for a powerful ghost who helps those he considers worthy (whatever his criteria are they must be odd, because he's helped master vampires and vampire hunters alike). He can teach any sort of supernatural ability including psionic powers, mysticism abilities, and magical Paths. The champions can even benefit from such teaching, but learn the secret of whom he considers worthy: they must beat him in a duel. If they succeed he'll teach them whatever they wish to know, but if they fail...well, it's not pretty.
Pulp: As for Action, but the statue is rumored to hold a map hidden on its surface to a famous lost city. Regardless of whether it has power or not, people want it for the map that can lead them to a place of untold riches. GMs wanting to complicate matters can have the statue contain the spirit of a enlightened monk who can teach things like psionic powers, secret martial arts techniques, etc.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Triple Threat: Aurumvorax


"A is for aurumvorax and that's good enough for me!" Aurumvorax (plural aurumvorai? aurumvoraxes? aurumvorae? aurumvorax?) are nasty critters that snack on metal like a junkie on smack. Isn't that fun? Hell yes it is. Originally appearing in the Expedition to the Barrier Peaks and has since been reprinted any number of times. When I ran Dungeons and Dragons they were a bit of a staple in my games and I even had one player (C.) get one as a baby, train it as a animal companion, and feed it nothing but mithril for a nice shiny negative armor class hide. Described as...
"An aurumvorax resembles an eight-legged mustelid: ferocious and tenacious as a badger, slinky like a ferret, but about 3 feet long. It has slightly leonine features, and its golden-brown fur is as strong as field (or plate) armor. Despite the relatively small size, the aurumvorax is physically powerful. The aurumvorax is a solitary creature with similar habits to many real-life woodland animals. Aurumvoraxes are neutral in alignment and cannot speak."

So it kind of looks like this:




So here its stats for GURPS...


For Any Game...
ST: 16             HP: 21            Speed: 7.00
DX: 14            Will: 14           Move: 7
IQ: 6               Per: 14            Weight: 200-300 lbs.
HT: 14            FP: 14             SM: -1
Dodge: 11       Parry: n/a       DR: 12/6*

Bite (16): 1d+2 cutting. Treat as a weapon (Striker), not as a body part.
Claw (16): 1d+2 cutting. Treat as a weapon (Striker), not as a body part.
Rend (14): Two attacks against the same opponent. Use the same damage as the claw entry. If the target was worried last turn, instead roll 1d and roll that many attacks instead!
Torso Grapple (16): No damage, but on further turns can squeeze (Choke or Strangle, p. B370) as ST 16† or win a Quick Contest of ST 21† against the best of opponent’s ST, DX, Judo, or Wrestling to pull him to its mouth.
Worry (-): This can only be used after a target has been bitten. It does the same damage as the bite entry.

Traits: Acute Hearing 3; Acute Smell 2; Bad Temper (12); Berserk (12); Burrower; Cannot Float; Claws (Sharp); Combat Reflexes; Dark Vision; Discriminatory Smell; Flexibility; Fur; High Pain Threshold; Immunity to Poison; Overconfidence (12); Peripheral Vision; Quadruped; Teeth (Sharp); Temperature Tolerance 6; Terrain Adaptation (Rocky); Tunneling (Move 4); Uncontrollable Appetite (12) (Metals); Unfazeable; Universal Digestion (Metals only).
Skills: Brawling-16; Stealth-14; Survival (Mountains, Plains, or Woodlands)-14; Tracking-17; Wrestling-16. 
Notes: Natural Biter 3. If the GM is using Intrinsic Fright Check from GURPS Horror (p. 139), aurumvorax have a modifier of -1,
* Use the lower value versus piercing, impaling, or fire-based attacks.
† Assumes two arms; +2 for each additional arm used. Count their bite as a separate arm for this purpose.




For Dungeon Fantasy
ST: 16             HP: 21            Speed: 7.00
DX: 14            Will: 14           Move: 7
IQ: 6               Per: 14            Weight: 200-300 lbs.
HT: 14            FP: 14             SM: -1
Dodge: 11       Parry: n/a       DR: 8/4*

Bite (16): 1d+2 cutting. Treat as a weapon (Striker), not as a body part.
Claw (16): 1d+2 cutting. Treat as a weapon (Striker), not as a body part.
Rend (14): Two attacks against the same opponent. Use the same damage as the claw entry. If the target was worried last turn, instead roll 1d and roll that many attacks instead!
Torso Grapple (16): No damage, but on further turns can squeeze (Choke or Strangle, p. B370) as ST 16† or win a Quick Contest of ST 21† against the best of opponent’s ST, DX, Judo, or Wrestling to pull him to its mouth.
Worry (-): This can only be used after a target has been bitten. It does the same damage as the bite entry.

Traits: Acute Hearing 3; Acute Smell 2; Bad Temper (12); Berserk (12); Burrower; Cannot Float; Claws (Sharp); Combat Reflexes; Dark Vision; Discriminatory Smell; Flexibility; Fur; High Pain Threshold; Immunity to Poison; Overconfidence (12); Peripheral Vision; Quadruped; Teeth (Sharp); Temperature Tolerance 6; Terrain Adaptation (Rocky); Tunneling (Move 4); Uncontrollable Appetite (12) (Metals); Unfazeable; Universal Digestion (Metals only).
Skills: Brawling-16; Stealth-14; Survival (Mountains, Plains, or Woodlands)-14; Tracking-17; Wrestling-16. 
Class: Dire Animal.
Notes: Natural Biter 3.
* Use the lower value versus piercing, impaling, or fire-based attacks.
† Assumes two arms; +2 for each additional arm used. Count their bite as a separate arm for this purpose.




For Monster Hunters
ST: 21             HP: 26            Speed: 8.00
DX: 16            Will: 14           Move: 8
IQ: 6               Per: 14            Weight: 200-300 lbs.
HT: 16            FP: 16             SM: -1
Dodge: 12       Parry: n/a       DR: 12/6*



Fright Check: -2

Bite (16): 2d+4 cutting. Treat as a weapon (Striker), not as a body part.
Claw (16): 2d+4 cutting. Treat as a weapon (Striker), not as a body part.
Rend (14): Two attacks against the same opponent. Use the same damage as the claw entry. If the target was worried last turn, instead roll 1d and roll that many attacks instead!
Torso Grapple (16): No damage, but on further turns can squeeze (Choke or Strangle, p. B370) as ST 21† or win a Quick Contest of ST 26† against the best of opponent’s ST, DX, Judo, or Wrestling to pull him to its mouth.
Worry (-): This can only be used after a target has been bitten. It does the same damage as the bite entry.

Traits: Acute Hearing 3; Acute Smell 2; Bad Temper (12); Berserk (12); Burrower; Cannot Float; Claws (Sharp); Combat Reflexes; Dark Vision; Discriminatory Smell; Flexibility; Fur; High Pain Threshold; Immunity to Poison; Overconfidence (12); Peripheral Vision; Quadruped; Teeth (Sharp); Temperature Tolerance 6; Terrain Adaptation (Rocky); Tunneling (Move 5); Uncontrollable Appetite (12) (Metals); Unfazeable; Universal Digestion (Metals only).
Skills: Brawling-18; Stealth-14; Survival (Mountains, Plains, or Woodlands)-14; Tracking-17; Wrestling-18. 
Notes: Natural Biter 3. Use the skills listed under Crytpids in the Know Thy Enemy box in Monster Hunters 1 (p. 16). Two aurumvoraxes are a fair fight for one champion.
* Use the lower value versus impaling or fire-based attacks.
† Assumes two arms; +2 for each additional arm used. Count their bite as a separate arm for this purpose.