Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Gamemaster's Guidepost: I Put a Spell on You

Note: I commented on a forum thread about the Cursed disadvantage a while back and though I'm loathe to do a lot of cross-posting, I think this is one of the times I just swallow that bitter pill and do it. I've added a bit to my thoughts from there.

"Soooo... you're that brave bastard who wants to take the Cursed disadvantage for your PC. Hold on, I need to put my Party Hat on, 'cause this is gonna be fun." No, I don't say that aloud when a player asks me about Cursed...but I think it. For -75 points you too can be screwed with by the GM like he was an 11-year old GMing DnD for the first time. Well, it's not always like that. Sometimes there is a damn good reason for a player character to have Cursed I've been running GURPS for about...ummm, 17 years (off and on at first and then near-exclusively since 2006). In that time I've been in games where people have taken Cursed, but only ran three games where someone had it. All 4th edition. In each of those games it was taken by three different players who knew fully what they were getting into. They were in it for the story - not the points.
         One had committed a awful crime and was cursed by his strega grandmother to "suffer without equal" in order to keep the rest of his family from killing him. The player took it all in stride and when he finally atoned the curse came back one more time and he died while making sure the other characters escaped a trap that should have killed them all.

         One was just "born under a bad sign" and made it through twenty-three sessions before the player said "I need to retire this character," which I agreed to. We'd talked about possible outs, but eventually we came up with a EPIC way for his character to go out and to help restart a flagging campaign. Basically, the character committed suicide - something he'd never do under any circumstances. My other players grew obsessed with finding out why and after nearly twenty sessions they discovered there was no "why." Stuff just happens sometimes. It didn't help that the player absolutely refused to explain why when they questioned him about it (for nearly 6 months he did that!). It added a hint of normalcy to a otherwise gonzo game.
         The last was a dwarven warrior who betrayed his oaths and got his entire clan killed - he ran away when they needed him most and the gods cursed him. He actually got it removed after he faced his fears, helped take back his homeland, and freed his remaining kin who "languished in durance vile," but he was one-armed, dragon-scarred, and broken by the end.

Cursed is a perfect role-playing tools as long as a) your players know what they are getting into; b) the disadvantage was taken as part of the character concept - not for the point value; and c) the GM is willing to handle it as it can be time consuming and annoying when done right. A few examples of Cursed in play might be...

  • "Oops, you forgot to reload. You're out of ammo - so's you're backup. Time to scrap." 
  • "Your car catches on fire - one in a million factory defect. You need to bail out going 40 mph or take burning damage." 
  • "Sure, you made your Active Defense roll, but your shield breaks." 
  • "You have a magnificent night with the woman of your dreams...but it turns out she was looking for a one-night stand - and she's married - also her husband is the governor and knows what you did. Cheers."
  • "You slayed the dragon. Just then its mate arrives with a few friends."
  • "Oh. Look. A grenade. *sounds of explosions*"
  • "The beer is delightful and has a sharp tangy aftertaste. Before you can articulate why, the bar maid you left at the altar tells you she poisoned you right before you pass out saying "I drank what?""
  • "You walk into a gas station and everything is fine until a nervous-looking guy walks in and screams "Stick your hands up! This is a robbery!" but not before the clerk fires off several rounds from his shotgun getting the robber and you. Make a HT roll."
  • "It starts raining, but due to a strange quirk in the local climate it only rains on you. People observing this get weirded out by what's happening."
...and so on. Basically, your character is Peter Parker - just without cool spidy powers. But how far should you go? You ever have a terrible GM? Just a godawful jerk with a chip on his shoulder but no one wants to GM so he's stuck doing it and he resents everyone for it? We've all met that guy or at least heard about him. Imagine what that guy would do - then go one step beyond that. I use that methodology and just so the game isn't "all about" the Cursed character I roll a 1d6+1 and that's how many times the character gets screwed that session - and they build up (I tell the player straight up "Something bad is going to happen X times - remember to remind me if I forget"). A few guidelines for mishaps using these "curse points" might be...
  • 1 curse point: Something believable and probable happens that's inconvenient - but not dangerous or at least too dangerous (car breaks down, the merchant does not have what you are looking for and really need no matter what, instant Poor reaction roll, etc.)
  • 2 curse points: Something believable, but outre happens (gun jams in a firefight, grenade you just threw is a dud, you get confused by the police as some wanted criminal, etc.)
  • 3 curse points: Something unbelievable happens (your car catches fire while you're in it, a turkey falls on your head from a airplane transporting it from above - you get a Active Defense at -4, everything you own is damaged from what the insurance company calls a "act of God" or "force majore," and so on)

Picking Over the Bones
I've never had even one complaint when I frame it like that to the player and it turns something that's normally "Nah, I'm good" into "Maybe...if the character is right for it." It's like Weirdness Magnet (which I really need to do a post on too) - it can WORK, but you gotta make it work for you. If you the GM don't want to enforce the disadvantage the way it has to be to be worth its cost you should flat out disallow it. If a player is taking it because he gets a huge boost in points you make sure he realizes that he's going to get screwed several times a game. But more than that, the GM has to be prepared to make sure that the cursed one doesn't become the center of attention detracting from other players. It's one of the reasons why I came up with my "curse point" system - this allows the GM to make sure the player is getting the full impact of his disadvantage without becoming a spotlight hog.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Carpe Blogiem: My Gamemaster's Kit

+Mook Wilson is one of those lovely people you meet on the Internet and wish to Glob that he lived in your area - or at least visited every once and a while. He's just a genuinely nice guy. He posted this very cool link of his GM kit on his website. On Facebook someone mentioned "Hey, why don't you show [my] GMing bag" so I thought...yeah, sure, why not? So here it is, my "Gamemaster's Kit." Do note, that I use my computer heavily during my games and my computer bag and gear are not included in the pictures below.

The order of my gear varies when I put it into the bag, but starting at the top...
#1: These are my pregens, scrap files/notes, etc. This changes from campaign to campaign, but I keep a stack of characters like this for folks who drop in and the notes are filed away in my campaign drawer when not in use. I've gone mostly digital, but hand written notes are often the only method I have for when my ideas show up at an inconvenient time (as they always do).
#2: My GM Screen, clipboard, and scratchpad (for notes to turn into a log later). I have a new GM screen - but I'm not breaking it out until this one falls completely a part.
#3: My hard copy of the Basic Set (I occasionally include other oft-referenced books for players depending on the campaign). Again, I'm a digital guy, but hard copy has its uses.
#4: My Dice Corral w. whiteboard cover. See below for more information on this.
#5: Player scratchpads. For marking off ammo, FP, HP, etc. I don't keep track of this stuff because I have a strict honor system for anyone who plays with me. I usually don't have any issues.
#6: Player session notepads. This is for important notes that are needed from session to session.
#7: My Asus Transformer (it's a TF101). I keep all my important gamemastering info on this: PDFs, maps, story notes, character sheet copies, etc. I have the same info on my computer too, but sometimes I get up and move around or need to confer with my co-GM/Adversary. I really don't know how I got along without having all that information at my fingertips. Oh, wait, yes I do, I carried 70 to 80 lbs, of gaming stuff every session. Twice that for Palladium or White Wolf.
#8: My Map Box. See below for more information on this.
#9: Map Hex Tokens. Made from card stock, I can field 150 non-PCs (PCs get their own token).
#10: TI-83 Calculator. Like +Douglas Cole's fetishistic tendencies for Excel, I needs mah Clak-a-later to function.
#11: Emergency Fluid Flavoring Cache. Sometimes you need tea. Sometimes you need kool-aid. Being diabetic means I'm usually thirsty and I don't always want water. Ditto on having sweeteners since I don't expect anyone to have what I might need.
#12: Book Stand. Props up my tablet, books, notes, whatever.
#13: Dice Bag. See below for more information on this.
#14: Chessex Double-Sided Tactical Maps. I have three maps. A small, medium, and almost-enough-for-half-distance-for-a-longbow one. Since I use tactical combat near-exclusively, they are often used.

The content of my dice bag (an old 20's Pathfinder map case, #1) contains...
#2: Loaner dice bag, I'm funny about my dice, there must be a specific number (36 12mm and 12 16mm) with the exact same color and I don't like folks touching them unless I give permission. It's superstitious and silly nonsense...but I do it anyways. This bag contains loaner dice that are neither ordered nor matching and to be honest they drive me a little crazy sometimes so I try to think about them too much.
#3: GM dice bag. My dice in all their splendid perfect glory.
#4: Token bag. Glass beads I use as character points, which my players can then use to spend for whatever rules I have in play to do that.
#5: Poker chip bag. Same as the glass beads, but I use them for other things too (like when card games pop up; see below).

Dice Corral
My custom dice corral was made by my best friend, C. for me after several occasions where a cheating player wouldn't roll his dice out in the open. Because he's awesome, he made the box multipurpose and easily portable. What's not in this picture is that I keep my GM screen in there.
#1 Dice corral with felt lining and handle on the side. With this, you can game in the living room as easily as at the table.
#2 Deck of cards - card games come up a lot in my campaigns for some reason so I keep a deck around.
#3 Assorted timers (5 minutes, 3 minutes, 2 minutes, and 1 minute) for when I want to put the pressure on for players to make decisions or give a real world indicator of game time.
#4 The top of the corral is a whiteboard that I can use to illustrate points or concepts via a dry erase marker.

My map case:
#1 Tape measures for map or when using unlined surfaces (e.g., a table). Also used when I'm being lazy and don't want to count the hexes on a tactical map.
#2 Markers for the tactical maps. I wish I had more colors, but the basic set works just as well.
#3 Assorted pens, pencils, dry erase markers, etc. For note-taking players (or myself) and ot use on my whiteboard.

Some close-ups of the main kit.

My Gaming Bag
This was a gift from my kid sister from a while back and has LOTS of pocketsies and handles (which a gamer needs for stuff and things). It also distributes the weight fairly equally.

Picking Over the Bones
Depending on the campaign, the contents can change. Sometimes I'll bring chessboards, go, or the occasional other oddity. I've also got a map projector scheme I'm working on so I can eliminate the maps too (or at least switch to a roll up whiteboard). Current issue is creating a base so that I can project ONTO the table, I'm thinking a camera tripod might work here, but I'll need to custom fit some parts and it's just a side project anyways. I also occasionally bring my cat, Nimbus, along with me as he can help sense my glucose fluctuations. I'm still trying to get him classified as a medical assistance animal (service animals cannot be cats - for whatever dumb reason). When I do bring him along he has his own kit of stuff he needs. So there you go, that's my kit. What does your kit contain?

Friday, March 27, 2015

Assembly Required: Outlining Step Six - Bestiary, Rogues Gallery, & Campaign Information

The last installment for Outlining - probably one you've already put the most thought into: How you plan to run a campaign. That is, the campaign's informational stats. I pretty much just use the campaign planning form from the Steve Jackson Games website and call it a day. Building up a campaign bestiary and/or rogues gallery takes time, patience, and a long lasting campaign. That said, starting out with a few adversaries and/or creatures in your portfolio (see what I did there?) is not only a good idea, it's just good GMing. And a little preplanning is not a bad thing here and can help you squarely seat any antagonists firmly in the campaign world.

Campaign Bestiary
The bestiary is typically a collection of critters, creatures, and beasties that the player characters may face eventually.

  • What types of nonhuman beings are there in the campaign world?
  • Are any of them sapient? 
  • Are any of them unknown or "mythological" (however real they might be)
  • Is there a classification system (e.g., how Dungeon Fantasy or Monster Hunters defines supernatural beings; "Faerie" or "Cryptid.")

Rogues Gallery
The term was coined by a Pinkerton in the 19th century referring to a collection of photographs of criminals , but was later co-opted by various comic books as a collective phrase for a superhero's enemies. I like using it in the same sense that comics to - that is a collection of antagonists the PCs might come across. Of course, this might apply to several unrelated antagonists or just one - but the questions refer to a group.

  • Who are they?
  • What are their goals?
  • What are their capabilities?
  • Where do they commonly show up?
  • How do they operate?
  • When did they form?
  • Why do they do what they do?

The Worked Example: Something, Something Kill Monsters Urban Fantasy Secret Magic aka "The Chronicles of Ceteri"
In my campaign I decided their were going to come up with a classification system first so I could assign whatever other critters I came up with quickly. I'd also code this system to various skills like Occultism, Area Knowledge, Hidden Lore, and so on so my players (and their characters) would have a good idea of what they encountered when they did. This is a sketch of what I came up with:
  • Angels: The messengers of God in all their many forms.
  • Constructs: artificially created beings from human clones thanks to Nazi schwarzgerät (commonly called "geritech.") to golems or artificially created spirits.
  • Cryptids: Any living being that is a natural or mutated form of animal or animal-like being.
  • Demons: The Fallen as well as the twisted once-human demons.
  • Faeries: Any being that resides in Underhill or whose ancestors came from there.
  • Free Spirits: elementals, artificially created spirits, etc.
  • The Forsaken: Creatures descended from Fallen angels too bad for Heaven and too good for hell. Includes the succubi, varou (werewolves), ilateri (vampires), and the nephilim (who are though to be dead)
  • Giants: Ogres, jotun, giants, etc.
  • Inbetweeners: any being who occupies Between such as the ghosts of once-living men, astral creatures, etc.
  • Nameless Ones: Cthulhu Mythos-like Elder Things who existed before God said "Let there be light." Incredibly dangerous and rarely encountered.
  • Psychics: Psionic powers, psis, etc. Mostly human psis, but may also include naturally psionic creatures or psychic constructs.
  • Restless Undead: any corporeal undead, e.g., mummies, zombies, etc.
  • Shapeshifters: any being which has one or more forms and is living.
  • Vampires: any other vampire-like non Ilateri being - though this group does include them as well.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

GURPS 101: Magical Styles - Demonology

My last installment of magical styles was almost a year ago. The post did prove popular, but I didn’t get back to this until now. Mostly because I’ve been really busy and this sort of intense article requires a lot of research and precise planning - styles take time to make the right way and anything worth doing is worth doing right. For now, this is only for Ritual Path Magic users, but I might do a sequel for standard magic if there is enough clamor for it. Like before, this might as well be a "GURPS301" because of the need for being grounded in GURPS basics - you're going to need the Basic Set,  GURPS Thaumatology: Magical Styles, GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic, and Pyramid #3/66 The Laws of Magic to understand this post. GURPS Horror is suggested for demonic foes.

16 points 
Style Prerequisite: Will 14+ and Magery 3.

Demonology is the study of demons (and in some places spirits), but it’s also the summoning, binding, castigation, and banishing of such forces. Practitioners are extremely adapt when dealing with such forces and often require a bad reputation (deserving or not). Anyone with a enough willpower can study to be a Demonologist, but the most skilled (high Path skills or Hidden Lore) or those with raw talent (high Magery or Will) tend to be the most successful.
The perk, Magical Exorcist may be bought as soon as the Style Familiarity perk is gained as it is intrinsic to the style.
To gain the energy reduction bonus for this style the spell must have something to do with demons, demonic forces, and Hell or the netherworld (or whatever place demons dwell). In some mythologies, spirits, demons, faeries, and so on are basically the same thing (consider the Japanese Kami and/or Oni) or closely related, in such cases this style also affects them. For games that have them, Physiology or Psychology (Demons) is added to the required skill list.

Required Skills: Exorcism, Hidden Lore (Demons or Spirits), Law (Esoteric), Occultism, Mental Strength, and Thaumatology.
Required Paths: Path of Crossroads and Path of Spirit*.
Required Ritual Masteries: Call Spirit, Lesser Ward (Demons), Pentagram Trap, and True Form.

Perks: Accommodating Magic; Attribute Substitution (Will-based spells involving demons); Banish the Slain†; Brute-Force Spell; Convenience Casting (Warding spells); Demonic Sense‡; Discreet Ritual; Gate Experience; Knower of Names; Limited Energy Reserve 1-10; Magical Exorcist¶; Obscure True Name; Path Variation (Spirits); Power Casting; Reduced Footprint; Rule of 17; Sanctum 1-5;
Secret Spell (any ritual related to demonic beings); Shaman’s Trance; Special Exercises 1-5 (Mana Enhancer (Place of Power) with Restricted Bonus, Path of Spirit); Special Exercises 1-5 (Will); Special Exercises 1-6 (Control (Path of Spirit)); Spirit Contract; Stabilizing Skill (Hidden Lore (Demons) for style spells);  Standard Operating Procedure (Magical Lawyer); Willful Casting.
* You must have put at least four points into this Path skill.
† Any demon or spirit that you personally kill is banished back to their home dimension.
‡ As for Corpse Smart (GURPS Thaumatology: Magical Styles, p. 26), but for demons instead.
¶ Allows the caster to exchange Magery for holy traits for the purposes of the Exorcism skill (p. B193).

Optional Traits
Attributes: Improved IQ and Will.
Advantages: Ally (Bound demon or familiar)*; Detect (Demons, Demonic Forces, Hell, etc.)*; Indomitable; Modified ST (Affects Substantial or World-Spanning, Hell)*; Resistant to Demonic Powers; Resistant to Spirit Powers; See Invisible (Demons or Spirit); Striking ST (Accessibly, Demons only, -60%); Unfazeable.
Disadvantages: Enemies (demons); Loner; Odious Personal Habits (Stoic or Enigmatic); Overconfidence; Reputation (demonic collaborator); Stubbornness.
Skills: Alchemy; Diplomacy; Hidden Lore; Intimidation; Interrogation; Knife; Meditation; Observation; Research; Speed-Reading; Teaching; or Writing.
* Must have the "Magic, -10%" Power Modifier.

New Ritual Path Magic Spells
The following new spells are available to any caster in the setting at the GM's option, but should probably be restricted to those with the Demonology magical style perk. They make excellent candidates for specialization via Secret Spell or multiple levels of Ritual Mastery.

Spell Effects: Greater Destroy Crossroads.
Inherent Modifiers: Bestows a Penalty, rolls to spell resistance.
Greater Effects: 1 (x3).

This spell causes any extraplanar being (demons, ghosts, etc.) who fails the resistance roll versus this spell (with a -5 on their roll) to instantly be sent to whatever their plan of origin is.

Typical Casting: Greater Destroy Crossroads (5) + Bestows a Penalty, -5 to rolls to spell resistance (16). 63 energy (21x3).

Reactive Warding
Spell Effects: Greater Control Spirit + Lesser Destroy Spirit + Lesser Sense Spirit.
Inherent Modifiers: Area of Effect + Damage, External Burning, Margin-Based (Affects Insubstantial).
Greater Effects: 1 (x3).

As for per a typical warding (GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic, pp. 24-25), but causes damage. Creatures who fail to cross the ward result in them taking damage equal to the margin of failure (this affects insubstantial beings normally). This is priced as burning damage, but it technically is damage like that inflicted by the Weakness disadvantage (p. B161). This spell also includes the creation of four “ward tokens,” permitting the holder (usually a friendly caster or other supernatural creature) to bypass the ward, allowing entry within the borders of the spell. Additional tokens may be made at anytime by the original caster(s) for +1 energy per two tokens. Use the rules for creating charms to create a token (GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic, pp. 27). All types of warding are possible for a Reactive Warding and use an appropriate Lesser Destroy effect.

Typical Casting: Greater Control Spirit (5) + Lesser Destroy Spirit (5) + Lesser Sense Spirit (2) + Area of Effect, 20 yards, excludes 4 subjects  (14) + Damage, External Burning, Margin-Based (Affects Insubstantial, +20%) (4) + Duration, 1 month (11). 123 energy (41x3).

Reveal the Demonic
Spell Effects: Greater Sense Spirit.
Inherent Modifiers: None
Greater Effects: 1 (x3).

This ritual tells the location of all demons within 200 yards of him, what type they are, if they are bound to a particular purpose or master, and if hidden via a disguise, reveals the creature beneath if it fails to resist the spell.

Typical Casting: Greater Sense Spirit (2). 6 energy (2x3).

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Carpe Blogiem: You Must Construct Additional Pylons

Just swap "pylons" for "blog entries" and that fits the last 10 hours. OH, DEAR GLOB, WHAT DID I GET MYSELF INTO?! So, I've had a LiveJournal for a while now, but it was only till recently that I decided it might be best to have a platform just for my personal thoughts and another for my gaming/writing stuff. After all, I've grumbled my way through blogs where I had to get past personal posts to the meat of the gamingness. I figure at this point I need to present a somewhat more professional image on my main gaming blog. My readers (small as they may be) deserve that. So from now on I'll be posting personal rants, issues, whatever on my LiveJournal and gaming/writing stuff on my Blogspot blog.

My LiveJournal can be found here.

One more thing: I've done some major housekeeping on my blog and Patreon page and I kind of feel you guys deserve a reason why. For the first, I've been long considering making this blog purely gaming/writing. I talked it over with some people whose opinion I trust implicitly and decided to go ahead and do it. I'm not trying to be revisionist or anything, but if you really want to know stuff about me that's not gaming related you can check out my Twitter, Facebook, or (now) LiveJournal. Most of my personal posts are now there (back dated and everything!). This lets me focus my blog in the manner in which I feel it was inevitably going to go anyways. Now, for the second, I have agonized and I mean keep-me-up-at-night (even more than usual) thought about revamping my page. This is mostly because I didn't realize the sheer amount of work that went into making a PDF (layout is crazy difficult). Since I can't do anything without doing it right...well, you get the idea. I don't do anything half-assed if I can help it. Basically, I was doing Patreon stuff instead of writing new Pyramid articles or book pitches. And while I fully jumped into Patreon knowing what I'd get myself into, at least half of my patrons said "This is too good for a $1 a month" and they're probably right.
So I've played around with the goals some and added some new tiers. I'm also going to be putting a strict word minimum on all Patreon Specials, add some graphics to the PDFs, maybe maps - who knows. I AM going to be putting up more than just Specials soon. I know I talked about adventures, but I got to thinking "why stop there?" and I've got some interesting ideas. I even put up a post on my Patreon profile about it and asked for opinions and I got a few. I'm going to read that as "Hey, we understand." Hopefully my wonderful patrons will understand - because they're damn fine folks. Anyways, that's what I've been doing the last few days and I'm wiped. So I'm probably off to bed. Night y'all.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Gamemaster's Guidepost: The Art of Creating Critters

One thing I love to do is create, adapt, or improvise new monsters, creatures, or critters for my players to combat. When you're just making something up you don't really need to do anything but what your imagination dictates. But adapting things from mythology or fiction can be a bit harder. How much DR should the dragon have? What sort of air speed should it have? These things can be bothersome, most of the time you should just make a decision and stick with it. There are some good guidelines I like to use.

  • If a given critter cannot be hurt by mortal weapons, it probably has DR 24 (4d is typical damage for most handheld melee weapons). It if it's difficulty, but still possible, give it DR 12.
  • If it can't be hurt be anything give it DR equal to 6 * the number of dice of the most powerful attack in the setting. For example, if the most powerful attack in a campaign is 10d then you should give a creature that cannot be hurt DR 60. Do note that such extreme protection often has limitations on what it protects or gaps in defense. The Bane limitation from GURPS Horror (p. 14) is your go-to trait for this. If it truly cannot be hurt just call it "Invulnerable" and go with that (as suggested by GURPS Powers, p. 118).
  • Decide how fast a given critter is by measuring it's move in something abstract, but quantifiable. For example, can a werewolf out run a human? Then he probably has a Move of 10 or more and is able to outrun most of his prey. Can he move as fast as a fast-moving car (let's say 40 mph)? That's probably around a Basic Move of 20 or more then. This works pretty much for all forms of movement.
  • How smart is it? Is it bestial, but has a "low cunning" - then it's probably IQ 6 or 7. Is it as a smart as a man? Then probably IQ 10 or 11. Anything more is getting into the "very smart" range.
  • How agile is it? This one should be fairly obvious. If not consider that a DX below 10 is probably outright clumsy, while DX 12 or higher is fairly nimble.
  • How strong is it? This one is something that bears a little thought. To low and you won't present a adequate challenge for combat - too high and it's gonna be a splatterfest. Like how fast it is, it's probably best to measure it in a abstract, but quantifiable way. Is it strong as a bear or ox? Can it "kill a man with one blow?" Then it probably has a attack that does at least 3d+1 and up to 17d+1 if it's a "sure death." Careful here though, because ST also determines HP (unless you want to change it) and extremely strong beings are also quite capable of taking more damage.
  • How tough is it? This is one is always difficult for me. Too high a HT and the critter feels like it's two or three times more powerful than it is because it just won't go down. Too low and you get the opposite effect. I like to give most wild animals and similiar beings at least a HT of 11 or more, though if it's meant to be as tough as a average human then HT 10 works as well. Since HT determines FP, use the same guidelines as above with ST.
  • How perceptive is it? Most wild critters should have a modified Perception of 12 or better. Particularly perceptive critters (like wolves) might have a Perception even higher. Again, measure it in a abstract, but quantifiable way.
  • How willful is it? Another difficult one. Unless it's a hive creature never give a Will of less than 10 or 11.

Of course, all of that assumes you are making monsters and not humanoid opponents. When making humanoid foes, use whatever base racial statistics the NPC has and then modify it as follows. Add up each attribute that your player characters and any NPCs that will be used in any combats they have and get the average. Subtract 10, round down, and add that as a bonus to the NPC's score. For example, if your PCs have ST scores of 14, 11, 9, 17, and 10, Then the average is 12.2. So 12 - 10 = 2. Each NPC then gets a +2 to their racail average attributes. This can be done with skills if need be, but only add up combat-related traits and use their average skill level as the skill level for the NPCs.

Picking Over the Bones
A lot of this requires that you know your player's characters as well as they do (and really, as a GM, you should). This includes what sort of tactics they like to use, favorite maneuvers, how they approach a battle, and so on. It might be handy to keep a notation of the average "combat ability" of your PCs in case you need to write up a opponent(s) on the fly. Read lots of GURPS material if you can. Compare your statistics to others to see where you stand. Finally, practice practice practice. By working out more and more beasties you'll get a feel for it.  And don't feel like you can't modify or redo something you've done. I've gone back and adjusted things I've already used because I knew I'd made a mistake and needed to fix it.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Gamemaster’s Guidepost: Mad as Bones Part II

Last month, one of the Patreon Specials I put out for you, dear patrons, was Mad as Bones, and this month I’m adding to those rules. Celti has been playing with the idea of “mental” fatigue points for a long time (long as I have been acquainted with him), and when he suggested back in January 2015 that he’d love to see my take on it - I obliged. Soon after that, Celti showed me a secret-wiki entry for his own campaigns and some of the ways he’d modded my rules. I liked them so much that I asked if I could use them and maybe add a bit for a follow-up piece for Mad as Bones. Celti, being the upstanding mensch that he is said, “Sure! I was hoping you would.” As my granddaddy used to say “One good turn deserves another” (now whether he was talking about paying back good deeds or turning a wrench, I’ll never know, granddaddy was like that). So here I am revisiting the topic a bit with some more rules on Sanity Point loss, gain, and attacks. “Sanity Points” are abbreviated as “SP” for brevity’s sake.

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

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Designer's Notes: It's a Threat!

It's not secret that I have hundreds of article-size/small supplements that I've written for GURPS since 2005. The running joke on the forums is "Ghostdancer probably has an article for that." The sad truth of it is that I probably do. I write too damn much - it's a form of therapy for me. The idea for "It's a Threat!" has been around for quite a while. Originally a part of a small trio of ideas, "It's a Trap!" was published first, and now "It's a Threat!" is out - it'd be nice if I could get their little brother out there too. "It's a Threat!," originally called "Fighting Fair," had to be practically rewrote from scratch after I found a severe, dangerously recursive flaw in the design.

I had given myself ten days to get it in tip-top shape, and I would have never been able to do that without a group of dedicated playtesters and reviewers: Antoni Ten Monros, Douglas Cole, Emily "Bruno" Smirle, Jason Packer, Jeremy French, Peter V. Dell'Orto, Scott "Rocketman" Rochat, Tim "Humabout" Ponce, Walter "Nymdok" Wilson, and, of course, my gaming group. One thing I want to point out is that my revised version was inspired by a piece of material that Scott was working on that I'd playtested to the point of exhaustion. No, I won't say what it is about, that's his place. But if my article were a coin, his is the opposite side of that coin. The ideas are linked inexorably and much of what "It's a Threat!" became owes a great deal to his (as of yet unreleased) work. I just wanted to take the time to publicly thank him for that - so thanks, Scott.

It took me around four days to write (35 man hours), two days to personally playtest (18 man hours), four days to revise (44 man hours), and two days to polish (15 man hours). I sent it to my reviewers as soon as the main text, was done and they playtested while I revised and edited (Beth, as usual, helped me a ton here). Those last two days I thought I'd go mad as I found several mistakes or small issues that quickly became large issues. I rushed to make everything work and did yet more playtesting - I don't think I slept more than six hours the last three days. I finally had a good enough manuscript that I sent it in with notes on what could be cut. I never expected all the tables to make it in, much less the monsters, but Nikki/Steven's heroic efforts made it work, and I'm still not sure what

Gallifreyan sorcery was used. All I can think is the PDF is somehow bigger on the inside.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Triple Threat: Cu Sidhe

Cu Sidhe
Cu Sidhe (aka “fairy hounds”) are more or less immortal and can be found anywhere that the sidhe are found. They look like normal Irish wolfhounds, but can vastly outperform any normal dog breed. They’re scrappers, coursers, trackers, watchdogs, etc. They are rather bigger overall than normal wolfhounds and truly large specimens can top 200 lbs.! Cu Sidhe range in color from dark russet to green or even white and green fur. Most of the time they don't leave footprints at all, but occasionally, the places where they have touched the earth burst into flame and leave charred paw prints.

For Any Game...
ST: 14             HP: 15            Speed: 7.00
DX: 14            Will: 13           Move: 8/16
IQ: 8               Per: 14            Weight: 140-180 lbs.
HT: 14            FP: 14             SM: 0
Dodge: 11       Parry: n/a       DR: 2

Bite (16): 1d+1 impaling. Treat as a weapon (Striker), not as a body part.
Claw (16): 1d+1 cutting. Treat as a weapon (Striker), not as a body part.
Worry (-): This can only be used after a target has been bitten. It does the same damage as the Bite.

Traits: Acute Hearing 2; Acute Smell 4; Acute Vision 2; Alternate Form (Dog; Cosmetic; Glamour, Will-5; Substantial Only); Can Be Turned Using True Name*; Chummy; Combat Reflexes; Dark Vision (Color Vision); Discriminatory Hearing; Discriminatory Smell (Emotion Sense); Divine Curse (Can be bound using True Name); Dread (Iron); Dread (Uttering their True Name aloud); Enhanced Move 1 (Ground); Footprints sometimes catch fire and burn; Fur; Gluttony (12); Hidebound; High Pain Threshold; Indomitable; Invisibility (Can Carry Objects, None; Glamour, Will-5; Substantial Only; Switchable); Jumper (Spirit; Costs Fatigue, 5 FP; Limited Access, Faerie; Special Movement, must be able to walk; Special Portal, any reflective surface; Tunnel (Takes Extra Time 5)); Pack Tactics; Penetrating Voice; Quadruped; Reduced Consumption 2 (Cast Iron Stomach); Revulsion (Iron); Sense of Duty (Master and his allies); SoulseekerStriking ST 2 (Bite only); Temperature Tolerance 6; Terrain Adaptation (Active); Terror 1 (Hearing); Unaging; Unfazeable; Unusual Biochemistry; Very Fit; Vulnerability (Iron x2); Walk on Air (Accessibility, Only to conceal footprints).
Skills: Brawling‑16; Hiking-14; Intimidate-16, Jumping-18; Stealth‑16; Survival (Mountain)-14; Survival (Woodlands)-14; Swimming-14; Tracking-18; Wrestling-16.
Notes: Natural Biter 1. If the GM is using Intrinsic Fright Check from GURPS Horror (p. 139), cu sidhe have a modifier of -1 in their normal form and +1 in their dog form (but only if they reveal they aren’t actually dogs).
* Use the rules for True Faith, but the one doing the turning must know the hound's true name.
†This trait is Super-Memorization 1 (35) (ESP, -10%; 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 Faerie only, -50%), +150%; Cosmic, No die roll required, +100%; Long-Range 1, +50%; Precise, +100%; World-Spanning, All, +100%).

For Dungeon Fantasy...
ST: 17             HP: 18            Speed: 7.00
DX: 14            Will: 13           Move: 8/16
IQ: 8               Per: 14            Weight: 140-180 lbs.
HT: 14            FP: 14             SM: 0
Dodge: 11       Parry: n/a       DR: 2

Bite (16): 2d+5 impaling. Treat as a weapon (Striker), not as a body part.
Claw (16): 2d+3 cutting. Treat as a weapon (Striker), not as a body part.
Worry (-): This can only be used after a target has been bitten. It does the same damage as the bite.

Traits: Acute Hearing 2; Acute Smell 4; Acute Vision 2; Alternate Form (Dog; Cosmetic; Glamour, Will-5; Substantial Only); Can Be Turned Using True Name*; Chummy; Combat Reflexes; Dark Vision (Color Vision); Discriminatory Hearing; Discriminatory Smell (Emotion Sense); Divine Curse (Can be bound using True Name); Dread (Iron); Dread (Uttering their True Name aloud); Enhanced Move 1 (Ground); Footprints sometimes catch fire and burn; Fur; Gluttony (12); Hidebound; High Pain Threshold; Indomitable; Invisibility (Can Carry Objects, None; Glamour, Will-5; Substantial Only; Switchable); Jumper (Spirit; Costs Fatigue, 5 FP; Limited Access, Faerie; Special Movement, must be able to walk; Special Portal, any reflective surface; Tunnel (Takes Extra Time 5)); Pack Tactics; Penetrating Voice; Quadruped; Reduced Consumption 2 (Cast Iron Stomach); Revulsion (Iron); Sense of Duty (Master and his allies); SoulseekerStriking ST 2 (Bite only); Temperature Tolerance 6; Terrain Adaptation (Active); Terror 1 (Hearing); Unaging; Unfazeable; Unusual Biochemistry; Very Fit; Vulnerability (Iron x2); Walk on Air (Accessibility, Only to conceal footprints).
Skills: Brawling‑16; Hiking-14; Intimidate-16, Jumping-18; Stealth‑16; Survival (Mountain)-14; Survival (Woodlands)-14; Swimming-14; Tracking-18; Wrestling-16.
Class: Faerie.
Notes: Natural Biter 1. 
* Use the rules for True Faith, but the one doing the turning must know the hound's true name.
†This trait is Super-Memorization 1 (35) (ESP, -10%; 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 Faerie only, -50%), +150%; Cosmic, No die roll required, +100%; Long-Range 1, +50%; Precise, +100%; World-Spanning, All, +100%).

For Monster Hunters...
ST: 17             HP: 18            Speed: 7.00
DX: 14            Will: 13           Move: 8/16
IQ: 8               Per: 14            Weight: 140-180 lbs.
HT: 14            FP: 14             SM: 0
Dodge: 11       Parry: n/a       DR: 2

Fright Check: -2

Bite (16): 2d+5 impaling. Treat as a weapon (Striker), not as a body part.
Claw (16): 2d+3 cutting. Treat as a weapon (Striker), not as a body part.
Worry (-): This can only be used after a target has been bitten. It does the same damage as the Bite.

Traits: Acute Hearing 5; Acute Smell 4; Acute Vision 2; Chummy; Combat Reflexes; Dark Vision (Color Vision); Discriminatory Hearing;  Discriminatory Smell (Emotion Sense);  Dread (Iron; Can be trapped only; Insensitive); Enhanced Move 1 (Ground); Extended Hearing (Low); Footprints sometimes catch fire and burn; Fur; Gluttony (12); High Pain Threshold; Indomitable; Injury Tolerance (Diffuse; Not against iron attacks); Intolerance (Religious or holy people and places); 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); Pack Tactics; Penetrating Voice; Quadruped; Reduced Consumption 2 (Cast Iron Stomach); Sense of Duty (Master and his allies); Soulseeker*; Striking ST 2 (Bite only); Temperature Tolerance 6; Terrain Adaptation (Active); Terror 1 (Hearing); Ultrahearing;  Unfazeable; Very Fit; Walk on Air (Accessibility, Only to conceal footprints).
Skills: Brawling‑16; Hiking-14; Intimidate-16, Jumping-18; Stealth‑16; Survival (Mountain)-14; Survival (Woodlands)-14; Swimming-14; Tracking-18; Wrestling-16.
Notes: Natural Biter 1. Use the skills listed under Free Spirits in the Know Thy Enemy box in Monster Hunters 1 (p. 16). One cu sidhe is a fair fight for one champion with access to iron weapons – otherwise two to three champions without them. They are frequently found in the company of unseelie.
* This trait is Super-Memorization 1 (35) (ESP, -10%; 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 Faerie only, -50%), +150%; Cosmic, No die roll required, +100%; Long-Range 1, +50%; Precise, +100%; World-Spanning, All, +100%).

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Designer's Notes: A Familiar Path

Pyramid75This started off life as a outtake from the already monstrous "Alternative Ritual Path Magic" and eventually grew into a article all its own. Not counting the time it took me to write the few chunks I excised from Alternative Ritual Path Magic this one took a surprising amount of time to incubate and write - around 80 hours total. Having a familiar is like asking someone what their favorite movie is - you're going to get a lot of different answers and arguments about what parts are best even when the answers match. Because of this I thought about what should be represented for quite a while and ended up chucking a few things I had wanted to include. Being able to include the squirrel template was one of the highlights of this article for me. (I love squirrels - they are awesome). I'd also added at last minute some notes on how to use the powers I'd made for other purposes and the box on "weird familiars." The latter having come straight from one of my campaigns where one player character was the familiar of another player character. The request was too cool to pass up and I figured out the rules pretty easily. Also, who wouldn't want a ninja as their familiar? I mean that's just too damn cool. One thing I wanted to put in there was a example of a sentient sword as a familiar, but I just ran out of space. I might do that as some support later on down the road for the article on my blog. A couple of outtakes:

Granular Costs for Allies and Dependents
GMs wishing for a finer “grain” for the point total of allies or dependents may allow the following, highly optional progression:

Points Built on...

Point Cost as Ally
Point Cost as Dependent:
0% or less of your points
-15 points
5% of your points
0.2 points
-14 points
10% of your points
0.4 points
-13 points
15% of your points
0.6 points
-12 points
20% of your points
0.8 points
-11 points
25% of your points
1 point
-10 points
30% of your points
1.2 points
-9 points
35% of your points
1.4 points
-8 points
40% of your points
1.6 points
-7 points
45% of your points
1.8 points
-6 points
50% of your points
2 points
-5 points
55% of your points
2.2 points
-4.5 points
60% of your points
2.4 points
-4 points
65% of your points
2.6 points
-3 points
70% of your points
2.8 points
-2.5 points
75% of your points
3 points
-2 points
80% of your points
3.4 points
-1.8 points
85% of your points
3.8 points
-1.6 points
90% of your points
4.2 points
-1.4 points
95% of your points
4.6 points
-1.2 points
100% of your points
5 points
-1 points
105% of your points
5.5 points
-0.8 points
110% of your points
6 points
-0.6 points
115% of your points
6.5 points
-0.4 points
120% of your points
7 points
-0.2 points
125% of your points
7.5 points
130% of your points
8 points
135% of your points
8.5 points
140% of your points
9 points
145% of your points
9.5 points
150% of your points
10 points
155% of your points
11 points
160% of your points
12 points
165% of your points
13 points
170% of your points
14 points
175% of your points
15 points
180% of your points
16 points
185% of your points
17 points
190% of your points
18 points
195% of your points
19 points
200% of your points
20 points

Bonus Familiar Ability
I had quite a few powers I cut, either they didn't work the way I wanted or they just weren't good enough or too "out there." The following is a good example of "useful," but not "gotta have it." 

Share Energy
30 points/level
Prerequisite: Mana Collector.

You can supply a mana reserve of 10 per level (up to three levels) to one person of your choice within 2 yards of you (which can be your master or one of his allies). This is an external source and takes the usual amount of time to tap (Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic, p. 21).

Statistics: Each level is Energy Reserve 10 (Mana Reserve; Affects Others, 1 person, +50%; Area Effect, 2 yards, +50%; Cannot Use Reserve, -100%) [30].