New DF Game: Swashbuckling through the Darkwoods campaign

Yesterday we played the first session in +Colin Ritter‘s new GURPS Dungeon Fantasy campaign, which he calls Darkwoods.

I decided to play another hand-to-hand combatant, this time a Swashbucker. But rather than a straight-up Swashy, I wanted to try my hand at a pirate. Thanks to +Sean Punch‘s take on the pirate theme from Pyramid #3/64: Pirates and Swashbucklers, this was fairly straight-forward. 

That being said. Colin wanted to run something a bit more sophisticated? detailed? than something with “town” and “not town,” so he gave us an extra 50 points total. So I’ve got (for example) 20 points in Seafarer 2 and another 20 points in “I hope they’re useful” social skills. Heraldry already came in handy, so we’ll see.


The first session was basically a quick intro, then setting off into the woods to find some traces of goblins that have been plundering the local supply routes. Only three characters: a Knight, a Scout (half-elven, I think?), and Sh’nan Ettalur, the Swashbuckler-oid. Our Scout totally spanked the goblins in the tracking/scouting roll, and we found that (a) we were being followed, and (b) we could approach from behind, ambushing our ambushers.

We basically came up behind them, thanks to Sean again for that “skills everyone should have” post from a while back, we all made our rolls and I was able to All-Out Attack a goblin from behind to open the combat, hitting him for something like 10 cut and 11 cut with a dual-weapon attack with sword (2d+3 cut) and hatchet (2d-1 cut). Even through DR 2 leather, it was 24 or so injury and an instantly incapacitating/mortal blow. Our knight came up behind another, and decapitated him. We even found a severed head icon in Roll20. The scout pincushioned the third, and I think Sh’nan came up to the last one, cut him once (might have been our Knight) . . . and he tried to cut and run. Well, hatchets do swing damage when thrown, too, and four yards is only a -2 penalty. So thwack to the back, no defense, KO’d. 

We left one alive to interrogate, but none of us spoke Goblin, and he didn’t speak Common. Sh’nan has a hatred of Goblins (see below), so with no complaints and legal sanction, they were dispatched. Biggest loot was a fine thrusting broadsword on the part of the leader, which the Knight took as his own. That’s good loot, too. 

We did manage to find a crude map leading to this tribe’s cave (the Blue Hand, I believe). Colin was worried that with only three of us, we wouldn’t stand a chance against the two dozen goblins in there. I asked if they were all in one room, or strung out. Strung out. I noted this was DF, and the two ‘front line combatant’ templates were well represented. We decided to press on.

We came to the cave mouth, and staged a quick plan for a rush. The Scout went in first and Double Shot the shaman-looking spellcaster dude, dropping him instantly. SwashyPirate rushed in with a Heroic Charge, and on his turn, critically failed a cut with his cutlass, Unreadying it in my hand. Knight (Gabriel, or Sir Gabriel) rushed in to the third guard and something else untoward happened that I can’t recall. That hatchet came in handy, though, as I was able to Parry and then incapacitate my target, and Gabriel took care of his. Technically, three guys down in 2-3 seconds, I think, which is about right for DF.

We ended there.

Sh’nan Etallur


As soon as I get home, I’ll paste in the character details. He’s not what I feel is a typical Rapier-22 DF starter character. I think we established that our Scout has Bow-22 and the Knight has Sword-20. My skills are spread around more, with Shortsword-18 and Axe/Mace-16. As I said, I have 40 points in “not related to killing things,” though, which could easily be cashed in for +1 to DX, +3 to Shortsword, and perhaps +2 to Axe/Mace, or just focus on the one weapon to maximize the first-offender. Still, I like him, and that parrying hatchet was cool for many reasons.

Attributes [170]

ST 13 [30]  DX 14 [80]  IQ 11 [20] HT 12 [20]
HP 13  Will 12 [5]  Per 12 [5]  FP 12 
Basic Lift 34; Damage 1d/2d-1
Basic Speed 7 [10]; Basic Move 7
Ground Move 7; Water Move 1

Social Background
TL: 3 [0]
Cultural Familiarities: ****;  Languages: Common (Native) [0].

Advantages [110]
Ambidexterity [5]; Combat Reflexes [15]; Enhanced Dodge (1) [15]; Luck [15]; Perfect Balance [15]; Seafarer (2) [20]; Trading Character Points for Money ($2,500) [5]; Weapon Master (Fencing Weapons) (one specific weapon) [20] 

Perks [3]
Fearsome Stare [1]; Sea Legs [1]; Weapon Bond (Shortsword) [1]

Disadvantages [-55]
Chummy [-5]; Code of Honor (Pirate’s) [-5]; Greed (12 or less) [-15]; Impulsiveness (12 or less) [-10]; Obsession (Get rich enough to regain his former status and position (he’ll never feel rich enough)) (Short-Term Goal) (12 or less) [-5]; Overconfidence (12 or less) [-5]; Sense of Duty (Adventuring companions) [-5]; Vow (Never refuse a challenge of combat.) (Minor) [-5]

Quirks [-5]
_Unused Quirk 3 [-1]; _Unused Quirk 4 [-1]; _Unused Quirk 5 [-1]; Proud [-1]; Trademark [-1]

Skills [77]

  • Acrobatics DX/H – DX+1 15 [4] – includes: +1 from ‘Perfect Balance’
  • Axe/Mace DX/A – DX+2 16 [8]
  • Boating/TL3 (Unpowered) DX/A – DX+2 16 [2] –  includes: +2 from ‘Seafarer’
  • Brawling DX/E – DX+1 15 [2]
  • Broadsword DX/A – DX+1 15 [0]
  • Carousing HT/E – HT+0 12 [1]
  • Climbing DX/A – DX+0 14 [1] – includes: +1 from ‘Perfect Balance’
  • Cloak DX/A – DX+0 14 [2]
  • Connoisseur (Dance) IQ/A – IQ-1 10 [1]
  • Crossbow DX/E – DX+0 14 [1]
  • Fast-Draw (Sword) DX/E – DX+1 15 [1] – includes: +1 from ‘Combat Reflexes’
  • Fast-Talk IQ/A – IQ-1 10 [1]
  • First Aid/TL3 (Human) IQ/E – IQ+0 11 [1]
  • Gesture IQ/E – IQ+0 11 [1]
  • Heraldry IQ/A – IQ+0 11 [2]
  • Interrogation IQ/A – IQ+0 11 [2]
  • Intimidation Will/A – Will+0 12 [2]
  • Jumping DX/E – DX+0 14 [1]
  • Knot-Tying DX/E – DX+2 16 [1] – includes: +2 from ‘Seafarer’
  • Merchant IQ/A – IQ-1 10 [1]
  • Navigation/TL3 (Sea) IQ/A – IQ+2 13 [2] – includes: +2 from ‘Seafarer’
  • Observation Per/A – Per+0 12 [2]
  • Savoir-Faire (High Society) IQ/E – IQ+1 12 [2]
  • Seamanship/TL3 IQ/E – IQ+3 14 [2] – includes: +2 from ‘Seafarer’
  • Search Per/A – Per+2 14 [8]
  • Sex Appeal (Human) HT/A – HT-1 11 [1]
  • Shortsword DX/A – DX+3 17 [12]
  • Stealth DX/A – DX+0 14 [2]
  • Streetwise IQ/A – IQ+1 12 [4]
  • Survival (Island/Beach) Per/A – Per+2 14 [2] – includes: +2 from ‘Seafarer’
  • Swimming HT/E – HT+2 14 [1] – includes: +2 from ‘Seafarer’
  • Throwing DX/A – DX-1 13 [1]
  • Thrown Weapon (Axe/Mace) DX/E – DX+0 14 [1]
  • Wrestling DX/A – DX+0 14 [2]

Stats [170] Ads [110] Disads [-55] Quirks [-5] Skills [77] = Total [300]

Hand Weapons
1  Cutlass  LC:4|4|4  $1500  Wgt:2  
    Swing  Dam:2d+3 cut  Reach:1  Parry:12 
    Thrust  Dam:1d+3 imp  Reach:1  Parry:12
    Hilt punch  Dam:1d+1 cr  Reach:C  Parry:11

1  Hatchet LC:4|4  $40  Wgt:2  
    Dam:2d-1 cut  Reach:1  Parry:12  ST:8 

Ranged Weapons
1  Crossbow (ST 13)  LC:4  Dam:1d+4 imp  Acc:4  
1  Hatchet  LC:4|4  Dam:2d-1 cut  Acc:1  
1  Heavy Cloak  LC:4  Dam:spec.   Acc:1  Range:2  

Armor & Possessions

  • 1  Bandages
  • 1  Blanket
  • 1  Boots 
  • 1  Bull’s-Eye Lantern
  • 1  Canteen
  • 1  Compass
  • 1  Delvers Webbing
  • 1  First Aid Kit
  • 1  Grapnel
  • 5  Iron Spike
  • 1  Leather Gloves
  • 1  Leather, Medium (Legs)
  • 1  Mail, Light (Arms)
  • 1  Mail, Light (Neck)
  • 1  Mail, Light (Torso)
  • 1  Mirror, Hand
  • 1  Plate, Medium (Pot Helm, Nasal, Padding)
  • 2  Pole, 6′
  • 15  Rations
  • 1  Rope, 3/8′ (30 yards)
  • 1  Tent, 4-Man
  • 1  Torch, Waterproof

Parting Shot

So, as I do my own campaign prep for Alien Menace, there were some things that came out of the game session, and more importantly, from the time leading up to it.

1) Having clear rules and expectations for what GCA files and equipment lists will be used is key. Write these down and make them accessible. +Nathan Joy does this with a Wiki for his campaign, and I’m doing it (though badly) with my Alien Menace campaign.

2) You’d best have the players talk to each other beforehand, and set up the campaign background. Sir Gabriel was a sanctioned Knight of the Realm or some such. Michael’s character, some Elvish name I can’t recall but really should, is an official Ranger-type. 

Sh’nan? Criminal pirate. 

“How will your player fit in with these guys?”

” . . . ” I said. After hemming and umming for a few moments, I gave the straight answer: “No idea.”

We retconned it. I was a privateer, not a pirate. And my character’s ship had been sunk by Goblins (need to add that disad to my sheet). So the sheet was the same, as was, mostly, the motivation, but now he could fit in with the other two better. That’s the sort of thing that you really want settled before play starts.

3) Setting up a big background without a map or at least a sketch does not promote immersion.

4) Practice with your VTT interface before you start the session. Get your first map(s) in place, have tokens for all PCs and NPCs, learn how the initiative tracker works, and realize that the GM often has powers and abilities in the VTT that the players are denied, so you must be facile with it.

5) Understand the rules “exploits” you have on your own character sheet. I totally forgot about some of the real awesomeness other than the damage bonus that come along with Weapon Master. Cadmus, my Warrior Saint in Nate’s game, doesn’t have it. But some of the real benefit to Knights and Swashbucklers in a DF campaign is making brutal use of Weapon Master. Bad Doug! No biscuit! I also tend to forget you get unlimited Dodges, and I think I have a natural Dodge of something like 11 without a retreat. That’s not bad, and if I can get to light encumbrance via magical armor and other things that give Defense Bonus, that could get nice as a floor for how hard it is to hit me.

Really, what I learned here is no surprise: be prepared. RPGing is a joint effort of storytelling, and no one want you to play, either apurpose or by accident, the loner ass-wipe. Make your party fit together and have a good reason for going out together and adventuring. If you’re going to have a background world, the players should be given the opportunity to be at least a tetch familiar with it before play starts. A short session only focused on character interaction and background setting (maybe 60-90 minutes) wouldn’t go amiss, either.

Hopefully the teething pains on this first session will subside for the next game in two weeks. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *