Adventuring in Nordlond

We had the inaugural session of Kyle’s campaign, which he’s calling the Nordlond Sagas. Not Kickstarter related entirely, but not unrelated either. All the PCs wound up taking a racial package out of Norðlondr Folk. So we have no pure humans. We have an Elfàrd Wizard (me), a Himneskur (god-blooded) knight-ish character built with Five Easy Pieces , a boar-folk barbarian from the neighboring realm Brionnu (Celtic influence), a Raven-folk priest/rogue/face character, also from Five Easy Pieces, and a triger barbarian.

Note: Five Easy Pieces is from Pyramid #3/113, and gets a lot of use with this crowd.

My wizard (whose name is Daingeannruadh, and goes by Daingean…isn’t that much better?) is an exercise in me getting to know the magic system better. I tend to like fighty characters, but as an author, I need to be more aware of how magic works. And today was a great example of that.

We started on a ship bound for The Citadel at Norðvörn. That’s N-o-r-ALT240-v-ALT246-r-n for those curious. This is precisely how I started my own one-shot session for the playtest game of Citadel back in FnordCon 1, and for the same reason. We were on a gigantic knarr – a 115′ long cargo vessel, and we were attacked by a 45′ long longship filled with a captain and 15 attackers. I believe the final tally was the chieftain, 8 bandits armed with axes, 3 bowmen, and 4 spearmen. All were based on the bandit “template” from Hall of Judgment, I believe.

Short version: we wiped the floor with them. That’s not unsurprising. Some details, though:

  • We saw the other ship coming. That gave us about 30 seconds to prepare. Which means that our Raven-folk had a few spells to throw first, and so did the wizard. My spell list is a bit eclectic, but I led off with Grease, which wound up neutralizing quite a few folks in the prow of the ship. Lots of failed DX rolls and slipperiness, and those NPCs are on the steep end of the bell curve. A -2 to DX and -1 to defend goes a long way, and extra movement cost plus more penaties for unfavorable terrain when your friend goes down in front of you is a good way to start.
  • The three meaty folks (two barbarians and a knight) took the fight immediately to the other ship, which suffered from narrow confines (maybe 2-3 yards across at the widest, mostly 2), and pinned most of the raiders to their own ship. This prevented a lot of flanking and kept the number of bad guys who could take flank and rear shots to a minimum.
  • We got peppered with arrows to no avail, but the bowmen didn’t really figure in the fight much.
  • After building it up for a turn, I dumped a bolt of explosive lightning into the rear of the ship. It deep fried the primary target – who I believe was already down – rolling 9 burn damage, which left 3 in the second ring, and 1 in the third. There was a friendly in that ring, but his DR 1 bounced the zap. The rest – maybe four or five targets, had to check for stun, and I think two not-the-chieftain guys went down to physical stun. That’s basically “out of the fight” for many.
  • After that, I charged up a deathtouch and attempted to get close enough to use it. I wound up using it, but rolling crap for damage.

We cleared the ship, and claimed it as spoils of war. The captain of our own boat took slight exception to that and wanted (and got) a cut. We let the raven-folk with high Wealth deal with that; always let the face do face things.

Lessons learned as a wizard?

  • The battlefield prep spells are a good use of time.
  • I have a lot of stuff in my grimoire that isn’t combat related, which is fine, but once the fight is on, I have to be careful
  • Power Items are not Power Stones. They can only be recharged in town, and do not represent a free energy reserve. So my order of operations needed to be ER and FP first, power item last. The GM let me ret-con this.
  • I wound up burning through a total of 11 FP on the three spells. Technically I burned 14 FP: 2 for a 2d deathtouch, 6 each for 2-hex grease, 6 for 3d-3 explosive lightning, but 3 back because of skill level. That burned through my ER and all of my FP before I drop below 1/3 of FP to leave me reeling. That was efficient.
  • It also means that in combat, I get 1-3 key spells with which to shape the fight, and then I’m done.
  • I forgot to take shortsword to use my Wizard’s Baton, which lets me attack with things like Shocking Grasp and Deathtouch at Reach 1 instead of Reach C. My original plan was to use a spear and buckler, but I’m not really strong enough to do that, and you can’t use a spear as a Wizard’d Staff. So a bit of “oops” character sheet tweaking is needed
  • Before the game I made a grimoire of all the spells I know, by simply copying the stuff from spells into a word file, and printing that out. It saved TONS of time . . . but even better would have been to excise some of the rules. Area effect. Cost reduction due to high skill. And explosive damage. Huge time-savers to have that to hand. And this is why PDF also adds value beyond print.

Other fun bits? The Hrafnarfolk with the rogue specialty liked to backstab, and he used Wait to hold off “until the end of my turn” and then AoA, followed immediately by a return to his own turn where he could act normally. That’s a Kromm-approved bit of “how to backstab” and it comes with potential drawbacks. A Wait is always risky, as the situation can change. Anyone who can respond right then to the AoA can strike during a turn where he has no defenses. So if a nearby foe is also Waiting, or can respond with an attack that requires a defense roll or Quick Contest . . . Hrafnar gets tagged. Otherwise, he stabbed at least one person in the eye, and another in the neck.

The triger claimed the other ship as their own by peeing on it. I broke into a bit of Tom Petty: “and we’re pee . . . pee brawling!” But having a three-headed tiger person claim the ship via combat urination was inspired.

One of the bad guys crit-failed at least once, maybe twice, with their weapon. That left me pondering if one could have a weapon that was cursed that emerged in play. Like an Unlucky Weapon instead of a Named Weapon, though both of those things are not canon for the DFRPG. Daingean said he didn’t care that he wasn’t a bard, he was telling stories about the cursed sword.

“It was an axe.”

“Who’s telling the story here?”

“I’m just saying, it was an axe.”

“And it was cursed!”

“He dropped it.”

“It was cursed to be dropped!”

“He’d just had his leg pulped by Chuff.”

“That’s pretty cursed!”

“…okay, that I’ll grant.”

One last thing. Chuff, the triger-folk barbarian, hit one of the bandits on the head (DR 2, also DR 2 for the skull) for 20 points of damage . . . and rolled a double-damage crit. So doubled to 40, down to 36, ×4 for skull . . . 144 points of injury to the skull, which is a full 12× the starting HP of that target. That’s dead no saving throw dead.

All in all, a good starting session. Fights with many fighters last a long time, and it was tough to keep several communications channels going at once. MapTool worked flawlessly. Kyle brought some really good maps.

We also had a good chat about the ship itself as spoils of war. The thing was a 45′ longship (15m) in terrible condition. Even so, some googling gave an estimate of 28,000 to 40,000 hours of labor to make a 30m ship (The Sea Stallion) using traditional methods. That puts the cost of such a ship pretty far up there, and scaling down to a 15m vessel is probably on the order of “how much square footage reduction for the hull?” Half the size is about one-quarter the surface area. Fewer trees, fewer fittings, etc. Even so, new it’s probably 7-10,000 hours of labor. We looked in Low-Tech companion and decided that the prices there seemed well-enough underpinned; my initial estimates of cost were based on extrapolating from D&D books, and probably wound up high by an order of magnitude.

Even so: the ship would have likely been worth a whole lot, new. It’s portable (if also poorly maintained) loot. And apparently there’s a story behind it, which we’ll find out in due course. Maybe next session when we pull inti Ainferill.

Another Wizard’s Tale

Over at Don’t Forget Your Boots, they’re also playing in Nordlond. The latest recap features two things of note.

The first is the first-ever use of the Nordalf Warrens that I’ve seen. Those are murder-holes, and while stuffed with treasure, they’re a rough go because while nordalfs (think goblins, small ones) are tiny, there’s always lots of them. And they can use their fae veil and ways in and out of the Svartalfheim fae realm to pop up all over a party with no warning unless there’s another fae-derived person present, like a half-elf or elf.

The other, though, was that the party involved killed the high alfar / Winterfae who was the source of all of this. They did it in a few rounds, and didn’t suffer much for it.

That’s all good, and puts to rest a real pest.

But this particular Faerie, Elunad, isn’t really a fighty-combatant. She also has the entire Mind Control college at Skill-30; her lowest spell colleges are at Skill-22.

And I think the “only” thing she did was throw down a Darkness spell. My NPC notes give her some totally cheating abilities, like two power items rather than one, and something like 175 Fatigue Points on tap if she’s well-rested. And she’s unencumbered with DR 10.

But Charm-30, Mass Daze-30, Mass Sleep-30, or Terror-30? Compartmentalized Mind 1 so she can fight AND cast each turn. And Great Haste so she gets two maneuvers per turn?

This is a problem, and it’s my problem. I don’t think I gave enough ‘do this first’ advice to prospective GMs for using a foe that powerful. Elunad should virtually drown her foes in magic, likely two to four times per turn. Doing so from under cover of Darkness? Sure. But she could also do a pretty good Invisibility, a powerful Windstorm, or with so many FP on tap, throw a hell of an explosive fireball if she wanted to. At Skill-30, her energy costs are reduced by 4 anyway, I believe.

But ultimately, for foes like Elunad and Ynfalchiawn from Citadel at Nordvorn . . . I need to provide some go-to advice for GMs who might not have the entire spellbook memorized or lots of time to prepare an epic fight. Pyramid #3/61 (“Way of the Warrior”) has an article by me on “Takedown Sequences,” which are basically well-drilled self-defense moves. If I’m going to put in a villain who relies on specialty magic with huge amounts of energy reserve to play with, the GM needs more help than “start with Great Haste.”

So also, lesson learned.

Game on!

 

Over on the SJG Forms, user Dalin wrote up a perfectly blushingly glowing play report on The Citadel at Nordvorn:

This past weekend, three of my players and I retreated to a small family cabin in the snows of northern Minnesota to launch our new Norðlond campaign. I’ve been buying Doug’s great DFRPG products since the first kickstarter, but have only run bits and pieces as one-shots with side groups. (I snagged a few monsters and sample characters for other adventures, too.) My main group just wrapped up their previous campaign, so we decided to dive in whole hog.

I wasn’t sure where to begin and, with my school rapidly retooling for distance learning, I had little time to prepare. It came down to skimming/rereading my Nordlond material (Hall of Judgment, Citadel at Norðvörn, and the prerelease PDFs from the Nordlond Sagas kickstarter) and hoping something would click.

As I headed into the weekend, I expected that we would begin with Hall of Judgment as an introductory scenario. The players, however, wanted to get to know the wider setting before diving into an adventure, so we decided to begin with some vignettes along the Jotunnáin river. This led me to pull out the Citadel at Norðvörn. This was the book that I was the most unsure about. I loved reading it as a setting book, but I wasn’t sure that I would be nimble enough as a GM to flesh out the various plots on the fly. I should never have hesitated.

It was awesome. Seriously. I’ll post more about it in this thread as I have time, but we probably played for 15-20 hours over the weekend and there was no shortage of material. The vignettes idea faded away as the group became absorbed by the plot threads in the small town of Áinferill. The NPCs were rich and evocative. The maps and pictures in the book made great game-aids, and my players were fully immersed. It grew naturally from low-stakes roleplaying with minor NPCs to an epic quest into the Dragongrounds. There were moments of comedy, pathos, and edge-of-your-seat action. It was some of the most rewarding gaming that I’ve ever experienced.

I don’t get a lot of feedback on my stuff, least of all play reports. So hearing that it went well, and that more detailed reports will follow, fills me (and Steve Jackson himself!) with joy.

If it seems interesting, The Citadel at Nordvorn is not hard to get in PDF or Print!

Intro: May the FNORD Be With Us

Over Apr 6-7, I went down to FNORDCon, Steve Jackson Games’ first gaming convention that they planned and ran themselves. Originally, there wasn’t going to be any GURPS/DFRPG content at all – maybe not even any roleplaying – but I and one of my authors, also a MiB, volunteered to fix that right up. He was going to run two sessions of his upcoming The Dragons of Rosgarth, while I’d do one session each of Hall of Judgment and one of the almost-ready Citadel at Nordvorn.

Both sessions of mine were really, really full. I have a bit of a policy that if you come to one of my games, you play in one of my games. Especially with so few opportunities for RPGing while there. So both games had 12-13 folks in them.

I’ll be reaching out to my other players tonight, and we’ll see if anyone else has thoughts.

If you like what you read below . . . preorders for Citadel at Nordvorn are open!

Session Report by Carl Patten

My background going in: Backed Dungeon Fantasy Monsters II and backed the Citadel of Nordvorn based on recommendation from there. I am very familiar, if rusty, with GURPS, and own Dungeon Fantasy but hadn’t played it in a group yet. My wife has played several D&D campaigns but has only played GURPS once.

First of all, congratulations on running a session with 12 people that actually got stuff done! It’s really easy to get bogged down in details in DF and GURPS, and my wife appreciated the “GURPS super light” approach you took. You also were able to consistently answer our basic rule questions off the top of your head, which kept the pacing fast. Similarly, starting with “you’re all together on a boat, which is being attacked by another boat” successfully got us into the action right away without needing to reach a consensus first. The discussion afterward about what to do with our brand-new boat was hilarious!

Next, the setting rocked! We were the two Minnesotan expats in the room, and even though we may not have actually encountered the Minnesota/Iron Range references during this session, knowing they were in there got us pumped! The time you spent storytelling, describing the setting and why people acted as they did, was just as entertaining as the time we spent as characters in-game. This also paid off in the story hooks; hearing the story of the lady whose father shamed her suitor in public legitimately pissed us off! I’m going to have to run this setting just to find out what the hell is happening there!

We very much enjoyed the pre-made characters, my wife the “mace to the face” cat folk and me the halfling scout. I was worried that as two odd-ball characters we might miss out on some of the Norseness, but no, we were fully included! The descriptions and design notes were fun to read and helped us both jump into these characters immediately.

Minor character highlight was the great big lady wrestler who showed off what the Fantastic Dungeon Grappling can do. Sold me on checking it out, that’s for sure.

The Warding Temple quest to defend the village against 12 hobbs and 3 trolls was a mixed success. It succeeded in reuniting the party after we went a few different ways in Nordvorn, and ending on a big fight was a satisfying wrap-up so I’m glad we went there, but I got confused on where our party started in relation to the fey (ironic since I was the scout!), and that made it tough to sort out what to do other than just “shoot” or “run up and hit/bodyslam them”. Maybe a simple “who’s charging in and who’s staying back” table on the giant notepad would have helped? Fortunately the spellcaster next to me concussed the snot out of half the bad guys (and a few of us too) which helped us win the fight and end on time.

One last highlight: we arrived at the dock of Nordvorn with that brand new ship and the official asked us where we got it. We were standing around hum-hawing because, although per custom we’d claimed it fair and square, we weren’t sure exactly how to explain it. Suddenly you as our NPC boat captain whom we’d saved jumped in with “LET ME TELL YOU THE STORY!” It was an awesome moment of GMing and got us through that awkward pause while making us feel like righteous Norse heroes.

In conclusion, this was a tremendously exciting setting and session. Thanks for running it!

I got to play Dragon Heresy in a game run by a young lady my own system on Friday. She’d either never or rarely GM’d before. She decided to run in my book, as her dad was a supporter of both the original Lost Hall as well as Dragon Heresy. My take-aways?

The Good

  • The world is compelling and immersive. She grabbed on to the details and hooks provided by the map of Torengar every bit as much as I’d hoped.
  • Northwatch really is a compelling spot on that map, and I’m glad my upcoming release will detail the heck out of it
  • The grappling system, also available as a stand-alone in Dungeon Grappling, really is that good. Everyone got it, everyone used it, no complaints. Seamless.
  • It was amenable to fast play in a two hour session by a new GM. So very accessible.
  • The final confrontation was not combat; she ran a nifty scenario where we had to play against Loki himself. I showed her the flyting rules after the fact, and she really liked them.

To be Improved

  • The real area that stuck out as a stumbling point was a stumbling point on remembering that a swift attack (like an arrow from a bow) is quite nasty: it only has to meet the lower Threat DC unless the target has a shield.
  • It didn’t come up much, but the decision to employ a Frantic Defense to avoid taking wounds if a target is attacked and its Hit DC is exceeded happens before armor is subtracted.
  • The ranged combat tweaks in general are more extensive than melee.

There’s an obvious fix for this: a short flowchart. Ideally something that fits on a 3×5 or playing card. Once you get the system, it’s very smooth. But a quick reference for ranged and melee combat that would fit on the back of a playing card is now on my radar.

All in all, she designed and executed a two-hour scenario that finished in two hours, which is amazing for a new GM, so well done to her on that.

As for my part, I kept my promise. I answered questions where prompted, she ran the game, and I shut up and played my character.

Good game.

The control point based rules in my various grappling supplements are good. But they can be adjusted to taste in various ways to increase the fun in grappling at your table.

TG: The History

GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling evolved in the writing and testing, as all books do. Originally, DX penalties and ST penalties alternated with each increment in control points. First you’d lose a point in DX, then ST, then DX, then ST, etc. That was too complicated to track; the goal was “make each CP valuable” but this wasn’t the way.

Eventually, we decided that for two ST 10 foes (because you need to normalize DX penalties based on fraction of ST, blah blah) that every 2 CP was -1 DX and -1 ST. Because the more you’re grappled, the harder it is to apply your full ST effectively. The ST reductions were really important to the progression, and normalizing it (it took 4 CP to do -1 DX to a ST 20 creature) was also an important balancing act.

However . . . re-figuring ST on a point-by-point basis was cumbersome at best.

D&D and Dungeon Grappling

Making a super-simple application of the core control points principle for application in Swords and Wizardry, Peter Dell’Orto and I came up with the idea of control thresholds, based on ST. Each threshold had some impact on hit rolls, damage rolls, etc. But the advantage here was you only had to track breakpoints. This was lower book-keeping, each CP had value in your ability to spend them, and sped up play.

Applying this to D&D5e, the Pathfinder RPG, and fleshing it out and improving it for Swords and Wizardry was the point of Dungeon Grappling. I was able to make a two page “DG Quick Start” which appeared in Lost Hall of Tyr. So it was clear that at the core, simplifying a “Technical/Dungeon” grappling system for 5e (and therefore Dragon Heresy) was fun, fast, playable, and with the right approach, simply better than the existing stuff out there.

Fantastic Dungeon Grappling

When I got the license to turn Lost Hall of Tyr into Hall of Judgment, I also got permission to put in the simplified grappling concepts as alternate rules. I’d learned a ton about speed of play since 2011/2012 when I wrote Technical Grappling, and re-applying all of those lessons in a simplified form for speed of play at the table was both gratifying and, ultimately, successful.

The playtesters tweaked out the system until in most cases it ran smoothly. As always, when normal ST folks fight other normal ST folks, things work out OK. For most characters, Wrestling and the like are backup skills, but for “fighty types,” they tend to be in the 14-16 range. Credible but not dominating. Solid skill levels, but basically you’re looking at front-line ST (14-17) and Wrestling at DX or DX+1. That”s 1d to about 1d+3 control points per successful attack. Against a non-fighter type, a successful hit will mostly be in the -2 to -4 to DX range, with excursions to -8 if you get a good roll vs a weaker character. Against an equal-ST foe, it will take two turns to get to “Greater than CM” level.

Even so, it’s not that hard to have that first successful grapple take you from Wrestling-14 or Wrestling-16 to anywhere from Wrestling-6 to Wrestling-12; the upper one isn’t bad. The lower is in “death spiral” territory, from one attack.

Part of the reason the penalties were set the way they were is that the adjustment of ST was nixed. No longer would one be recalculating ST (and thus damage, encumbrance, etc) on a turn-by-turn basis. In fact, even the concept of adjusting ST at all was dropped, so that the answer to “what’s my grappling damage” is always “whatever it says on your character sheet” and even if that doesn’t work out, you can always just say “it’s your thrust, +1 per die if you have Wrestling at DX+1.”

If you have Wrestling or Judo at DX+4 or better, well, you really care about grappling and will have looked it up and written it down in advance. That’s “primary skill” level, not “close-combat backup.”

So the basic thought was -1 DX per Control Point, or ‘against typical DX, which is often in the 12-16 range, once you pass your control maximum you’re immobilized.’ So the upper bound was set at -16, which would immobilize just about anyone, even some of the characters I’ve seen played with weapon skills well above 20. Halving the penalties at each lower increment seemed good, it had a -4 (the usual GURPSy grappling penalty) in the realm of 4-8 control points (a fairly typical successful grappling attack), and it played OK in the tests.

That you maxed out at “you can’t apply more CP than your Control Maximum” helped a bit, but it was usually possible to get up to that point in a turn or two, and, well: death spiral. The point of grappling is a bit of back-and-forth struggle. And I hate “I win!” buttons. In many of the tests, “I win!” wasn’t present. But it didn’t take much to tip that scale.

Don’t Get Grappled?

Some of the things that we got rid of, like adjusting ST penalties, were for bookkeeping reduction. One of the things we nixed, which is penalties or bonuses to control points or effects due to size modifier differences, was a direct nod to the epic nature of the source material. Human-sized, mighty-thewed heroes could wrestle and contend with ogres, cyclops (cyclopses? Cyclopes!), and other giant creatures because they were epic, mighty-thewed heroes.

Having King Kong grapple you and poof you’re helpless is realistic. It’s believable. And it’s boring. It’s especially boring if the only response to fighting moderately strong creatures (or gaggles of small ones) is “don’t get grappled.”

So while the results on the as-published table aren’t wrong, there are many cases where fun can be increased by tuning things a bit.

Suggested Tweaks

If the existing rules don’t work for you, try the following:

  • Your Control Maximum remains unchanged, and equal to Lifting ST
  • Alter the Control Point Effects table as follows
Control Points DX Penalty
up to 1/10 Lifting ST
 Up to 0.5 x Lifting ST -2
>0.5xLift ST to 1.0xLift ST -4
>1.0xLift ST to 1.5x Lift ST -6
>1.5xLift ST to 2.0xLift ST -8
Greater than 2xLifting ST -12
  • You cannot apply more CP than your Control Maximum unless you All-Out Attack, which doubles your allowed Control Maximum

If you choose to not All-Out Attack, your CM drops and your applied control instantly drops to your CM if it’s greater, much like if you release a grapple to parry your grapple is instantly lost or diminished.

Take-aways

  • The penalties are gentler and extend to higher applied control totals. This will allow more back-and-forth between grapplers
  • Normal folks with 1d to 1d+3 control points per hit (1-9 CP, or 4-6 CP per attack on the average) will take four to six turns, or four to six seconds, of unopposed grappling to bring someone to -12 penalty, which will take most non-experts to either “can’t roll” or “you can only succeed in an attack if you crit or AoA)
  • King Kong or a Large Dragon at ST 50 will still be hitting you with 5d+2 control damage; that’s 19-20 points, which is enough to put most folks in the -6 to -8 penalty range in one shot; that’s believable
  • Maintaining dominating control of more than your Lifting ST requires All-Out Attacking; you’re certainly not doing anything else but “controlling the other guy.” This seems a worthy trade off for totally immobilizing someone of basically equal to your ST
  • The lower penalty rates will give an opportunity to counter-grapple. That’s not always present in these contests, and it should be.

More Tweaks

  • The -6 penalty line can simply be deleted. More than your Lifting ST in applied control points, and you’re at -8 to DX. Then for each additional multiple of your Lifting ST, take an additional -4.
  • You could halve the penalties, but at the -2, -6, and -12 levels (which would be halved to -1, -3, and -6), apply a -1, -2, or -3 per die penalty to control point damage on a successful attack. That would make a lot more ebb and flow in control points, as experts will be removing some control much of the time, and truly immobilizing someone is a constant struggle. This puts fiddle back, and “no, you’re just screwed” is a legit part of some grappling holds
  • Fantastic Dungeon Grappling is designed to work without many of the more complex grappling options from GURPS Martial Arts. Instead of All-Out Attack, things like Arm Lock might be required to increase control beyond the CM, so locking a joint opens up truly large penalties.
  • Applying pain, from Martial Arts, would be another way to apply large penalties without increasing CM, so that by moving up to your Control Maximum and then applying a Pain affliction to the foe, that would compound the effects without requiring All-Out Attack. Since Arm Lock and the like default to flat grappling skills anyway, “make a successful attack to apply pain” would not even be a deviation from the rules – you just can’t buy it up with the (non-existent in the Dungeon Fantasy RPG) Technique rules.

Parting Shot

Right now, the emergent behavior from the rules as written tend to be “who grapples first grapples best,” “don’t get grappled by big, strong foes,” and “bring friends,” since you might need their help to escape from grapples. Also, grappling is as fast and decisive as getting brained by a swung sword.

You’re just as “Save or Spectate” if a ST 21 guy with a two-handed sword and weapon master hits you: Swing damage for that is 4d-1, +3 for the sword and +8 for having your primary weapon at DX+2 or more. That’s 4d+10, or 14-34 points of cutting damage. That’s a one-hit kill on a human. Strong guys with grappling or strong guys with weapons are very dangerous, period. You can’t armor yourself much vs grappling, but it’s thrust-based, not swing based. Balances out.

None of these things are wrong or bad.

However, if you want grappling to be decisive but still allow for some good back-and-forth, try some or all of the tweaks above . . . and let me know how they go.

Rebuking and turning undead that still cling to a semblance of life is pretty much a fantasy RPG staple. It’s been part of Dungeons and Dragons since nearly the beginning – I believe Arneson added it as a foil to “Sir Fang,” and Gygax fiddled with it or dropped it in his games – there’s a nice history here at Hidden in Shadows by DH Boggs.

But this is an article about GURPS, specifically, the Dungeon Fantasy RPG, Powered by GURPS. It assimilates all of that old-school inspiration, plus more from rogue-like games and “stomp the bad guys!” games like Diablo III, and hones GURPS into a fairly high-power dungeon delving game. Characters start pretty optimized, begin at 250 points, and the social and in town aspects of the game are somewhere from “minimized” to “absent.”

It is ridiculous fun, and as I learned at GameHole Con 2018, is digestible by beginners if presented properly.

But about those clerics…

Turning in Dungeon Fantasy RPG

Let’s start off with as factual a description as I can bring to bear. This is important because as it turns out, I completely biffed it when it came time to run it at GameHole.

Even so: this turns it into a matter of degree rather than a binary “I win,” but some of the observations from GameHole still exist.

As a cleric with the Turning power (Adventurers, p. 21), anything “undead” and “truly evil” can be repelled by you if you Concentrate. You must win a Quick Contest of Will between yourself and each foe you might turn. This is impacted by the Rule of 16 (Exploits, p. 8). You add your Power Investiture, plus a bonus for the oomph of your holy symbol if you have one that’s +1 for blessed and +2 for High Holy. Another factor in favor of Clerical Awesomeness is that as written, Sanctity level doesn’t hinder the ability, so in an area of Low Sanctity (which is pertinent to the Hall of Judgment example), your Turning is still at full burn.

On the down side: Rule of 16 means that you’ll never roll vs higher than 16 (unless you’re very good and you foe is also very Willful), and you have to actually buy Turning, which is a 24-point opportunity cost.

It’s a 3d roll, and if your bad guys are anything but a Lich, Spectre, or Vampire (who all have Will 15 to 18, which is to say, “adventurer-class”) you’re looking at Will in the 8-10 range for our bad guys, and the distance they have to keep from Mister Cleric is going to be on the average about 6-8 yards, and that’s enough to keep the entire party more or less safe. On a good roll, say a 5 or 6, you’re looking at keeping the bad guys up to 15 yards away from you.

So What?

Part of the issue here is that Turning is pretty much designed to neutralize the impact of fodder undead, and what I’m complaining about is mostly that it does it too well. There’s also the fact that I made a few errors along the way in running it: in particular I play a lot with GURPS Powers: Divine Favor (still the best Clerical Powers system in existence). There’s a power in there called Protection from Evil which basically grants True Faith (the basis of the Turning Power), and an enhanced version gives a roll vs Will+10. So my cleric was rolling vs Will-24 to turn undead vs foes with Will-8 and Will-10.

In the end, I slapped on a -5 penalty for Low Sanctity (see above for why this is wrong), which for one of the groups made the usual roll vs Will-19; you can see, though, that for the pre-gen in question (Will-14, Power Investiture 5) that it made little net difference. Forgetting the Rule of 16 would have brought the radius in by an average of three yards.

So my errors were in magnitude but not in exists/don’t exist. Even so, I feel that the 24 points of Turning is a bit too much oomph as written. Continue reading “Turning Undead: “I win!””

GameHole Con 2018 – Con Report

Well, I survived! This was the first convention that I’d attended since my journey to GenCon 2017, as part of my first foray as being part of the con as Gaming Ballistic, LLC. I was, more importantly it turned out, also there as part of my Kickstarter rewards for backing the Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game (Powered by GURPS) at the “play the game with Kromm” level.

That’s important for this journey to Madison, Wisconsin for two reasons.
1. I played through what would turn into the linear adventure Lost Hall of Tyr (for D&D5e) there for the first two times
2. I got to know the Dungeon Fantasy RPG for the first time

My mission for this Convention, then? To demonstrate and run Hall of Judgment, the first licensed adventure or supplement of any kind for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG. To talk with the SJG folks (Phil and Steve were both there) about further ideas for supporting GURPS. To get to meet in person folks like Matt Finch, Erik Tenkar, Jason Hobbs, and many others whom I’ve interacted with – and who have helped me so much – in getting my games off the launch pad. I simply could not have done what I did on Dragon Heresy and Hall of Judgment without an absolutely crucial hour or so with Zach Glazar, who pumped an incredible amount of InDesign Starter information into my head.

I also was hoping to sell a few copies of my product, which was a secondary goal but a real one.

Let’s recap. Continue reading “GameHole Con 2018 Trip Report!”

Foreword (Douglas)

This continues the actual play report by Simone De Bellis, the first session of which was transcribed here in a prior post (mildly edited by me), and here in the GURPS North America Facebook group, which thankfully is used by folks well beyond North America.

As before, he takes what I gave him in Hall of Judgment and makes it his own. Some of the changes – such as making the thurs (a kind of fae troll-kin) into minor jotuns are pretty inspired. The other is using the natural freedom of the setting to plunk down needed resources, such as a village he needs for reasons to be revealed later, I suppose!

It’s great to see someone so obviously having fun with the material.

Read on for details! And pick up a copy today – either from Warehouse 23, or my own webstore. Continue reading “Actual Play Report: Hall of Judgment 2 (Simone De Bellis)”

Foreword (Douglas)

Hall of Judgment was a successful Kickstarter that produced a – even if I do say so myself – fine, playable, good-looking product. Even so, it’s nice when a creator gets feedback, and my ego appreciates stroking as much as the next man. Even better than compliments on the book itself is that most Fremen of compliments: “Your plan worked, Muad’Dib.” In short, as Peter Dell’Orto would say: “Did it work in Actual Play?” So what follows is a bit of an instigated post. Simone De Bellis posted that he was playing Hall of Judgment with his group, and had gone through several sessions worth. I nudged him to write up a play report, and he willingly obliged. So here’s a Hall of Judgment actual play report!

He posted the results on the GURPS North America Facebook Group, and I’m reproducing that here. He’s not a native English speaker; I believe he’s from Italy, and I’ve done some editing, with his permission, for clarity.

What follows is an example of how to play Hall of Judgment while dropping it into a very unique and self-sculpted campaign world. He didn’t feel the need to conform to my assumptions of the world of Norðlond, and did things his own way.

This is as it should be.

Read on for details! And pick up a copy today – either from Warehouse 23, or my own webstore. Continue reading “Hall of Judgment: Actual Play report (guest post)”