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!


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)”