+Jon Couts messaged me the other day about a question regarding The Last Gasp.

Turns out he’s running an arena combat with the rules, and he allowed me to link to it.

Click the picture to go to the play-by-post arena combat!

Thanks to Jon for giving the rules a try.

I might suggest he try Delayed Gratification (Setup Attacks) instead of the existing Feint rules in a future combat and see what he and his players think . . .

The important thing to me is that AP allowed the spearman to exhaust her foe, and drove some decisions on the part of the knight that he’d rather not have made. Good HT to aid recovery and shake off the impact of injury for AP reduction was a big deal. At times, skill drove the battle; at other times, fitness. A nice mix, I think. Jon also notes that by the end of the fight, Sir Mander’s ST was low enough that he was getting an extra -1 to use his axe because he didn’t meet it’s Min ST. The Last Gasp gives a small bonus to low min ST weapons in that way. If he’d been using a small axe he’d have been fine.

In many ways, Cadmus, my Warrior Saint in +Nathan Joy‘s Dungeon Fantasy game has been an experiment. He was my first DF character, well, ever. He used new rules – Divine Favor – rather than the standard magic system. I also solicited and accepted a lot of steering on how I put him together.

Now that 280 starting points has grown to 330, with many sessions under my belt, what would I do differently? Are there general theories that emerge?

Divine Favor

First, while I was told that initially I’d be ‘the backup healer,’ I was also steered to a level of oomph in those abilities that really equaled ‘a redundant primary healer.’

By and large, this is a good thing. DF games are notoriously violent, and if your primary guy goes down due to, say, a ninja sword in the back, you need someone who can step up. Or a metric crap-ton of potions.

Also, I don’t know if I’ve just rolled well, Nate’s been kind, or what, but the General, Specific, and Learned Prayers that Cadmus has brought to bear have been really, really fun. Of course, they don’t always work (General and Specific prayers; LPs always work), but when they do, they’re an immense power multiplier.

Once you hit Divine Favor at level 8 to 10, you can really bring on some major mojo.

Anyway, let’s look at Cadmus, who will grow soon to 330 points.

Not that kind of Paladin . . .

Brother Cadmus (313 points)

Age 28; Human; 6’1″; 200 lbs.; Solidly built, friendly looking, moves with purpose.
ST 14* [40]; DX 13 [60]; IQ 12 [40]; HT12 [20]. Damage 1d+1/2d+1; BL 39 lb; HP 14 [0]; Will 14 [10]; Per 12 [0]; FP 12 [0]. Basic Speed 6.25 [0]; Basic Move 6 [0]; Block 12 (Shield)†; Dodge 10†; Parry 13 (Axe/Mace)†. Unspent Points: 2

I’m not sure I’d change much here. The biggest thing that I’ve found is in the Move stat, where more is better. Being the last one to the fight, or being unable to reposition yourself quickly, is a real drag. Especially when faced with fellow compatriots who can act at range or fly.

Some of these stats aren’t precisely accurate, but by and large, this isn’t a bad set. Will-14 has been a real blessing (so to speak), and the only other thing I might recommend here is more Perception. I’ve found the same thing in Pathfinder, but you can never really have too much Perception. Also, my previous analysis of HT suggests that there are real benefits to HT 13 or 14.

Points gained/needed: Maybe 20 between Per and HT. I could potentially trade the 15-20 non-optimal points in skills I found below for some benefits here.

Social BackgroundEdit

TL: 3 [0].
CF: Inner Sea.
Languages: Taldane (Native/None); Trade Speak (Broken/None). [0]

The only weakness here has really been languages, but that’s not his niche. No changes.


Combat Reflexes [15]; Divine Favor 8 [45]; Learned Prayer (Final Rest) [1]; Learned Prayer (Flesh Wounds) [4]; Learned Prayer (Righteous Fury); Learned Prayer (Protection from Evil, Enhanced) [7]; Learned Prayer (Lay on Hands) [8]; Learned Prayer (Smite); Striking ST 1 [5]; Trading Character Points for Money $2,500 [5].
Perks: Named Possession (Axe, “Shrivener”); Shield-Wall Training; Shtick (Beings killed cannot rise as Undead); Skill Adaptation (Judo Throw defaults to Axe/Mace); Suit Familiarity (Armory/TL3); Weapon Bond (Axe/Mace) [6].

Combat Reflexes is worth it for the defenses alone if you intend to be on the front line – and that’s where Cadmus winds up, especially once we lost Gareth, the other heavy hitter. Thumvar, the Gargoyle Knight, is a front line all by himself at times, but if you’re going to step up, not only is CR worth it, but enhanced defenses in general are a good idea.

I make near-constant use of all of my LPs, with the possible exception of Final Rest, but at only one point, it’s great color, and makes total sense as a paladin of Pharasma, Mistress of Graves, Lady of Fate, and all around chick who hates the undead.

Everyone should look hard at getting a Named Possession. They’re just that awesome.

The only “meh” has been Judo Throw defaulting to Axe/Mace. As I’ve noted before in a few places, this just hasn’t worked for me at all. Notionally, it should be awesome. Parry with the axe, and then next turn you throw your foe to the ground, at which point either you or a second-line guy can murderize him. In practice, not so much. It’s not a BAD use of a point, but it hasn’t worked out well.

Points gained/needed: Maybe one or two points. No more, and not worth fiddling with.


Code of Honor (Pharasmic Code) [-10]; Honesty (15 or less) [-5]; Sense of Duty (Adventuring companions) [-5]; Sense of Duty (Ameiko Kaijitsu) [-2]; Vow (Own no more than horse can carry) [-10]; Selfless (12 or Less)*; Disciplines of Faith (Ritualism)*.
  • These advantages were gained in play; Pharasma blessed Cadmus with Righteous Fury and Enhanced version of Protection from Evil, and Cadmus gained Selfless and Ritualism.

Quirks: Does not put himself in the lead role willingly [-1]; Follows an escalation of force (knobbed club, hammer, axe) , kills grudgingly [-1]; Very competitive, but doesn’t start competitions [-1]; Loves to gamble [-1]; Not evangelical; helps people meet their fate, but doesn’t push or preach [-1]

Code of Honor has worked fine, and ties in with my Divine Favor. Selfless and Ritualism were fun, as has been Honesty. The quirk of escalation of force? Yeah, that hasn’t worked out. At all. But it’s only one point, so it’s not a character-changing event. It’s just not appropriate for Dungeon Fantasy, where most disagreements are settled with lethal force from the get-go.

Points gained/needed: Pick a new quirk other than force escalation.


Animal Handling (Equines) (A) IQ-1 [2]-12; Armoury/TL3 (Body Armor) (A) IQ-1 [1]-11; Armoury/TL3 (Melee Weapons) (A) IQ-1 [1]-11; Axe/Mace (A) DX+5 [20]-18‡; Bow (A) DX-1 [2]-13; Carousing (E) HT [1]-12; Climbing (A) DX-1 [1]-12; First Aid/TL3 (Human) (E) IQ [1]-12; Gambling (A) IQ [2]-12; Heraldry (A) IQ-1 [1]-11; Hiking (A) HT-1 [1]-11; Holy Warrior! (WC) IQ-1 [12]-11; Observation (A) Per-1 [1]-11; Polearm (A) DX+1 [4]-14; Riding (Equines) (A) DX-1 [2]-13; Savoir-Faire (High Society) (E) IQ [1]-12; Shield (Shield) (E) DX+4 [12]-17; Shortsword (A) DX [2]-13; Stealth (A) DX-1 [1]-12; Swimming (E) HT [1]-12; Wrestling (A) DX-1 [2]-13.
Techniques: Arm Lock (Wrestling) (A) [2]-15; Armed Grapple (Axe/Mace) (H) [0]-15; Armed Grapple (Polearm) (H) [0]-12; Disarming (Axe/Mace) (H) [0]-17; Judo Throw (Axe/Mace) (H) [0]-17; Targeted Attack (Axe/Mace Swing/Neck) (H) [3]-14; Trip (Wrestling) (H) [0]-9; Wrist Lock (Wrestling) (A) [1]-14.
  • Conditional +2 from ‘Striking ST’.
† Includes +1 from ‘Combat Reflexes’. ‡Conditional +1 from ‘Weapon Bond (Axe/Mace)’.

Here’s where things get interesting. I’ve bolded the ones I’ve never made a roll against that I recall. There’s basically 20 points of more or less wasted stuff on there, and I don’t think I’d have put points in Bow if I’d have made the character before I did my analysis of useful levels of skill with ranged weapons. Throwing axes are better for the kind of thing Cadmus would be doing.

The Armoury skills might come in more handy during the long trek north over the ice that we face as the next step in our Journey. But the rest should have been traded for another level of Holy Warrior, which would have cost 12 points but given me another much-needed Destiny/Bonus Point. Those are gold.

So there are 15-20 points here that could be adjusted for better stats, or re-invested on other skills. Holy Warrior-12 is probably worth it for the Destiny Point alone.


1× Hip Quiver ($15; 1 lb) containing 20× Arrow ($40; 2 lb)
1× Fine Composite Bow (ST 13; $3600; 4 lb).
1× Named Possession (Shrivener): Axe (Hilt Punch; Weapon Bond; Hammer; Dwarven; Penetrating Weapon (2); Bane (Spirits, Demons, and the Undead); Defending Weapon +1 (Bane). $10,475; 4.5 lb). [25 Energy unspent]
1× Poleaxe (Spear; $150; 10.5 lb).
1xMail, Plate, and Leather Armor Panoply

1× Boots, Leather ($80; 3 lb; DR 2)1× Cloth, Padded Undersuit (Full Suit, Ornate (x2 cost), Lighten 3/4); $375; 12.4 lb; DR 1*)1× Gauntlets, Medium Segmented (Reduced Cost (-20%); $72; 2.4 lb; DR 4)1× Heavy Mail Armss and Legs (Ornate x2 cost; Lighten 3/4; Fortify +1); $3668; 20.25 lb; DR 6/4*)1× DR 7 Plate Corselet (Torso; TL4 x2 cost; Lighten 3/4, Fortify +1); $6150; 18 lb; DR 8)1× DR7 Plate Full Helm (Padding;TL4 x2 cost; Fortify +1; Lighten 3/4); $1845; 6.75 lb; DR 8);

I’ve got zero complaints about my kit. Shrivener, my Named Axe, is a thing of beauty and awesomeness. My armor could use new boots and gauntlets, but it cost me about $12,000 and was obtained fairly recently in play. DR 8 or so is great to have, and we recently came into enough money ($27K or so) that I could upgrade further if required.

The poleaxe has never seen use. Partly that’s because I couldn’t mentally justify the image of lugging a nine or ten foot pole around in some Highlander-like space. It’s a battlefield weapon, not a dungeon one. Even a dueling poleaxe (Reach 1,2 rather than 2,3) while interesting, isn’t worth the time it takes to switch weapons in most cases.

The bow? Nice, but I’m not skilled enough with it to make it worthwhile, and ST 13 is only 1d, and even with bodkin points for 1d(2) pi it’s not that impressive.

Ballistic’s Report

By and large, Cadmus is and remains a good character. When he gets his Righteous Fury on, he’s a credible front-line combatant, though not as optimized for mayhem as Thumvar. With some time to spare, he can bring some really useful powers to bear, especially out of combat, via his prayers.

But I probably have something like 15-20 fairly non-optimal points in skills that just don’t see much use. In a DF game, that’s really to be avoided. Lesson learned!

Going forward, some of the concepts in +Antoni Ten MonrósSaintly Power-Ups will make for serious consideration. The one where you can have two learned prayers active at once? That’s serious stuff, especially if you want to do Righteous Fury and either Guide My Hand (Cadmus doesn’t have it, but it’s basically Weapon Master), which catapults you to an instant front-line meat cleaver, or something else like Protection from Evil.

Last Tuesday we had the final battle with the rejuvenated Oni, whom we fondly called “Kim.”

It turned out to be fairly anticlimactic. We twigged early to the massive rune-laden club with the Thousand Words of Pain on it to being the real issue (and especially after several solid hits came to no good result on our part). We attacked the weapon directly, rolled really well, cut it in two . . . whereupon it exploded.

Dawn got pasted with a massive blow before that, but thanks to Ninja! Destiny/Bonus points, turned that into a miss/graze rather than an insta-kill with something like 20+ crushing damage in one blow.

After the club exploded, we had the big bad surrounded – the bane of many-on-one encounters in GURPS for the one – and more or less proceeded to pound him into jelly. As Mark points out in the comments, Shiba crippled Kim’s foot, rooting the Oni in place and allowing us to more or less go to town on the beast.

Afterwards, Cadmus cleansed the temple for an hour or two of prayer, and we went a-looting.

Staver, bored and a bit put off by all the praying (Infernal, after all) grabbed the keychain tossed to him by +Mark Langsdorf‘s new character, Shiba the Mystic Knight. He found the magical lock, turned the key . . .

. . . and the entire room burst into flames. Oops. Trapped.

That’s where we ended. We’ll see if Emily needs a new character, or is just lightly toasted.


Update. Staver survived, but pretty seriously singed. Loot was gathered, and totaled north of $25K per party member, looks like, plus some cool magic items. Big Pile of Character Points to be awarded later. Not sure what Cadmus will spend his loot on, but he has to spend it or give it away (pesky vow).

GURPS Low Tech is a pretty darn good book. There’s a lot of value there, and even more so in the three companions.

There are a few books out, such as Instant Armor, and the forthcoming Low Tech Armor Loadouts, that help whittle down the very large job of choosing armor kit. It took me a very, very long time to assemble the armor for Cadmus, my Warrior Saint in +Nathan Joy‘s game.
Along the way, I put together a spreadsheet. It took permutations of the various armor types in Low Tech, with quality and heaviness modifiers. I then sorted it by DR, and calcualted Cost/DR as well as Weight/DR. 
Here, I present the (long) table that is the summary of that work. I’ve removed enough material that you can’t do without the book (and I’m not even remotely sorry). 
Warriors on a Budget

My premise here is simple. You’re starting off and your’e on a budget. If you purchased multiple levels of Wealth or you’re an experienced adventurer looking to upgrade, you will want this list sorted by Weight per unit DR. Yeah, I’ll be doing that later. 
Cheesy Protection: DR 1-2

This isn’t really enough armor to deal with much of anything, but I suppose it beats nothing at all, and can provide much-needed partial protection against certain low-level wounds. It can also be darn protective against things like smallshot or other things that are pi- and carry an armor divisor of (0.5). So, low utility but not entirely useless.
Cheap medium and heavy leather are your tickets here for anything you’d actually want to be seen in. Straw, wood, and cane are, well, embarrassing.
Low-end Serious

At DR 3, which is just enough to more or less protect against the average damage from a 1d attack, there are a few contenders. Good Heavy Leather and Good Layered Medium Leather are nice, Cheap Layered Heavy Leather is in there, and if you must have metal armor for some reason, Cheap Medium Scale makes the list.
Decent Serious Protection
Now at DR 4-5 you’re looking at being protected vs. the average damage from a 1d or 1d+1 attack. That’s starting to get credible, and DR 5 is well worth having.
If you can get it, Cheap Mail and Plates is (by about 10%) the superior ticket to DR 4. Cheap Heavy Scale ad Cheap Heavy Mail are in there, as is Cheap Heavy Segmented Plate. Those run $100-120 per point of DR. Mail and Plates isn’t on the “too shabby” list by DR per pound, either, being smack in the middle of the pack. Cheap Heavy Mail is even better by that basis.
At DR 5, Cheap Jousting Mail is your go-to, though it comes with significant drawbacks in flexibility (it’s not). Proofed paper is surprisingly effective (if flammable, perhaps? maybe not) at this level, and Cheap Medium Plate  and Good Mail and Plates are the real winners in the “overall, some darn nice protection for $1,000.” 
Note that that is starting wealth for TL3. So you’ve just blown your entire wad on armor that only covers the torso. Better invest in signature gear or a level or more of Wealth at this kind of entry point.
Starting to Tank Out

DR 6 and DR 7 are where you start to expect to find plate armor (that was the DR of a steel breastplate in Basic, more or less) and in fact, that’s what you find. The “very best” in terms of cost per unit protection at this level are Cheap DR 7 and Cheap DR 8 plate, which become DR 6 and 7 respectively, as Cheap metal armor loses a point of DR. 
Hardened Mail and Plates is also DR 6, but will cost you $5,000 for the privilege.  Cheap DR 7 plate (that gives DR 6) is probably the overall cost/weight winner here, as is Cheap DR 8 plate (that gives DR 7) at that entry. Hardened or Duplex DR 5 plate, on the other hand, are hugely expensive at DR 6, while not-insane-heavy but still spendy could be Fluted DR 6 plate and Hardened Heavy Mail, both at 3lbs per point of DR.
You Wanna Wear WHAT?

At the DR 8 and up level, it’s all plate, all the time. DR 9 is the last place where Cheap Plate gets you to a good price point, and you’re spending $1,800 to get it. If I did the math right. Spreadsheet is kinda old. 
You Can do Magic . . .

All of this goes more or less right out the window when you can get Fortify and Lighten on your armor, and at Dungeon Fantasy prices, that’s exactly what you want to do. Very quickly, and recognizing that Nate uses some special rules to make magically-suitable armor more expensive, including requiring at least a +1 Cost Factor (+1 CF, or x2 cost multiplier) on the base armor in order to enchant it. TL4 armors in DF cost double, so they qualify.
The low-low end armors don’t seem to be worth the magic. Again, given Nate’s rules, think about:
DR 4: Heavy Leather and Medium Layered Leather play nicely with Fortify/Lighten
DR 5. Medium Scale and Layered Heavy Leather, but both aren’t as good as the mundane Mail and Plates for DR 5.
DR 6: As you might guess, take Mail and Plates and hit it with Fortify and Lighten for DR 6
DR 7: Jousting mail with Fortify/Lighten can be pretty sweet if you can deal with it being rigid. If not, Mail and Plates with Fortify +2 is still a pretty good ticket
DR 8: Again jousting mail (Fortify +2) for the win here, though DR 7 plate with Fortify 1 is runner up (though 15% more expensive).
DR 9+: Back in the all Plate, all-the-time, with magical DR extending easily to DR 12 (DR 10 plate and Fortify +2).
Remember, that if you’re in a TL4 game or you don’t get the x2 cost basis for enchantable armor, some of the Fortify 1/Lighten 3/4 will be very very attractive.

Parting Shot

What you’re looking at here, with no surprises, are variants of leather at DR 1-3, mail at DR 4-5, and plate at DR 6+. Mail and Plates, if available, is a spectacularly good balance of cost and weight per unit DR. 
Another, much more complicated, option is to optimize your kit with slightly weaker DR on the back than the front. Working within a budget, it can seem attractive for starting armor to have (say) DR 5 or 6 on your front, and maybe DR 3-4 on your back. 
That’s not wrong, per se, but you’ll want to upgrade to a more uniform level of protection, and if you expect to face swarms or magical foes that teleport (or are just very sneaky), you’ll want to protect the vitals, either through a separate pectoral piece (not mentioned in the above table) or just thickened armor over the Vitals (bought, naturally, as a pectoral anyway).

GM: +Jeromy French
Players: +kung fu hillbilly , +Joshua Taylor , +Matt Sutton

We started out with some discussion of crafting and enchanting, as our resident Alchemist managed to come up with some very Pel-centric boots that give +2 each to Stealth, Swim, and Sailor for Rogues with the right skill set (mine). Retail for 6500gp, I get it for all my money (about 3400gp)

Pirates of the Caribbean IV

We spot and are pursued by a ship which moves against the wind and can teleport. We discuss options, which are all obviated when the damn thing goes from starboard to port with no time in between.

The ghost ship rams us hard on the port side after nailing us with a few ballista shots. We fire back.

The ghost ship is quite large, and captained by Whalebone Pilk, who is apparently not only a badass, but a dead one.

We prepare for battle.The Brine Zombies that crew the ship are bloated and filled with seawater; they are thus hard to set on fire, to Gimble the pyromaniacal alchemist’s great disappointment. Also to Alejandro’s, since that means that the odds of Gimble setting Alejandro on fire have just gone up dramatically.

Pilk is weilding a harpoon; the zombies have rusty cutlasses.

Battle is Joined

Pilk opens up with leading the fray with some sort of lung-ripping spell that fatigues Alejandro and costs him -2 CON.

Pel fires off the usual two arrows, hitting minorly with one from 90 feet away. He’s safe for the moment from harassment. Malgrim invokes his Enlarge Person, Alejandro summons a wolf that starts chewing on a brine zombie (Summon Nature’s Ally).

Next round brings another saving throw to Alejandro. The last thing he remembers before falling unconscious is the pressure on his chest easing. Pel launches another two arrows, hitting with one. Minor damage.

Malgrim steps up and just brings the hurt on one of the zombies. 19 damage chops him basically in half. So we presume these guys are vulnerable to cutting damage (slashing, I think, in Pathfinder).

Skipping the play-by-play except for major actions, we saw:

  • Malgrim impaled by a harpoon, which he immediately disarmed by cutting the attached rope
  • Pel revives Alejandro with a Cure Light Wounds potion; the NPC priestess Sandra Quinn throws down for 13 additional healing for him. Should be feeling much better.
  • Gimble tosses an immolation bomb at Pilk. He rolls a 28 for his touch attack, for 8 hp, repeated for 2 rounds
  • Pel fires arrows, doing minor damage each round, mostly, until he runs out
We more or less pound on the assembled multitudes until they die. The ship, the harpoon, and that’s about it radiate magic, but by and large it was just a dogpile event. 
The two ships are sinking together until we free ours. So we escape just fine.

When last we left our heroes, we’d just had the screens fall to reveal a staggering number of new foes in the middle of this final combat of the adventure.

Dawn was stunned for a single second, we were looking at ten or so angry zombies, and a runecaster and some other BMF (an Oni) were threatening us, along with two metal animated statues (golems) with surprisingly sharp swords.

Shanking Validates Pectoral Reqiurement

Soon after we started up, as we faced the Zombies, we quite literally heard the pitter-patter of Ninja feet, and while Thumvar was able to sacrificial parry for Staver, Michel took 11 imp to the vitals pretty much right away, mortally wounding him and incapacitating him for the rest of the four hours of fighting.

Thumvar had been Great Hasted (two maneuvers per turn) late yesterday, and so things got very dead when he was around. Still, he could only save one of them.

We noted that with invisible/stealth ninja All-Out Attacking us to the Vitals from behind, we should all invest in DR 14 pectorals immediately.

Learned Prayers Make Life Really Easy Sometimes

Cadmus’ turn rolled around, and he invoked Enhanced Protection from Evil, which forces a Contest of Will+10 for Cadmus (24) vs. a Will roll from notionally each bad guy. Cadmus makes his roll by 16, and Nate more or less handwaves (or they just roll equal to skill) the opposed rolls, and that means that no “malign supernatural being,” which includes demons and undead, cannot approach within 16 yards. While it’s tough to see on the screenshot, there is basically no place within the combat map that is closer than 16 yards, so this more or less nullified most of our opposition.

The Oni freaked out a little and launched an arrow at him, which Cadmus blocked . . . but the arrow exploded into flame, setting him in fire a bit. But every ninja and all the zombie vikings burned rubber getting outside my effect radius, which they could not do. They fled at some crazy Move, too – they were Fast Zombies, but they never came into play.

Apropos of Nothing: Smite and Protection from Evil are just “I win” buttons in this context, It turned what should have been a frantic, desperate fight which was made worse by our neglecting anything resembling a fight plan or tactics into a near walk in the park. I’m sure Nate is thinking about nerfing some of these abilities either now or in the future.

Thumvar Makes Like John Henry

Cadmus slowly moved to the Coi pond to extinguish himself, Thumvar basically pulled out his flail and started pounding the crap out of our two golems. This was vastly aided, and a life saved, perhaps, by two pieces of unfortunate golem luck:

The first biff chopped into the golem’s leg; the second managed to unready a weapon, which wound up saving Dawn from a serious injury later.

In any case, without a blow-by-blow, Thumvar beat the tar out of these guys while Great Hasted. It was a fairly mechanical task, and Thumvar was perfectly designed for it.

Serious Flaws Revealed in the Undead

Then between Dawn and Staver, they double-teamed the runecaster, with Staver doing his usual Heroic Archer bit, and Dawn providing great help by decapitating the guy.

At that point, with the runecaster’s expiration, all the Zombies up and died all at once. This was noted as a serious flaw in the design of these undead servants.

I’m not Dead Yet

The last credible threat was the Oni, who went by name of Kimandatsu. He couldn’t get within 4 yards of me, which was enough to bring him within Cadmus’ Smite range. That would have gone better had Cadmus not been on fire, and he had to roll himself into the Coi pond to put himself out.

That worked, and he was able to get in one or two submerged Smites – 2d irresisitable burning damage within a 4-yd radius; the biggest benefit there was snapping “Kim” out of invisibilty, which led to most of us trying our luck at killing him.

I think most of us managed to get a small piece of him, whereupon Thumvar finished up with the iron statues, Heroic Charged over to us, and hit the Oni for 18 cr damage.

He died, fell over, froze the pond, and then shortly after, called us fools and woke up.

Next adventure, we shall remember sooner that we are in possession of a Demon-killing sword of awesome power.

“Dawn Triumphant,” by Emily Smirle

Cleavage Rules the World

One bit of inside joking: the new character that replaced Brody is a transcendantly good looking ninja
nymph. Who stores various items, including a six-foot staff, in N-space. We unanimously decided that she’s pulling all of this stuff out of her cleavage. This led to a bit of joking about this (literally) stunningly good looking (stripper) ninja babe riding into combat on a dinosaur wielding a demon-killing flaming sword. One of our players (Emily aka Bruno) sent out a picture.

We decided the fact that Dawn must hide all that ninja stuff and draw it from her ample bosom was the best excuse for the Cleavage Window ever.

Parting Shot

This was a fight we should have probably lost. Badly. And we still might, and we did lost Mark’s character to an unfortunate early-game shanking incident. But we should have been pretty systematically disassembled, I think, just based on crappy tactical choices alone.

But Cadmus’ Protection from Evil (Enhanced) is just an “I win” button. Smite is just about as bad. That is actually a bit of a complaint, and Nate and I mulled on how to nerf it a bit.

We’ll see what happens for the rematch. Dawn will employ her sword to better use, I can likely keep Kim away and occasionally Smite him, Thumvar will do his usual damage, Staver may or may not help, given that these stupid demon critters tend to be stubbornly resistant to impaling damage.

We shall see.

We picked up from +kung fu hillbilly‘s new Pathfinder campaign with +Matt Sutton joining us (apparently he’d been there all along, but he’s a Dwarf, so we apparently never looked down).

We started to wander out to hide in a tree by the exit, only to find our way blocked by a 25-odd foot bear. An angry bear. We started to fight, and Alverior ( +Douglas Cole ) tried to back off to get more room to use his bow, provoking an attack of opportunity. The bear hit him, and he went from 8 HP down to -1 in one blow, like the good first-level practice dummy he is.

Fortunately, the party consists of two clerics, who healed Alverior up right quick. We proceeded to turn the bear into a chopped up pincushion, Kalyl hit him with a few ice balls (earning him the nickname “Snowball”), and Breg hit him with a ball of acid. Naturally, we managed to nearly completely block the hallway with it’s corpse. Oops.

The next morning, we woke, chopped off a bear paw for evidence, and the winter witch and Kalyl ( +Jeromy French ) and Breg Stonebeard ( +Matt Sutton ) traded barbs over whether or not to allow the Goblins to come back to their cave, and then cave it in. I think Berg noted that he had an issue with a Goblin lady, who strongly resembled Kalyl. Alverior backs off to let them have their holy war.

We go back to the Goblin camp, show off our paw, get a necklace of teeth and fingerbones that is supposed to convince the humans that war is averted, and head back to the human settlement.

We showed them the evidence, got offered jobs, refused them, got a 25gp payout, and that was that.

Alverior seems to be a nice fun potential character, once he gets out of the “one-hit wonder” status that is first level.

I completely forgot to snap a screenshot of our characters all trapped behind the token of the bear, which completely filled the 10′-wide corridor. We had a wee bit of an “oh, crap, now what?” moment when we realized that killing the prey right there in the corridor might have rendered us incapable of stopping the war between goblins and humans . . . on account of a giant bear ass in the way.

+kung fu hillbilly started up a new game, both to allow our usual PF GM to play ( +Jeromy French ) as well as, well, he wanted to run a game.

I think it’s set in Golarion, but as far as I can tell, we’re not on an Adventure Path, which works for me. I like sandboxes just fine.

Jaime’s guidance was more or less “out in the wilderness, little contact with anyone, better have good survival skills.”

A few others had fast ideas on characters they’d like to play, leaving me a bit behind. I volunteered to “play to type” a bit, and cover a bow-using Ranger type. Then Jeromy showed me the Elven Archer template/class, and I decided that was the right mix of fighter, ranger, and rogue for what I wanted.

I had a list of stuff I wanted, Elven Curved Blade, Composite Longbow with +2 STR bonus to match my own STR 14, masterwork bowyer’s tools.

Then I rolled 150gp instead of the nearly 300 I’d have needed to complete my stuff list.

So I decided to go almost entirely the other way. I showed up in the Inn that started the adventure with a bow, a light club, two empty quivers, an empty map case, crappy leather armor, and a pretty bad mood for an elf.

I retroactively decided that he had been in a warrior training group, a handful of youngish elves in training with a master. As part of survival training, they were teleported by the Loremasters from their home to this remote, desolate, Goblin-infested area to learn to survive. Kind of a field trip.

But they showed up in the middle of a Goblin raid or camp or something, the master and all his companions were killed, and only he got away, having lost much of his gear (but not his bowyer’s tools or bow).

It made for a nice, relatively dramatic entrance.

Play Summary

The first game was our usual two-hour affair. We met each other, and for the start it was only Jeromy’s half-elf winter witch, and my fully elven archer, isolated in a human settlement. That made for a very interesting dynamic.

We were interrupted in our introductions by the arrival of a fairly frantic woman with many kids in tow. She said her husband was dead, and that a Goblin band had broken a 20-year peace treaty by killing him.

We were recruited to head to the place and check it out. We agreed, and headed out. When we got there, there was lots of evidence of combat, but not really of a true raid. We even found the guy, dead, laid out on his kitchen table with healing bandages all over him. Food was missing, but nothing was really burned.

We tracked the Goblins back to their camp, where an epically failed Stealth roll on my part (oops) led the Chief to come say hello. Rather than fight, we talked, and heard they’d been driven out of their caves, where they’d been living happily, by some nameless un-killable (by them) devouring beast.

I went back to report to the town captain, and found they were busily preparing for war. I told them that they were overreacting, like humans do (hey: Elf. Arrogance is in our blood, you tiny mewling human piipsqueak) and if we could spare a few warriors, we could maybe chalk this up to “oops” and have less bloodshed.

As one would expect from these reactionary children, they were unimpressed. In true elf fashion, I left the room, hopefully in an enigmatic and infuriating fashion (hey, Elf. With CHA 9). Headed back to the farm, met up with my companions, and journeyed to the Goblin cave.

We explored the internals quickly, finding very little. The session ended with us leaving the cave to hang out and lurk outside, so we didn’t get pinned in a cave somewhere.

Ballistic’s Report

I like sandbox campaigns, and this one felt a lot less railroady than both the Adventure Paths I’ve played in (one in GURPS, one in Pathfinder). I feel like we can do nearly anything, even though the problem in front of us is pretty obvious: find monster, get beat up a bit, find monster’s weakness, hopefully kill monster or drive him away and avoid a war.

This’ll be a good diversion from the Skull and Shackles campaign Jeromy runs, and will let me explore Elfdom (elf-hood? elfitude?) as well as seeing if the mix of fighting and spells and woodcraft that is the Elven Archer is a good mix.

I love Divine Favor. I think it’s a far better and more elegant solution to the question of miracles and clerical “magic” than the existing GURPS system, which is basically the same as Magic, with Power Investiture standing in for Magery, and Sanctity making the tag for Mana levels. You pay your cost and you cast your spell.

With Divine Favor, you are (thematically) buying a level of influence with your god(s), and you can appeal to them for aid. The quality of the aid is based on a reaction roll, and can have pretty far-reaching effects.

Cadmus, my Dungeon Fantasy character in +Nathan Joy‘s game based on Pathfinder’s Golarion and Jade Regent Adventure Path, has “Divine Favor 8” which is good for getting my deity’s attention about one time in four if I’m subtle, about half the time if I wave my holy symbol in the air and generally act like a street preacher.

Now, you can request a specific effect, such as the ever-popular Smite, which inflicts 2d burning damage of really ugly holy fire on malign supernatural creatures. It’s particularly effective against the undead. Anyway, the book comes with a list of pre-defined miracles intended as guidelines for effect, and each “level” of miracle has a reaction minimum that comes with it.

You can also buy these as Learned Prayers, which are basically something you can just do, since you’ve paid points for it, and your god has granted you the ability to get the job done more or less at will.

Game mechanically, these are Alternate Abilities, costing 1/5 (round up) the cost of the power that is bestowed; the buy-in is the level of Divine Favor required to “qualify” for the prayer.

Cadmus has used his LPs to great effect, and has several. Protection from Evil (Enhanced) and Smite are great for stomping undead, while Righteous Fury turns him into a Cuisinart for 3d seconds (adds 1d to each of ST, DX, and HT).

Recently, though, I have started to wonder if the “IF Pray, THEN Miracle” nature of how Learned Prayers work might make them a bit too “by rote,” taking away some of the variability and thus mystery of divine intervention.

I’ve not thought this through completely, but I wondered if it would be interesting to work off of the following:

When using a Learned Prayer with things that have a defined benefit, roll 3d and consult the following table:

6-       Half normal effect, double time, or -2 per die damage
7-8    2/3 normal effect, 1.5x time, or -1 per die damage
9-11   Normal effect
12-13   1.25x normal effect, 80% time, or +1 per die damage
14+     2x Normal effect, half time, or double damage

Now, the approximate weighted average of all that crap is about 105%, meaning that on the average, your Learned Prayer is about 5% more effective than the rules-as-written. Kind of a bonus for rolling dice.

Let’s take a look at a few common prayers, and see how this would impact them.

Final Rest: Here’s a great example of an example that isn’t great. You pray for a minute, and at the end, your subject (who is dead) can’t be made undead later. The only thing I can think of here is that the prayer takes longer – two minutes if you roll a 6 or less, but only thirty seconds if you roll well. Big deal.

Protection from Evil: Again, this minor miracle doesn’t let malign supernatural entities approach within a
yard. in this case, you might say that the bad results mean then can get within your hex but can’t touch you, while the bonus effects mean they stay 2 yards away. That’s actually a real benefit, especially for (say) skeletons of the sword- and axe-wielding variety.

Lay on Hands: You can transfer HP from yourself to your subject. This one’s straight-forward, I think. You say how many HP you want to transfer, and roll the dice. If you are planning on transferring 6 HP, a bad roll means you spend 6 HP to restore 3 or 4. A good one means that you either spend 6 HP and restore 8 HP or 12HP, or if (say) your guy is only wounded for 6 HP, you might spend 4 HP or 3 HP in order to restore 6 HP.

Smite: This one’s easy. Roll variable effect, roll damage. You can either just roll the damage and modify that flat out, or use the per-die suggestions above.

Righteous Fury: Cadmus’ favorite prayer, it adds to your physical stats: 1d for 3d seconds. This one could go either way, meaning you might roll only 1d-2 on a bad roll, but roll 2d on a great one! Alternately, for those who don’t relish the possibility of +12 to DX, 3d seconds might be modified directly.

Why bother? 

Honestly, I like variable effect rolls, though in many cases, the effects are already variable. The bottom line is it makes relying on your relationship with your deity just a bit chancy, but also potentially even better than you think.

Why not just use the Reaction Table again?

Um, because I didn’t think of it initially, but it’s a good idea. It’s more granular, and it’s the same basic mechanic used for Divine Favor in general. What the Learned Prayer would do, then, is bypass the Petition Roll, and have an average effect on the same magnitude as the current LP.

Try this as an alternate:

Very Bad 25%
Bad  50%
Poor 75%
Neutral 100%
Good 150%
Very Good 300%


Some people like rolling dice. 🙂

More seriously, it would definitely take some real prep on the part of the GM and/or player. Using the guidelines above, you either need to be willing to make stuff up on the fly so that you adjudicate the prayer results as you go, or you need to create the reaction table for each prayer on the PC’s sheet. Might be too much trouble, but I still like the idea that you can never really guarantee an effect when negotiating/praying for intervention.

Magic is not Technology

People who are keen on this can take it one step further, and apply the same sort of thing to magic. Either make the effects per mana point spent variable as above, look up the margin of success or MoS+some number (maybe 5?) for a casting on the reaction table (that might easily be too good), or some other “you can’t really use a magic spell the way you use a gun” type impact.

Parting Shot

Again, some campaigns styles or player character concepts would break doing this; some players would not enjoy this sort of thing. But as I said when I started, the variable and occasionally unknowable impacts of prayers is a lot of fun in the game I play now, and applying that to Learned Prayers as well is something I jotted down in my Journal of Pretentiousness as a thought experiment.

GM: +Nathan Joy 
Players: +Mark Langsdorf , +Theodore Briggs , +Kevin Smyth , +Emily Smirle 

The Boss Fight

The game starts out with fire shooting out of a well in the center of the room. We initially fear monsters or death . . . but it turns out to be the sword we’ve been looking for all this time, narrowly wedged down the hole. We scrounge around in our stuff, because for a bit, it looks like no one brought rope.

Staver to the rescue with 20 yards of rope. Michel casts Glue and Apportation on the thing, wraps it up tight, and we haul it to the surface.

Mark: Is this cheating? It feels like cheating. 

We retrieved the sword, and then went down another level. This opened into a small corridor, which itself led to a few rooms with doors – one of them magelocked, much to Michel’s unpleasant surprise.

Finding little in the rooms we could easily access, we proceeded down the way to throw open the double doors, into a huge chamber that looked like a square room 20’ high, with another square room offset 45 degrees, culiminating in a pyramidal shape above our heads.

Initially, there were four ninja and a blonde woman they were all worshipping or something. These were the same demon-bird ninja from earlier. Our new companion, Dawn, rushed into the room to do battle, and that’s when we found our our first unpleasant surprise: the entire room was some sort of Unholy temple. Dawn would take damage or at least be very uncomfortable, while the other two clerics (Cadmus and Michel) are nerfed a bit.
Anyway, the battle joined, we then got an unpleasant surprise. An “executioner’s hood” dropped down and tried to start smothering Thumvar, the knight. Thumvar, of course, did what anyone who was a gargoyle encased in steel would do: he hit himself in the head four times with full-strength blows from his own axe over two turns, killing it despite impressive regen abilities.
Dawn managed to cut off both arms of one bird-ninja on her successive turns, and Thumvar and Cadmus – whose Righteous Fury should have been +6 to DX, +5 to ST and +2 to HT, but the Unholy cut that down to +3, +2, +1 – did in for another one, aided by Michel casting Great Haste on Thumvar.
Michel then cast Continual Daylight on the hoods, which a good roll of his identified as part of the “Squid” populatin (Good-Evil-Bunny-Squid), and the thing spent a lot of time thrashing on the ground subsequently.
Whereupon, a scary female voice called us fools, the screens all fell down, and a metric crap-ton of Viking zombies stood there slavering at us.
We broke there, facing two spellcasters, a lot of zombies, two more ninja, and possibly a few other baddies that escaped along the way. 
Next Tuesday’s going to be interesting. Hopefully, we’ll all remember the freakin’ magic artifact that is Ameiko’s ancestral sword in time for it to do something really impressive.