Preamble: Dungeon Fantasy

Steve Jackson Games is conservatively being bold. They are trying a purpose-built RPG, powered by the GURPS engine, that takes the self-contained model to its logical conclusion. They are supporting a high production value release that they funded in a successful Kickstarter.

This release follows what I consider a pretty successful pattern for generic games. You see it for Savage Worlds, you see it for GUMSHOE, and you see it for Fate. (The various DnD games can be considered an inverted degenerate case – they were written specifically in this mold, and it takes work – like was done for d20 Modern – to break out of that mold.)

In any case, it distills all of the material from the many Dungeon Fantasy subsystem releases and many potential candidates from Pyramid issues and says “this is what you need to play Dungeon Fantasy.” The game will be released with five books, each somewhat thin, but enabling simultaneous at-the-table consultation. That’s the same pathway I’m taking with Dragon Heresy, and for the same reason (though with three hardcover books rather than five softcovers). Here’s the text from the Kickstarter page:

  • Adventurers (128 pages). GURPS is famous for letting you play any character you can imagine. Dungeon Fantasy keeps this flexibility while trimming away unnecessary details, concentrating on just what matters to monster-slaying, treasure-hunting action: Pick from 11 classic professions and nine playable races, customize your alter-ego using quick-start templates and a powerful point-build system, and gear up with an equipment list that offers dozens of weapons and lets you assemble exactly the suit of armor that fits your image.

  • Exploits (112 pages). Learn how the heroes actually use their abilities and gear. That means combat, of course – and dozens of other activities, whether your thing is sneaking around, swinging from the scenery, exorcizing evil, or getting rich through cunning deals in town. This book also describes countless bad things that can befall adventurers (poison, traps, dismemberment, lava pits . . .), as well as good things, namely loot. And it’s full of practical advice to the Game Master who leads this three-ring circus: challenging the players, keeping the action moving, settling arguments, and much more.

  • Spells (80 pages). What would fantasy be without magic? Adventurers features four spellcasting professions (bard, cleric, druid, and wizard), and this volume describes over 400 spells to help you customize them. It also includes complete rules for how spells work – whether their power comes from the gods, Nature, or creepy tomes of forbidden wizardly knowledge.

  • Monsters (64 pages). Once the adventurers are ready, and armed with weapons and magic, it’s time to test their mettle! This catalog starts you out with more than 80 things that want to bite, claw, grab, sting, and curse the heroes – not just the predictable orcs and zombies, but also several Dungeon Fantasy originals. Each offers notes on tactics and variants, and the whole collection comes with advice and rules for adventurers dealing with monsters . . . and monsters dealing with adventurers.

  • Dungeon (24 pages). I Smell a Rat is a simple (but not simplistic!) quest designed to show new gamers the ropes. Like any classic hack ‘n’ slash adventure, it starts at the inn. From there, the heroes will find themselves facing traps, enemies, and unexpected twists – and finding treasure, although not necessarily gold and silver. Advice and “adventure hooks” let the Game Master challenge advanced players or spin the tale into a series of adventures.

The Kickstarter raised over $175,000 within Kickstarter itself, and then hit more stretch goals based on external orders. The stretch goals funded delivery of several more PDF-based support releases in the coming years. I also have to wonder now that SJG has embraced CreateSpace if they’ll make the new titles available via POD as well. Once you have the InDesign files, and once you say from the get-go “I will design to the annoying CreateSpace margin requirements” then providing POD is pretty easy, and would satisfy those that want physical copies of GURPS releases without forcing SJG to do offset runs that tie up inventory and funds. Win/win.

In any case, this is a long preamble to say that this post covers the first of the promised releases – the Welcome to Dungeon Fantasy issue of Pyramid Magazine, which features articles by some fairly big hitters in the Dungeon Fantasy space. Matt and David both provide adventure support, and Peter reflects on his multi-year Dungeon Fantasy campaign and distills wisdom. Christopher offers up some creatures to kill and eat the PCs. Continue reading “Sunday Review – Pyramid #3/98: Welcome to Dungeon Fantasy”

This is a repeat of an SJG Forums post made by Assistant Line Editor Jason “PK” Levine.

*** *** *** ***

A wise company looks to the future while carefully minding the past, and it’s in the latter spirit that we’ve offered back catalogs of our classic magazines. Roleplayer, which started as a newsletter and then evolved into our in-house magazine over a run of 30 issues, actually predates GURPS. The “house organ” position was later filled by Pyramid Classic, our full-color, 96-page magazine that also went for 30 issues before transitioning from print to online as “Pyramid Volume 2.”

In addition to being filled with useful articles and interesting editorials, these these magazines offer a window into the past of Steve Jackson Games. As such, we’ve had them available on Warehouse 23 for some time now (see links in the paragraph above). But we know that some people are completionists — they want it all or want nothing! — and it is for our fellow obsessives that we’ve created two new half-priced bundles.

The GURPS Roleplayer Bundle gives you all 30 issues of Roleplayer for just $30, and the Pyramid Classic Bundle similarly delivers all 30 issues of the first volume of Pyramid for just $75. You can think of these as “half off,” “buy one get one free,” or “a 50% savings” (well, okay, a 49.75% or 49.99% savings if you want to get technical), but it all adds up to the same thing: a way to snag ’em all without breaking your budget.

So strap on your archaeological ludographer’s jacket and delve back into a time when physical skills cost more and carrying capacity was linear. For only by understanding the past can we move forward!

GURPS Roleplayer Bundle

Store Link: http://www.warehouse23.com/products/SJG30-8399
Preview PDF: http://www.warehouse23.com/media/SJG30-8399_preview.pdf

Pyramid Classic Bundle

Store Link: http://www.warehouse23.com/products/SJG30-8899
Preview PDF: http://www.warehouse23.com/media/SJG30-8899_preview.pdf

My article in this latest issue of Pyramid, The Broken Blade, presents an alternate framework for weapon breakage based more or less on looking at the HP of the weapon in question. In fact, the basis for the calculations I did was to (say) compare the HP of a sword (2-4 lbs of steel) to some figure of damage that would approximately 1.44 times that number if it were to risk breaking that sword.

1.44 times what? Well, that’s the cube root of 3, or the HP of an object that weighs three times that of the weapon.

Anyway, I wanted something that would take that “three times the weight of the parrying weapon” rule from the Basic Set, and make that something where it was related to the raw damage coming in. In melee combat, at least, an extra point of Strength is an extra point of swing damage, and a half-point of thrust. That settled the basic principle.


Let’s take the example of a 2.5-lb sword. As an unliving, homogeneous object, it should have 8 x cube root (2.5 lbs) in HP, which is about 11 HP. That’s also roughly the ST of the weapon, which is one of the reasons I wound up using it a a proxy for all that math. It worked out OK.

Anyway, some fiddling with actual results – what breaks, what doesn’t – got me to the values in question. ST on defense, about 1.5 x ST when attacking, though caveats may apply, etc., etc., read the article, etc.

I did want to take into account what happens when you bash your weapon into something hard. Originally, that was because the article started as The Cutting Edge, which was an attempt to put both wounding modifier and penetration modifier (armor divisor) on a sliding scale that corresponded with the Size and Speed Range Table.

The armor rules were, again, tweaked a lot, especially since +Christopher R. Rice was looking at them and playing them in actual games.

But in the many years the article sat in development hell (mostly mine), it never once, until last night, occurred to me that smacking your blade into armor and smacking it into a shield might be a teensy bit related.

How could you miss that?


Damage to shields is an optional rule as it is. So thinking about the shield as something that might be damaged by a normal blow didn’t really enter into my thinking.

Likewise, shield bashes are interesting, but really have only seen use in games that I’ve played in as part of nifty Dual-Weapon Attack combinations, almost always with an edged shield for more damage.

Using a shield as a weapon to break another weapon? It’s never really come up. 

Certainly came up in a pretty cool movie, though:

OK, tell me about shields

It probably should, though. Look at the weights of shields in the Basic, and consider what mass parrying weapon is threatened by it. There’s also some other info in here that I’ll get to later.

Shield
Type
Shield Weight Threat Wgt Source Calc HP ST (HP) ST (BL)
Light Shield 2 0.6 Basic 10 5 4
Small Shield 8 2.6 Basic 16 8 8
Medium Shield 15 5 Basic 20 10 11
Large Shield 25 8.3 Basic 23 12 14
The first thing that’s clear is that you can potentially break a knife with a light shield, a sword with a small shield. Many of the lighter swords are threatened by a small shield, actually. A medium shield has a 5-lb threat range, which will put in danger of breaking darn near any hand weapon that’s not a polearm or a two-handed axe or sword. The 25-lb large shield takes that and trumps it – there are very few weapons that weigh more in the Basic Set. Also note that Low-Tech revised the shield HP numbers down by half or more. This is good.  Extra robustness should be represented by more DR (for metal facing, for wood just use DR 4 like an axe haft) or higher HT.
Low-Tech, of course, tones down the (too-high in many cases) weight of weapons (and armor, of course) which brings even more hand weapons into the “don’t parry that” category. A small shield, with a threat range of 2.5 lbs, will actually do a fair number on most all one-handed swords.
As a by-the-way, how thick are these things? If we assume about 45 lbs per cubic foot, and that a circular medium shield, covering a warrior from “chin to thighs” as per Low-Tech, is 3′ in diameter. That’s about 7 square feet. So a 15-lb shield made of a 45 lbs per cubic foot material should be 1/3 cubic feet. So the shield is only 1/21 feet thick, or about 0.6″ if it’s made of oak. That doesn’t strain my belief at all. If anything, that seems thin. Anyway . . .
Shields are interesting in that they’re the only weapon that doesn’t have a ST rating. Normally, of course, they aren’t used on the attack, but notionally, a ST 3 pixie could use one of these things as a weapon, assuming it could lift it at all. 
Looking at ST rating in two ways gives us the two columns above, both of which are total guesses. The first ST is based on half the shield’s HP, which are calculated as per the usual 8xcube root (weight). That means an average ST warrior can wield a medium shield as a weapon. 
Instead of HP, perhaps Basic Lift? If we say that a ST 11 warrior (Basic Lift 24 lbs) is using a medium shield comfortably (15 lbs) that sorta suggests that ST could be based on the shield weight being about 2/3 of the user’s Basic Lift. That gives the final column.
Neither figure seems too bad, recognizing that a 2-lb sword (10 HP) requires ST 10. That’s not carried and wielded close to the body like shields are, etc. In any case, either figure allows a medium shield and broadsword to be carried and used by a ST 10 or ST 11 character, so that’s not going to upend anyone’s game. 
So, less ST to wield, but plenty o’ hit points. Only thr damage – about half swing – due to the awkward swing with limited lever arm. Want more damage, use All-Out or Committed Attack.
Shields Will Be Splintered

OK, so let’s get to it.
Let’s consider a few hypothetical attackers. A ST 10 guy with a light club. A ST 14 guy with a sword or axe, and a ST 18 guy with a freakin’ maul. That’s 1d or 1d+1 cr, 2d+1 cut, and 3d+4 cr with the maul.
Damage ranges from 1-7 (avg 4) or so with the club, 3-13 (avg 8) with the sword, and 7-22 (avg 15) with the maul.
Now, personally, I’d want that maul to threaten a medium shield – this is a lesser version of Eowyn vs. the Witch King. 
Use HP

If we use the shield’s base full HP as a defense threshold, even the maul will have to work hard to threaten the medium shield. Mostly, the thing can just take it. That doesn’t pass my sniff test, given that we’re talking about an inch thick or less of wood. We’ll move on from there, though if there’s better historical evidence out there, I’m willing to hear it.
Use Calculated ST 

This is the rules as written in the article. Our medium shield can ignore the club totally. That works for me – the shield has a safety limit of 2d-2 or 1d+4. 
The stronger guy with the sword has a slight chance of threatening the shield with a high damage roll, but with a failure increment of 2, even a full-damage attack will only make the shield roll at a -1 penalty – that’s HT+1, or a 13 for a Good shield. Very low odds of breakage. 
The maul? Max damage will impart a -6 penalty to HT, so rolling at 8- to avoid a real issue. This thing’s going to take damage every time, and cheap shields are asking for catastrophic failure.
Again, this works for me.
Treat shields as having a ST rating of either half their HP (but use the HP values from Low-Tech, or look it up using the values in the back of the Campaigns book, rather than the HP listed in the Basic Set), or calculated as I did from Basic Lift. For simplicity, I’d just use half the Low-Tech HP because it’s already calculated for you.
Shields On the Attack

Personally, I’d say that unrimmed, unreinforced shields would use their Defense Threshold (ST) when attacking, because they’re not designed that way. Rimmed or edged shields are built with that in mind, and use the x1.5 multiplier per the article.
Bang a Gong, Break a Sword

These lyrics will impress no one.
But if you slam your weapon into someone else’s shield, consult with Striking Hard Surfaces on p. 6 of the article. Again, metal-rimmed shields might qualify for the larger penalty, and if the entire shield is reinforced with, or made of, metal, would count as armor. 
Parting Shot
This was a bit of a hole in the rules, and now it’s plugged. I feel better. I did, however just sort write this without playtesting, but it doesn’t feel too awful to me. 
Our Witchking could lift Eowyn off the ground with one hand, and that tends to be ST 20 to ST 25, probably on the higher end, because while Miranda might weigh 120 or so lbs, the mail shirt she’s wearing is going to push that up plenty. And that’s assuming that the ginormous flail doesn’t require even higher ST. A flail wielded by Mr. Witchking is going to strike for something like 4d or 5d damage. That poor wooden shield she had was doomed from the beginning.
The surprising thing for me working this one out, though, is how effective shield vs weapon would be if you can absorb the hit penalty to strike your foe’s weapon. Shields – even the lighter ones with lower DB – are heavy.

Thursday is GURPS Day

Well knock me over with a feather. Something I started doing on a lark almost three full years ago, but kept up pretty steadily, was to declare that Thursday was GURPS Day (‘it must be true, because it rhymes’).

Here in the Daily Illuminator is the awesome and flattering (to me) announcement in The Daily Illuminator.

GURPS fans know that Thursday is new-release day at Warehouse 23. We don’t release a new digital supplement or Pyramid issue every week — but when we do, it’s on Thursday. That has been a tradition for . . . well, my records show we were doing it in 2009, which means it’s older than that.
But there’s another tradition that GURPS fans might not know as much about. Douglas Cole has been blogging about RPGs on Gaming Ballistic since December 26, 2012, and he started setting aside Thursday as “GURPS-day” on February 7, 2013. Since then, many other bloggers have started reserving Thursday — a.k.a. “GURPS-day,” “GURPSDay,” “GURPS Thursday,” and “Thurpsday” — for GURPS content, including (alphabetically!):

You can keep up with these and other blogs by watching this sticky thread in the Steve Jackson Games Forums. Heck, why not join in and add your blog to the roll? Oh, and keep an eye on Gaming Ballistic, too, because Doug is making plans to aggregate links to new blog content.
Here’s a big “Thank you!” to Doug and to all the stalwart GURPS bloggers!

Content Aggregation

So, here’s the trick: if you blog about GURPS, and it doesn’t have to be on Thursday, drop me an email at GURPSDay@gmail.com and include the following information in the body of the email.

Your Blog’s Name

Just paste in the title of your blog, as you want it to appear.


Your Blog’s Landing/Home Page URL

This is just to ensure that we get it right

The name by which you want to be credited


Either a name or pseudonym, but keep it classy. If I can’t read your pseudonym to my daughter (she’s 6), it won’t go on the list.

A validated RSS feed that filters on a tag for GURPS


This is important, because it’s how we’ll scrape your blog for keyed posts. That means that you do have to tag your posts GURPS. It also means you probably have to figure out how to enable RSS in Blogger, WordPress, or whatever you use. You will need to know if you’re using RSS or Atom, but we can figure that out if it doesn’t work – that’s why the email to gurpsday@gmail.com is so important.

What the email looks like

Hi, I’d like to be included in the GURPSDay summaries:
Gaming Ballistichttp://gamingballistic.blotspot.com/Douglas Colehttp://gamingballistic.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default/-/GURPS?alt=rss

That’s it.

Some other forms you might see for RSS feeds:

Blogger

  • Atom 1.0: http://www.gamingballistic.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default/-/GURPS
  • RSS 2.0: http://www.gamingballistic.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default/-/GURPS?alt=rss

WordPress

http://jeffro.wordpress.com//category/GURPS/feed


In a double-whammy of cool, an article I started working on years and years ago finally made it into print! You’ve seen outtakes from this one in The Cutting Edge, back in February two years ago. And I’d been working on the project even before then. But The Broken Blade concepts have worked – and worked well – in play for all that time.

The overall concept was born from a bit of thought that it should be more than weapon weight that mattered, given the arbitrary sizing and strength of GURPS characters.
This article got a lot of “what would Peter do?” treatment, in that I always tried to look for new ways to cut things down to even fewer rules. I didn’t always succeed, and given two years evolution in writing and rules-design thought I might have gone further doing it now.
But as always, this sort of thing started with a pretty massive background of calculation. As it turns out, the cube root of weapon weight (the HP of the weapon) with all sorts of fiddle in it wound up almost always equal to the weapon’s ST statistic, and was hardly ever more than a point off even when it was wrong. So boom – simplification.
This little system should provide a nice, rare but not unheardof stream of replacement swords if people wander around beating their weapons against armor, thick, scaly hide, or walls and doors. That sort of stuff damages weapons in real life, after all.
Anyway, I never could make the stuff in the Cutting Edge (which was the original subject matter of the article) be anything other than a nightmare – I didn’t even have to playtest it to realize that. But the stuff that remained? Solid. 

The Past Is Back, Better Than Ever!

Olden times come to life with new gaming goodness! This month’s Pyramid — the PDF magazine for roleplayers — once again revisits the past, with fresh opportunities to discover intriguing treasures to enliven your pre-modern gaming. This month’s timeless tome contains:

  • “The Broken Blade,” an optional look at weapon quality in GURPS. Douglas H. Cole — author of GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling — shows you how to ramp up the table’s tension with the threat of a shattered sword . . . and the possibility of repairing it.
  • “Purveyors of the Priceless,” a set of new possibilities that let you explore life as a low-tech trader in GURPS. Now you can barter for some loose gems, use new perks to help you flex your mercantile might, and even have a full-time job as a trader.
  • “Medieval Sea Trade,” this month’s Eidetic Memory offering from GURPS Fourth Editionco-author David Pulver. Sail the oceans in search of cargo and passengers, with a system adapted from GURPS Spaceships 2: Traders, Liners, and Transports.
  • “Knowledge Is Power,” a look at those who kept the Chinese bureaucracy working. Your guide, Matt Riggsby — co-author of GURPS Low-Tech — shows what’s required to enter the halls of power . . . including how to cheat your way in!
  • “The Music Maker,” a primer on the master artisan known as Stradivarius. Discover the history of this unparalleled craftsman (with GURPS stats), revel in the insight about his legendary violins, and unleash the included story possibilities on your heroes.
  • “Tempered Punks,” presenting some ideas for keeping would-be inventors from being tooinnovative in bygone days, from GURPS Crusades co-author Graeme Davis. 

This issue also unveils a vignette by Pyramid Editor Steven Marsh set in the new Car Warsuniverse, and a Random Thought Table that gives you permission to break reality. This month’sPyramid shines such an inspiring candle on times gone by, you just might say this is anilluminated manuscript! 

Written by Douglas H. Cole / Matt Riggsby / David L. Pulver / Christopher R. Rice / Graeme Davis / Jon Black / Steven Marsh

I’ll review the entire thing coming Real Soon Now.
Happy GURPS Day!


Am I bound and determined to revisit and rewrite every GURPS rule? 

No. But in writing Technical Grappling, I became very taken with effect rolls, in the vein of hit points and control points. The general progression of a hit roll followed by an effect roll is familiar and favored by gamers.

Personally, I like the differentiation between skill and effect. 

Where it comes to On Target, this gestated for a goodly long time. I think it originally came from a basic unease with the Precision Aiming rules from Tactical Shooting. A series of somewhat vague, somewhat concrete misgivings with the direction of the rules, the amount of time they take, the determinism of them.

But I really did like the overall concept of rolling for extra aiming bonuses. 


How Many Rolls


My instinct, quickly suppressed as being not-fun, was to use three rolls, rather than two. 

An acquisition roll, in order to get the target basically in your sights. This should be basically a “no roll” situation for open sights, but might be much harder for finding a distant target through a scope.

An aiming roll and effect roll, which is lining up the sights or scope precisely on the target, with the degree of precision achieved being determined by the Accuracy roll.

One thing that never did work out despite testing was some way of trading skill for a boost in the effect roll. Some sort of All-Out Attack (Strong) applied to Accuracy. I played with the usual deceptive attack ratio of -2 to Aiming for +1 to Accuracy, but that might get ridiculous fast. If a typical pistol is Acc 3 (and it is), then a -6 to skill will add full Acc to the roll. Relatively speaking, that’s “just too easy.”

Of course, you might do something like every -1 to skill is +10% to Acc, which at (say) a maximum -10 is doubling Accuracy. That’s not tragic, but seriously, 10% per -1 is just mean. You’d need to have a different penalty scale for each Acc result, and, wow, math-at-the-table-bad.

Still, the overall desire to trade skill for damage is there, and some sort of leveled thing wouldn’t be tragic. Maybe some fixed thing, like -5 for +25% to Acc and -10 for +50% or something like that.

Eventually, I went with ignoring it. Roll for accuracy, if so, get your bonus. Period, and done.

The Acquisition roll makes sense from a real-world perspective, but adds an extra roll for the privilege of . . . aiming at all? No way. That would (and should!) make players revolt. No fun, so again no.

Home on the Range


One of the things that got tweaked a lot during playtesting was the concept of whether or not, and if so, how much of the various penalties you should take. 

The basic Aim rules are easy and range independent. Declare Aim, and whether your’e aiming at a huge target at close range or a small target at 1,000 yards, it’s equally easy to line up. The limited bonus even on high-Acc weapons mostly takes care of stuff.

My testers and I ran through some scenarios, and settled on a middle ground. It should be harder to line up distant targets – and therefore take longer – it was felt. A no-penalty roll was too easy, and it was simply too difficult to line up long-range shots will full penalties. So an intermediate was selected.

A Broad Range of Awesome


One of my favorite things that I did here was to broaden the scope of maneuvers, for both attacks and aiming, to the full scope of offensive maneuvers +Peter V. Dell’Orto and +Sean Punch introduced in GURPS Martial Arts. The concept of All-Out and Committed Aim and ranged attacks? Love it. With full symmetry.

Wait . . . Wait!


A couple new options that solve a few common quandaries in ranged fire were introduced, and again, proud of them. The availability of Step and Wait has been debated on the forums, and I personally allow it. The ability to cover an area, or a single line of fire, is a common thing in real life, and I wanted explicit mechanical coverage. 

Aim as Attack


This is the same thing as treating certain quick contests in grappling – such as my recommendation that damaging locks and whatnot be treated as an attack. This allows using the normal GURPS rules to do things in cinematic glory, because those rules are easily applied and well understood.

One thing that did draw some questions in playtest and review was why I insisted on not invoking Multi-Strike for an Aim and Shoot action using Extra Attack. In my mind, this was more similar to a feint and attack rather than two full blows, for one. For another, honestly, the act of aiming is where most of the tough part is, and I didn’t see the sense in slapping on an extra point cost for squeezing a trigger.

The Quick and the Dead


The most potentially unbalancing, but also the most fun, new cinematic rules are for Quick Aim. Being able to aim as a free action, akin to Fast-Draw, can be a big deal. But because the roll always suffers the Bulk penalty – which cannot be bought off – this should remain in the realm of super-gunslingers. If not, try doubling Bulk penalties instead. So Quick Aim with a handgun will be at -2 to -6 (mostly -4), a carbine or SMG is -6 to -8, most full rifles are -10 to -12. That will force people to use smaller, handier weapons to claim that bonus, which may well impact the choice of weapons in a very realistic way.

Parting Shot


Overall, this is one of my favorite of all the alternate rules I’ve published. Sure, The Deadly Spring was a fantastic research challenge, and The Last Gasp adds something to GURPS that can really make fights change their tone. But On Target is, I think, just a more satisfying way of handling the act of pointing and shooting a gun in GURPS, and I’ll not be using anything else in my games. I love the Accuracy and Aiming rolls, and seeing the players make meaningful tactical choices about aiming, and then get to roll dice. They find this very satisfying; it feels like they’re doing something – taking a risk for a potential reward, and not just sitting at the (virtual) table and saying “Sigh. I Aim.”

But don’t just take my word for it. +Jake Bernstein  took On Target (or an early version of it) for a test drive seven months ago. And +Christopher R. Rice also got into the game, and . . . well, listen to what he has to say.

On Target Tangent

Douglas’ On Target, also (and originally) known as Alternate Aiming, has been in the cooker just over a year. I first got a gander at it in February 2014 when he posted it to the Pyramid Mentoring Group’s mailing list. I knew damn near instantly that this was something I wanted to see developed.  

After Doug got it into shape, I started using the rules in my campaign – and I have used them since. I know that Jake Bernstein put in a lot of hours too, but I think I was the only one using it in a real game until Doug used it for Alien Menace.  

My gaming group, the Headhunters, actually full-on revolted when I tried to not use it for a campaign setting. Since I run my group like a pirate democracy (co-GM is chosen by the players, who then elects the GM), I basically had to backpedal. I’m kind of glad I did though, because it let us find a few holes in Doug’s original design.  

I know I contributed to rules for Gunslinger, Telescopic Vision, Spells/Powers, and the random roll table for crits (I mean, you gotta have a random roll table, amirite?).  

Overall, I love the rules. It’s hard to do “simple and playable” with “complex and flavorful,” and I mean hard. But Doug pulled it off and I’m really proud of what the system finally became. 

One particularly memorable moment in one of my campaigns involved my best friend, C.. He was playing a man out of time in modern day, and just nailing his role. At the climax of the story arc, the PCs had to stop an evil witch (C.’s character’s wife) from summoning her demonic patron.  

Everything was going fine until several snipers began to fire on the PCs from the nearby lighthouse. In a moment of sheer badassitude, C. decides to kill two snipers with a single bowshot. Taking penalties for the Dual Weapon Attack (-4 for shooting two arrows at different targets), targeting the eye-chink (-10), 30 yards away (-7), and aiming “instantly” (-6). He proceeds to roll back-to-back triple 1s, rolls an 18 on the critical head chart, and maxes his damage.  

Basically he made Robin Hood look like a chump.  

I actually stopped the combat for a moment to make sure the math was right. It was. I instantly had to play Filter’s “Hey Man, Nice Shot.” It was just so awesome. 

I think that was what sealed the deal for my players with the aiming rules. Nothing is wrong with the Basic Set’s rules – but they like these much, much better. If you have a chance, you should grab a copy of Pyramid #3/77 – Combat – and not just because Yours Truly is also in the issue – but because Doug’s managed to create an “advanced” rules set with a (pardon the pun) simple “point and hit” interface. I’m sure once you try his alternate rules for Aim you’ll never use the Basic Set’s again.

Pyramid #3/77 – Combat is out, and I’m very excited. +Sean Punch has his typically enticing blub posted in the SJG Forums here.

It has my alternate rules – playtested over the course of something like 6-12 months, for treating the Aim maneuver as a die roll.

These rules work, in play, in a way that really make me happy, both as a rules writer, a GM, and a player.

If you look back over the last few years on this blog, you’ll see that I’ve alluded to these rules, and +Jake Bernstein wrote about taking them for a test drive, more than once.

But ultimately, I’m very, very happy with this article, and I hope you will be too.

This is the fourth issue that is devoted to Dungeon Fantasy. No surprise – it’s the most popular sub-line, having spawned at least 16 or 17 books, and of course, since it occupies the same turf as the most popular game today (D&D in all its flavors, be it D&D5, Pathfinder, or the various OSR or D&Derived versions).

This issue is quite eclectic in its coverage, and some of the articles are downright . . . well, somewhere between odd and squicky, but in an I have to put that in my game kind of way.

So, let’s delve in . . . but remember you’re descending from an upper level, where psychic freakin’ Jedi can be found . . . or slighty below that, where books and mighty spells can’t be found. Nope. Nothing to see there. Though you’re going to want to lose your lunch after spending time in the horrid living room of your bad guy. But don’t worry, you can always punch him in the gut with a magically-enhanced fist of death.

But what’s this we see here? Awww . . . it’s so cute. A tiny, fluffy little bunny. I’m sure it’s cuddly and oh my glob, it’s attacking me! The pain, the pain! Aaaaaahh!

Dire and Terrible Monsters ( +Peter V. Dell’Orto and +Douglas Cole )

Of course, I co-wrote this one, so you can take my review with a grain of salt. That being said, I noted in a previous post that this article was more fun than any other of mine to write thus far. Peter wrote about it as well.

This article presents a couple new prefixes, a staple of DF monster-making, which turn regular monsters or other creatures into something else Angry monsters, Enraged, etc. The article presents two prefixes – Dire and Terrible – that take an ordinary creature and make it larger and more ferocious (Dire) and surprisingly lethal (Terrible). The text and sample monsters are presented in an over-the-top, humorous fashion, but the prefixes themselves are not inheretly silly.


Style, Writing, Execution [-2 to 2 points]: Peter and I had a great time writing this, and it shows. Others that read this one loved it; even my wife, who doesn’t always read my stuff, read it end-to-end and loved it. 2 points.

Background, Inspiration, Epiphany [0 to 4 points]: The premise here is good – and can be applied to any and all monster creation to amp up any critters you need. 3 points.

Drop-in Gaming Utility [0 to 4 points]: You can use the prefixes for any DF game to give your players a challenge, or a quick, surprise, nasty fight. Applied to (say) a werewolf or mundane animal, a new challenge can be made of an old threat. 4 points.

Overall: 9/10.  A good premise, easily extendable, and a fun read. 

Would I use it? Yes. Obviously. I’m biased, of course; I wrote it, and Peter’s one of my favorite authors, as well as an outstanding collaborator. 

Biases Aside: An alternate scoring if you’re approaching the article as not-me.

Build it Yourself: Even though there are sample creatures, there’s some work to be done, especially on the Terrible creatures, to make them useful. That would take it down to a 3.

Your Humor is Lost on Me: Some may object to the tone and flavor of the article – silly creatures like the Terrible Terrier might not be the right tone for some. That doesn’t lower the mechanical utility of the article, though. Writing score would drop to 0-1.

Background for DF?: I knocked it down a point because it’s light on why, and jumps to how. But if you just don’t care, then what you can do with more prefixes is simply pure fun. 

Upper-Lower bound Rating: The worst this one will rate is about 6, and the upper bound is the only perfect 10 I’ve given. It’s the same score as Pointless Slaying and Looting, which is probably my favorite GURPS article to date, bar none. On that scale, I’d say that this one is closer to 8-8.5 . . . or pointless slaying is better than I gave it credit for (probably true).

This is the fourth issue that is devoted to Dungeon Fantasy. No surprise – it’s the most popular sub-line, having spawned at least 16 or 17 books, and of course, since it occupies the same turf as the most popular game today (D&D in all its flavors, be it D&D5, Pathfinder, or the various OSR or D&Derived versions).

This issue is quite eclectic in its coverage, and some of the articles are downright . . . well, somewhere between odd and squicky, but in an I have to put that in my game kind of way.

So, let’s delve in . . . but remember you’re descending from an upper level, where psychic freakin’ Jedi can be found . . . or slighty below that, where books and mighty spells can’t be found. Nope. Nothing to see there. Though you’re going to want to lose your lunch after spending time in the horrid living room of your bad guy.

But what’s this we see here? A small, harmless-looking guy in a robe? The rube has no business in a dungeon. Or does he?

The Magic Touch (+Matt Riggsby)

This short article presents a set of magic items tuned to the martial artist archetype. Martial Artists usually eschew weapons and armor, and so much of the common loot one finds is inappropriate for them. This article tries to help balance the scales – but many of the items are not unvarnished benefits to the user!

Style, Writing, Execution [-2 to 2 points]: The writing is casual and approachable, with game mechanics present, but woven into text. 0.5 points.

Background, Inspiration, Epiphany [0 to 4 points]: The basic concept is sound – give Martial Artists more stuff to play with. And each one, mostly, requires some sort of sacrifice to the user, which is very in the spirit of “discipline for power” that is the core of the martial arts philosophy. It makes you want to create more of these, which is good. 3 points.

Drop-in Gaming Utility [0 to 4 points]: These are easy drop-ins to any game where magic items and and martal artists can be found. The “bite” that makes some of these items less than an unvarnished good might detract for a few of them, but there’s always the Concussion Amulet. 3.5 points.

Overall: 7/10.  A short utility article that delivers on its premise – cool stuff for martial artists – with no wasted motion. 

Would I use it? Yes. Maybe not all at once, but the overall lesson here is solid: provide cool stuff for each player’s character.

Biases Aside: An alternate scoring if you’re approaching the article as not-me.

It’s Just A List: Of course, that’s the entire point. Ready-made items. But if you don’t like the gear-catalog flavor, then drop-in utility will be degraded for you. I’d not go lower than 2, though – because it’s the very definition of drop-in.

Exposition, not Mechanics: You might get more satisfaction on the presentation than I did, enough to boost the Writing score to 1.0 or 1.5.

Upper-Lower bound Rating: This one’s pretty tight. It’s a solid 6-8 any way you look at it. It’s not long enough that anyone could say “this was a waste of time,” and it has high-level lessons to be extracted. Plus, ready-worked examples save the GM time and inspire other creations. 

This is the fourth issue that is devoted to Dungeon Fantasy. No surprise – it’s the most popular sub-line, having spawned at least 16 or 17 books, and of course, since it occupies the same turf as the most popular game today (D&D in all its flavors, be it D&D5, Pathfinder, or the various OSR or D&Derived versions).

This issue is quite eclectic in its coverage, and some of the articles are downright . . . well, somewhere between odd and squicky, but in a *I have to put that in my game* kind of way.

So, let’s delve in . . . but remember you’re descending from an upper level, where psychic freakin’ Jedi can be found . . . or slighty below that, where books and mighty spells can’t be found. Nope. Nothing to see there.

But what’s this we see here? And why does the floor . . . move?

Eidetic Memory – Living Rooms (+David Pulver )
In this installment of Eidetic Memory, David pulls out all the stops in making delving as awful, gross, and cringe-inducingly squicky as possible. And I mean this in the best possible way. The article covers some of the history of having part of your dungeon be actually alive, as well as what various viscera and giblets can be found within. Living rooms (a phrase I will simply never hear correctly again) as traps, as rooms, as diversions . . . and monsters. It’s all here. Including making chili out of the dungeon floor. I mean, yuck.

Style, Writing, Execution [-2 to 2 points]: I have to admit it, despite repeatedly cringing at the text, I couldn’t stop reading. I mean, ewwwww. But it really drew me in. Now I have to bathe. 2 points.

Background, Inspiration, Epiphany [0 to 4 points]: The article is strongest in this category. Between the history of living rooms, lots of ideas to make them either gross or spectacularly gross, stats as a monster, or advice on using them as traps, you’re covered. 4 points.

Drop-in Gaming Utility [0 to 4 points]: You can always populate a room with this stuff, but you may need to design a special location to properly host it. There’s lots of generic advice, and a few drop-in statblocks, but again, this is a how-to guide, not a “do this immediately” style of article. 2 points.

Overall: 8/10. Very, very strong offering from David this round. It’s simultaneously disgusting and useful.

Would I use it? Yes. I might need to wash thoroughly after planning an adventure with this advice, or maybe not eat for a day or three. But overall, this is great fodder for a DF alternate mission, as well as any horror adventure.

Biases Aside: An alternate scoring if you’re approaching the article as not-me.

I don’t have much to say here. Drop-in utility could be lower if you don’t like the overall concept. Higher if you want to do this as a level of your existing megadungeon. Likewise, I think that at worst you’re in the 3 zone for Inspiration because of the cross-over possibilities for horror and maybe even sci-fi.

Upper-Lower bound Rating: If you stop reading because you’re grossed out, well, I guess that’s a tough one. So if you despise the concept and aren’t willing to read through, you could wind up with as low as a 4. If you have an existing megadungeon you can drop this into, its probably as high as a 3, which makes the range 4-9, but probably clustering in the 7-8 range.

But I still need to get some mental floss and clean up.

This is the fourth issue that is devoted to Dungeon Fantasy. No surprise – it’s the most popular sub-line, having spawned at least 16 or 17 books, and of course, since it occupies the same turf as the most popular game today (D&D in all its flavors, be it D&D5, Pathfinder, or the various OSR or D&Derived versions).

This issue is quite eclectic in its coverage, and some of the articles are downright . . . well, somewhere between odd and squicky, but in a *I have to put that in my game* kind of way.

So, let’s delve in . . . but remember you’re descending from an upper level, where psychic freakin’ Jedi can be found.

Hidden Knowledge (+Christopher R. Rice)

Christopher Rice offers up a new take on spells. Not just spells, but secret spells. With cool names. Known for his fondness for Ritual Path Magic, this article nonetheless covers conventional magic, of the type used in bog-standard DF. Of course, the article does touch on RPM, as well as spellbooks, with sections on Secret Spells, Secret Magic, and Knowing Your Letters (grimoires and spellboks).


Style, Writing, Execution [-2 to 2 points]: This article is quite dense, but very readable. It’s mostly SJG-official format, since the bulk of it is a list of spells, powers or abilities, or bullet-point lists of choices for the GM to create a secret magic portfolio that works for them. Of particularly high cool-factor is one of Christopher’s nearly-trademark tables, in this case a full-page box of descriptors (prefixes and suffixes) to make otherwise bland spells pop. 0.5 points.

Background, Inspiration, Epiphany [0 to 4 points]:  This article has the same utility as a book of power-ups, which it basically is. It provides enhancements to spells that make them both better as well as allowing that ability to be secret. I think people will like the ability to give their fighters and foes some surprise mojo. The power-ups for spellbooks make a mouldy old book even more desirable. 2.5 points.

Drop-in Gaming Utility [0 to 4 points]:  So long as your game has magic in it, you can even drop this stuff into an existing campaign. After all, it’s secret magic, not “gee, everyone can just go to www.spellbooks.com and look it up.” 4 points.

Overall: 7/10. If you like magic and want to introduce some cool power-ups, Christopher has you covered.

Would I use it? Yes. I think it’s best used sparingly, and probably not during character creation. But as a Macguffin to reward spell-casting magic users, or as a “I did not know the bad guy could do that!” surprise, I think it has great potential.

Biases Aside: An alternate scoring if you’re approaching the article as not-me.

Rules are Inspiration: If is all it takes for your mind to start racing and your heart to go pitter-patter is the right set of mechanics, this article provides many sparks to get the fire burning. This would boost inspiration and background to a pretty high number, boosting the rating to 8.5/10.

Rules are Boring: If you don’t care for this approach, then this is a dry, technical presentation (-1 to writing, like I gave my own TG), with only moderate background (but still no lower than 2; this is good stuff for secret magic). That would bring it down to a still-solid 5/10.

I Hate Magic: Obviously if you’re not into extra-powerful and secret magic, or magic at all, this will have little drop-in utility.

Upper-Lower bound Rating: Depending on your preferences, this article will range from about 5-8.5; if you have no use for magic, well, this one is obviously not for you.