Vizzini: We’ll head straight for the Guilder frontier. You catch up with us there. If he falls, fine. If not, the sword.
Inigo Montoya: I’m going to duel him left-handed.
Vizzini: You know what a hurry we’re in!
Inigo Montoya: Well, is only way I can be satisfied. If I use my right… over too quickly.
Vizzini: [exasperated] Oh, have it your way.

And that, right there, is the key to the other half of high point total campaigns.

First, let me talk about the first half.

A High-Skill Refresher

GURPS doesn’t really have an upper bound on what your raw skill should be. It definitely has an upper bound on what your effective skill should be, and that’s about 16. Higher than that doesn’t raise your chances of a critical hit, and even at that skill level, 17 is an automatic miss and 18 is a critical failure.

So, if that’s the case, why bother with more skill? Well, to soak penalties. And these penalties are not arbitrary or contrived – they’re a result of skilled characters being able to deal with extreme situations.

Combat is the easiest example, but lighting, improvised or no equipment, and poor weather or terrain conditions are all fantastic and real-world instances of making life difficult.

You can find all of these, at once, in combat surgery on the lower decks of a tossing ship in combat. (Warning: graphic images of surgical techniques demonstrated on animal carcasses). Low light, due to it being an interior space lit by lanterns and torches, poor tools and a limited confined workspace, and constant movement due to the motion of the ship. Not to mention the odd cannonball moving through the operating theater, which I can only imagine would be a tetch distracting. Continue reading “High Point-Value Characters in GURPS”

That’s a “How to Train Your Dragon 2” reference. It’s also tongue in cheek.

Still, I joke because Marty Walser over at Raging Owlbear wrote a really neat post where I kept wanting to say something, but then he went on and said it for me in his next paragraph. Here’s his post.

GM 101: Does Story trump Rules?

Whenever I see this kind of thing, I’m reminded of a line from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show, which also appears as (I think) a chapter title in the RPG:

Anya: I think this is going to be a very big year for vengeance.
Xander: But isn’t vengeance kind of vengeful?
Anya: You don’t want me to have a hobby.
Xander: Not a vengeance hobby, no. It’s dangerous. People can’t do anything they want. Society has rules and borders and an end zone.

The money quote is the last line, of course. In The Belgariad, by David Eddings, there’s also a line where Belgarath the Sorcerer tells Garion that the reason there is prophecy, and why it’s written down, is that the word shapes the event, limits and contains it. Continue reading “Story and Rules, Enemies again!”

Naturally, as soon as I put up my review of the UA for Fighters, a helpful soul pointed out that Arcane Archer had already been revisited in a separate Unearthed Arcana.

Let’s take a quick scan. Recall that some of my observations (yeah, complaints, maybe) were that some of the options were devastating, almost “I win” buttons. Others were that the “curtains didn’t match the drapes” where some of the fluff and mechanics were concerned.

Arcane Archer Redux

So, the fluff text about the ancient elven method is still there. You know, not everything archery and magical has to come from elves. I don’t know why this is bugging me more and more recently. Guess it’s a bit of Peter Jackson’s “Just Damned Better than You” syndrome.

So, first thing, they’ve put in a table of abilities, listing the 3, 3, 7, 10, 15, 18 progression a bit. There’s still no explicit 10th level boost, other than yet one more choice for Arcane shot. Pity. That was a notable gap, and some of the arcane shots are powerful enough that a two-tiered structure of shots or shot capabilities would have been conceivable.

You still get all three abilities that were there in the old version at 3rd level: magic arrow, arcane shot (pick two options), and archer’s lore. Continue reading “Arcane Archer Revisited”

I love fighters. Paladins too, but I love fighters. Even when magic and other superpowers are available, I tend to play characters whose main mode of interaction with bad guys is to beat the bejeezus out of them. Partly this is a quirk of mine: when it comes time to sit down and game, I’m usually looking for  a way to unwind, and delving into “what spells or powers do I have now?” isn’t as fun for me as clever ways to do more direct action. When I played “Commander Samurai,” who usually just went by the title “The Commander,” in the GURPS Aeon Campaign, I mostly played him as Batman – ghosting into the situation with a ridiculously high Stealth skill, attacking with fists, guns, or telekinetically-enhanced versions of both, and then vanishing again. He had other powers; we eventually rewrote him because I didn’t use them.

Anyway: to return. I loves me some fighters. When I reposted my take on the Samurai from a year or two ago, a helpful poster aimed me at an Unearthed Arcana dedicated to the topic, specifically the samurai. I read through it, and had thoughts.

Fighter Archetypes

In 5e, what you’re really adding isn’t different character classes in most cases (this is good), but instead adding Fighter Archetypes – which basically means you’re adding thematically unified sets of powers that show up (for the fighter) at different levels. For fighter, you get Martial Archetype boosts at 3rd level (on selection), and then 7th, 10th, 15th, and 18th.

The 3rd level abilities usually define the archetype. The rest are power-ups.

The four new archetypes presented are the Arcane Archer, the Knight, the Samurai, and the Sharpshooter. Continue reading “Review – Unearthed Arcana: Fighter”

I’m a member of the Indie Game Developer Network. So when a member wrote that his Kickstarter was mid-swing, and a surfeit of real-life obligations prevented him from doing marketing for great justice (nod to Zero Wing). I offered to take a look at his product and review it.

The Book of Nouns

Well, yeah. The book contains about 80 different write-ups, categorized as landscapes; cities, towns, and buildings; events; people. There are twenty of each. There’s typically a full-color photograph of the thing in question, and a few pages of writeup, in 6×9 format. Every entry ends with some thoughts on how to use the idea in play.

It’s a straight-forward concept, and one might wonder if it’s needed in the age of Google? I’ll throw down an answer, which is that the world and it’s history is a vast and unruly place, and in order to search for something, you need to know it exists, or be very clever in your search terms.

This book takes some places you might or might not have heard of, people who have done great things (“terrible . . . but great,” to borrow a phrase, in some cases), cities and other events that make a place noteworthy, and then served ’em up to you as a jumping-off point for ideas.

Examples

I won’t spoil it, of course. But there are some very interesting entries in there.

Son Doong Cave

Oh, megadungeons. Not real. Too fake. Too contrived. Could never exist.

Hah. Then you’re not aware of Son Doong Cave – which I was not. Five and a half miles of caves (that’s 2,900 10′ map squares, or if you do four squares to the inch for your graph paper, you’re talking something like a map that’s sixty feet long). And that’s just the linear dimention. Some of the caves are 600′ wide and (more impressively, perhaps) 450′ tall, which is enough to easily support some pretty horrifying avian threats. Like dinosaurs. Just sayin’.

Tell me you can’t see great encounters happening in here? Continue reading “Review: Archive – Historical People, Places, and Events for RPGs”

It’s been a LONG time since an open playtest has been run like this, and so I wanted to kick the rust off the landing gear (or maybe clean the barrel and action before firing would be more apropos).

Firstly: playtesting is fun. You get to see and influence a GURPS book that has already been written and commented on by Kromm or PK, and be part of the process that produces sourcebooks of fairly legendary quality of information. For both the Low-Tech, High-Tech, and Tactical Shooting playtests, we had testers with . . . unusual possessions and experience out in their yards in the rain or trying stuff for reality and sanity checking. Weighing museum pieces or modern combat armor for weights. Fun tidbits of research.

Secondly: yeah, the ideal candidate is a Special Forces jungle warfare instructor who has been playing and playtesting GURPS since 2004, and is taking a quick break between missions to playtest the book.

But as was once said: “Sure, the compass doesn’t point North. But we’re not trying to GO north, are we?”

Just because you’re not the perfect candidate doesn’t mean you’re not gonna make the list. Are you an enthusiastic player of a game where you’re yomping packs through a jungle in a combat zone? That’s very useful. Been a backpacker all your life, or have experience and merit badges in survival as an Eagle Scout. Way ahead of the curve. Heck, I’d argue that by virtue of living in Minnesota, I have a leg up on cold-weather survival, which we call “daily life” here (many are cold; few are frozen).

Go hunting recently? In the cold? Bring it on. Know how to dress warm (or dress cool) for extreme outdoor sports, but never held a gun? Useful.

Finally: a gaming group, enthusiasm for contributing, and an eye for detail and will to make constructive, on-point suggestions are what makes a good playtester. If you think that might sound like you, perhaps you should drop me a line? Best case you get in and change the book for the better, worst case is a polite “no thank you.”

GURPS telescopic sights work fairly simply. Each doubling of magnification gives a +1 bonus if you aim for a number of seconds equal to that bonus. So the “valid” scopes are x2, x4, x8, x16, etc. If you have a x1.5 scope, like the minor magnification on the Steyr AUG, you get nothing (+0 to Acc). If you have a x3 magnifier stacked in front of a collimating sight and use it as a telescopic sight, you get +1.

Them’s the breaks of breakpoints. Sometimes something is sub-resolution.

I was pondering based on an appropriately named thread on the SJG forums if there is a slightly different way to handle such odd powers: simply rewrite the Size and Speed/Range Table for your scope’s magnification, which is another way of saying calculate range penalties based on the effective range after accounting for magnification. Continue reading “Weak and Odd Scopes”

A bit over a week ago, I was joined by David Kenzer of Kenzer and Company. In fact, I was originally joined by Jolly Blackburn and Steve Johansson as well, but after nearly 90 minutes of great conversation, I had the horrifying discovery that I had 90 minutes of video . . . and no audio whatsoever.

Fortunately, David had the time and grace to do it again. We covered some of the same, and a lot of different topics the second time around, though Jolly and Steve were unavailable.

It was a good chat, and we covered topics ranging from the history and product portfolio of Kenzer and Company, to the production and design of Hackmaster, to the current Kickstarter for Aces and Eights Reloaded.

A transcript was added to the post May 21, 2017.

MP3 File – Kenzer and Company Interview

Text Transcript

Douglas Cole: Good evening and welcome to Gaming Ballistics’ Firing Squad.

I am joined today by David Kenzer of Kenzer and Company. We may have some other people join a little later.

This is a special event for me because David has agreed to join after we already recorded this yesterday, and we got 90 minutes of great video and 0 minutes of audio. So there is a whole lot of animated conversation, but it is literally animated with no voices.

Kenzer and Company was gracious enough to do this a second time . . . so thanks for joining me again! 

David Kenzer: [chuckles] Hi everybody and thanks for having me a second time. I don’t think . . . I know for sure Jolly is not coming, and Steve is probably not going to be able to make it either, it doesn’t look like today. Maybe I’m the only forgiving one of the group.

DC: Which is entirely fair, batting .333 is pretty good in the major leagues, and I’ll take it where I can get it.

So what I wanted to do for people who aren’t as familiar with the history of Kenzer and Company: Maybe you could briefly lay out some of the highlights: when the company started, first product, the breadth of the portfolio. I knew of Kenzer from Hackmaster and Knights of the Dinner Table, and not much necessary more than that.

But as I dug in and we conversed yesterday, you have a very broad, dynamic, interesting product portfolio. So why don’t you walk through a little of the history of the company, so people know where you are coming from as we talk about the kickstarter you’re currently running, and some of the other games you’ve done. Continue reading “GB’s Firing Squad welcomes Kenzer and Company”

Just a reshare over at the Dimicator Patreon.

Nifty video taken by Western Martial Arts practitioner Roland Warzecha looking at cutting clay with the “cast blow” technique using a viking sword. As always, “all models are wrong; some are useful,” but it was a great weekend and a fun test.

 

Here’s the text from the patreon post itself, by Roland Warzecha

Death of the Clay Ogre
Apr 27 at 4:35am

This cutting test was conducted by my shield brother Thegn Thrand, and I am proud to have been part of it as the camera operator and clay ogre sculptor (starring in the second half of the clip). If this is the kind of experiment you enjoy as much as I do, please consider supporting Thrand’s work and become part of it, too.This is the first of a number of exciting videos recorded during the Grand Opening of Ásfólk Viking Martial Arts in Eagan, Minnesota. This school founded by Arthur von Eschen is absolutely unique, giving students the chance to learn about the material culture of the Viking Age and learn e.g. forging or building authentic shields, as well as regularly practicing Viking fighting based on true martial arts concepts and sound research.

 

A week or so ago, I tossed down a concept about how one could encourage flexible and modular “setting” design supporting the upcoming Dungeon Fantasy RPG (Powered by GURPS). The goal would be to have ready-to-inspire areas to tromp around in, kill monsters, and take their stuff.

The idea was reasonably well received. Some active discussion on how fleshed out a setting needed to be, and how if you hewed to multiples of 6-mile hexes, you could potentially mine a vast pool of OSR-flavored stuff that is also 6-miles to the hex.

All true, and all good.

The forum poster Nymdok went ahead and sketched out two hex-sizes for me, one a 20-mile subhex, and the other a 40-mile hex. You can see a sample on the right, with link to his Deviant Art page for download. But if you want to call the sub-hexes 18 or 36 miles, I won’t tell.

The (Ken Hite) Challenge

I’m teasing a bit. Ken has nothing to do with this, other than providing a nice, juicy quote that I’m going to re-use.

I was working with my Dragon Heresy map, and as we were discussing it, he dropped the line “I’m not going to say ‘just use Earth, you big baby.’ But just use Earth, you big baby.” Continue reading “GURPS Hexworld Challenge (with extra bonus Hite action!)”