We started off looking for potions. Didn’t see any. Went down the stairs this time, then wandered down a slope. Kicking in a door gave us another hallway, but the other direction led to four giant scorpions. Killing them netted over 2,047 gp, and four pieces of jewelry (250 gp each, for 1,000).


Continuing on, Peter cleverly finds a pit trap by falling into it. Shortly thereafter, we get totally ganked by a bunch of giant apes. Mirado hits one for tiny damage, then two apes rock Rul’s world for 19 HP total, bringing him down to 18 HP. That’s the most damage that’s been inflicted by anyone in one shot since we started. Ouch.

Minister of the God of Quantum 1’s casts some sort of illusion spell, making it seem like the floor opens up beneath the apes. Three of them freak out, the other doesn’t.

Rul gets a critical hit on the ape that’s not flailing around in terror, doing 15 HP of damage. Take that, bite boy. He goes down, and Rul’s cleave does 10 HP on another one, but not dead. We finish up the apes, and Rul gets hit again in the meantime, bringing him down to 10 of 37 HP.

An extra healing potion and two Cure Light Wounds spells later, Rul’s back to 36, which is nice, but significantly depleted.

We kick down another door, and find a makeshift evil shrine. Minister manages to make a Quantum 20 save roll, and we decide we’ve got a shrine to Mephistopheles. Bad smelling evil incense? We decide we’re in Colorado.

Mirado sneakily prances up to the door on the other side of the room in his nancy-boy Boots of Elvenkind, and listens carefully. There’s definitely noise and chanting. Maybe only one voice.

“I think we should interrupt his chanting with an arrow in the back of his head.” We like that plan. We quietly open the door, then rush through. The door itself was not stuck, we throw themselves through the door. Mirado burst through the door, Rul comes up and looses an arrow into his back, which hits.

He’s shrieking in Hobgoblin, and we lose initiative. Mirado, flying through the door, lands at the feet of the shaman . . . his muscles stiffen for a half-second, then loosen as he makes his saving throw. Rul has him eat another arrow, but he’s still up, having absorbed 15 HP thus far. Minister whiffs with his magic dagger. Mirado drops him. Rul guards the hallway, while Mirado and Minister loot the room.

He’s got a well-made morningstar, and a small hidden chest with 112 platinum pieces. 


We send Ogre-boy with his quiet shoes up ahead; and we see stairs up. Lots more stairs around here, all going up. We come to a door, which, and an opening to the north where we see light from a fire and hear hobgoblin voices.

We toss the severed hobgoblin shaman head into the big room, then retreat to a defensible position. The GM hits us with an “are you sure?” moment. He’s probably just messing with us.

The room is huge. At least 40×40. With passageways. And a porticullis, and . . . finally we get told that the Very Large Room is guarded by five hobgoblin soldiers, and a dozen women, children, and other more passive soldiers. This is like hobgoblin Grand Central Station or something. YMHA or something.

The hobgoblins are armed with swords and composite bows; no slouches. And we smell apes too, but don’t see them. We decide to leave the area. Only three of us, and a hard fight with uncertain reward. We spike the door shut and find hopefully greener pastures.

We head down alternate corridors until we find a bunch of doors. We don’t do much subtle, so we kick down the door. Even though it’s slightly ajar. Lots of scrolls in here – Minister is completely interested. He opens a scroll, and a D&D Dire Bookworm, which eats magical scrolls and spellbooks, is in the scroll case. Lots of destroyed scrolls; a Detect Magic spell finds no magical scrolls, but the morningstar detects as magical. It’s a +1 Morningstar, so 2d4+1. Better than his mace.

We kick down yet another door, and find nearly a dozen or so lizard men. Rul greets them with an arrow and our battle-cry, which we decide is Par-laaaaayyy!! which we, as uneducated folks, figure means “wer’e going to kick your ass.”

Minister tries out his new flail, and rolls a natural 20.

Guess it’s a keeper.

11 HP of damage later, we kill one, and Minster scores a cleave. Doesn’t drop him. So we killed one on the surprise round. Mirado wades in and attacks the one I hit with an arrow. Kills two, wounds another. Rul hits, does 10 HP, and he’s still up. Tough.

The various lizard men use their longswords on us. Seven attacks on the three of us later, they all miss. They win initiative the next round, hitting Mirado for 7 HP total.

Our turn. Mirado kills one, wounds one, which Rul kills. Minister misses again. He must have used up his 20 on his first attack. We figure the morningstar’s empty.

We win initative again. Mirado kills one, misses. Rul hits but doesn’t finish him, but Minister does, and does 5 HP on his cleave.

At this point a door opens up and two large lizard-men come out with tridents. Followed by a lizard man in plate armor.

“Treasure!” shouts Mirado.

Minister is hit by one of them for 5 HP; he’s down to 9 HP.

The skrugs turn to attack, and miss. The enemies are intelligent; the king attacks Mirado, in plate dual-wielding a magic sword and an ogre head.

They whiff. Badly.

Our turn. Peter nails and kills a wounded scrub. He cleaves through to the Captain, but only does 4 HP of damage.Rul hits but doesn’t kill a scrub. Minister hits his hard, but he’s still up.

Peter’s rolling badly, so we lose initiative again. The two scrubs, two lieutentants, and the captain. Two misses on Rul, Minister gets hit twice for 11 HP total, putting him down. Ouch.

The captain hits Mirado, and knocks him for 11 HP. Not too shabby.

Rul kills his scrub and lightly wounds the lieutenant facing him. We win initiative this time. and Mirado hits his guy for 7 HP, Rul hits his for 8 HP. We’re down two captain, two lieutenants, and one scrub. The scrub and lieutenant treat the captain – Mirado fight as a single combat. They pile on Rul, hitting for 8 HP. Not too bad.

Mirado is still dueling the chief, and misses AC 18. Rul hits a scrub, downing him. He needs a 16 to hit the two lieutenants threatening him, and misses.  Rul takes one point of damage from the two foes.

We continue to roll well for initiative, and attack first again. Peter hits the chief for 6 hp, killing him. Rul kills one and finishes off his foes.

We heal up Minister. The chief’s longsword is magical (+1, +2 vs mammals). The captain’s room has 5,617 sp and 2,166 gp, and a bundle of 14 gems, at about 120 gp per gem (1680 gp).

We decide we have about one reasonable encounter left in us.

We decide discretion is the better part of valor. We depart.

Total haul is 8,014 gp worth of cash and jewels, a magical longsword, and a magical morningstart. Not

Exploration and combat is 4,270 XP, 2,680 for the gold.

So Rul’s at 27, 658 XP total, still 4,342 shy of 6th level. Minister levels up (yay) in Cleric. So now he’s 4th/4th in Cleric and MU, each. Yay, hit points. And spells.

My Swords and Wizardry character in the game I play with +Erik Tenkar is Rul Scararm, a former mercenary fighter. Inspired in no small part by +Peter V. Dell’Orto converting his own character, Mirado, into the new basic rules, I decided to do the same thing.

I made a few different character decisions that are available to me in 5th edition but not in S&W Complete. Namely, my alignment is Lawful Neutral rather than purely neutral, and I chose the Archery pathway. Rul is more of a sword-and-board guy by default in the S&W game, and yet he’s the guy slinging arrows when he can in the game. So I decided to amp that up a bit, making his background a mounted scout. Not a ranger, quite, nor strictly infantry or cavalry.

Rul Scararm
Human Fighter
Level 5
XP: 8,218
Needs 14,000 for next level.

Rul is 23% of the way from 5th to 6th level, so I put his experience total at the same place along that curve here.

STR 16 (+3)
DEX 14 (+2)
CON 14 (+2)
INT 10 (+0)
WIS 12 (+1)
CHA 13 (+1)

Relative to his S&W equivalent, the dice rolls give me more bonuses and I had to make fewer compromises to get his stats decent. Mirado is still better in all ways here – the dice were neither kind nor particularly unkind to Rul.

HP 47 (Max HP 60)
AC 18 (+1 banded mail +6; Shield+2; loses his +2 from DEX)

The banded mail is something that cropped up in S&W as loot. It’s basically +5 AC normally, I think, but the magical bonus makes it +6. The shield Rul carries got extra good in Basic DnD as well. So he’s got a good Armor Class, but I suspect that bonuses from monsters are the rule rather than the exception. Still, AC 18 doesn’t seem bad, but he’d be better off with a suit of half-plate (AC 15), his shield (+2), and his full DX bonus (+2) for AC 19. In fact, depending on what that +1 banded mail would go for on sale, that’s really the way to go. Fact is, losing that DEX bonus means that I have to hit 20lbs more for splint mail to break even. Or plate armor. Magical half-plate would be quite the score.

Move Base 30 feet
Proficiency Bonus: +3
Skills: Animal Handling, Athletics, Intimidation, Perception
Proficiencies: Gaming set (dice); Vehicles (land)
Fighting Style: Archery (+2 to hit with bows)

This was the place where things diverged from how Rul was crafted in S&W. I always liked archer characters in DnD and while Rul was supposed to be an exception, he did pick up a few magic items, one of which is a +2 longbow, which is a bit of a big deal. So a bit of retroactive crafting there, picking him out as a mounted infantry scout. Not a Ranger type – he’s not all “let me live off the land.” He was an outrider, using Perception and horsemanship to bring back information on enemy positions and whanot.

Background: Soldier (Scout)
Personality Trait (2): Can start down hellhound; Slow to make new friends.
Ideals: Do what I must, obey lawful authority (contracts)
Bond: Never leave a friend behind
Flaw: Obey the law, even if misery is the result (mercenary)

I’ve got him pegged as a bit of a reluctant mercenary. It’s all he ever knew, which might have made the Folk Hero background better for him than Soldier. It wouldn’t surprise me if there was one day a Big Book of Backgrounds, and that would be cool. 

Armor and Weapons:
+1 Banded Mail (AC 16). I’m going to guess it’s about 50 lb, and Disadvantage for Stealth.
+1 Longsword, +3 vs. Undead. 3 lbs. Hmm. Versatile, so in one hand it does 1d8+4, or 1d8+6 vs the undead. In two hands, I slam down 1d10+4, which is sweet.
Shield. +2 to AC.
+2 Longbow. This would have replaced the shortbow or light crossbow I started with, and Rul carries 40 arrows. Does 1d8+4 piercing damage on a hit.

Notes:
Fighting Style: Archery (+2)
Second Wind (1d10+5)
Action Surge
Ability Score improvement at 4th level: +1 CON
Extra Attack
Champion Archetype

* Crit on 19-20

Equipment (copied from S&W list)

  • +1 Banded Mail [+6]; Shield [+2] 50 lbs.
  • +2 Longbow, 40 arrows, quiver [1d8+4] 6 lbs.
  • +1 Longsword, +3 vs undead [1d8+4 in one hand, 1d10+4 in two vs. normals]; Spear [versatile; 1d8+2 in 2 hands] 3 lbs.
  • Backpack, 200′ silk rope, Bedroll, waterskin (37lbs)
  • Small steel mirror, flint and steel (tinderbox) 1.5 lbs
  • Gaming dice
  • (1) Extra Healing Potion (0.5 lbs)
  • (2) Healing Potion (0.5 lbs)
  • Riding horse, bit, bridle, saddle (military)
  • 1297 gp (value, not actual coin; we got plenty of gems and stuff on our travels)

About 100 lbs of gear. The rules let me carry 240 lbs, so I’ve got plenty to spare.

Parting Shot


Rul is a better archer and higher damage-dealing fighter at 5th Level in Basic DnD (5e) . . . but that’s offset perhaps by the general higher HP that seems to go ’round.

He may wind up with 50 HP instead of 47, if that boost he got at 4th level to CON hits him with +5 HP instead of just +1 at 4th and 5th level. Rul also speaks Goblin in addition to Common.

What’s more impressive, relative to S&W, is that his hit rolls are something like 1d20+7 with his sword, 1d20+6 with his spear, and 1d20+9 with that longbow. So vs my own AC 20, I will hit with a bow 50% of the time, which doesn’t seem shabby.

His AC is 18 with sword and shield, AC 12 with no armor and relying on DX, and AC 16 with bow or two-handed spear (armor no shield or DEX bonus).

I’d play him.

I’m going to be slowly working my way through the Basic DnD (5e) free rules book. Slowly because between a nearly-four-week-old baby and my eldest daughter, I hardly have time to brush my teeth (though I insist on it, as does, well, everyone) much less do a detailed “hey, let’s read an entire chapter of Pathfinder and do a detailed commentary” sit-down session.

Still, while I write for GURPS, and have eight blog post ideas and four e23 projects (none contracted; my whiteboard distinguishes between ‘this would be good for my blog’ vs. ‘yeah, Pyramid, baby’ vs. ‘only doable on Warehouse 23’), first and foremost I’m a booster for the hobby as a whole. 

And the latest edition of DnD is, love it or hate it, big news. Important. And worth tracking and commenting on.

Still, I”m not doing it out of some mechanical sense of duty. I’ve enjoyed the hell out of playing in +Erik Tenkar‘s Swords and Wizardry game, and I enjoyed playing Pelagiyel the Rogue/Archer in Pathfinder with +Jeromy French. I have very much enjoyed +Nathan Joy turning the Jade Regent Pathfinder Adventure Path into a GURPS Dungeon Fantasy campaign. I have mercilessly used Night’s Black Agents ( +Kenneth Hite‘s brilliant Jason Bourne meets Underworld mashup for GUMSHOE) “how to plan a thriller and set up bad guys’ tentacles” advice for my GURPS Alien Menace campaign.

And I won’t lie. I’ve gotten huge traffic over first the grappling post, and then my analysis of the Advantaged/Disadvantaged mechanic in the 5e DnD Basic Rules. 

Note to self: find a consistent shorthand that doesn’t piss people off for the new rules. 

Anyway, I’m going to comment on something that struck me as important in passing. 

Every Character and Monster . . . 

Hell, I’m just going to quote the text:

“Every character and monster in the game has capabilities defined by six ability scores. The abilities are Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma . . . “

Why is this relevant?

Let’s take a quick look at a monster from the Swords and Wizardry Complete rulebook:

HobgoblinHit Dice: 1+1
Armor Class: 5 [14]
Attacks: Weapon (1d8)
Saving Throw: 17
Special: None
Move: 9
Alignment: Chaos
Challenge Level/XP: 1/15 [This is about 1/100th of the XP to hit 2nd level]

And now, the same critter, I hope, from Pathfinder . . . 

Hobgoblin CR 1/2

XP 200  [Note: this is about 1/10 the XP required to get out of 1st level]

Hobgoblin fighter 1LE Medium humanoid (goblinoid)

Init +2; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +2

DEFENSE

AC 16, touch 12, flat-footed 14 (+3 armor, +2 Dex, +1 shield)hp 17 (1d10+6)Fort +5, Ref +2, Will +1

OFFENSE

Speed 30 ft.Melee longsword +4 (1d8+2/19–20) Ranged longbow +3 (1d8/×3) 

STATISTICS

Str 15, Dex 15, Con 16, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 8Base Atk +1; CMB +3; CMD 15Feats ToughnessWeapon Focus (longsword)Skills Perception +2, Stealth +5; Racial Modifiers +4 StealthLanguages Common, Goblin

One of these things is not like the other . . . 

Two things here. The first is that were I to, say, write for S&W, I have to confine my rules-bending to ensure that everything I do can be done for monsters and characters alike. That means I can’t refer to STR or DEX or INT for a monster. I have to use Hit Dice, Armor Class, Hit Points, Saving Throw, etc. Characters, of course, have differences. Mild (relative to Pathfinder) bonuses for attributes, as well as an effective bonus for level. You have to approach the effective bonus sideways – it’s implicit in the charts, and explicitly provided on p. 44 of the Complete Rules.

Pathfinder stats out the dudes pretty completely, as you can see. There’s a hell of a lot more to fiddle with. I don’t mean that as a pejorative. Hell, I play and write for GURPS. But I don’t have to guess at a monster’s stats here.

The only thing that’s not on either one, that would make my life as a writer of (say) grappling rules easier is the typical weight of a typical specimen. It’s just damn convenient to deal with certain types of things as encumbrance. You got five kobolds on you? Great. They each weigh 50 lbs, so if you can walk around with 250 lbs. on your back like it’s winter clothing, you’re not hindered at all. If you will collapse under that weight, well, you collapse.

In fairness, GURPS doesn’t handle this well either, since the weight of a monster is often an afterthought.

Parting Shot
I (and +Peter V. Dell’Orto, for that matter) have been discussing S&W (and by bank shot, DnD in general) rules recently. (If you insert a ‘mwa ha ha’ in here, just for fun, well, no one will complain). One of the things we had to make darn sure of was that the rules could stand alone with the incredibly minimal information provided by a S&W monster writeup.

Pathfinder, as you see above, is rather more detailed.

What about DnD 5e? Well, I’m not sure if pasting from playtest files is kosher, so I’ll assume it’s not (and sure enough, the “Do Not Distribute” tag giveth it away). Here’s a culled description of what you might find, though, for our hobgoblin.

Size (“Medium Humanoid”).
AC and armor (so you know where that AC is coming from)
HP and Hit Dice, plus any bonuses HP are an average for the race.
Speed and senses.
A full set of attributes and bonuses.
Traits (in this case, something called Steadfast)
Actions – melee and ranged attacks, plus some special stuff that looks pretty neat.
The creature’s level and XP for defeating one

Not quite as much as Pathfinder, but a hell of a lot more than Swords and Wizardry. But the fact that I can count on a proficiency and explicitly delineated stats (I know that all of the Hobgoblin’s AC comes from his Armor (ring mail), and that if I were to want to define, say, a ‘grappling AC,’ I could call it AC 10, because a Hobgoblin’s DEX isn’t high enough to bestow a bonus).

So it looks to me like splitting the difference. Just enough that most rules will apply to monsters and characters alike, but not quite so much a huge info dump as Pathfinder can be.

We’ll see. Heck, the offhand comment that inspired this post is only on p. 4. I’m sure there will be more of interest on the next 100+ pages.

But why do I care?

I have a ripping good time gaming with friends oldish and newish playing Swords and Wizardry. If I needed to remake a character, pretty sure I could do it in fifteen minutes or so, even if I were creating a level 7 Fighter instead of Level 1. It’s just fun and fast.

Pathfinder is detailed enough – and depends so much on Feat selection and the bonuses bestowed by gear – that it’s, well, GURPS-like in how much detail you need on rules and metaknowledge to ensure you don’t create a dolt.

I did this, accidentally, when I wrote about fighting people better than you, and realized that my own 6th level Rogue didn’t have near enough stud-power compared to equivalent (or nearly so) iconic character.

We’ll see if this new version adds pleasant hooks to hang fun things on with optional rules modules, or if it turns into something that you love it once you’ve mastered it . . . but you better take the time to master.

The writing . . . it feels more like S&W than the other thing. But we’ll see. Ultimately, I see all this interest in the new DnD as not just being good for WotC, which frankly I’m agnostic about, but as good for the hobby. This is the same way that I feel about, say, some random guy taking up martial arts in Tae Kwon Do vs my own Hwa Rang Do, instead of not doing martial arts at all. All things considered, I want my art of choice to thrive; next best is to have as many people interested in the art in general as possible. Least good, to the point of not-at-all, are those on the sidelines or actively antagonistic to the hobby as a whole.

One of the fun things that happened in yesterday’s romp through the Castle of the Mad Archmage+Joseph Bloch ) is that we were able to clear out quite a few rooms. Each combat was short, sweet, to the point. The enemies (and if we screwed up, the players or friendly NPCs) fell like mown wheat, more or less.

This allowed us to probably do 6-10 short, lowish-risk combats in the three hours we played.

In contrast, in the GURPS Banestorm game I played with +Brian Ronnle and his crowd, we roleplayed for a while – a long while – but when we got to the final combat, it took a long time to resolve.

What’s going on?


I still mean to do a post on not fighting the rules, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help them along.

The S&W truth is that at the levels we’re at, and maybe even in general, you don’t have too many choices as to what you’re doing, especially as a fighter. Rul Scararm is a 2nd level fighter. His options are basically:

  • Roll 1d20+3 to hit with a magical bow; 1d6+2 damage if successful
  • Roll 1d20+3 (or 1d20+5) to hit with a magical sword (extra good against undead), and 1d8+3/1d8+5 vs undead if I hit
  • Roll 1d20+2 to poke with a mundane spear or bastard sword (which I probably should get rid of). 1d6+2 for the spear, 1d8+2 for the sword.

The spell users get to pick from a list of spells, but unless things have changed, they pick some spells each game day, use ’em up, and until the day passes, that’s it. Then they’re back to trying to hit with a crappy dagger, club, or mace. The foe’s ability to defend is all rolled into AC. Rul has +1 banded mail and a shield for AC 18. Mirado ( +Peter V. Dell’Orto ) has plate armor for AC 17. So their chances of getting hit by someone with similar ability is about 1 time in 3. If the foe can last longer than three turns, it can be assumed that the bad guys are going to start digging into Team Ogre HEDS hit point pool.

GURPS isn’t better or worse, but it is different. GURPS Martial Arts is so awesome I have yet to play with a game that doesn’t use it, but even in the Basic Set, there are a lot of tactical choices you can make/must make in a fight. If nothing else, you may, as a fighter, at the very least:

  • All-Out Attack
  • Attack
  • Move and Attack
  • All-Out Defend

But that’s not all. If you strike your foe, he must choose what options to use.

  • Block with a shield, if he has one
  • Dodge more or less nimbly
  • Parry with a weapon or unarmed body part

So you can throw a notional hit with a blow, and then find it parried. Each turn, you choose what maneuvers you use, and you can add Combat Options, like Telegraphic or Defensive Attack on top of those, or the popular Deceptive Attack if you’re skilled. There’s also goodness like Feints (or Setup Attacks, if you like Delayed Gratification), as well as a Riposte, a defensive version of the Deceptive Attack. Most of those (but not all) are found in Martial Arts. In many, but not all, cases, the defender may Retreat, gaining a bonus to defend that varies slightly depending on what skill you’re using it with.

So after all those choices, you may or may not have hit. If you hit, you roll damage, but if the guy has armor, it might bounce off.

The “good” news is that once you do reach the chewy center, it’s a big deal. It can set off a “death spiral,” where the bad guy’s skills go down, and you might get a turn or so where he’s less effective.

After all that, one second has elapsed.

That’s Bad, Right?


As I said, it’s not bad – it’s different. But what I’ve found it does – and I tried to write The Last Gasp to help address this – is a sort of view of the world where you feel like “I take a turn to catch my breath” is a big deal. Your turn might not come again, or it might be a while.

It’s a bit of self-reinforcing pseudo-complexity, because if each turn is that valuable, you might as well do as much as you can. Whether that’s to be effective, awesome, awesomely effective, or effectively awesome, in any case you try and get a lot done.

Heck, in the Banestorm game I just played, the only thing that made Radskyrta effective was he had a horse in an open field, with Move 8/Move 16 in a straight line. Even so, there was a time near the end where he had to take a few seconds to chase down a bad guy, and my instincts were telling me “find another way!”

Old habits die hard.

Whittle Down the Choices


Most usual fighters do not reach deeply into a big bag of varied options. They have things that they like ( Chuck Norris’ roundhouse kick) that become staples of what they do. For a rapier fighter, it might be a thrust to the vitals, or to (because the vitals might be well armored) a leg or something. An axeman may have a penchant for trying to chop off legs.

Each fighter should have a couple of if-then moves they like, and they should write them down. In many cases, GCA can help you.

Note that this doesn’t imply that you have to buy Targeted Attacks or Techniques, though you can, and probably will. But in a front-loaded game, why not front load a bit more so that you can do the things fast in play that you’ll probably wind up doing anyway?

Once things can happen faster, they will naturally happen faster for everyone, as the group (and the GM) get used to having more “Do Nothing” time in the game. Pausing for a single second to take stock, or get your breath, or whatever isn’t a big deal if you’re going to be asked for your next action in a brief moment.

Roll 1d6 for how to use your Cuisinart

GMs can play too, with a similar trick. Make a quickie d6 table, and roll against that each turn. Maybe even scale it with more aggressive numbers being higher, so you can penalize it if you get hit.

Something like this for an experienced fighter

  1. All-Out Defend, taking +2 to Best Defense
  2. No matter what, Step backwards, disengaging. Use  Defensive Attack if in range*. Wait otherwise.
  3. Defensive Attack, step forward if necessary to close distance
  4. Attack to the torso, step forward if necessary to close distance
  5. Attack to a lesser armored or higher value target like the legs, arms, vitals, or head
  6. Committed Attack to the head

What’s not on this chart? Lots of things. No All-Out Attacks (those are not the refuge of trained fighters). No deceptive attacks (only bring those out if net skill is 16 or higher), and no telegraphic attacks. Actually, there’s so much that could be on there that while one would be tempted to expand it to 2d6 or something, I wouldn’t. Keep it simple. Is the chart above a good one? Probably not. It’s the concept that matters here, not the details.

Animals are even easier, and so are unintelligent monsters. They will do one of several types of behaviors: hunting/eating behavior, killing for fun or territory, or dominance display or challenge.

Parting Shot


What I’m trying to say here is that one need not invoke all of the available tactical choices and options in GURPS every single turn. You will probably get more satisfaction, and certainly the game will move faster, if you don’t.

Or if you must do this, have the courtesy to your GM and fellow players to have it worked out ahead of time. People will thank you. In VTTs, this can even be automated in a macro. MapTools and Roll20 both have built-in macro capability, and Fantasy Grounds can have skill listings with everything pre-figured. Just drag it into the dice window. Again, that’s having a list of favorite options or stratagems.

That can also make your character pretty unique. A warrior who is always trying to stab or chop his foes in the legs, to reduce their mobility and make it hurt to even think about moving (plus, legs are crippled at a lower threshold) will play very differently than one that always goes for head shots, or just attacks the body the entire time.

It also isn’t a prescription for stupidity in the face of tactical situations. If a foe clearly has an inch of steel on their chest, don’t have a pro warrior hacking away with a sword at the heaviest part of the armor. That means, also, for GMs to give out visual and visceral clues about the foes being faced. Reward a player taking a turn to Evaluate, by telling them that they notice that the armor is particularly thick on the torso and left shoulder. Or something like that.

+Peter V. Dell’Orto points out in a comment that he’s covered this before. One on how he runs combat fast, the other on limiting your own choices. This advice was not new to me (they were both spawned, it looks like, from comments I’ve made before), and I kept thinking “I’ve read/said this before.” Still, it always strikes me as an interesting point when it comes up.

We’ll see if I can pull this off in my upcoming Alien Menace Game. The first one will be interesting. And holy crap . . . only three weeks away.

We gathered after a long hiatus, mostly caused by real tragedy in +Erik Tenkar.

We all wake the the same dream. Skeletons, charging a village called Aberton, a skeletal foot crushing a signpost.

Hmm. No cleric. Crap. This will end badly, and we just woke up.

+Peter V. Dell’Orto and I both have a vision of a glowing blue longsword – just for added push.

We shake down a character who isn’t there for the potions we picked up (Extra Healing), for some reason Peter bought us all horses at 25gp a pop – but the fighters are flush, so we’re good.

We arrive at Aberton, to find the sign we dreamed about covered with a black rag, a sign of plague and death. We joke about just saying “OK, too bad we can’t stay.” One +Joe D suggests we loot the town, and we joke he’s “Neutral Good . . . at looting things.”

We backtrack over a hill that looks like a feature we all dreamed about.

We hear flapping and thrashing as we go, and Mirado Ogre Slayer readies his head-mace. We discover a thrashing zombie, and Rul (me) puts two arrows into it to kill it. (Rul only needs 156XP more; I joke if I can kill him five more times I can level up).

We look at him. He’s been dead a while, dressed in rags. We can’t tell if he’s been dead for hundreds of years or days, but he’s been gone a while.

+Jason Hobbs checks out Mr Twice-Dead Zombie; nothing cool. Looks like he’d wandered off the path and stumbled into brambles.

The pathway opens up, and we see a mine entrance, with a partial collapse going on. Even without getting too close, we can tell that the collapse was pretty recent. We check out the area around the mine entrance. We approach, dismounting from our horses, and disturb a bunch of skeletons.

We win initiative, and start shooting. A crossbow from Joe and an arrow from Rul put down a skeleton, and Mirado and Irbin wade in and drop another two, one with a cleave.

Irbin steps up and hits a skeleton, finishing the last one. Four up, four down, and that does it. They’ve got nothing good, so we move on. We finish the perimeter search, and head for the area subtly marked “1.”

We have to clear the debris. The fighters volunteer to stand guard while everyone else clears rocks. That suggestion is . . . not popular.

The cave opening smells like death. Mirado posts the man-hours rule: 1 person takes 2 hours. 2 take 1 hour. 2 + supervision = 3 hours+.

Mirado gets caught in a minor cave-in for 2 HP of damage, and uncovers about half dozen non-animated skeletons. As we’re done, we all have to Save vs. Poison for the stench of death. We all more or less make the saving throw, except Jason, and Irbin is at -1 due to being nauseated.

Naturally, we put the thief with the lowest hit points in front.

There’s a chorus of moans in the darkness ahead – we decide it’s not a porn movie, more like a wheezing guy asking for food. You can’t see undead with darkvision, so we know stuff’s ahead. Rul and Mirado head forward, Mirado on the left, Rul on the right.

Five zombies coming at us. Of course. An arrow from my bow hits for 6, one charge of a magic missile wand leaps out for 3 HP, leaving the zombie still up.

Mirado steps up to attack and hits for 6, cleaves for 11. He takes down three zombies in one turn. There are two zombies still standing, and they come for me and Jason. Zombie misses me, and whiffs totally.

Irbin and Rul both hit in melee, and we total 5 and 4. Mirado comes back, and has used up all his skill in the first attack, and whiffs.

The zombies do minor damage, and then get hit a lot, killing one. Erik keeps rolling an actual 0 for initiative – we kill ’em all.

We search them, but this time, though they have no valuables. They are dressed in town guard uniforms. Hmmm. They would appear to be from a nearby Abbey. We head North through the narrow cavern.

We see silouhetted against the wall, in the shimmering light of nasty phosphorescent glow, a skeleton in plate armor wearing a shimmering sword. Four more skeletons rise from the areas on the floor that glow.

We cast a web spell, and then set the web on fire. All creatures in the web take 2d4. They all take a bit of damage, but not enough. We have to pull out some old AD&D rules to adjudicate this one. The King Skeleton doesn’t make his saving throw.

We roll for initiative, and tie. DEX for the win, but the crossbow misses.

I take 6 points of damage from one of the skeletons, Joe gets hit for 4, and someone else gets nailed for 4. Four more skeletons rise from the ground.

I kill the skeleton in front of me, while Mirado hits for 7 damage and hits for a cleave, killing another. And a third! We are left with four skeletons and the king in the web.

We burn the web, doing slight damage. Peter rolls a natural 20, and rolls twice for damage, doing 11; he gets to cleave again, and again rolls a 19, killing a second one with 11 HP. Hits the third, and another 11 damage slays the third. Only one stands.

Three more skeletons rise, and another stands. Rul takes 4 more and is unconscious. The King starts to stride forward.

The skeletons all miss; the King Skeleton comes after Mirado, and misses vs. his AC 15.

We magic missile the King for 6 HP . . . having burned him twice, and hit him with two magic missiles, he falls to the ground.

Mirasdo continues to be a machine, hitting and killing two.

The remaining skeleton attacks Mirado and hits, really pissed. Does 5 damage, and hits me up with a healing potion for one dose at a time (d8+1). Two doses of three fixes me right up. The mage steps up and rolls another natural 20, killing the final skeleton.

We go loot the King. Usable but battered plate armor. Shield. Wielding a shimmering longsword, which Rul picks up, since the magic user that killed the king can’t use it. It’s a +1 longsword, +3 vs undead . . . but always glows when unsheathed in a 15′ radius.

Peter takes the plate armor, and we circle around and head south at a fork.

We realize that we’re playing one of +Tim Shorts entries from the Manor. Sweet.

A ton of goblins start shrieking at us in bad Ferengi. They disarm themselves. “We have not much in way of goats.” They give us 15 cp and 5 sp. “Dead. Dead. Dead. They try to makes us Gobs blackendead. I see. They take Gobs, they kill, they go black, and they throw away.”

The other goblins look pretty darn ill. Peter wonders if he stabs each goblin lightly, if he gets 1 HP back from them? No, the blood-drinking sword likes combat. He’s looking for Strormbringer and Mournblade. We decide he’s wielding Sighblade.

Goblins are likely infected with plague. Peter is morally opposed to flambeing sleeping goblins, but he has oil and flint and steel. We promise each other that this is for the Greater Good. We are become Nazis.


The Goblin we captured, who we’ve named Raymond, points down the passage and the “black-maker” and the “black lord” are ahead.

This former coal mine area has 8 skeletons with longswords and black shields rise from the ground. They form up like a bad Sinbad movie

Peter and I form up at the bottom of the ramp, with the magic user and thief at the top.

Three skeletons attack; one on Peter and two on me. One misses huge; the other barely misses. The third misses Peter as well.

I use my magic sword against the undead, and manage to hit and kill two; 1d8+5 vs. undead kinda awesome. Our mage decides to whittle down skeletons for easier cleaving. One dies, another wounded for 3 HP. Jason’s up, Irbin misses.

We lose initiative, and the remaining five skeletons come for us. We all attack at once with +1 to initiative from DEX. Peter and I both take a hit; me for 1 HP, 5 HP for Peter.

I take out one, Peter nails another. Only two left. Irbin gets to go, and nails one for 3 HP. Rul nails two more with a cleaving strike, finishing off what is likely the foot soldiers.

Last one standing, and he misses . . . and then Peter and I both roll natural 1s (as did Jason). Here comes the mage to show us how it’s done, and he whiffs too. The comedy of errors continues, and the skeleton hits me for 1 HP.

Rul finishes off the final skeleton, and Peter takes two doses of an extra-healing potion. Nothing on the skeletons other than longswords and shields. We look around, and find a collapsed passageway.

We kick off a big pile of undead off to the northwest of area 5. We follow around and come to the area we know has undead in it. The creature comes from the side, like a living shadow.

Irbin goes first, hits for 8 HP; Rul uses his undead-slaying sword and nails him for 9HP more, and he falls. We generally acknowledge

We find 63 gp and a crude amulet with a symbol our mage does not recognize etched into the metal. We take it, carefully putting  . . . “what are the possible negative effects from wearing it, and why are we not putting it on the goblin?”

Nice.

The amulet has no chain, so the goblin doesn’t want it. We put it back in the sack, and head back to 5 to journey on.

We enter a naturally-formed cavern. The walls are worn smooth by water, black banners, piles of skulls, and a pool sits at the north end of the cavern. A horrific creature is draped over an altar. Two skeletons are there. A hunched figure comes out, whispers “Kill Them” and most of the room falls into darkness. Two skeletons, two non-undead, then.

Only Rul, with the +3 undead-killing sword, can see. Joe detects undead, and they light up like radar. He blasts one with two magic missiles. Jason casts detect magic to try and find the lantern, and he succeeds.

Depressingly, that’s all we can do. Those who can, press themselves against the wall.

Two skeletons attack Joe; both miss. He magic missiles two-on-one again, hitting and killing one.
Peter wades in and nails the final skeleton with a natural 20, falls in with 10 damage; the final skeleton is still up. Attacks Joe again, and misses; we can hear booted feet charging towards us coming from the north. Rul puts the final skeleton down.

Joe does detect magic again, and sees lantern-boy swinging a mace at his head. He’s tagged for 6 HP of damage. In response, he fires a magic missile wand at the lantern. Instant house rule; saving throw at -1 for each 2 HP of damage done. Two missiles, he has to save at -2 . . . he’s angry, but fails to drop the lantern.

He continues to go after Joe, and nails him for 7 HP. He’s at -4 HP.

We try and attack Black Lantern in the dark, and miss; he attacks me and misses. I hit him with a natural 20, 9 points; Peter does another natural 20, for 11 HP. 25 HP and he’s still standing.

Lantern-boy just misses attacking Peter. Peter hits and kills him. We heal up Joe.

We loot the lantern. The cleric is wearing magical +1 banded mail (AC +5); the mace is magical, also +1. The lantern is magical, but we can’t use it because we have to be a cleric.

On the altar is an Otyugh. We feather it with arrows from a distance.

We find 250gp and 10 small gemstones worth 50gp total. We find a leather-strapped necklace with a bloodstone set in gold worth 20gp. We destroy the magical evil lantern to earn 2000 XP.

108 gp and 1138 XP each. 1309 for me with this blog post (+10% bonus! and the 5% for attributes).

Parting Shot


This game was true proof that the OSR is pure fun. Lots of good banter and gaming, a couple off-the-cuff rulings, and lots of felled undead. Rul walked away with AC 18, +1 banded mail, a +2 longbow, and a +1 longsword which is +3 vs undead. As a 2nd level fighter.

Not too shabby.

I should note that with GURPS Horror, GURPS Zombies, and maybe Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 1, this mini adventure from the Manor #3 would be a complete cakewalk to do with GURPS Dungeon Fantasy (or GURPS anything, really. Amp up the monsters and you could make this Monster Hunters or Black Ops without trying hard).

I joined +Erik Tenkar‘s B-Team for Swords and Wizardry, which is basically DnD. +Peter V. Dell’Orto  hooked me up.

We entered into the ruins of an adventuring guild house that both exploded and imploded. We immediately start looking at barrels, and Rul (me) and Mirado (Peter) guard the open corridor. There’s a ghast in it – and I kill the ghast with a good hit and a max-damage roll with the spear. We recover, all told, a gold chain (150gp), a few barrels of alchohol, backpacks, 6 suits of leather armor, and a shirt of mail.

Continuing on, we enter into a room which has coffins strewn about, as if they fell from above. One coffin is a huge, marble, ornate thing. Sounds like a rhythmic scratching is coming from inside. This can’t be good.

We start looking through the fallen coffins, and hit ’em up one by one. First has a thin gold ring worth 25 gp. The second one the guy looks sucked dry, and he turns to dust. For the rest, 1 silver chain, 20gp. Platinum ring worth 125gp.

Is all that’s left now is the heavy marble coffin. With the “stronger than what we just fought” cue in it. We decide to live to fight another day, and leave the BBEG alone for now.

We gather at the original entrance, and pour a bit of water next to the door, it runs inward. We decide to pop the lock, open the door, and then fling Holy Water inside the door, just to keep them away in time for  . . . ah, hell. Nothing there anyway. So we waste a vial of water, and move on.

Rul and Mirado continue in the lead, exploring the place, and see four straw mattresses on the floor, and also 4-5 Zombies walking away from us, towards some sort of light. They’re ignoring us. We shoot arrows and throw stones at them, and then they notice us. We continue to mess with them.

And they mess with us back. Bandorous ( +Ray Case ) and Ellis ( +Paul Wolfe ) are both hacked at to negative HP as we struggle for a bit, then crunch the zombies down. All of the zombies look remarkably similar, even if dead.

We search the pallets, and find a flattened-out parchment under one of them. As Starlander Beck ( +Joe D ) grabs for it, it bursts into flame, defending itself. Starlander makes his saving throw, and retrieves a second-level Invisibility spell.

We wander north a bit, and find a large silver mirror standing in the room. We check it out, and as Irbin ( +Jason Hobbs ) looks into it, he sees himself – pulling off a piece of his own flesh. He quickly steps away from the mirror, but five Irbin Zombies shamble out of the mirror.

Starlander flings a Web spell at them, enwebbing them. We throw oil at ’em and light it up. That takes care of them; Irbin actually feels warm as his zombie selves burn. His ST increases by 1, and his Charisma decreases by 1. The mirror itself flashes and slags; whatever enchantments were on it are no longer.

However, the mirror itself is worth about 200gp.

The elves look for Secret Doors, and one finds one! Irbin checks for traps and listens at the door. Nothing. We use a wand of detect undead. Nothing there either.

Brave Sir Irbin opens the door and bravely runs away. The walls of the room are decorated and festooned with any weapon one could possibly imagine. We Detect Magic, and find one dagger that detects positive for magic. Ellis grabs a heavy crossbow, Mirado snags the composite bow. The dagger glows with light in a 15′ radius, and it has engravings of fish on it.

Peter says: dagger, +1, +2 vs. goldfish, carp, and koi

He also runs back, and finds that the marble coffin detects something strongly magical within it. Hmm.

We pop open the unlocked door, and find a corridor, that eventually slopes down. Rul leads, and hits a flooded underground passage, The chamber is about 8′ tall, and the moat, for lack of a better word, is about 20′ across. There’s a slight current and brackish water, maybe 8′ deep.

There’s a ladder, kinda rickety, but not too bad. We try and toss a grappling hook across, but dump the entire kit in the water, where it gets hung up. We all yank on it for a few turns, and it’s not comin’ out.

Starberry (or whatever) takes his fish dagger underwater and assumes it’s a water-breathing thing. He proves that theory incorrect. He chokes, sputters, and recovers the tattered remains of his dignity. The hook is well and truly stuck. He climbs out near the end of the ladder.

Coming out from the opening are five goblins, flinging sling stones, and trying to overbear the naked elf. They succeed, and dogpile him. We yank on the rope, and he flies through the air. One goblin falls into the water, the other lets go, and Starnekkid is wet again.

Three sling bullets come out and miss. We reel Starfish in, and those with ranged weapons manage to kill a goblin, despite a -2 penalty.

Irbin runs across the ladder, trying to hide in shadows, but Elis manages to miss a rung and get stuck on the ladder.

We Christen this room the Room of Lost Dignity.

We all go across, and find a decent sized irregular cavern, with a defensive position that’s unoccupied. We go into the room, and see an extended corridor, and see flickering light, and smell cooking meat, up ahead. There’s an abandoned cookfire, but nobody’s there.

There is a wild boar and some fish; we discover that the knife actually does have magic powers to fillet fish. Who knew?

We proceed down the corridor to the north, in standard combat formation, and enter a very large room. There’s a statue of a crab, in front of which is a huge Ogre, 11-13 goblins, and he speaks to us with a Russian accent. “Pay the tithe and leave,” he says.

We start flinging missile weapons. And a sleep spell that downs 11 of 13 goblins.

Mirado chucks an axe for light damage, and readies his bastard sword. Irbin jumps into the water and hides among the drowning goblins. Joe, Mirado, Rul, and Ellis are up close and personal.

The ogre swats at Rul with a very large mace, and hits him for 5 points of damage. The ogre wins initiative, but rolls a natural 1 to hit. So here we go. Mirado crits, Irbin hits, and we wind up doing 30 damage cumulative to him  We get 7 gems: 150, 200, 75, 250, 500, 750, and 500 gp! Plus some coinage and a big-ass mace.

Mirado takes the head, He plans on turning into a skull helmet, like the Kurgan. We search for nasty stuff and don’t find any. The statue seems crabby, but normal.

We check out the stairs that we see, but can make out only a sliver of light. We form up and head up the stairs. There seems to be some sort of thatch cover. We throw off the thatch with spears . . . and we’re outside in blinding sunlight. In a wooded glen area outside the population limits, between two large trees and a small mound. Huh.We actually go back overland to the stairs, and enter the first room, and go to the north way we didn’t go before.

We Detect Undead (nope), and the thief tries to pick the lock, which pops open for us, falls to the ground and we stare at it. We kick in the door and go looking for trouble.

Four 3′ tall toy soldiers bang their spears on the ground, and a portcullis drops behind us. Someone cuts loose with a pair of Magic Missiles for 8 damage. Mirado does a dual-weapon attack: bastard sword and ogre head. He hits the one that’s  damaged, and nails him . . . and the cleave rule cuts in. He nails the second one too.

Rul also rolls very well, and downs 1 and injures the other. Three of four down in one set of rolls. The next round, after Rul takes 1 HP of damage, Mirado also hits again with the Zaphod maneuver, and destroys the last one.

We look at the chest in the middle of the room. Yep, blade trap. Irbin goes for disarming the trap, and can’t. We trigger the trap, which hits Irbin for half damage (4 points). He takes it, and picks the lock – unsuccessfully. We crowbar the thing open after all.

Inside is a man-sized suit of leather armor, a cloak, a bow, three potion bottles, sitting on a bed of coins. The potions say “Healing,” “Extra Healing,” and “Flying.” The mix of copper, silver, and gold is about 3,000 coins in total, we guess about 1,500 cp, 1,000 sp, and 300 gp.

We decide to loot the area completely, go back to town, heal up, shop if we need, then come back for the BBEG.

The total stuff from room 1-1 is about 200gp. The vile smelling potion is extra healing. 30gp for the Dwarven chain. The magic dagger winds up being a +1 filleting dagger on 19-20 crit, with 1d6 on a crit instead of 1d4, which goes to Irbin.

The huge supply of weapons nets us 700 gp. Mirado keeps the ogre’s mace; the leather is +1 and the Cloak is +1 to AC and Saves – that goes to Starfish. Rul claims a +2 longbow. The other three potions are as labeled. Rul takes one, Mirado takes the other, and the final healing potion goes to our thief.

We consider how to stomp on the critter we learn is some nasty evil fighter with a blood-drinking sword. Mirado will open the coffin, we will cast Protection from Evil and then Web, nail him with Holy Water, and then sprinkle him liberally with ranged weapons.

When we pop the lid, it literally pops. The room fills with a deathly chill. A warrior wielding a terrible sword, looking brittle, comes from the sarcophagus.

Irbin goes first, and hits for 5 points of damage. The undead warrior misses . . . giving us an opportunity. The Magic Missiles from Starfish slam into him for 10 HP – max damage. A crit on a bow attack delivers 12 points, and Ellis hits for 3. Bandorus casts Faerie Fire, and so all are +1 to hit.

Irbin nails another crit, and scores 10 HP, at the same time the warrior misses him.

The rest of the party lays in 9 HP more, and kills him. We pour Holy Water on him to permanently lay him out . . . and collect the sword as loot. It’s called Woundlicker; +1 Longsword, but any hit by the sword heals the user for 1 HP. But if you roll a natural 1, it drains a HP from you. It’s not an intelligent weapon; any alignment can use it. It goes to Peter, who will wield the longsword and the ogre head.

Total loot: 4343 gp, for a 723 gp, 8 sp each. Plus the magic stuff. For adventuring and combat, we get 880 XP. Total 1604 XP. +10% for this blog post and 5% for attributes. Total 1844, and that puts me at second level in one adventure! just 156 XP short of level 2. I roll 5 HP, +1 for CON bonus. Booyah.  For some reason I thought Fighters leveled up at 1500 XP. Alas.

Good session!