In my old job, there was a principle called MECE. Mutually Exclusive and Collectively Exhaustive. This was applied when trying to organize information that already existed into groups for later analysis. This might be a customer demographic, or slicing a business into segments based on some sort of grouping, maybe to figure out which part of a business was making money, or how.

Peter’s post on Fixed-level Ripostes got me wondering about various combinations of this sort of thing. See, a riposte trades a penalty to your defense roll for a penalty to your foe’s defense roll on your next turn. Huh. OK, well a Deceptive Attack – a core, vital part of the Fourth Edition rules, trades a penalty to your attack roll for a penalty to his defense roll . . . all on the same turn.

Those are both considered Options in GURPS. The first is an Active Defense Option (GURPS Martial Arts, pp. 124-125), the second is an Attack Option (pp. B369-370).

Well, that got me thinking. Can we invert the principle, and apply a MECE framework first, and then populate it with GURPS options second? In short, how can one modify an attack or defense roll, and what impact does it have.

Let’s start with the framework. “Modify your attack roll” and “Modify your defense roll” make two good divisions. These can either go up or down, and that is MECE. You either choose a bonus or penalty to an attack or defense.

OK, what about the effects of that modification? Well, we already have “occurs this turn” and “occurs next turn.” Good division. We can also say “impacts me” and “impacts my foe.” Finally, the impact might be “modifies attack roll” and “modifies defenses.” Let’s stop there and see if I can come up with a format that is readable that breaks that down well.

The chart is a comprehensive format, all right, but how to read it?

By the way, I acknowledge that I’ve taken Yak Shaving to an entirely new level here, in all likelihood. I had no idea that I’d wind up with so many options. Yeesh.

Modifer is “what do I do when I have the choice?” So “I get a bonus to my attack roll” is what I do (+4, for example). It impacts the defense of the foe on this very turn (+2 for his defense). That’s a Telegraphic Attack.

Some of these are nonsensical. Can I get a bonus to my attack this round that gives me a penalty to  . . . my own attacks this round? Probably not. 
Oh, and of course, I need to toss in my Setup Attacks! A penalty to hit this turn, for a penalty to your foe’s defense next turn.
That leaves a few things filled (and probably a few left out), and nearly two dozen blank spaces, which may or may not make sense. I’ll comment on a few that might, and crowd-source possibilities for the rest!
So . . . which of these might not be totally stupid? I’ll make a number for all of them, and make some comments, noting whether whatever comes out makes any sort of sense. I’ll color-code the less-desirable ones red, the maybe good ones black, and the ones I think really worthy bold.

I was doing this pretty late, so I may have reversed the “degenerate” commentary periodically. Basically, if I’m attacking, modifiers to my foe’s defenses and attacks and my defenses until my next turn make sense. Likewise, if I’m attacking, I might do stuff that impacts my own next turn. But if I’m attacking, my foe’s next turn is what’s coming next, and “this turn” doesn’t make much sense. Or maybe the other way around. In any case, only one really makes sense.
If I’m defending, I’ve already attacked. Nothing I do can impact that retroactively. But I can certainly impact my foe’s current and following attacks, following defenses, or my own next actions when my turn comes again. I try and make sense of that in my commentary below.Sorry if I have confused myself or others!

  1. I get a bonus to my attack this turn in exchange for a likely bonus to my foe’s attacks against me on his next turn. This one doesn’t make sense, since “foes’ next turn” is too far away to matter. This one’s right out.
  2. This one is interesting, in that it’s like a Telegraphic Attack, but instead of being easier to defend against on this blow, it would make your next blow easier. If I did this, it’d be something like “you get +4 on your attack, but your foe is at +4 to defend for your entire next turn.” This still seems like “bad idea” to me.
  3. A bonus to my attack roll that modifies the foe’s attack on his upcoming turn. Maybe a different kind of Telegraphic Attack, that isn’t easier to defend against, but makes me easier to hit – maybe “Predictable Attack.” +4 to my hit roll this turn in exchange for +4 to his hit roll next turn. This invites abuse, I think. Probably a bad idea.
  4. A bonus to my attack roll this turn that probably provides a penalty to my own hit rolls on the following turn. “Unbalancing Attack?” If I did it, it’d be something like +2 to this attack, in exchange for -4 on your next one, maybe even a -4 to DX instead!
  5. A bonus to my attack now that impacts my defenses on my following turn, of course negatively. Seems a lot like #4, and maybe make them degenerate: that -4 to DX also gives -2 to Parry and Block, and -1 to Dodge.
  6. A bonus to my attack that modifies my attacks this turn? The only thing I could think of here is (say) shifting bonuses or penalties between multiple attacks in some way. So instead of Rapid Strike being -6/-6, you can throw one at -3/-9. That might allow a -6 attack to the vitals, followed by a -9 to the torso. 
  7. A bonus to my own defense that gives my foe a bonus to his attacks next turn? Sounds complicated. 
  8. Likewise here, a bonus to my defenses that gives my foe a bonus to his defenses . . . actually, maybe this one isn’t so bad.
  9. Degenerate with #7
  10. Degenerate with #8
  11. A bonus to my defense that likely gives my next attack a penalty to hit? That one might actually be worth looking at. I put myself in a good position to defend against one blow, which puts me in a bad position to attack the following round. 
  12. Likewise, a bonus to my defense right now that puts me out of position to defend well the following turn. The key to both 11 and 12 would be some sort of exchange rate like +2 this round, but -6 to hit or -3 to defend the following. Against all foes, probably.
  13. I think this one’s degenerate with #14.
  14. This one I like. I take a penalty to my attack rolls, in exchange to a penalty to my foe’s attack rolls on his turn. I call this Evasion, and I’d probably make it something like a penalty to hit and to Parry/Block (but maybe not dodge?) in exchange for a penalty to hit for my foes. This one makes a lot of sense when considering dodging firearms and lasers.
  15. A penalty to my own attack this turn that gives me a bonus to hit the following turn? Huh, some sort of wacky setup, but seems rife for abuse. I can’t hit the brain this turn, so I’ll take a penalty to hit this time, and be even more accurate on my next attack. Nah.
  16. Hard to imagine something that I take a penalty to my attack roll, my defenses this turn are fine, but my following turn my defenses are impaired.
  17. A penalty to attack rolls in exchange for a bonus to my defenses. Well, since the only way to get a +2 to your defenses is to go All-Out Defensive, allowing unlimited trades is a bad idea. Maybe something like -4 to attacks in exchange for +1 to defend, a full-power bu wild version of Defensive Attack, which exchanges damage for defense. I suspect this was considered and rejected during the Martial Arts drafting process. 
  18. I take a penalty to my own defenses to make my foe miss me next turn. This one might have value, since not having to defend at all has benefits in some cases. 
  19. Degenerate with #18
  20. Degenerate with Riposte
  21. A penalty to my defense in exchange for being better able to hit next turn? Hrm. Maybe to cancel out penalties, but never raise your skill higher than base? I defend, but I’m lining up my blow better – not to make it harder for my foe to defend, but offset penalties for footing, darkness, or location.
  22. A penalty to my defense this turn in exchange for a bonus to my defense next turn. Hrm. Setup Defense?
  23. This one can’t happen. By the time you’re defending, your attack this turn is over.
  24. This one would only make sense in terms of penalty shifting. Where instead of taking 0 for your first parry, -4 (or whatever) for your second, you could take -2 for your first parry, -2 for the second, -8 for the third. Or -4 for the first, -2 for the second, -6 for the third, reserving bonuses to potentially needed further parries on a given turn. I kinda like this one.  
So, only two that really might be worth looking at hard, another ten that might bear going “hmm…” before accepting or most likely rejecting, and an about even dozen that probably are rejectable as either nonsensical or rife for abuse.
Shaved the yak pretty fine there. If you got to this point, you get a digital cookie.

Well, been a bit since I’ve looked at Pathfinder, so it’s time to return to the read-through.

A retroactive (and oft-repeated) introduction: After an actual-play hiatus where I was mostly writing and playtesting for GURPS. I was invited to play in a Pathfinder game, and after a few sessions, it was time to buy the book and learn the rules! I decided to try and read the Pathfinder rules cover-to-cover and see what inspiration strikes, for good or ill!

This is a compilation of the links to read-throughs of Pathfinder-related material

Pathfinder Core Rulebook

0.  Prelude
1.  Introduction
2.  Races

3a. Classes (Barbarian – Monk)
3b. Classes (Paladin – Wizard)

Please make any comments you have at the individual entries!

So: we continue!

The chapter opens up with a brief discussion of wealth and coinage. Coins are based on a decimal system, from copper to platinum, with 1 platinum piece = 10 gp = 100 sp = 1,000 cp. There are also weights listed (50 to the pound, or about 140 grains or about 9g each). That makes a gold piece roughly the size of an old US Half-Eagle.

It also lists a bunch of other trade goods which are basically as fungible as cash, so that aspiring GMs don’t just have to be “all valuable metal, all the time” if they choose not to be.

Each character class starts out with a variable amount of gold to equip himself when gameplay starts. The monk gets shafted (of course, he doesn’t need much money) at 10-60gp, while the line fighter classes rock out at 50-300gp.

For comparison, a chain shirt and longsword costs 115gp total, toss in a heavy wooden shield for 7gp and it brings a standard sword-and-board guy to 122gp, though even more realistically you’ll go with “chainmail” armor for 150gp if you’re a fighter, making your kit cost 172gp, or about the average provision for fighter-types, and weighs about 54 lbs.

As a comparison, in GURPS Basic Set, mail armor that covers about 50% more than the torso would cost about G$225 (torso and the thighs, interpolated) and 24 lbs, a medium shield (DB +2) is $60 and 15 lbs, and a thrusting broadsword is $600 and 3 lbs. Total of G$885, or just shy of 90% of a character’s starting wealth, and weighs 43 lbs. Using GURPS Low-Tech, a longsword is G$700 and 4 lbs, a heater shield is G$75 and 13 lbs, but mail goes up in cost to G$900 and 22 lbs for the same DR 4 you get in the Basic Set, making the total kit cost G$1675, unaffordable by bog-standard GURPS warriors. Anyway, point is, you can kit yourself out with arms and armor befitting a stereotypical warrior – especially in Dungeon Fantasy/Pathfinder style games.

Note: Mail was very, very labor-intensive to make, and the prices went up accordingly. According to the author of the section on armor, mail was the armor-of-choice for the wealthy up until the protection per pound and dollar went down when plate was introduced and could be made better for less money. The author comes down firmly on the “armor” side of the “armor v. weapons” debates. Not saying he’s absolutely wrong, nor agreeing with that 100%. I did use his work to benchmark my bow article The Deadly Spring. OK, enough in-line footnoting. Moving on.

Selling Stuff

Brief but important: you can sell stuff with no skills or anything for half the listed price. Dungeon Fantasy uses a similar markdown at 40%.


That actually brings us quite naturally to the next big section on weapons. There are classes of weapons that get dealt with in the Class and Feats chapter, and occasionally get added as “you can use these” with Class abilities. There are some oddballs, such as “Double Weapons,” which can be used for two-weapon fighting without actually having two weapons. Reach Weapons are basically pole weapons (and whips) and give you 10′ of reach . . . but lose the ability to attack someone right next to you. Important safety tip.

There are a ton of subtle rules tucked into very brief mentions (like the reach note above). Light weapons are one-handed, can be used more easily in the off-hand, can be used while grappling. A One-Handed weapon can be used in either hand, but you can use it with two hands and get 1.5x the ST bonus you’d usually get(!), or half the bonus in your off-hand. Two-Handed weapons qualify for 1.5x the ST bonus as well, but must be used in two hands.

The Weapon Table

This is the go-to place for the summaries – but you’ll want to read the description and check out the picture, in case what you’re picturing isn’t what is on the table. As an example, they have an actual hammer listed as a Warhammer, when in reality a warhammer is what we would call a pick.

In any case, scanning through the table finds a lot of choices, some with special notes that allow them to do cool stuff. Brace allows doing double damage if you’re charged; Disarm gives you a CMB bonus when used to disarm. Other categories are Double (discussed above), Monk, Nonlethal, Reach, and Trip.

Again, it’s important to read the detail descriptions of each weapon you want to choose, in case there are some rules nuggets tucked in there.

So, let’s see if there are any “I Win!” buttons in each category.

Simple Weapons
Basic stuff that most classes can use.

Light Melee Weapons

These are your basic daggers, knives, and clubs. For 6gp, the 2-lb sickle does good damage and allows a trip maneuver. The basic dagger, for 2gp, has an enhanced critical threat range, but is only 1d4 . . . but it can be thrown if you like. One thing to note: your ST bonus (or DEX, using Weapon Finesse) may wind up being a pretty substantial part of your damage amount – more importantly, it’s the only fixed part, so pay attention to it.

Morningstar. Cheapter and lighter than the heavy mace, does both bash and piercing damage of equal amounts. Shortspears make a nice alternative to a dagger. They’re cheaper and you can throw ’em 20 feet instead of 10.

No candidates for “best ever” here. You have a 1d6 free double-weapon (quarterstaff; anyone can pick up a stick, apparently) that can be used with Monk abilities, and two spears, the long spear is a Reach weapon, but weighs nine freakin’ pounds.

The light and heavy crossbow do 1d8 and 1d10 respectively, but you’ll take time (a move and full-round action, again respectively) to load ’em each turn. Javelins appear to be balanced short spear, but takes penalties if used in melee. Crossbows shoot a long way (80 to 120′), but the world-champ of the thrown melee weapons seems to be . . . the two-handed spear. Granted, you get to do this precisely once per fight.

Martial Weapons
These are the bread-and-butter of fighter types.

Hand-axe is interesting with the x3 critical on a 1d6 weapon, making it superio – on a crit – to a 1d8 weapon with a x2. Low odds, tho. The kukri seems intriguing, with 1d4 and 15% critical threat (18-20) instead of the 1d6 and 10% chance of the shortsword. I’m unimpressed with the starknife.

The one-handers are basically your 1d6- and 1d8-class of weapons. The heavy pick crits for max of 24. . . making it equal to the battleaxe and warhammer only in that case. I’d avoid it. Scimitars (slash) and Rapiers (pierce) trade 1d6 damage for higher crit odds, and that’s basically equivalent to the x3 multiplier with lower odds. The interesting one here is probably the Flail. Disarm and trip, plus only maginally worse damage than the other 1d8s that have improved crits.

We’ve got some d10 and d12 weapons in here, so mwa ha ha to that. The greataxe and greatsword look pretty attractive, with the axe being a lot cheaper. Grab a glaive if you like a reach weapon, the heavy flail if you like the special effects (disarm and trip).

Exotic Weapons

For exotica, dealt with as a whole, the light weapons are unimpressive, though they can have some special stuff (one disarms, the other can trip). I may be wrong, but the bastard sword in one hand does as much oomph as a heavy flail, though it is 35gp. The Dwarven Waraxe is likewise as powerful in one hand as many martial weapons in two. These weapons probably get more interesting as you get higher level and can take appropriate Feats to make yourself a Disarm or Trip master, or can max out double-weapon fighting (two-bladed sword, looking at you).

Armor and Shields
This one seems relatively straight-forward. If you want a certain AC bonus, and you can use the armor (it requires a proficiency), you have few choices. Watch out for the Armor Check penalty, which hurt skill checks (but not combat). If you’re not proficient with that armor or shield, you take the penalty on combat as well.

So, what jumps out?

  • A chain shirt is expensive for that +4 AC bonus, but if you can afford it, it’s better than Hide. 
  • Studded Leather looks like a good choice for those with very high DEX (up to 20).
  • If you can afford the extra 50gp, you want a breastplate for AC6 rather than chainmail.
  • The Heavy armors chop your DEX bonus right out from under you; they’re built for the high STR set.
  • Not sure why you’d get anything other than a light wooden shield at the +1 AC level.
  • Same thing for the heavy wooden shield at +2.
  • Tower shields are very heavy, but for +4 to AC and you can cover behind it, it’s worth considering if you have the proficiency . . . and the STR to use it.

For a flat 300gp to a normal weapon, 600gp to a double weapon, or 150 gp to armor, you get particularly good stuff. It’s worth +1 to attack rolls for weapons, and -1 to the Armor Check penalty for armor. It’s worth doing, especially on the armors that are expensive to begin with.

Special Materials

Some neat stuff here, each with a defined game effect. Some of these options are monumentally expensive.

Adamantine:  Ignores hardness less than 20 (gotta wait for Ch7 for that one), grants damage reduction based on the armor type, and includes the Masterwork property. $3,000 for a weapon, $5,000-$15,000 for armor, depending on it’s type. Yow.

Darkwood: Half the weight, and a great thing to make shields out of. Adds 10gp per pound to the cost of a masterwork version of that item.

Dragonhide: Probably not something to wear around dragons or those related to them. The armor is immune to damage of a type the dragon was immune to – this explicitly doesn’t help the wearer! Druids can wear it, even if it’s “Dragonhide Full Plate,” which has gotta be its rason d’etre. Only costs twice as much to make as regular armor of that type, so there must be a brisk business in dragonslaying.

Cold Iron: Harder to enchant, and weapons cost twice as much to make. Effects demons and fey more than regular weapons.

Mithral: Ah, Tolkien’s gift to Materials Science. Behaves as one category lighter than normal for movement and other limits. Hmm. That means “Mithral Full Plate” counts as medium armor? Sweet. Doesn’t count for proficiency, though. Darn – and the “applies to attack rolls” hits you if you’re not proficient, so watch it. Weighs half as much, and you’re better casting spells in this stuff. Adds a couple thousand gp to the price of most armors. Weapons can be so fashioned, too.

Alchemical Silver: For were-creatures. This is cheap enough to start play with (90gp for a one-handed weapon; 20gp for a light one), and for -1 damage allows smacking down weres.

Goods and Services

Worth scanning the table in full, then checking descriptions. You can buy spellcasting services as well as hooded lanterns. Lots of toolkits, from thieves tools to healers, to Bards’ musical instruments.Clothing. Acid, thunderstone, tanglefoot bag. Lodging and food. And the 30,000gp for a sailing galley I remember from the old AD&D days. Yay, nostalgia!

Thursday is GURPS-day, and +Jason Packer just threw down the gauntlet. In one paragraph, plus some short supporting details, he sketched out enough of a compelling sandbox game intro to make me want to start running this exact setting in a game of my own.

I love it. I love it so much that I will repost the first paragraph (with Jason’s permission) and make adulatory comments.

“By decree of King Krail II, all lands east of Frostharrow, from the Gray Marshes in the south to the Granite Halls in the north, and as far east as the Broken Coast are to be reclaimed and purged of bandits, brigands and any fell creatures of The Blight. Any person who can carve out a portion of this land for him or herself and hold it against the forces of chaos and predation for a period of one year shall be granted possession of that land, for him or herself and any future heirs, in perpetuity, with appropriate title bestowed by the will of the king, with all rights and responsibilities attached thereto.”

OK, why is this awesome?

  • It immediately sets the boundaries, geographically, of the campaign. The GM has just said “I’m going to give you a map of the area, and if you want to explore beyond it, you’re dumb.” The King has offered estates and title to anyone who can take and hold land in this area, but no other. There’s simply no reason to leave the sandbox. 
  • Part of the genre convention of DF is a very Munchkin-like “kill the bad guys and take their stuff.” This Royal Dispensation tells you that all brigands and foul creatures in this area are “Other” by law, and it’s not just genre convention but your Solemn Duty as a Subject of the Realm to kick ass and take names
  • It sets up that “Fell Creatures of the Blight” are involved. So, look, monsters exist, no surprise.
  • There’s built-in continuity. Once you take land, you have to hold it. 
Seriously: I want to run this.

GM: +Nathan Joy
Players: +Douglas Cole , +Mark Langsdorf , +Kevin Smyth , +Theodore Briggs , +Emily Smirle
Reference for this game 

We start in media res. There’s no Ravenscraeg 3 because I didn’t write up last Thursday’s game. We’d gone upstairs in the tower, and been jumped by a bunch of demon ninja or something. Then a few air elementals showed up, and then Thumvar, the Knight, went up some stairs and found a bloodraven, who threatened him in plain language.

Two air elementals, called Stormy2 and Stormy3 are in the local area. Cadmus had just done Protection from Evil (Enhanced), causing all of the pesky Ninjas – some sort of demonic bird-thing with supernatural durability  – to jump out of far-too-convenient windows. Thumvar, our Knight, had wandered upstairs, and managed to likely walk into the Big Boss encounter with a really big “bloodraven.”

Who immediately cast a spell at him. Unknown effect. Stormy2 throws air back at Brother Michel – a cone attack. Stormy3 fires off a lightning spell at Brody’s flank. It hits for a graze, and the graze, at half damage is still 3d6 (2) burn surge, roll of 16. He’s on the ground, stunned, suffering a major wound.

Yow. Things are not starting off well for Team Ameiko.

Staver does an acrobatic flippy thing over or through Cadmus to get into the room, off the stairs. Lucky him. In the Out-of-Character chat window, we all start fretting about our inability to damage or injury translucent air elementals. Time to seriously think about how we effectively deal with various DF-style threats that don’t respond well to bifurcation via axes.

Thumvar activates the Magic Resistance on his own Named Possession, Svalinn the Axe. Cadmus steps and prays for generic intervention from Pharasma against air elementals. Michel casts a 2d explosive fireball, which will do stuff next turn.

Thumvar gets pecked at by a “black shape,” presumably some sort of construct or spell. Thumvar blocks, which triggers the spell. Some discussion ensues about resisted spells and the general complexity and poor integration of GURPS Magic. There’s an initial roll to cast the spell, and then resisted spells get a second roll. OK, good, important safety tip.

We debate what Thumvar’s about to get nailed with after he fails his roll. The effects bear repeating in full:

You suddenly feel unpleasantly warm. You are Nauseated: you have -2 to all attrib-ute and skill rolls, and -1 to active defenses. As well, roll vs. HT after you eat, are exposed to a foul odor, fail a Fright Check, or are stunned, and every hour in free fall or in any situa-tion where you might suffer motion sickness. A rich meal in the past hour gives -2; anti-nausea remedies give +2. On a failure, you vomit for (25 – HT) seconds – treat as Retching, below. More fun will occur on your turn.

Um. Yow.

Stormy2 drifts closer to Michel and hits him with a horizontal cyclone, which knocks him back a hex. No real impact otherwise, so that’s at least not too bad. Stormy3 chucks an unwelcome lightning bolt at Cadmus, who manages to dodge out of the way.

Brody recovers from his stun, but pretends to still be stunned with an Acting roll. Staver charges up the stairs to shoot arrows at the bloodraven. Thumvar charges up the stairs as well, looking to smite some bloodraven butt.

Cadmus’ turn comes along, and we see what Pharasma has to say in response to his prayer. The entire group feels a tremendous pressure, as with the gaze of, well, a God. Staver, our Infernal, feels like he’s covered in bees. Yucky. Figuring Gods help those who help themselves, he also swings at the elementals torso. And the axe hits the elemental like hitting a tree. The elemental disappears into mist. Yay, Holy Pharasma.

Michel tosses his explosive fireball at the other elemental, and hits it in the face. Vaporized. Fire and Divine Assistance for the win. That’s good: 6d lightning bolts are No Fun.

That leaves the bloodraven and some missing demon ninjas.

…and a bloodthirsty swarm of ravens. Sigh. Why does it always have to be birds. Fortunately, when they swarm around Staver, she’s covered in enough DR to ignore their pecking, at least this turn. Brody chucks a ninja flashbomb, which blinds the swarm, but not the rest of us, and the swarm flaps around confused. Staver leaps backwards, draws a 3d explosive fireball arrow found in a previous adventure, and hits for 10 points, x3 for internal. Kaboom, burning feathers are all that remain.

Staver: “I need more of those.”


Thumvar continues to fight off nausea, and looks around, since our bloodraven quarry seems to have gone missing. Crap. Invisible birds? Teleport? He passes, more or less, and Cadmus starts to head up the stairs. Michel fast-draws a healing potion, and Brody likewise tries (and fails) to Fast-Draw a Healing Stone.

Brody then notices the formerly missing bird-ninja, popping up conveniently (for them) behind various PCs on the lower floor. Staver gets stabbed for 8 imp, while Michel, who is perceptive enough to get a defense, but not agile enough to dodge, gets nailed for 14 injury. Naturally, the weapons are poisoned; Staver gets hit for 4 toxic damage, while Michel, who made his HT roll to resist poison, takes the minimum 1 point of damage. Dwarven constitution for the win.

Guess Cadmus shoulda stayed downstairs. These are demon ninjas, so his Smite (auto-hit 2d burn to all malign supernatural creatures in 4 yard radius) might come in handy.

Thumvar is still rolling HT each turn for nausea from the bloodraven spell, and goes 3-for-3 in making is roll. Cadmus fails to notice anything upstairs, hears the pained screams from downstairs, and books back down. Getting his exorcise. Get it? Exorcise?

Well, Staver’s an infernal, so I can’t Smite near him. So I Heroic Charge, and wind up right behind the guy who just stabbed Brother Michel. I do a Deceptive Attack to the torso, because sneaky ninja, and am glad when he makes a Blindfighting roll and gets to defend anyway. He fails, and I deliver 9 (2) cut to his back; he takes probably 10-12 injury, and falls forward, maybe dead.

Michel does not go unconscious, and drinks his healing potion that was meant for Brody. Heals 12 injury, which is pretty sweet.

Brody too moves away from the ninja and crushes the healing stone to himself, but Brody’s player was pulled away to a tech support call, so we moved on without noting the results publicly.

Staver turns around, draws a demonsbane arrow – his only one, but clearly no time like the present – and shoots the guy with it. 9 imp for the arrow itself, plus 4d more for demonsbane. The demon explodes with a splortch into purple-green ichor. We like results like that.

The last ninja runs out of the window. Again.

Thumvar (again! 4-for-4!) makes his HT roll to resist the effects of the bloodraven’s spell, and jumps back down to the first floor.

We have a break for a moment. Michel figures out that Thumvar’s inflicted with Burning Death, and Cadmus heals Brody from 6/12 to 12/12, taking the injury on himself. Six minutes to recover that. Hope we don’t get attacked in that time.

We then beat feet down to the basement of the tower, hoping to find and slay the bloodraven. Assuming the raven was real. Maybe a construct. Anyway, through a couple of doors, but MapTool is lagging so badly in movement and graphics updates that it’s painful to explore manually.

We decide to head through a passage that branches off north, but is interrupted by running water. There’s a bell and clapper in the wall on the near side of the stream. Cadmus suspects hinkiness, but the successful Holy Warrior roll goes unnoticed, or unimportant, or both. In retrospect, the GM thought my Holy Warrior roll for “detect hinkiness” was jumping the stream. Ah ha.

There’s a five-yard plank that’s nearly a yard wide, and we do something to it, but for the life of me, I can’t parse what it was, or what we did. The lag is bad enough we decide to call it for the night.

Edit: OK, all but Michel jump across the three-yard stream of running water. Michel asks Cadmus to hand him the 3′ wide by 15′ long plank, which thanks to a well-made ST roll (I hate ST rolls) he does. Two trolls come shambling down the hall; Michel plans on negotiating with them. We’ll see how that goes.

Peter posted a note on who’s doing play reports on Dungeon Fantasy games. In the comments section, +Mark Langsdorf notes that my play reports for +Nathan Joy‘s Jade Regent game were sporadic. +Peter V. Dell’Orto noted that he mostly saw me posting on Pathfinder, which I play with +Jeromy French and others.

I thought about that, and came to a conclusion on why:

The Pathfinder game uses Google Hangouts, webcams, and Roll20. This means most of my actions are verbal. “Pel notes that he’s going down the hall.” “I attack the bug-eyed fish monster.” Whatever.

This means that my fingers are mostly not occupied except while I am typing in roll commands into the die roller. I can transcribe, almost blow-for-blow, what’s going on in the background and still uphold my obligations to the group by being an active participant in the fun.

On the GURPS game, we play on MapTool with Skype, all chat, all the time. In order to keep up with what’s going on, I have to keep close tabs on two different chat windows. I therefore have a harder time doing real-time transcription, and thus often don’t get around to going back to it retroactively. Time is precious, etc. Everything I do is text, so when I’m interacting in the OOC window or the game window, I’m not transcribing.

I honestly much prefer the video feed. I find it more social, more fun, and more like the gaming experience I wish to have. I do prefer MapTool to Roll20 for GURPS, by far – actually, I like the MT abilities a lot, and the provided critical hit stuff and the way it does rolls works well for GURPS.

But anyway, that’s the skinny. I’m sure I could scour the game chatlogs and turn it into a play report. No interest in that. I like my free-form commentary. So the Jade Regent reports will continue to be sporadic.


Last time in +Jeromy French ‘s Skull and Shackles campaign was a pretty epic fight with a mummy that had killed a lot of Pathfinders, and that had a amulet that allowed it to convert good energy (which really should kill it) into healing dark energy. Oops. We killed it, but it was a close thing.


Today’s adventure starts with us becoming aware of a huge ship that moored itself at the river mouth that our vessel had sailed up, blocking our exit. It’s a large warship with actual cannon on it.

+Matt Sutton dispatches his flying (swimming?) minion with telepathy-o-vision. It’s a huge ship, with many dozens of people on it. They’ll be getting water in the morning.

Our resident alchemist, +Joshua Taylor notes he has potions of Alter Self, and comes up with a ruse to make people try and leave, so we can slip by. Naturally, there are dinosaurs on the island. Important safety tip. Oh, and the potions only last 10 minutes. Hrm.

Next idea: sail by quietly, but cause as much havoc as possible as we try and slip by. We contemplate cutting the pulley system connecting the wheel to the rudder. Gotta involve fire somehow too, and an actual powder magazine is going to be hard to pass up.

We decide to send Pel (me) aboard with some potions of Alter Self, making me look more like a Chilaxian. I get on board late at night, make a quick trip to the wheel pulley mechanism, then out.

At least, that’s the plan. I am given a few Alter Self potions, a Wand of Nature’s Ally, three vials of Alchemist’s Fire, and a two-part epoxy called alchemical glue. Also a climbing aid. And a vial of brewed rot. Really foul smelling stuff.

I roll a natural 20 on my stealth roll, for a 33, and a 19 with the climbing aid gives me a 36. I spot an easy way into the wheelhouse room.

I climb into the wheelhouse, and do not make the two people sitting there aware of my presence. These pirate hunters are a nuisance, but they’re not so numerous or powerful that it’s worth uniting the shackles to counter them.

I elect to split a Rapid Shot sneak attack on each one, which crits on the first shot, and nearly kills – but not all the way – the second guy.

The officer turns and nails me with an axe for mild damage. I split shots again, and kill the second guy. The officer and I trade a couple shots, and I eventually kill him, but until he lets out a shout.

I saw at the rope until marines open the door, and then I chuck the bottle of nauseating rot at them. Next round I chuck the alchemists fire at the wheelhouse pulleys; the marine swings at me ineffectually.

Now Pel is faced with three angry marines, and the need to hit the rope one more time. I loose two arrows at my assailants, one miss, one hit.

One marine slips on the vomit of the other’s sickness and falls down, the second and third both swing cutlasses at me. One miss, one hit, minimal damage. I draw my rapier and cut through the remaining rope. One nicks me, and I dive through the window. Alas, my plans to fire the powder magazine will never come to fruition. I drink a Potion of the Sea and then climb back onto my own ship as it sails by.

The larger warship fires a few ballista bolts at us, but no real impact. I’m down to less than half of my HP, having been hit for 23 HP in the battle; the other ship rapidly finds they can’t steer.

I give Alejandro ( +kung fu hillbilly)   his wand back; he’d despaired of it’s return when I started fighting five other guys. I get some healing (back up to 26/36).

We replenish our water stores, and sail around for a while. We notice a fishing trawler with loose sails, and a fishing net that’s not fishing. No occupants, and it’s clearly taking on water. Malgrim sends his water serpent, Atori, to check it out, and finds a coral “underwater magical carpet” just hovering there, that scraped out the bottom (Pel guesses). There are some sea creatures (Sahuagin) gnawing on human remains as well.

But hmmm, the coral thing is magical. Naturally we decide to check it out and try and kick some fish ass. There look to be five of these guys.

Malgrim steps on board the fishing trawler, and they jump up through hatches on the deck; naturally Malgrim uses Cleave to hack at both, the first for 3d6+10 damage, nailing him with 20 HP in one blow. Second guy gets the same treatment. A good start.

Atori the water snake bites and misses.

Alejandro’s up, and also pierces his foe decisively. Only minimal damage. Pel’s turn, attacks a different sahuaguin twice for 8 HP.

Our foes attack Alejandro, to no good purpose. Gimble ( +Joshua Taylor) chucks a firebomb at one, forcing Alejandro to dodge, making a DC 15 reflex save, as well as the other two fishmen. Alejandro burns for 6 HP.

Malgrim steps up and rolls another killing blow, but misses the cleave; the snake successfully chomps the remainder, killing the last one.

Gimble uses a magic weapon to push Alejandro into the water with a hydropump to extinguish him. The bard is not amused. He also grabs the magical coral raft while he’s at it.

For loot, the coral raft/carpet/thing there’s some small amount of treasure. Some jewelry and whatnot. A bunch of wet dried fish (huh?). The magic underwater carpet responds to Aquan, so Alejandro can command the thing. Can fit 5 people on it. Woo hoo.

We then, a few days later, come across another pirate vessel grappled to another ship, which is currently on fire. There’s active combat going on here. A confused situation that we can exploit.

Perhaps next time.

Thursday is GURPS-day, and so here’s today’s entry:

This one isn’t really navelgazing. I wrote The Last Gasp for a few specific reasons, and I thought I’d share a bit of how the article came about.

First, I’ve been a bit – frustrated is too strong a word – but at least a bit twitchy about the perceived, and maybe acutal, need to do something every damn turn in GURPS combats. There are relatively few incentives to evaluate, pause, or otherwise keep your distance from your opponent once a fight is joined.

Sure, you can use a Wait and Evaluate strategy before you really close to your desired striking range. But once you get within your range, there’s really only a few instances where taking even one turn to gather your wits is a decent thing to do.

The first is to interrupt death spirals of various kinds. If you can back off for a turn after getting thumped, you avoid the shock penalties that only show up for one turn after a hit. Another that can go for a while is to recover from stun. Others can be picking yourself up after a takedown, throw, or other “you fall down” result. Re-readying a weapon might count.

Maybe it’s because I suck, but when I used to spar, unarmed, long staff, twin midstick, double sword, long sword, or short-and-long (we do cool sparring in Hwa Rang Do), you would fight, break, fight, break, etc. Even in grappling, you occasionally pause – sometimes in an advantaged position, sometimes just holding your foe at bay.

Why pause? Sometimes, it’s looking for an opening. A series of feints and tests to get your foe to flinch and open up his guard.

But sometimes, you’re just freakin’ tired. You need a few seconds to gather yourself together, or throw your next combination. This produces what I’ve heard of as “lulls and flurries” in combat. A clash of arms (or legs, teeth, pointed sticks . . . ).

So, I wanted to do this, and I wanted it to it organically, arising from the rules. I also wanted to mimic one more thing I saw in real life. Before a tournament, I’d always, a month or two before, really ramp up my interval training, because how much wind you had really mattered in the two to five minute matches we’d do for grappling. We now do continuous sparring with takedowns and lockouts in HRD, and I have to imagine that your fitness level would be key there too.

So I wanted to have fitness matter. Call that “Note 1.”

The other thing I noted was that spending fatigue wasn’t that big a deal. Sure, once you got down to FP/3 you started having real issues. But until that, no big deal. In the DF game I play with +Nathan Joy  Cadmus has HT 12, so I basically have 7-8 FP I can use in Extra Effort before anything happens to me, and if I can chill out for an hour and a half I’m ready to rock.

Same thing with long-distance GURPS running, or magic, for that matter. It all recovers at 1 FP per 10 minutes (modified for Fit, Very Fit, Unfit, etc.) until you start losing HP.

But many of my friends who run marathons can take three weeks to recover from that kind of strain. Maybe (probably?) that’s losing HP. But you’re sore and stressed for a few days after a good weight workout too, and that’s not HP of damage.

So Note 2 was “losing FP should be easily recovered at first, but losing lots of FP should take a long time to recover, maybe as much as weeks.”

Naturally, my thoughts turned to the Size-Speed/Range Table at this point. I’d had a geometric progression going where every FP took a certain multiple (constant multiple) longer to recover. It was +Steven Marsh who suggested the leveled structure that eventually appeared in the article, which was a way, way better solution than what I’d had.

For the short-term fatigue thing, though, my initial thought was “you spend an action point every time you roll the dice.” Even then, I wanted something that was going to be simple to track in play. I wound up with something fairly similar, but the “per die roll” thing had a certain amount of compelling to it.

Then, of course, I had to consider movement. That was – and is – a bit of a sticky there.

Edit: Fortunately, +Jason Packer has provided a helpful chart covering AP costs through Move 18. Thanks, Jason!

Point costs were also tricky. Fortunately, I had a very capable group of people who were well-disposed to playtesting my ideas: I recruited from the Technical Grappling playtest list, and got great advice. I didn’t always follow it – author privilege – but it was really great seeing a PT report of a boxing match, as an example, and seeing the “standing eight-count” be an important recovery strategy.

Anyway, there are more details in there. I tried to cover short and long distance running and lifting weights in an early draft – those didn’t work out as clean as I’d have liked – but all in all, I think it’s a nice addition. I’d love to play a game in which AP are used.

Which reminds me: +Peter V. Dell’Orto loves to remind me by direct word and indirect role-modeling, that it’s not cool to harsh on people’s fun. The box in the article noting that it’s smply Cruel and Unusual Punishment to make a GM track APs on fifty mooks? Yeah, that’s inspired by my thought of what Peter would say if I told him that this was how all games needed to run. Thus, I worked out a simple 1d6 style roll that would dictate NPC mook actions but, on the average, work out to the same number of actions and lulls as if you were managing your AP one by one.

This post has a temporal shift. The link that inspired the post happened a month ago. Then I returned to it. Interesting what a month brings . . .


There’s a reason I follow Jeffro’s blog, since his post here crystallized something I’ve been toying with for a while.

In GURPS, if you’re attacked, you may defend. It’s one of the things I love about the system, and that I dislike about D&D and it’s kin: no real active defensive tactics. Oh sure, I think you can fight defensively and get a bonus to AC in exchange for a penalty to hit/damage rolls (if you can’t, you should, so there) . . . but it’s not core to fighting like it is in GURPS.

Anyway, Jeffro points out that two older games (see his post) which were inspired by Steve Jackson’s The Fantasy Trip (which helped inspire GURPS) have some interesting rules:

In Legends you lose your attack on your next round if you parry. In Heroes, if you parry, you can’t move if you defend. All use the “you get to choose an active defense” mechanic.

Ponder, though, what GURPS allows in active defenses and maneuver selection in light of the restrictions above.

*** As Larry Niven would say: Discontinuity ***

In GURPS, you are allowed any Active Defense if you take a Move action. So while hoofing along at Joe Average’s Move 5 (10mph, or a 6-minute mile), you can dodge a sword slash, parry a thrust, or block a thrown Duck of Doom at full skill.

I’d go on, but work has utterly sucked the creative fun out of me since last week.

I also recently played a Gladiators game with +Vaclav Tofl , and found that at lower skill levels (10-12 effective skill), the choice between fighting offensively (Committed Attack and Attack) and backing the hell up (Defensive Attack or All-Out Defense) is pretty stark. At high point levels, you can fight like a cinematic hero.

So what started out as a rant that was going to end with “we really need some sort of mechanic that allows you to press an opponent, and if you defend, you may not attack, since that’s the way most fights work” ended with some actual play experience that told me that at skill levels below 12-14, this is what you do to survive anyway.

At higher skill levels, you probably have enough points to not go full defensive. But if Cadmus (my 313-point Warrior Saint) attacks his doppleganger twin, he’ll be going at (say) Committed Attack with Axe-21 against his own Parry-15 (16 with a retreat). The Committed Attack can be a DA for -6 to skill (net Axe-15 and -3 to defend) vs Parry-12. That’s still darn good, mostly due to Cadmus’ +3 DB large shield.

Without it (as with my gladiator experience) he’s Parry-12, or Parry-9 after the deceptive attack. He’ll only defend one time in 3 (37% – OK, two times in five) in this situation. So in essence, his shield takes him from “better fight defensively” to “you’ve got such good cover that you can attack with relative impunity against a 300-point adversary.”

To Peter’s point: “Does it work in actual play?

My “problem” is a non-problem. Rats. Perfectly good high horse ruined.

A retroactive (and oft-repeated) introduction: After an actual-play hiatus where I was mostly writing and playtesting for GURPS. I was invited to play in a Pathfinder game, and after a few sessions, it was time to buy the book and learn the rules! I decided to try and read the Pathfinder rules cover-to-cover and see what inspiration strikes, for good or ill!

This is a compilation of the links to read-throughs of Pathfinder-related material

Pathfinder Core Rulebook

0.  Prelude
1.  Introduction
2.  Races

3a. Classes (Barbarian – Monk)
3b. Classes (Paladin – Wizard)

Please make any comments you have at the individual entries!

So: we continue!


A “Feat” is basically a little rules tweak that enables you to take advantage of skill and training to do something cool. They’re categorizied, and all classes get a new Feat every other level at minimum, and Fighters in particular get one every level. This is the fighter’s thing, and with 20 or so Feats by the time you get to the top of the food chain, there is room for serious butt-kicking.

Some of the feats are nested, tiered, sequential, have prerequisites – however you want to put it. So if you find a Feat that is particularly juicy, it might take some advanced planning.

I’m new to Pathfinder, still, but from reading around, there seem to be some Feat combinations that are seen to provide an “I Win” button in certain circumstances – or at least an overwhelming degree of smackdown. Some players familiar with the system clearly have their Feat progressions mapped out during character design – I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but it would appear that what Feats you choose is really important.

I’m not going to do a Feat-by-Feat breakdown here. That would be roughly insane, since the table for Feats goes on for four tightly laid-out pages, and the descriptions rather more.

Most Feats, as I said earlier, tweak a rule. Normally damage bonuses are based on STR . . . but the Weapon Finesse Feat lets you take advantage of your DEX instead.

So let’s look around at some types of feats, basically making up a structure as I go along. This isn’t meant to be all-inclusive.

Skill-Boosting Feats

The first Feat listed is Acrobatic, which gives a +2 bonus to Acrobatics and Fly checks. There are other feats like this one, that provide a bonus (often this scales with level in some way) to a small set of skills. Such Feats include Alertness (Perception and Sense Motive), Athletic (Climb and Swim), Deceitful (Bluff and Disguise), Deft Hands (Disable Device and Sleight of Hand), Magical Aptitude (Spellcraft and Use Magic Device), Persuasive (Diplomacy and Intimidate), Self-Sufficient (Heal and Survival), and Stealthy (Escape Artist and Stealth).That’s nine feats, covering a +10% boost to 18 skills. It’s like leveling up twice in something you’re already maxed out on, but it doesn’t count against the ranks you put in the skill.

Saving Throw Boosts

Some Feats help you when you make saving throws. These are a small family, with basically obvious names. Iron Will, Lightning Reflexes, and Great Fortitude. There are improved versions that allow a reroll of a failed saving throw.

Movement Feats

A lot of these have to do with mounted combat, and those are based off the obviously-named Mounted Combat Feat. This has a cascade three levels deep in places: Mounted Combat, Ride-By Attack, followed by Spirited Charge, which gives double damage on a mounted charge. Go grab your lance.

The Dodge cascade starts with bonuses to AC, but also includes concealment when moving, as well as moving before and after attacks, allowing you to start at a distance, get close and pound someone, and then move again. Paired with Nimble Moves cascade to ignore difficult terrain, Fleet to get a slight boost to your base move, you might be able to harass people and stay out of harm’s way.

Class Feature Feats

A bunch of Feats exist to get better at things your class is already good at. Channeling energy vs. outsiders (Alignment Channel), channel energy through an attack (Channel Smite), and a few other helping hands to channeling. There’s also boosts to Ki, Lay on Hands, Mercy, Rage, and Bardic Performance through the Extra X set of feats.

Armor and Shield Feats

These feats enable you to use certain types of armor and shield (surprised ya, eh?). The basic Armor Proficiency feats are pretty cool, and are a cascade for Light, Medium, and Heavy armor (no attack penalties while wearing them). One bit of coolness is Arcane Armor Training/Mastery, which reduce your chance of spell failure while wearing armor by 10 or 20%, which enables you to wear armor with an AC bonus of up to +4 and not start risking spell failure. It’s not AC +9 Full Plate, but if you had the right Feats, you would have the same chance to cast spells in full plate as you do in studded leather.

The various shield feats increase AC bonuses, allow you to strike with the shield without suffering two-weapon penalties, use the big tower shields, or do various forms of shield bash with improved effects.

Magical Enhancements and Item Creation

Gotta start with the cool one: there’s a whole list of feats to make magical items yourself. There are also metamagic feats that allow you to enhance spells – no components, higher level, longer range, that sort of thing.

One cool one is Arcane Strike, which allows you to treat your mundane weapons as magical – and get a bonus – if you can use arcane spells. Nifty.

There are various other feats for spells to enhance defensive casting, beat your foe’s resistance roll vs. your own spells, cast better counterspells, or increase your own saving throws.

Smackdown Feats

“Combat Feat” is a term of art in Pathfinder, so I’ll avoid using it for this broad category of cool stuff. There are lots of these. Everything with an asterisk is considered a Combat Feat.

Unarmed Combat

There are a host of options that enhance the ability to fight with your hands. I have to think these are aimed at the Monk, but that’s not the only class that can use these. You can treat your limbs as armed weapons, catch arrows, make extra attacks (that one requires a BAB of +11, restricting it to high-level warrior-types), or improve your grapple.
Ranged Combat

There are a bunch of things that are really tailor-made for the arrow-loving legions among us. Deadly Aim allows you to trade a ranged attack bonus for damage – this is probably as close to “Aim for the Vitals” as you’re going to get in this game. Mounted Archery is part of the mounted movement cascade. Point-Blank Shot begins the cascade for a group of eight feats that allow halving range penalties, shooting into melee with impunity, shooting around armor (that one requires a BAB of +16, which means Fighters, Paladins, and Rangers of high level only, I think). 
Melee Combat

The regime of front-line combatants, there are a bunch of these, and they can be pretty cool. You can fight defensively with Combat Expertise, lowering your hit roll but boosting your AC. That cascade unlocks disarms, feints, and trips, as well as Whirlwind Attack, which allows you to make a single melee attack at every foe within reach. Go go gadget polearm!
The other cascades that are meaty here are Weapon Focus (bonuses to attacks, intimidation of foes, more damage, make flat-footed, ignore damage reduction), Two-Weapon Fighting feats that make you a pretty good imitation of a Cuisinart. And the Power Attack cascade, which includes words like “sunder” (destroying an object) and “rend” (extra damage). Also includes the ability to rush a foe and knock him prone.
Injury Modifiers

There are also a few cascades of feats that allow you to really up the ante on how badly you hit someone. The Critical Focus tree can add secondary effects to critical hits, such as bleeding, blinding, deafness, sickness, and stunning. The Vital Strike cascade can increase the basic weapon damage rolled by as much as 4x.
Final Word
My final word here is that I’m not nearly experienced with this stuff to make recommendations. I’ll let other grognards do that. But very clearly it pays to be aware of what’s out there, and what the prerequisites are so you’re not boxed out of a desired Feat. DEX and BAB minima, as well as level and class constraints are all possible. Figure out what you think you want to be good at, and if you just can’t live without Greater Penetrating Strike and Greater Vital Strike, just know you will need to be a 16th level fighter to get them both.