So, let’s get to it. I was thinking in the car a while ago (I’m not sure when; this was an idea that got put in my +5 Journal of Pretentiousness) about my propensity for rules tweaks.

Well, if I’m tweaking so much, I must not be satisfied. Clearly (he said sotto voce) I should design and write my own game.

Right?

What would it be?


Well, I can tell you. It would, first of all, be a lot like GURPS, in that it would definitely be a point-buy system of some sort.

It would have resolution separately for attacks and defenses. Like GURPS now. I like that, and would choose to retain it.

It would also make extensive use of some sort of scaling table. As I’ve said before, if the answer to your question in GURPS isn’t the Size-Speed/Range table, you’re probably asking the wrong thing. I would definitely do this for lifting ablity, so that each level of strength would be a constant multiple over the one before it. That would avoid the current quirk present in very high levels of GURPS ST being marginally inferior on a point-by-point basis.

And about that: the name for my tentatively considered game would be the dB System (decibel). I’d want to use ten steps for the range table, and likely d10 for the roll types. I like bell curves, though . . . more on that later.

While deliberating my dB-scaled version of the Scaling Table, it occurred to me that the GURPS version of this type of chart uses six steps per order of magnitude. Now, this could be a few things:

  • Each step is roughly 50% more than the next one, chosen as a meaningful step and that worked out to roughly six steps per factor of 10 (1.47x, or the sixth-root of ten)
  • GURPS uses d6’s, and thus it makes sense to have six steps per each order of magnitude
  • It provided the right split of resolution and differentiation, and happened to land on six divisions. 
Or it could be any combination of them, or none. GURPS also uses a 1-2-5-10 and a 1-3-10 progression at times (roughly sqrt(10) and the cube-root of 10) in the Spaceships volumes.
Ultimately, though, even with some potential fairly deliberate departures that would be more form than function, what I’d do would feel an awful lot like some sort of GURPS Fifth Edition.
Why is Ballistic’s dB RPG never going to happen?

Well, a few reasons. Quite a few. 400,000 or so of them to be precise. Ask +Sean Punch about the effort required to take a game and revise/rationalize/rewrite it. At 800 or so words per page, varying with formatting, and enough meat to be a generic entry capable of supporting multiple genres, you’re still talking 250,000 to 500,000 words here.
This might be able to be made lighter with proper metasystems. Much like Sean and +Peter V. Dell’Orto‘s Technique Design System from GURPS Martial Arts, if there were to be an embedded Advantage Design System, Disadvantage Design System, and maybe even some sort of Power Design System (which may well include technology, but ask +David Pulver how straight-forward that is) perhaps you could save wordcount in specific advantage-type listings, but you’d spend it (probably more than spend it) on the metasystems themselves.
But the real reason I wouldn’t do it is that I don’t have the skills required to bring what I’d think of as a Next
Gen RPG to market. Most of the gaming I do these days is on a Virtual Table Top of some sort. Roll20 or MapTool, to be precise.
I would want a Next Gen RPG to have all the math integrated into the book itself. Embrace the electronic medium to a much fuller extent. Embedded character generation and export hooks. Metasystems and resolution systems and combat trackers right in the pacakge, hopefully interfacing into common platforms or as a format-neutral application.

One more advantage of the digital format would be the elimination of the requirement to roll multiple dice to get a satisfactory bell curve probability distribution. Want to have a result that ranged from (say) 0 to 20, centered around 10, but have the same distribution shape as 3d6? No problem. That’d be (more or less) the Excel equivalent of NORMINV(RAND(), 10, 3). You could simulate flat distributions where you wanted them, bell curves where appropriate, and even things like one-sided distributions where it’d be useful. The players would be able to consult rough probability tables, as today in GURPS, but the heavy lifting would be computerized.

In short, what I would look for as my hobby’s next step, I can’t hope to provide. I’m not that kind of programmer or artist even if my game design skills were up to the task That being said, I think I’d be decent at managing the creation of such a beast. But that’s my own possible delusion.
Also . . . I’m having a pretty good time creating for GURPS Fourth Edition. I like the people I interact with, I understand what I’m doing, and I can do it on my own time. So when all is said and done, my nascent decimal/decibel scaling mechanic that allows butterflies and T-Rexes with equal ease will stay nascent. I’ll have fun playing and creating for the system I enjoy greatly. 
And at some point, someone might rise to the challenge of a truly integrated Next Gen RPG built with some of the really neat features we see emerging integrated right inside.
Well . . . that’ll be an interesting day.”

                          -Jayne Cobb


This is mostly just a bit of idle musing. Last time I played +Nathan Joy‘s DF campaign, +Theodore Briggs‘s character, Thumvar, got hit with a spell (Burning Death, for what it’s worth) that made him roll vs. HT every turn, or else terrible consequences would ensue.

In other areas, I have mused about the cost of HT before. In this post discussing The Last Gasp, I noted the following breakdown of things that HT influenced, and a commentary on overall pricing.

Fixed and Knowable Costs

While breaking down certain GURPS abilities into component parts is chancy, here’s one way to look at it:

  • Fatigue Points: 3 points/level
  • Basic Speed: 20 points per level, requires +4 HT for each +1: 5 points/level
  • Action Points (from The Last Gasp): 2 per level.

These are fixed costs, but only the first two are firmly defined in GURPS Basic Set. Action Points is from my own article; we pegged it at 2/level, but that’s soft.
Thus, the FP and Basic Speed components of HT cost 8 points per level. Toss in my Action Points pricing and that’s 10 per level (which argues that if the pricing of HT is fine as-is, if you play with AP it should go up to minimum 12/ level.
OK, but there are other components to HT, which are harder to pin down for actual costs. Mainly, they’re
  • The ability to make HT rolls (resisting poisons, knockdown and stunning, consciousness rolls, and death checks, checking for fatigue and other resisted conditions)
  • HT-based skill rolls
That first one is interesting, since there’s a lot of game-relevant utility there. That being said, let’s come back to it.
Skills

There 11 HT-based skills in the Basic Set. If you were to buy a Talent covering that many skills, it would cost 10 points per level.

However, and this is an important point, you buy a Talent as part of characterization, and you want and will seek to use all – or most – of the skills in it. So the list of skills you get with HT come along for the ride, and thus are probably worth half or a quarter of the base price of a Talent (plus you don’t get the ‘look cool doing it’) factor.

On the other hand, let’s suppose that the cost of the ability to buy skills with attributes is discounted by 1/2 to 3/4 because it’s just more efficient to train everything having to do with fitness or coordination than do one thing at a time. So the cost of all HT skills is 3-5 points (5-7 less than above, or 7-9 less if you also strip out AP). 3 points per +1 to all HT-related skills (again, 11 of them) seems just too low. In fact, the basic 5-10 points per level you’d get for a basic Talent is still a great deal. I choose to settle on roughly 5 points/level for the “boost to HT-related skills” piece, recognizing that not all of these are useful, and +1 to a defaulted skill goes mostly from “really sucks” to “sucks slightly less.”

That means that without considering the HT-based rolls to resist Stun and Knockdown, Stay Conscious, or Not Die, you’re lookat at 13 points/level at the low end (no AP), or 20 points/level with the cost of Action Points and paying 10 per level for skills. If we split differences and indulge in pentaphilia, we get 15 points/level as a base cost.

Persistence of Action

There is yet another, and a very important, part of the HT attribute, which is the ability to persevere in the face of hardship. This includes HT rolls to keep running or avoid fatigue, but in most cases it will be the rolls you make to avoid getting stunned and/or knocked down in combat, to stay conscious and/or alive when wounded badly.

GURPS already gives pricing for bonuses to some of these via Advantages like Hard to Kill and Hard to
Subdue. However, first consider that there are two kinds of these rolls.

  • One-Time HT Checks: If you pass these, you’re OK. Keep acting. Death checks and stun/Knockdown checks.
  • Repeated Rolls: You have to do these every turn. Resisting certain spells (like the aforementioned Burning Death) or rolls to stay conscious each turn if you’re at negative HP.
One-Time Pricing

Well, this seems fairly straightforward. This is a combination of +1 to rolls to not die (Hard to Kill at 2 points per +1) and +1 to avoid Knockdown and Stunning (High Pain Threshold has 10 points for +3 to such rolls, or about 3 points/level). Boom, an extra 5 points/level for an equivalent bonus to HT.
Non-linear Impacts

A small mathematical digression. Both the one-time and repetitive pricing seems OK, perhaps, at first. The pricing is basically right there in the Characters book, and is all I have to do is note that Hard to Subdue is 2 points per level, and that’s it. Add ’em up. 20 points/level for HT at the low end of the scale, and as high as 27 points/level on the high end.
Thing is, it’s not quite that simple in play. You can look at HT rolls, especially the ones you have to make every round, in the inverse way: how many rolls can you make until you fail one?
For consciousness rolls, this question is “how many rounds of actual action can you do until you’re killed or eaten” in many worlds. So the non-linear nature of these rolls for HT from 10 through 16 (17 or 18 always fails, so it stops there) is key.
For death checks, you get into the “not dead until you hit auto-death at -5xHP” thing, which caps how many death checks you’ll really make. But how many rolls extra do you get?
Well, that many. 
So you can see the results in the HT scores of player interest are strongly non-linear. HT 11 is not that big of a deal. On the average, you get less than one extra roll before you’ll fail one. So booyah, you get one extra turn to act before you get KO’d, and you’ll pass one extra death check.
I actually look at the first as more important than the second. If you get KO’d, you’re out of the fight and if your side doesn’t win, you’ll face death at your foes’ whim.
Still, you can also look at it another way. You get effectively extra HP to keep fighting until auto-death sets in. Those are 2 points/level, and at 10 HP you could say that’s worth about 2 points x 10 HP x number of extra rolls. This maxes out at the number of increments from -HP to -5xHP, or about 40 HP for the ST 10 person, 50 for a ST 12 warrior, etc. 
I’d not do that, though, because you’re talking “extra HP that only work if you stay conscious.” So they’re rather heavily limited. 
The KO roll, though. That is valuable. It’s how many extra seconds (turns) you can stay fighting.

But how many points is an extra turn worth? Well, it’s potentially an attack and a defense per round, which would normally cost about 2 AP or 4 points. At minimum it’s probably a 2-point base for the equivalent of Hard to Subdue.

Cut to the Flippin’ Chase

The game value of higher HT might look like this:
Where HT 13, while costing 30 points by the Basic Set rules, is probably worth in excess of 70 points in terms of the additional oomph it gives characters. 
Why does it drop down so hard at the end? You’re out of the non-linear region, and you’re just buying a boost to avoid penalties. Maybe that says “20 points/level” for HT 17 and higher, since that does have value.
Would I price things like this? Um, no. But an increase to a flat value of a minimum of 20 (like DX and IQ) to an upper limit of around 30 points/level for HT seems to better reflect the game utility. If you want to simplify quite a bit, Fit is +1 to all HT rolls, plus the ability to recover FP twice as fast (!!). That would put HT at about 20 points/level, if we ignore recovering 10 FP in 50 minutes instead of 100 (both are “we have downtime, poof I’m not tired anymore). 

Back to Thumvar, the Dungeon Fantasy Knight. His HT 13 – not even extreme – allowed him to shake off the effects, turn by turn, of a pretty nasty spell. Characters with Supernatural Durability pay 150 points to be completely immune to shock, physical stun, and knockout. You have HPT included already. And you get to fight all the way down to -10xHP, all at once. And you can only be killed by a particular item.

So, perhaps that’s worth more – maybe 200-300 points (which seems like too many). Supernatural Durability is priced equivalently to HT 25, which according to the above chart would be a lower bound of about 275 points, so maybe not that off.
Or, no matter what math you want to play, diminishing returns sets in, and you shouldn’t price HT more than 20 or 25 points per level. 
Parting Shot
If HT is worth 20-30 points per level, aren’t DX and IQ, which give boosts to so many skills, worth even more? Possibly, possibly. 
Another time, perhaps.

We picked up with the same server errors we ended with, and 45 minutes after game start, we finally fixed them and got to it.

Are you smarter than a SM+1 Troll?
We faced two nine-foot-tall Trolls (not the end-of-pencil kind), and Brother Michel engaged them in conversation.

Michel: “Hello there. Listen, can we go through? We’re in a hurry.”
GM:  The lead one cocks his head. “Go…. through?” 

His oversize nose twitches as he draws in a lungful of air.

Michel: “Great! Step aside, would you?” (Brody! Help!)
Brody: “My friend is a great and powerful wizard. If you step aside for him, he will bless you with great prowess in battle and virility in all your years. If you don’t, he’ll probably do something unspeakably horrible that I won’t want to watch. It’s really best if you step aside – or better yet, join us! We can pay you.”

The trolls look confused. The entire notion of “pay” has gone right by them. And yet . . . 


GM:  “Pay…. what?”

Michel eyes Brody suspiciously.

Brody: “We’ve got piles of valuable fur upstaiirs. You can have them! Warm, comfortable, just the thing to attract a fine troll woman, eh?”

The lead troll seems to consider this thoughtfully.

GM: “Warm.” He nods. “WARM!”

Brody:  “Very warm!”

They step back out of the way.

Kevin asked why aren’t we simply killing these guys again? I mean, trolls. We note that Michel won’t let us. (in fact, Michel notes that he just doesn’t want to fight these guys). Cadmus won’t interfere with critters unless they are trying to interfere with Fate. Or him, but that counts, since he’s on a holy quest.

So we give up 300-odd pounds of furs that we really weren’t looking to carry home to avoid murderizing two trolls. It’s a tangled web we weave. I’m certain this will come back to haunt us. Everything else does.

Or maybe not. The troll behind the one who made the deal makes a questioning noise, and the lead troll casually backhands him with his club, sending him flying back into the room beyond. The second troll picks himself up, and Michel sees a forearm that is bent nearly in half from the blow straighten itself with a series of sickening cracks. There’s a fight worth avoiding. Looks like troll fights are destined to be “long, and ultimately indecisive.” ( +Theodore Briggs )

The trolls look at us like we owe them something. Which, of course we do.

Brody: “Well, that was easy then. Your furs are upstairs, but our business is in here – follow us, we’ll bring you to them. You got a name, chum?”

GM: “WARM!”

Brody moves to the nearby iron door and nails it, picking the lock with a critical success. Meanwhile, those of us (Cadmus, Thumvar) not carefully eyeing the trolls in case they suddenly display their true nature are watching Brody work the lock.

Warm stares at us with flat, dull eyes. The door clicks open, and Brody decides that he never goes through a door whose lock he’s just picked first. Solid survival skills, that one.

The ceiling of this grand chamber rises twenty feet overhead, its heavy beams serving as both rafters and supports for the great hall above. Teak paneling covers the walls, and the floor is of polished wood. Along the walls, wooden columns rise to the ceiling above, bearing banners emblazoned with pictograms from far-off Tian Xia. Above these hang small oil lamps that give off a dim glow. A small porcelain bowl rests before the center column to the south, and four reed mats are arranged before it.

Naturally, as we enter, the wood paneling squeaks loudly. Per rolls are called for. Sigh.

GM:  Brody recognizes the Tian pictographs as being representative of various martial philosophies from that land.
Staver: I actually can read Broken Tian

+Douglas Cole : ((We’re in the freakin’ dojo of the Cobra Kai, aren’t we?))
+Nathan Joy : ((Just a lil))

All the PCs but Cadmus notice that the sides of the pillars are very rough, nearly unfinished. We suspect “Eye of the Tiger” or “Fight for your Honor” is about to start playing, and the ever-watchful Brody is looking out for the ninjas that keep trying to disembowel him. We also suspect that these are support beams for the hall upstairs. Wooden support beams. Ick – wish they were stone.

Warm the Pet Troll is following Brody around like a rabid puppy. 

Brody asks him “What’s in here.”
The troll ominously replies “Quiet.” 

A. Freakin’. Troll. Wants us to be quiet. Crap.

There are a ton of doors in this room; the first unlocked door swings open silently to Brody’s subtle nudge. It is a shrine to the Yama King – the same deity the bird-ninja’s of Alcatraz were worshipping earlier.

Brody:  “Right, Ninja bedroom. Check the others, see if there’s anything interesting.”
Michel: “Shouldn’t you stab the bed and the space and everything? Just in case?”
Brody: “If I was going to get stabbed, it would have happened by now.”
Thumvar: “Riiight, now you’ve done it”
Michel: “I suppose, but they’re sneaky.”

Brody’s probably not wrong. As a hedge, Thumvar and Brody open all doors that are openable, and they all have the same double-mats and shrine to the Yama King, patron deity of assassins. Yay. We find 10 small jade raven statues, one per mat. Only ornamental; they become loot.

Michel:  I may be honest, but I’m greedy, and I think statues belonging to devotees of the god of murder are clearly the former property of outlaws. 

Michel scored +1 Rationalization point.

Epic Ninja Battle
We continue to search the area, and Michel opens up the door that Cadmus refrained from opening, due to its being different.

GM: Hokay, Cadmus is gazing curiously into the empty cell.
Michel: Taps the walls of the empty, smaller cell with the blunt end of his glaive.
GM: Michel starts to walk towards him, when a bunch of small gray objects come flying down from the rafters.

And here we go . . . Staver has received initiative.

Cadmus: I hate to say it, but “Shields UP”
Michel: “Gozreh’s wings!”
Staver: Oh boy.
GM: They impact the ground near you all. Two near Brody, four near Staver, Cadmus, and Michel, and two near Warm and Thumvar. As the small objects impact the floor, they detonate.
Cadmus: And everyone heard me say “this door’s different,” right?

Yeesh. Four HT-3 rolls called for. Cadmus fails three of the four. Warm makes his. Michel fails two of four, Thumvar fails one, Staver fails a few, and we’re all Stunned. Yeesh. Thumvar burns a destiny point to not be stunned, because he only failed the one roll. The rest of us have to make a single HT-3 roll to recover. With a 37% chance to succeed with effective HT 9, I should wake up in 2-3 rounds on the average.

Plenty of time for us to get murderized. Well, perhaps it was Cadmus’ fate.

Eight figures roll out of the rafters up above, and all of them throw spears at Thumvar. Now, granted, Thumvar has DR 14 or so between his tough gargoyle hide and a bunch of plate armor. But that’s a lot of spears, and all potentially hit (thrown with Skill-16!). The four un-defendable hits for 8, 11, 6, and 7 impaling – but all “ping” off his torso armor. Thumvar reflexively blocks the flanking spears (one successfully) and dodges one of the others. The final two hit for 10 and 11, but again go “ping.”

That’s a lot of bouncing spears. Thumvar’s hard to hurt.

+Mark Langsdorf : Good job drawing aggro, Ted. I approve!
+Theodore Briggs : Woot! ninjas need to work out more. New armor? Totally worth every penny.

Thumvar makes up for the spear barrage by flying up and doing a Heroic Flying Axe Cut to one of these guys’ left legs, and he fails to parry. 17 cutting damage and he plummets to the floor, leaving a trail of arterial red. Booyah.

Cadmus rolls to recover from stun, and critically succeeds. Nate +Nathan Joy

lets me act this turn as a result; Cadmus’ nearest foe is one yard over . . . and seven up. He prays to Pharasma to drive evil from him. This is Enhanced Protection from Evil, which will force malign evil stuff away from me based on my margin of success. I hope to make some of these guys fall down off their perches. We’ll see.

Michel unstuns himself; Brody does not.

Cadmus’ nearest oppressor flings three objects at him, which burst into flame when they hit him. No cut damage, but 9 burn, 8 of which fails to get through his torso armor, but 1 burn does, so I’m on fire. Yay. -2 DX and 1d-4 damage per turn, with a ready maneuver and a DX roll required to put it out.

Staver is, alas, still stunned.

Two monks scurry along handholds and grab at Thumvar with two hands each. He blocks and dodges the first monk successfully, succeeds and then Critically Succeeds an Axe Parry with the second, who is not wounded thanks to some sort of arm protection. Guess this monster saw the recommendations in Technical Grappling. Meanwhile, Cadmus completes his prayer, and will push away evil within a 9-yard radius. We’ll see if they’re evil. He also burns for 1 HP. Being on fire isn’t much fun.

Michel steps and concentrates, casting a Concussion spell, trusting Thumvar to withstand the blast.

Thumvar drops down and chops at his stunned foe (results of the critical parry) with a massive deceptive attack, which his foe fails to dodge. This results in an atypically low 9 cut damage, just shy of his minimum. Alas. Thumvar sad; he makes himself happy by spending a Knight! point for a re-roll, and it mysteriously becomes 18 cut (which is his MAX roll, so booyah). Major wound, yep: prone, stunned, bleeding heavily. But not dead, so yow, because unarmored that’s 27 injury – so he’s got some protection under them robes.

Brody is still stunned. Warm actually tees off on a ninja with a deceptive attack from the flank. The nimble little minx dives forward and dodges. The figure that has been flinging firebombs at Cadmus rolls around the side of a beam and disappears. No telling if this is because of Cadmus’ prayer. None of the monks flee, but many reposition themselves around our party, “breathtakingly fast,” so says the GM.

Thumvar is up, and goes and lands to conserve fatigue. Cadmus chops at the neck of a nearby foe, who parries. Michel steps up next to Cadmus and lobs his stunball and rereadies his glaive. Five monks and Warm all have to make HT-3 rolls. Two monks fail, as does Warm. Alas. Still, two stunned, three still in the fight. And our troll is going to be pissed at us.

Staver, having recovered from stun, and launches two arrows, one each at the vitals of two foes. The first ducks under the arrow, the second is stunned and flanked and takes 8 imp to the vitals; the Major Wound check at -5 goes in our favor, and he’s down and out of the fight.

That was Team Ameiko; Team Shadow Monk is now up. Both of those stunned but not out recover from their stun and will act again next turn. Sadness. They fail to gang up on us, and one goes after Cadmus, one on Michel, and the last (likely soon to be departed) vs. Thumvar. They all swing their kamas at us (which I mistake for kusari, and block rather than parry), and all are successfully defended against. Go Team Ameiko. . . but Cadmus needs a breather to get his Righteous Fury on.

Thumvar swoops over his foe for a flying flank attack, doing his trademark Dual-Weapon Attack with his shield and axe. That’s total of -7 on the defense rolls (-2 flank, -2 above, -1 DWA, -2 DA). Flippy ninja monk dodges the shield, eats the axe for 14 cut. He does not suffer stun/knockdown from his major wound. He’s hurting but not out.

Cadmus steps back and gets his Righteous Fury on. Next turn he’ll roll 1d6 three times, and (GM house rule) assign the rolls as he likes. I almost always go DX, ST, HT.

Michel steps back, shifts his glaive to Reach 2, and stabs from a distance, keeping to Cadmus’ far flank (always hide behind the meat shield). Monk does a dodging retreat, and makes it easily.

Brody still fails to recover from stun. I offer to burn an unspent character point for him, just so Kevin can do something – handwave it as praying, but anything to get him back in the game.

A dart flies out of the darkness at Thumvar’s back . . . but misses. Stupid monk leader person.

Staver fires two arrows at two targets, and the one with the shock penalty gets hit – it barely penetrates his side. They must have DR 4-6. Cadmus should do pretty well with Shrivener’s (2) armor divisor, if he can ever lay a blade on these guys. If he can rock out with a good boost to DX, he can start Rapid Striking at full skill and/or major Deceptive bonus.

One of the monks starts waving his hands in a Hypnotic pattern at Thumvar, who loses the contest by 11 thanks to a really good roll by the Monk. Stunned for 11 turns. Yow. There goes our most effective combatant.

Cadmus’ foe tries to knock Shrivener away and also chops at his torso; Cadmus parries and dodges. He takes a whack at his nearest foe, then a long step (Committed Atack) at hypnotic hands guy. The first attack strikes home, though it’s a graze. But a graze with a named penetrating axe is still ugly. The second is dodged with a critical success. Cadmus can block or dodge at -2, but not parry.

Cadmus’ Righteous Fury takes effect, but only rolls 3,3,2. I use my Holy Warrior! point to reroll, for 4, 2, 2. Meh to both. But Cadmus is now DX 17, ST 16 (Striking ST 17), and HT 14. Not the best roll ever, but +4 to DX doesn’t ever hurt.

Brother Michel tries to chop at his nearest foe, that Cadmus hit and bypassed; despite his wounds, he dodges.

Brody still doesn’t recover from stun. Warm, on the other hand, must have recovered when we didn’t look, because he runs up and tackles one of the monks, slamming him into a wooden column. 


We call it a night.

Some out of character talk after the fight:

I note that I would really like to see what this sort of combat would have been lke with Action Points. Some of those “stunned for 10 rounds” might be better to take with people actually pausing for a few seconds to recover

Nate suggests that his next DF game would be “All clerical magic uses divine power, all arcane magic uses threshold based realm magic, and action points for everyone.”

We poll the audience for three house rules:  1) all afflictions get +1 per round to resist, 2) shock penalties effect defenses, and 3) shock penalties are halved (round down) each turn.

Pretty sure we’re definitely going to do #1, but probably pass on 2 and 3. We’ll see when we pick up the fight next week.

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!

You can find the first installments here:

Prelude
Introduction
Races

Classes (Barbarian – Monk)
Classes (Paladin – Wizard)

Skills (Appraise – Heal)
Skills (Intimidate – Use Magic Device)

Feats

Equipment

Additional Rules

Chapter 7 is a bit of a hodge-podge. It includes a smorgasbord of rules that apparently don’t go well into any other chapter. A few round out character creation and capability. Overland travel and movement go here too, instead of in the Game-Mastering chapter (which is really about running games as opposed to playing games).

So, what’s contained in this a la carte menu of oddness?

Let’s start with everyone’s favorite:

Alignment

Many words have been penned, and electrons slain, discussing (mostly disparaging, really) the D&D alignment system. Somewhere between a useful help to roleplaying and a terrible crutch, users of which are doomed to roll-play rather than role-play and likely wind up eating kittens.

I know evil is bad, but come on! Eating kittens is just plain . . . plain wrong, and no one should do it! Ever!
       -The Tick
Armless but not Harmless

In any case, your alignment is more or less your moral compass. Sort of. Except when it’s not. Maybe it’s a crossroad of morals (good – neutral – evil) and ethics (lawful – neutral –chaotic). Maybe not. In any case, the rules define a 3×3 matrix that defines certain game aspects, especially in a world where gods, demons, devils, monsters, and outsiders are real, powerful, and interact and intervene directly with humanity. So like it or not, it matters in game. A key bit is “alignment steps,” which are the number of horizontal and vertical motions (only – no diagonals) on that 3×3 table from where you are to what you’re interacting with. A cleric’s alignment must be within one step of the alignment of his or her deity.

The game defines two orthogonal axes for alignment: the Law-Chaos axis and the Good-Evil one, with neutral as a center point for each. Thus the three-by-three matrix. The book notes that evil alignments are not usually good for PCs, at which point legions of those who love playing evil PCs will chime in and say “bulls**t.” One of the things that is true is that disparate alignments, properly played, can (and maybe should) cause intraparty conflict including harsh language and death. It gives a brief description of each of the nine possible alignments, for which I will reproduce the one-line summaries from the book.

  • Lawful Good: Lawful good combines honor with compassion.
  • Neutral Good: Neutral good means doing what is good and right without bias for or against order.
  • Chaotic Good: Chaotic good combines a good heart with a free spirit.
  • Lawful Neutral: Lawful neutral means you are reliable and honorable without being a zealot.
  • Neutral: Neutral means you act naturally in any situation, without prejudice or compulsion.
  • Chaotic Neutral: Chaotic neutral represents freedom from both society’s restrictions and a do-gooder’s zeal.
  • Lawful Evil: Lawful evil represents methodical, intentional, and organized evil.
  • Neutral Evil: Neutral evil represents pure evil without honor and without variation.
  • Chaotic Evil: Chaotic evil represents the destruction not only of beauty and life, but also of the order on which beauty and life depend.

I’m going to nitpick. I think Neutral should be phrased as “naturally, without prejudice or restraint.” Or possibly “act according to natural imperatives, without prejudice or restraint.” Since animals that are going about the business of obtaining food, mates, shelter, and survival are usually classed as neutral, that’s probably how it’s intended. An animal doesn’t eat you because he’s evil, he does it because he’s hungry. A dog doesn’t avoid pooping on the carpet because it’s wrong, or poop on the carpet as a rebellion against The Man (though he may do so as a show of anti-dominance) – he does it because he has to poop, and that carpet seemed a pretty good place to do it.


Secondly, both Lawful Evil and Neutral Evil re-use “evil” in the definition, which is lazy and doesn’t help much, though the “Good Versus Evil” section notes “Evil implies hurting, oppressing, and killing others.”

The alignment rules certainly don’t capture the complexities of human behavior in many ways. If a character will make tremendous sacrifices of wealth and personal injury or death for one group of humans, but will kill or enslave others without compunction or remorse, that probably makes you Lawful Neutral. I suspect a lot of human cultures would fall here. The samurai, as an example – rigorously adhering to law, tradition, and a code of honor, but capable and willing to kill without a second thought, up to and including him or herself! Maybe Buddhism would be Neutral Good. I’ll stop there before I get myself into trouble, if I haven’t already.

“All models are wrong; some are useful.” 

This statement by George Box probably is where I’ll leave the alignment discussion. To the extent that the 3×3 matrix helps guide behavior, it’s useful. To the extent it structures the various interrelations between gods, men, and squidzillas, it is useful.

Vital Statistics

The last few things needed or wanted to round out a character.

Height, Weight, and Age

The game lays out some random methods for generating age, height, and weight. The tables tell me I’m 15 pounds overweight and suffering -1 to STR, DEX, and CON as well as +1 to INT, WIS, and CHA. Hrpmh. Not wrong, but ‘Hrmph.’

Encumbrance

Encumbrance comes in two parts: that imparted by armor, and “everything else.” It notes that unless you’re weak and/or carrying a lot of gear (or loot!) only worry about the Armor Check penalties as well as modifiers from armor to movement speed.

If you are laden with stuff, you take the weight of all your gear, including armor, and compare it to the Carrying Capacity table. What does that tell you? At STR 10, you can lift 100 lbs. over your head, lift and stagger around at five feet per six seconds with 200 lbs., and under decent circumstances push or drag about 500 lbs. At STR 20, this is multiplied by four.

How would this compare to GURPS? Well, at 500-lbs, you can push or drag an object. GURPS sets this limit at 15xBasic Lift. If we set the two equal to each other (questionable), we’d decide that ST 10 in DnD is roughly ST 13 in GURPS. There have been arguments as to what “lift over the head” means for the GURPS usual 8xBasic Lift limit of things. If a STR 10 person in Pathfinder can press 100 lbs over his head, that might well be ST 10 or so in GURPS. At Pathfinder STR 20 (drag a freakin’ ton around, or press 400 lbs. over the head, that’s somewhere between ST 20 and ST 26). So the two aren’t that far off in that range, for what it’s worth.

It then gives the geometric progression for extending the table as well as how to modify height and weight for large and small critters.

Movement

The first paragraph is pretty key. It divides movement into Tactical, Local, and Overland, as well as defining movement rates at a Walk or Hustle, and two speeds of running (x3 and x4).

Tactical Movement
Much as I hate to say it, the movement rates are rather more inherently sensible than those assumed in GURPS. A walk is 3 yards per 2 seconds; a hustle is Move 3. Run x3 is for characters in heavy armor, and is about Move 3.5, while Run x4 is Move 6 in no armor, or about Move 4.5 in chainmail. I suppose you could just look at walking as using a “Step and . . . ” series of maneuvers (Move 1, or 2mph).
The book says that in combat, characters hustle or run instead. This is probably true, but it’s not realism, it’s fun/play that drives it. You want the kind of mobility that allows you to engage many foes in an interesting time frame. In a real fight, I don’t think you’d waste energy that way, but we’re not in a real fight, are we? That is, the reasons characters are not walking, but hustling or running are not obvious, as the book states – but that doesn’t prevent the statement from being true.
Local Movement
Pretty easy. You can walk or hustle as long as you want, but if you’re running, you can only run for as many rounds as your Con score without resting. At six seconds per round, that means you’re looking at a 1-2 minute interval. Hrm. Chapter 8 says it holds more about long-distance running.
Um, why not consolidate all the movement rules here? Or put them all into Combat? Weird.
Overland Movement
Mostly, this is about modifying your speed based on terrain, and lists it as mph or miles per day. Effective travel speeds in good terrain are:
  • Walk: 24 miles over an 8 hour period actually moving.
  • Hustle: You can hustle for an hour in between sleep periods, covering about 6 miles. Then if you don’t sleep, you take nonlethal damage in escalating amounts and become fatigued. Suck.
  • Run: You can’t. Tough noogies. Hustle instead.
Modifiers and other stuff? Sure:
  • Terrain: lowers movement rates. Check the chart.
  • Forced March: you can push yourself farther. Every hour, make a CON check at DC 10 +2 per hour, or take nonlethal damage. So with high CON, you can push yourself for a few more hours by default, which can make a big difference. I suspect Rangers rock here, as they should.
  • Mounted Movement: mounts take lethal damage for pushing at a hustle, and so can ride themselves to death. Forced march checks auto-fail. Ouch. Take care of your horses.
Evasion and Pursuit
Basically, “when it’s not obvious, make a CON check.”
Exploration
This really covers two special cases: vision and light, and breaking things.
Vision and Light
Important take-aways from this section seem to be
Maglite of Power, +10
  • Stealth can’t be used in areas of bright light, including direct sunshine and the daylight spell
  • Normal light includes under a forest canopy in the daytime, torchlight within 20′, and the light spell
  • Dim light throws down a new concept (Concealment, a 20% miss chance) without a reference to the underlying mechanic (maybe you miss automatically on a roll of 1-4? Dunno, we’ll see). You can use Stealth to conceal yourself. Moonlit night, 20-40′ from a torch, or bright starlight.
  • Darkness: 50% miss chance, total concealment, no DX bonus to AC (big deal for Rogues), -4 to Perception checks based on sight, including STR and DEX based skill checks. Unlit dungeons, moonless nights, and most caverns.
Breaking Stuff
Smashing a weapon is done with a sunder combat maneuver. Smashing an object is an opposed sunder with the object’s AC. That’s 10+Size Modifier, -5 for being DEX 0, and an additional -2 for being inanimate. So basically 3+Size Mod. Auto-hit if you can line it up, or +5 to hit for a ranged weapon. OK.
Ah, but you have to overcome its hardness, which subtracts points of damage. Basically GURPS’ DR.
There are then a bunch of special cases, such as objects taking half-damage from ranged weapons that aren’t siege engines. Some of these are GM’s call. 
Nonmagical objects never make saving throws. 
You can also try and break something suddenly by making a STR check vs. the object’s DC (13 for a simple door, 23 for rope bonds, 28 for an iron door) which is on a table.
* * *
And that’s the chapter. 

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!
Equipment

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%.

Weapons


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.

One-Handed 
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.

Two-Handed
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.

Ranged
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.

Light
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.

One-Handed
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.

Two-Handed
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.

Masterwork
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.”

Indeed.

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.

Alas.

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.