I wrote about a logjam of GURPS that was pending, right? And Pyramid being awesome GURPSiness?

Well, check out the GURPS News. Excerpts from +Sean Punch‘s update (the text in green are his words, copied from the GURPS News) , with a focus on release dates:

With other GURPS material biding its time, it seems appropriate to remind everyone that each monthly issue of Pyramid is a bona fide GURPS supplement. Certainly, it’s sold as a ‘zine, and you can even subscribe. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s 100% official GURPS support, and enjoys the same love and attention as the rest of the game.
Which isn’t to say that we aren’t hard at work on more publications with “GURPS” on the front. Really, we haven’t been slacking off! Here are just some of the projects in the queue. As usual, this is a list of wild-eyed guesses, its order and ETAs subject to change if a butterfly flaps its wings on the Plateau of Leng:

  • Pyramid will continue, of course. Steven Marsh has July’s issue in editing, August’s well in hand, and the three after that just about filled.
  • My most recent major project – Zombies – is enjoying excellent art progress. We might even see the PDF released on e23 before end of summer 2013, though the printed version is further out.
  • Phil Masters and I have finished our review of the preliminary PDFs of his Discworld Roleplaying Game. Much of the art is in already, and the company has elevated this item to a Priority, which may well mean seeing it in 2013.
  • David T. Moore’s Banestorm: Martial Arts is very close to ready . . . in fact, the main thing left to do is decide whether we want to use that title or one that isn’t the titles of two other books mooshed together.
  • Douglas Cole’s Martial Arts: Technical Grappling is next in line for art. Advanced rules for twisting your foes into pretzels could appear before end of summer 2013.
  • Michele Armellini’s Locations: St. George’s Cathedral is getting art, too, so the Locations series might just see a growth spurt before winter 2013.
  • Bill Stoddard’s Thaumatology: Chinese Elemental Powers – which supports both Thaumatology and Powers – also seems plausible for autumn or winter 2013.
  • David Chart’s Transhuman Space: Wings of the Rising Sun is still on target for 2013, if the art situation holds steady.
  • Hans-Christian Vortisch’s High-Tech: Adventure Guns should be out in time to let you restock your armory before 2014.
  • Dan Howard’s Loadouts: Low-Tech Armor also has art deadlines set, but currently looks more like an early 2014 proposition.
  • Ken Hite’s Horror: The Madness Dossier is in editing, so it’s a little further out than all of the above.

Needless to say, with my book finally pending, and possibly by the “end of the Summer 2013,” this is most excellent news!

Not sure why, but my post on the movie Independence Day has, in the last week, climbed to my third  second  most popular post ever. Did not see that one coming.

Digging in a bit, it would appear that the inclusion of the term Area 51 had a lot to do with it, since that seems to be a direct search item.

Interestingly enough, a photo I’d linked to asking why Area 51 had a baseball team was not viewable by me yesterday morning. So “hi” to all you fine folks at the NSA.

Anyway, between commenting on movies and the Area 51 reference, the last few days have seen visits explode – much like the finale of the movie. Much like the entire movie, come to think of it.

Who knew?

There’s an interesting discussion going on over at the SJG Forums about parrying unarmed attacks with weapons.

It’s interesting for a bunch of reasons. GURPS Martial Arts has a bit to say on this subject, mostly in the text box appropriately titled Harsh Realism for Unarmed Fighters. GURPS Basic Set throws down on p. B376 and p. B379 on this subject as well, giving parrying weapons a -3 vs. anything but a thrust, and of course, if you parry an unarmed blow with a weapon and make a skill roll at -4, you do damage “as normal.”

Of course, that “as normal” is interesting. What’s normal?

It could be all sorts of things, but the real question seems to be “thrust, swing, or some fraction thereof?”

Go read the thread to see the diverse opinions.

Now I’ll add my own. I think an interesting way to go would be to take the damage of the blow being attempted (based on the attacker’s ST), and apply that damage based on the wounding modifier of the weapon being struck.

So if you’re throwing some sort of uber-kick that does 2d-1 cr base damage (no modifiers for boots, fist loads, etc) and you’re parried by a sword, you should probably take 2d-1 cut to your foot or shin (but how to decide?). If you’re parrying a punch, you probably are dealing with his thrust damage.

Most parries that aren’t purposefully Aggressive Parries don’t move much, and so I’m not sure the defender’s ST should figure in that much.

Anyway, +Peter V. Dell’Orto seems to use swing. I’ve also seen thrust and thrust/2 in the past!

Lots of options for interpretation on this one, it seems. What do you use?

Update: Kromm Speaks!

The back-from-vacation +Sean Punch weighed in with the intent of the rules at the tail end of the thread linked above. The compilation of several clarifying posts:

The intent of the rule is to use the damage of the attack being parried. The weapon might be some Swiss Army knife with 100 attack forms, but the attacker has to pick one before rolling to hit. Use the damage of that attack form.

Those who dislike the size of the damage – and I agree it’s excessive – might want to reduce Parrying Unarmed Attacks (p. B376) to a special case of Hurting Yourself (p. B379). First, don’t limit self-inflicted damage to target DR. Second, change damage type to that of the edge of whatever you’re parrying (cutting for anything with a swing cutting attack, crushing for just about everything else, and possibly burning or corrosion for energy swords), and remember that minimum damage is 1 point if the type is anything but crushing. Finally, apply any armor divisor on the weapon.

This is strictly a replacement for Parrying Unarmed Attacks (p. B376). Parrying Unarmed (p. B376) wouldn’t change, because that’s about mistiming a parry with your body and placing a body part directly in the path of a full-powered attack.

He notes in response to a question: “Is it the damage of the attack being parried or the damage of an attack chosen by the defender with the parrying weapon?”

Sorry, I mushed together parrying an attack and being parried. However, I’d let the defender choose. Sure, most parries are edge-on, but one can stab a foe in the wrist to check his unarmed attack.

When challenged that this seemed an awful lot like an Aggressive Parry

Note that all armed parries vs. unarmed attacks are “aggressive” by default. That’s why they do damage. Agressive Parry is only a distinct technique for unarmed fighters, in the rules as written.

This is not new. +Peter V. Dell’Orto makes this exact point in a post from over six months ago.

Headed over to the local science fiction convention today, with my wife (sportin’ a Dr Who T-Shirt) and my daughter, dressed credibly as Supergirl. (Pix later).

Me? No costume’s to speak of in this genre, which is lame. I will rectify this next year. I hope to at least hit the panel on Game Design, see what they have to say.

More later!

******

Well, gotta admit, that was a total bust. Registration did not open until noon, which would potentially have been fine except for the enormous number of watchdogs on hand to make sure you can’t do anything without a badge – which no one is in a position to get for you.

When my pleas of “shut up and take my money” were finally heard, the discussion more or less went like “well, you can wait until noon” and I replied “yes, but the panel I would like to attend, on game design, starts at 11am.”

Someone eventually did come down to help us – they were very good, despite the hotel keys conspiring against them at every turn – we only then found out that it was $100 per person, even though our attendance would be limited to (a) only Sunday, and (b) a matter of hours.

I couldn’t justify that expense even remotely, so we left.

So, what was supposed to be a mid-afternoon full of gaming, science fiction, costumes, and fun was basically brought to nothing. Some advice to future conventions:

  • Unless it is your mission to be elite and exclusive – and I have no problem with that in theory – allow a way to just drop by. A day pass, or even a per-event fee, is entirely appropriate.
  • Have a non-trivial amount of stuff that’s open to the public. Places such as the merchandising area? Yeah, let people give you their cash.

The $100 entry fee for a four-day con? Only $25 per person? A steal on a per-day basis. But think about it. They’re doing this over July 4 weekend, that means of the roughly 2.5 million people in the Twin Cities area, approximately 2 million are “up at the lake.” So there are going to be wholes-a-bunches who come back on late Friday or Saturday and might want to come to your convention.

That should not exactly be discouraged.

That being said, here’s a picture of two cute girls, because convention memories need to have cute girls in them. This may, in fact, be the worst camera phone picture I’ve ever taken. Alas.

Finally, it’s entirely possible, and even likely, that for those not wishing to just drop by on the last day of the convention, things went swimmingly, well organized, etc. The one panel I crashed on SF&F for kids was pretty decent.

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)

4a. Skills (Appraise – Heal)
4b. Skills (Intimidate – Use Magic Device)

5. Feats

6. Equipment

7. Additional Rules

8a. Combat (Part 1)
8b. Combat (Part 2)

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

Now we get to the thing that makes the Dungeons and Dragons games somewhat unique, I think – the magic system. Or if not unique (lots of games have magic, and lots do it differently, better, or both), then perhaps it’s that .love it or hate it, the Vancian magic system is a staple of the genre, and Pathfinder builds off of that tradition. This chapter gives the rules for the magic system for those characters who can cast spells. This includes Wizards, Sorcerers, Clerics, Rangers, Paladins, Druids . . . just to start. It’s also possible for some non-casters to pick up some spells too: Rogues can pick up some minor magic, and I’m sure that option exists with the proper Feats allowed.

Casting Spells
Well, first you have to pick one. Knowing it is only enough if you’re one of those classes that can cast any spell they know at any time (subject to the limits on number of spells of a particular type they can cast per day). If you can’t just make stuff up that way, you must memorize, in advance, a number of spells based on your level and class. You can memorize multiple copies of a spell (again, subject to the limits on number of spells at a given level), but for these types of spellcasters, knowing “Wrigley’s Destroying Club” isn’t enough – you must memorize it ahead of time.

Concentration (and Distraction)


To cast a spell, you concentrate on it, subject to distraction. Though the key bit is delayed until rather later, the spell is most often cast right at the instant before your turn comes again – that is, you declare you cast the spell, and right before your turn comes again, your effect occurs. This allows every Tom, Dick, and Hairy to try and disrupt you. 
Distraction can come in many forms, and this section hits all of them. Injury, being grappled, getting slammed with a spell your own self, getting jostled or otherwise shaken-not-stirred, getting tornadoed, or being entangled. You can also “cast defensively,” which means that if you pass a DC 15+2*Spell Level check, you don’t provoke Attacks of Opportunity. Implicit here is that casting spells do provoke such attacks.

Most disruptions simply trigger a check with a DC proportional to the amount of disruption, and each disruption method has its own calculation. Check the handy table on p. 207, or the Pathfinder Reference Document, of course.

Counterspells

You can also use a spell to disrupt another caster. You have to delay your action with a Ready, and when your foe casts a spell, you can make a Spellcraft check at DC 15+your foe’s spell level. If you succeed, you may cast the freakin’ exact same spell being flung at you as a counterspell. Otherwise, you might try Dispel Magic, but that doesn’t always work (some spells can’t be vamoosed by dispel magic, but that’s a spell-by-spell thing). Given how few spell slots you get per day (and maybe if you’re always resting and renewing, this isn’t an problem), I would wonder how often counterspells get used.
Spell Failure

If a spell fails, by and large it just fizzles. No big deal other than the wasted slot and turn. No apparent backfires, dimensional warps, or generally icky consequences. Of course, if you’ve just lost or wasted one of the three memorized spells that makes you a unique special flower, well, that might piss you off a bit.
Special Spell Effects


The key bit here is the (brief) description of what spell bonus types stack and don’t. Dodge bonuses, circumstance bonuses (?), and racial bonuses seem to stack, but most other bonuses and penalties do not, and you only take the worst one. I could see this particular rule being roundly ignored. It’s equal opportunity both ways – since penalties stack as well – and would simplify game play.

Also here is a quick discussion of resurrection, which is the re-merging of the departed soul (literally departed – it goes on vacation on some other plane of existence, and you’re leaving it a voice mail to come back to work) with the body of the fallen. If he doesn’t want to come back, he doesn’t have to. And if enemies want to keep him away, there are ways of either trapping or warding the soul . . . or you can just filch the body, since you need it for the spell!

Multiple Spell Effects


This entire section made me want to dig out my +3 Red Pen of Editing, and write “stop being so wishy-washy” over and over. This little section is in rather desperate need of a few examples. Generally, if you’re providing different types of effects (like a DEX buff and a STR buff, or Enlarge Person and a CON boost or something) things probably go to plan. You can’t give multiple stacking spells of the same type: Two +1 boosts to STR are just +1, and a +1 and a +2 only gives you the benefit of the larger one. Finally, if you cast a series of spells with similar effects, usually it’s the most recent one that applies.

It also throws you under the bus with nice vague advice like “sometimes a spell can make another spell irrelevant!” Gee, thanks. This section is basically some vague GM guidelines, and there aren’t many nuggets here.

Spell Descriptions


At over 100 pages, Chapter 10 is the largest chapter in the book, and it’s “nothing” but spell after spell. So in Chapter 9, we break down the content of the spell descriptions, and what they mean.

School of Magic


Most belong to one of eight schools.

  • Abjuration: protection spells. Some such spells, especially if multiple spells are laid on top of each other, are detectable by Perception.
  • Conjuration: Movement and alteration of living creatures and some objects, I think. There are subschools which are pretty descriptive. Calling spells brings a critter to you from another plane. Creation forms magical constructs that disappear when the spell is over. Healing conjurations make you all better. Summoning brings a pre-existing creature or object to you, which goes back to where you sent it when killed or dismissed. Finally, Teleportation spells are when you’ve got to move it move it, and instantly transport things from place to place.
  • Divination: See secrets, know the future (the GM’s bane), find hidden things. 
  • Enchantment: Mind-affecting spells that change how the subject views you (charms), or force behavior (compulsions).
  • Evocation: boom sticks. Creating and manipulating magical energy, often in highly visible ways to cause damage.
  • Illusion: deceiving the senses of others. There are several kinds of illusions, such as figments (false sensations), glamers (glamour? altering how something looks, tastes, feels, etc.), and others. You’ll generally treat an illusion as real unless you take the time to interact with it, whereupon careful study might reveal and dispel it – that’s a saving throw.
  • Necromancy: Dead things, Mikey. Dead things. The undead, manipulating the forces of life and death.
  • Transmutation: Changing the properties of a thing or person from one form to another. This can inlcude polymorph to change your own body or that of another. There’s a very large block of text here on polymorph, so if that’s going to be your thing, you’d best read it.
Descriptors
Mostly these are fluff text that carry no game-mechanical interaction about the spell itself, but it does say that they can give interaction info on how it plays with other spells. 
Components

Spell components can be a big deal. You can’t cast a spell if you can’t fulfill the requirements! Verbal components require that you be able to speak clearly, as if on stage or giving a lecture. Somatic components are hand gestures (I had always thought they could be full-body movements. Guess not!). Material components are consumed in the casting, but the game says don’t bother to track them unless they carry a cost. Interesting. Focus is new to me, but it’s basically a non-consumed prop that helps cast the spell. Divine Focus is basically a holy something. It might be a sprig of a holy plant for druids and rangers, a holy symbol or reliquary for a cleric.
Casting Time

As mentioned earlier, some spells can be cast in a standard or swift action (which presumably mean they take effect right as you cast them), others are full-round actions (they go zap right before you take your next turn), others can take minutes, which means you get to take ten combat rounds to do this. Better have efficient friends. Or cast out of combat. You only make decisions about range,target, area effect when the spell takes effect, not at casting.
Range

Provides some pretty concise definitions and advice on ranged spells. Personal (you only), touch (up to six people using a full-round action might be allowed by some spells), then Close, Medium, Long, and Unlimited. Except when range is just expressed in feet. Most ranges seem to extend a bit with caster level (+5, +10, +40 feet per two full caster levels).
This section goes on for a bit, talking about rays, cones, spreading fogs, etc. It gives templates for various lines, cones, and radius effects, but the entire section is worth noting. 
Oops. Failed Saving Throw.

Duration


Most of the duration rules are straight-forward. One cool bit is that touch spells can be held for the entire duration of the spell, which means if you can cast some nasty fire-hand spell for a minute, you can set people’s face on fire for ten rounds. Not too shabby.
Saving Throws

Some spells can have their effects reduced or even eliminated with a saving throw (some spells are no-save allowed, though). The DC is 10+Spell Level+any applicable bonuses, which for dedicated spellcasters are going to be in the +3 to +5 range. So probably DC 15 and higher, by and large.
Spell Resistance

Basically AC for spells. You have to overcome this if your target has it – 1d20+Caster Level vs. your foe’s Spell Resistance, 
Arcane Spells

I will have to admit that at this point, my brain just started shouting out “my God, the tedium!” I know that these rules are core to a caster’s mission in life. How they prepare spells, what the limits are to casting, how they’re recorded in the spellbook, etc.

But the writing is terribly terribly dull. For a book filled with iconic characters, I really wish they’d have used them more to provide flavor and examples.

Still:

Preparing Spells


You must rest for 8 hours, and then take 15 – 60 minutes to prepare your slots. Somewhere buried in there (Prepared Spell Retention) it gives what is a pretty good explanation for this “memorization” thing. You are actually effectively partially casting, and then “hanging” the spell, subject to finalization and execution later.

I should note that the new(ish) GURPS magic system introduced in Monster Hunters – Ritual Path Magic – has something very, very like this. You take the time and energy to cast a spell into a focus, called a charm or dweomer, and then when it’s time to cast the spell, you crush or otherwise activate the item. Spells can take a long time to prepare, and the ability to generate a monster (ahem) spell repertoire is limited to your magic power and really how much time your friends will let you spend muttering incantations before you head out to kill stuff.

If you’re playing a wizard or sorcerer – or any spellcaster, since the rules for Divine spellcasting are best summarized as ‘exactly the same thing, with this small handful of changes – you will want to read these rules a few times, and discuss them with your GM to see if he has any house rules to (hopefully) smooth things along in game.

Short version though. You rest for the night (8 hours), you spend about an hour to prepare stuff. If you’re disrupted in your rest you either need to make it up or prepare fewer spells. It seems to take roughly 60-90 seconds per spell regardless of level (about an hour, maximum of 40-60 spells total memorized, ish).

You can leave spell slots open and prepare them later. If you are facing a journey where you can make frequent stops of about an hour, this might be the best way to ensure you don’t leave yourself utterly without the ability to be flexible. It still takes at least 15 minutes to get this done, and you may not abandon a previously memorized spell in this process. You may only fill an empty slot.

Spellbooks



The rules put a lot of thought into the wizard’s spellbook, which is exactly 100 pages, no more, no less. Each spell, from zero-level to 9th level, is one page. Magical writing is a sort of personal arcane shorthand that has as much to do with how your character interprets magic as with any sort of formalism. Thus, it takes a bit to unravel another wizard’s shorthand, which is why it takes so darn long to read them.

It’s a neat trick – DC 20 + the spell level.

You can also prepare a spell from another person’s book, but you have to make a Spellcraft check (DC 15+level) to do it. Copying a spell is a similar check, but it costs a bunch of money: square the spell’s level x 10 gp (5 gp flat cost for 0-level spells). You must be writing in solid gold ink or something – or the ink itself is magical. Still, as they say in my neck of the woods, that’s ‘spendy.’

You can sell a spellbook as loot for half the gp cost of all the spells it contains. The spellbook of a powerful caster that might have 4 spells per level x all 10 possible levels of spells is worth about 5700gp. Not bad as treasure.

Divine Spells

Pretty much just like Arcane spells, but you prepare them at a time of your choosing instead of right when you wake up. Also, any spell slot of appropriate level or higher can be used to cast a healing (or inflict harm) type spell, so you don’t need to prepare those in advance, per se, but you will need to decide what you need to give up as you go. This also works for summon nature’s ally if you’re a druid.

Special Abilities

Some abilities mimic that of spells in certain ways.
Spell-like Abilities are not exactly spells, but duplicate the function of a spell and are definitely magical in nature. You can just ‘turn them on’ with a standard action with no verbal, somatic, material, or focus requirement, and they do not provoke Attacks of Opportunity. However, they can be dispelled and don’t work in areas that disallow magic. 
Supernatural Abilities cannot be disrupted in combat – so they’re wicked cool – and thus aren’t subject to spell resistance or dispel magic, but they don’t function in antimagic areas.
Extraordinary Abilities may look like spells and feel like spells, but they’re not. They’re not magical, can’t be dispelled, don’t suffer the effects of antimagic or dispel magic . . . basically they break the laws of physics for reasons that are not magical or anything. 
Parting Shot


While this chapter is critical to understanding and playing spell-users in Pathfinder, it’s quite a slog to get through. Still, while there are many rules, there seem to be relatively few special cases, so once you assimilate the laws of magic, so to speak, you should be good to go for the rest of your Pathfinder career – unless other books that aren’t the Core Rulebook change that!

I led the post from yesterday with a quote from the movie Independence Day.

That naturally got me thinking about the movie, which I really think is one of the better popcorn movies out there. It’s a classic example of the explosions and victory school of film-making.

There are of course so many plot holes and implausibilities in this movie that one might just toss it in the bin along with Snakes on a Plane as essentially unwatchable (My wife and I were really looking forward to this one, for all the reasons you’d expect. Well, one reason: Sam Jackson saying “I want these MFing snakes off my MFing plane.” We tried . . . we did . . . to watch it, but had to turn it off when the snake bit the stacked woman in the restroom on the nipple).

Shall I toss off a few?

  • Will Smith had it right, in a way. Why come 90 billion light-years to start a fight. Unless their hyperdrive systems are so effortless in terms of energy input so as to make that journey trivially, there’s no reason to come and conquer Earth
  • Systematic city-by-city destruction using the wall-of-flame cannon, rather than, say, biological warfare or something. 
  • The power of the portable Apple computer. 

I’m sure there are tons more, and we can amuse ourselves in the comments endlessly.

Nonetheless, I loved the movie, and place it in the same category as, say “Broken Arrow” for “guilty pleasure movies,” that aren’t really terribly good but are a hell of a lot of fun

But, how about for gaming?

Just kinda winging it, we have an intro section where we get introduced to some of the characters, and that is probably not exactly perfect for gaming. I tried “the PCs meet each other bit by bit” once, and it was a nightmare. I had to resort to a total railroad “you guys all need to be in the same area, so go there” heavy hand of the GM moment. Not the best.

Then, of course, there’s the scene where the aliens are attacking, which is a nice “you survived the apocalypse” moment that provides both the actual apocalypse as well as some convenient opportunities to deprive the party of some gear, and some thrilling heroics.

Then there’s the finding of Area 51 and all of the old alien technology, which provides the inspiration for the big climax. We also have the inevitable “conventional methods will not impact the aliens” moments where proxies are killed and exposed to nuclear explosions to prove just how badass the PCs will have to be to pull this off.

Then there’s the planning montage, followed by the actual plan, What Could Possibly Go Wrong?, and the final victory.

Assumptions and Genre

Welcome to Earth, motherf**ker

The tech assumptions are pretty straight-forward. The “good guys’ have access to military level hardware where needed (not that it does any good), decent command and control supplemented with Morse code. The bad guys have access to their exosuits, which seem to only provide environmental protection, since Will Smith was able to KO an alien by frackin’ punching him in the face. 

They have contragravity, FTL travel, and blasters. Apparently, however, they are regressed to TL7 or so in computer technology, which the PCs can take advantage of.

The genre is pretty clearly a cross between Action and Monster Hunters (or maybe just Monster Hunters: Bug Hunt). The PCs are all pretty damn capable and action-hero worthy. Plus, of course, one of them is the President of the United States. Who flies a jet into action. Hell, I’d vote for that guy.

What doesn’t work about this


I think that on several levels, this movie would fail as a direct translation to an RPG campaign. There aren’t really enough PCs with active roles (that’s typical of this type of movie; you really only get two or three characters in focus, usually a pair of dudes and a love interest or two as regrettable window dressing).

Also, too much of the movie is exposition and doesn’t really involve the PCs as the go-to party, and the situations are such that at least the players I’ve had would get themselves utterly killed. That first raid on the big mother ship that Will Smith and Harry Connick Jr. partake in? Oh, yeah. TPK city (and when you think of it, this particular raid’s end was basically “Oh, one player bought Luck, the other Didn’t Get the Memo and gets to write up a new PC).

What works?


The general outline of the “plot” isn’t awful. The threat is detected, and the apocalypse can either happen on-screen as part of the first scene, or actually off-screen, and the PCs can be together from the get-go, but in a “too late to die stupidly” way.

The plotline can be stretched into a reasonable campaign, by avoiding the Deux ex Machina of the Area 51 already having most of the answers and a conveniently captured starfighter. The PCs can capture aliens, grab tech, set ambushes like some sort of mashup from Red Dawn meets Aliens.

The big climax might be different, but blowing up the bad guys just as their unleashing their superlaser does have a certain cache to it, one has to admit.

Parting Shot


I think the upshot of this is that I want to write Monster Hunters: Alien Invasion.

Seriously, other than the magic part, this is nearly tailor-made for this sort of high-action, popcorn cinema type of campaign. Certainly, you could play it with a Sidekicks level of PC, but that just means you buy that book, which is already conveniently provided for you. All the groundwork is done for you, and Aliens and Ultra-Tech substitute quite nicely for demons and magic in the role of plot obstacle.

Heck, I wonder if this is just Too Simple for e23, and should be reduced to Pyramid instead. If only I had a bunch of vacation time coming up . . .

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:
Column 1
Georgia:
   Button Gwinnett
   Lyman Hall
   George Walton
Column 2
North Carolina:
   William Hooper
   Joseph Hewes
   John Penn
South Carolina:
   Edward Rutledge
   Thomas Heyward, Jr.
   Thomas Lynch, Jr.
   Arthur Middleton
Column 3
Massachusetts:
John Hancock
Maryland:
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia:
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton
Column 4
Pennsylvania:
   Robert Morris
   Benjamin Rush
   Benjamin Franklin
   John Morton
   George Clymer
   James Smith
   George Taylor
   James Wilson
   George Ross
Delaware:
   Caesar Rodney
   George Read
   Thomas McKean
Column 5
New York:
   William Floyd
   Philip Livingston
   Francis Lewis
   Lewis Morris
New Jersey:
   Richard Stockton
   John Witherspoon
   Francis Hopkinson
   John Hart
   Abraham Clark
Column 6
New Hampshire:
   Josiah Bartlett
   William Whipple
Massachusetts:
   Samuel Adams
   John Adams
   Robert Treat Paine
   Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:
   Stephen Hopkins
   William Ellery
Connecticut:
   Roger Sherman
   Samuel Huntington
   William Williams
   Oliver Wolcott
New Hampshire:
   Matthew Thornton

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)

******

When last we left our heroes, we were just finishing up the section on recovering from wounds in the Combat chapter, with some snarky notes on so-called “non-lethal” damage. Ah, well, Pathfinder isn’t the only game to make that mistake, and so we continue.

Movement, Position, and Distance

The game first drops something that’s not really a surprise, but is one of those “oh, OK, then” moments. It basically requires, or at least strongly encourages, miniatures and a mapboard to play, and even gives you the desired scale of the minis: 30mm.
In any event, the game is resolved on a square grid with 5′ squares, and you basically take your move, modify it for your size and any special encumbrance you have, and divide by 5′, and you get that many squares. For most PCs, that number is likely six.
Diagonal movement counts 3 squares for every 2 squares traversed, but it’s broken up as your first diagonal only costs 1 square, but your second – no matter where in the sequence it comes – counts as 2 squares. So net/net, you pay the right amount. Don’t do the “1-2-1-2-1” thing through difficult terrain, though – if you’re doing that, move costs are doubled, so each diagonal costs you the full 3 squares, rather than something staggered.
Moving Through a Square

Now we get into special case land. It’s probably wise to note down the things your character will expect to do a lot, and jot down the rules. You can always move through a friend, unless you’re charging. You can’t move through a foe, unless he’s helpless. Or big. You can’t put two critters in one 5′ square, again unless he’s helpless. If you’re trying an “overrun,” you can try and move through hs hex, but it might backfire on you. You can move through a foe’s hex if you’re using acrobatics, or you’re fine, diminutive, or tiny. 
Got that? Oh, well, sometimes it’s wrong, but exceptions will be noted.
Critter Size

While big guys are easy (they fill their squares, so stay out), you can jam 4 Tiny guys, 25 Diminutives, or 100 Fine nasties in one 5′ square, and by and large they can’t reach into adjacent squared to attack, so they have to enter your hex, provoke an attack of opportunity, live through it, and then crawl up your pant leg.
The only other thing to note about large guys is that using natural attacks, instead of weapons, they threaten not just the ring of squares 10′ away, but the adjacent squares as well. Take note, be warned, etc. You’re not safe one square away from these guys.
Combat Modifiers

The game differentiates mechanically between cover and concealment, which should please my infantryman friends. However, the flat distribution of die rolls makes this interesting. Wait and see.
For Cover, you basically pick a corner of your own square (naturally the most advantageous one), and if the line from that corner to any corner of your foe’s occupied squares passes through a wall or other hard obstacle, then your foe has some sort of cover.
If the entire foe is occluded, you can’t attack him at all. If up to 50% is covered (partial cover), your foe gets +2 to his AC, and if from 50-99% is covered, he gets +4. There are some picky rules about half-height obstacles, and covered foes can get bonuses to Reflex saves (+2) under some circumstances. There’s also improved cover which can give +8 to your foe’s AC, but that’s GM discretion for things like arrow slits.
Note that what full cover does, effectively, is make your foe 20% more difficult to hit. 
For Concealment, you’re more or less using the same resolution mechanics, but when you’re done, a concealed foe rolls d% and you miss 20% of the time, or 50% of the time if you’re shooting into a totally concealed square that contains your foe but you can’t see him.
That’s not quite the same as “you’re 20% more difficult to hit,” since that AC adjustment can take you from (say) hitting 50% of the time to hitting 30% of the time. With the “you miss 20% of your hits,” you’d go from hitting 50% of the time to hitting (50% hit rate x [1-20% miss rate] = ) 40% of the time.  If you were hitting 80% of the time, you’d be down to 64%, but if you only had a 20% chance to hit to begin with (say, 1d20 vs AC 17) then rather than it being basically impossible for you to hit (1d20 vs AC 21) you could still roll a potential hit 20% of the time, but 20% of those hits would convert to misses – a 12% net chance of success.
So concealment is similar in resolution but less harsh mechanically.
Flanking

In melee combat, if you and a friend are threatening the other guy from opposite sides, you’re flanking him, and you get +2 to hit. Pretty sure that if you and a buddy are flanking a foe, you get to apply your Sneak Attack damage, so ths one’s pretty key. 
Note that just being “behind” someone doesn’t seem to qualify (at least, not at this point in the rules). You need to be splitting his attention between two people.
Special Attacks
The last sprint to the finish contains a bunch of special attack types, including Aid Another, Charge, Combat Maneuvers, Feint, Mounted Combat, Throw Splash Weapon, and Two-Weapon Fighting.

Aid Another: You and your buds can make attacks vs AC 10, and each one that succeeds can give a designated friend either +2 to his hit roll or +2 to his AC, and those adds stack. 
Charge: Near as I can tell, using a full action you can travel up to 2x your normal move, but only in a straight line unhindered by any obstacles or difficult terrain. You need to end in attack range, whereupon you get +2 to your hit roll and -2 to your AC. You may only attack once. If you’re using a lance (pay attention, knight wannabees) while mounted, you do double damage by default. If you’re charging a group of guys with braced weapons, you’re going to be on the receiving end of said double damage.
Feint:  As +Fred Brackin pointed out many moons ago, this important special attack, if successul, denies your foe his DEX bonus on the subsequent turn. Since lots of nifty Rogue and certain Archer abilities are keyed to “your foe loses his DEX bonus,” this is a great way to benefit from things like Sneak Attack without having to flank or stealth your way into place. It’s Bluff on your end, vs. 10+BAB+Wisdom modifier, or 10+Sense Motive bonus if it’s higher.
Mounted Combat: Mounts have some nice features. They act on your Initiative, and when they move (and ergo, you go along for the ride), they use up their own move action, not yours. That being said, you only ever get one attack while mounted if you also move, but you may still charge, and if you’re striking down at a foe, you get a +1. You can still hack away with multiple attacks if you only take your five-foot step, though.
Throw Splash Weapon: The Alchemist’s favorite. You can toss something that does a bunch of nastiness and it will do direct damage to whomever it hits as a ranged touch attack and splashes everyone within five feet of that individual. You may also target the vertex of a square at only AC 5. You lose your chance to do direct damage, but hey, AC 5, and you splash the four squares attached to that vertex. Your GM will afterwards keep proper separation between his NPCs; or the PCs will do likewise if they’re on the receiving end of this. 
Two-Weapon Fighting: The Ranger’s fave, basically anyone can do this, but the penalties can suck. If you have a light weapon in your off hand, it gets better, if you have the Two-Weapon Fighting feat, it’s better still, and if you combine ’em, you can attack twice at only -2 each. Since that’s only a 10% loss to success chances, unless your chances of hitting are worse than 25%, you will want to use two weapons if you are only -2 to hit. If you only have Two-Weapon fighting, you are at -4 to each attack, and so you make one attack if your chance of success on a single attack is worse than 50%. Your odds of missing with both double-weapon attacks are larger than your odds of missing with your single shot. On the high end, swing twice, always. Untrained, it’s never better to use two weapons without the feat unless you effectively can’t fail. That’s not a sophisticated damage per attack round analysis, though, just a “don’t miss” one. Properly, you’d take the weighted average damage of one hit vs. the weighted average (at reduced hit chance) of two, which can have two hits, one hit, or none. Not in the mood tonight.

In the comments section, +Fred Brackin does a pretty good job of demolishing Two-Weapon Fighting as a good plan. While the straight-up to-hit odds sorta favor you in the first analysis as above, he does a better calculation vs a typical armor class in terms of damage over ten rounds. He also makes the point of what you give up to get this two-weapon ability by selecting a feat, as well as the AC bonus from a shield. Plus, two-handed weapons like greatswords kinda rock. Scroll down and read the whole thing, and you might come to the conclusion that two-weapon fighting is a waste of time!

Combat Manuevers

This deserves its own section. You can do one of these using your Combat Maneuver Bonus, equal to your BAB+STR modifier+any special size modifier, and bigger is better. On the Defense, your target number benefits from both STR and DEX, and once again size helps.
What can you do?
Bull Rush: As part of a standard action or charge, you can try and push a foe straight back without doing any harm. This is football. You can theoretically even bull rush two or more foes, if you can absorb the -4 penalty per critter, but you get a new roll each time.
Disarm: Doing this provokes an attack of opportunity. But the value is obvious if you can pull it off. If you win, he drops one item of your choice; win by 10, and both hands are empty. Fail by 10 or more, and you disarm yourself. Oops. If you managed to do this while unarmed yourself, you can take the weapon from him and keep it, automatically. 
Grapple: Provokes an Attack of Opportunity. If you win, you change his state to grappled. He can’t move, is -4 to DEX, and -2 to all attacks that don’t involve breaking the grapple. See p. 567. Actually, don’t. See here instead (this online rules stuff is kinda cool at times). From grappled, you can also Move him, damage him with an unarmed attack, pin him, or even tie him up. Go go gadget bondage!
Overrun: This is one way to move through a foe’s hex without his permission. He can get out of the way, which lets you pass. If you win the maneuver check, you go through, win by 5 or more, you knock him prone.

Sunder: Break his stuff! Make an attack on his weapon, and you can damage or destroy it.
Trip: An attempt to knock your foe prone from up close, as opposed to an accidental/extra-good result of an Overrun. 
Special Initiative Actions

There are a few things you can also do with turn order.
Delay: This voluntarily sets your initiative to a lower number than what you rolled for the rest of the combat. You can do this multiple times, reducing (but never raising) your Initiative number.
Ready: Prepare to take a specified action at some time between your initiative count and your next turn. This one also resets your initiative count, but only (I think) if you actually interrupt another character with your action. So you have Init 17, and you’re waiting for that spellcaster to poke his face out of cover on Init 8 to shoot him with an arrow. He pokes out on his turn, and you shot him in the face. Your Initiative is now effectively 8.1 – you go right before the wizard, for the rest of the combat.
You can attack spellcasters to distract them, you can ready counterspells, and you can also ready weapons against a charge – and you go first, assuming your reach is longer than his . . . 
Parting Shot
And that’s the combat chapter! I’ve already learned some new things, so it was definitely worthwhile. Still a lot of special cases, which you can and should avoid by Being a Better Player. A bit of pre-prep in a game as rules-exception heavy as this one can go a long way. 

Been a decent weekend for writing. I’m finally putting three articles to bed that I’ve had in the hopper for a very, very long time.

They’re all weaponry related, hand weaponry at that. One is related to weapon breakage, another on fixing and making weapons, and the last is on tweaking around with armor divisors and wound modifiers on blades. They were one big article at first, but I realized that my tendency to write far-too-complete/complex treatises on stuff had run away with me. Thus: split ’em into discrete pieces, remove some of the links that made it complicated, and thus hopefully produce something that is more usable to more people.

We shall see.

I also really need to get back into my Pathfinder overview. I dumped it in the middle of Chapter 8 (Combat), and I would like to finish that one day.

I’ll be on vacation the last week in July and the first week in August, which means I should have time to bang away at a few bits of some larger works I’d like to do. One on Age of Sail ships and battles, one on healing and medicine, and maybe starting the designer’s notes bits of Technical Grappling (and for those keeping score, that’s me getting ahead of things, not some warning that I’ve got any idea when it’s coming out).

I might also try and restart my internal notes in my Book of Pretentiousness. I’ve let that slide, and while I’ve still got some topics to mine in there, the well’s running a bit dry.

Thursday is GURPS-Day, and because of a quick trip back and forth to California from Monday through Wednesday, I’m a bit behind. Life gets that way.

Over on the forums, the poster known as mehrkat made the following remark. It struck a nerve with me in a good way, so I repeat it:

I admit I don’t take “canon” very seriously. Canon is my world specific. I toss stuff out at random at my whim which is definitely encouraged by GURPS. But I would absolutely consider something in Pyramid to be assigning it “official” status.

Well, YES. THIS.

 Writing for GURPS is kinda hard. The system itself isn’t that difficult – there are really only a few core mechanics. But depending on your interest, you’d best be at least passing familiar with what has been done on the subject you’re interested in. Even if you’re trying to cover new ground, it’s often a good idea to know what toes you’re stomping on.

Looking at my own works, for example:

Ten . . HUT!: Well, this provides finer gradations in Military Rank. Most useful if you’re actually building a character, so while it can be applied to existing games, once the dude is written, there’s probably not much point.

The Big Guns Thing: Can be used as a drop-in for any weapon, even in 4e. It also has a bunch of (then) house rules for injury, some of which are now more-or-less canonical in 4e, some not.

Armor Revisited: Optional rules, can be done in any game, even retroactively, and dropped if you don’t like ’em. So this one’s portable.

The Deadly Spring: Sort of like the guns article, in that it can be used retroactively (it’s a design system), but it mucks with the stats of a common muscle-powered ranged weapon, and if your GM goes on a “realism” kick, might nerf your concept. Also, you might want gonzo bows for Dungeon Fantasy. So YMMV.

The Last Gasp: Yeah, this one has real potential to make character concepts play very, very differently. It makes HT really important. Even more important than usual! This one probably needs to be adopted at the start of a campaign – or at least with careful consideration.

Delayed Gratification: I wrote this article so it could be dropped into an existing game. So this one’s portable.

Technical Grappling: a rewrite and expansion of grappling rules, but it is not fully compatible with the existing rules. It has an entirely new mechanic to represent how well someone’s being grappled, and so it’s not something that can be easily meshed with (say) people writing Pyramid articles referencing grappling. You’ll need to say “well, using the existing rules, this weapon does armed grapples like [blah], but if  you’re using Technical Grappling, treat this as a Flexible, Flail, Impaling weapon for grapples, and if you hit, it also inflicts 2d+2 Control Points!”

The other reason it’s hard is that, well, it’s not fiction. It’s technical writing to a very specific style guide. There’s a WYSIWYG template with the proper SJG styles, and using them can be hard to master. The formatting used to write up (say) Advantages, Templates, martial arts styles, or whatnot are quite specific, and can be easy to get wrong. They’re quite picky about pesky things like grammar and stuff.

It’s every bit as technically precise to write for Pyramid as it is to write an e23 supplement. The nice thing about it, though, is that it can be as short or long as you’d like. Well, if +Steven Marsh accepts it. My shortest for GURPS was probably Armor Revisited at about 1,700 or so words. My longest, never to be repeated on pain of death and mockery, was The Deadly Spring, at a mind-boggling 11,000. For what it’s worth, every word in Dungeon Fantasy 12: Ninja, including the index and table of contents, pull quotes and marketing pages, is about 14,000 words. So Deadly Spring is basically as long as a full e23 release.

That’s a GURPS supplement, right there. On a subject so esoteric that I doubt it would merit a full release – but because there’s Pyramid, it doesn’t need one.

Lastly: if you do want to write for GURPS, you want to start with Pyramid. I’d probably target something on the order of 3-5 pages in the magazine, or about 2,500-4000 words. Long enough to show you can do it, not so long that it’s a huge risk to print.

But make no mistake: GURPS is Pyramid, and Pyramid is GURPS. Grar!