While we were playtesting the Action Point rules for The Last Gasp, we ran through a boxing match. Or rather, one of my playtesters ran through a boxing match.

The AP rules worked well, encouraging fighters to take standing 8-counts, lots of recovery actions, and generally making it take longer to fight. All well and good.

Still, the reality of it is that in a match of fifteen three-minute rounds, that is, a whopping 2,700 turns in GURPS, two combatants of moderate ST and fitness (say, ST 13 with Boxing at DX+2, even with boxing gloves (see GURPS Martial Arts, p. 233) will be rolling 1d-1 cr on every hit, with the +2 per die damage you get from Boxing canceling out the -2 you get from your gloves. In short, three or four successful punches and your other guy is flirting with kissing the mat.

But wait, you say. These guys are throwing a lot of defensive attacks, which means that the above guy is probably only rolling 1d-3 cr instead of 1d-1 cr. OK, so? You’re still looking at 2,700 turns, with Boxing-14 you’re looking at a 90% chance to hit, and about a 75% chance to parry (assuming a retreating parry, defensive attack, no Combat Reflexes). Let’s say one hit in four does damage, and you only do damage half the time (1d-3). So one turn in eight you take 1-3 points of damage. You’re still looking at being KO’ed in the first round of the fight nearly always. If you stick with it, you’ll probably die by round two or three.

Now, not to make light of the punishment a real boxer can dish out – these guys hit hard – but boxing just isn’t that deadly. I think what’s missing is a chance for a fighter to brace him or herself against even as successful hit.

Roll with it, baby

Fortunately, GURPS provides one way of doing this, but it’s a cinematic technique: Roll with Blow, (Martial Arts, p. 87). Roll skill-2, and you can cut the damage in half . . . but you double knockback. This only works on crushing attacks, which is fine with me.

What I’d propose playing around with is a way to actually eliminate the injury of a crushing blow with a HT-based roll. But how?

Straight-up HT roll


One way to do it would be to make a HT roll whenever you’re hit with crushing damage, and your margin of success reduces the injury. Not the shock or knockback or the need to roll for Knockout and Stun if you get hit in the head, but the injury would be reduced.

Um, say what? So you get hit with a mace and a HT 14 guy effectively gets DR 4? No way, right?

Yes, right. I’d definitely use the damage inflicted as a penalty to the HT roll; not full damage, though. Maybe half damage.

I might even double penalties if you get slammed with a Parry 0U weapon like a mace – but let’s hold off on that for now.

DR subtracts right from damage, so no need to double-count that.

Let’s take that same ST 12, DX 12, Skill-14 combatant.

Wearing Boxing Gloves: He hits for 1d-3 on a defensive attack. His doppleganger foe will roll at no more than -1 to HT, and often soak a point of injury.

Barehanded and Regular Attack: Now he’s 1d+1, which means his foe rolls at up to -3 to HT. Most often, he will not soak injury.

With a Light Club: A baton does sw crushing, in this case a straight-up 1d+2, which is up to -4. A barehanded boxer isn’t much less dangerous thanks to the generous damage bonus from Boxing!

Mace: Now you’re facing 1d+5, looking at up to a roll vs HT-5 to soak damage, so even your HT 14 guys will mostly just take the full amount if they get lucky.

Treat as a Parry


Another way to make that roll would be to make it based off of something like 3+HT/2, which mitigates the impact of high HT a bit. Our HT 12 guy would only be rolling vs. a 9 usually, meaning he’ll only avoid injury by getting lucky. At HT 16, you’re looking at an 11, so on the average, that’s worth about DR 1 against a boxer’s defensive attack as above. Against that guy with a mace, that -5 penalty means at HT 16 you’re rolling against a 6-, meaning that 90% of the time you take full damage.

Only applies to fists and padded weapons


One way to make the advantage of using weapons that are harder than the surface you’re striking plain is to basically only apply this mitigation roll to fists and feet. So facing weapons, you take full damage, no roll allowed (which has the beneficial effect of not slowing down or altering weapon combats).

You will not be soaking this damage, tiny man.

Action Points

I’d probably combine the roll that allows you to mitigate action point loss in The Last Gasp with this same roll. The injury avoidance has the penalty of half-damage, and the AP loss reduction is capped at -4, the same as the shock penalty.

Clench Up, Legolas


I think it might be interesting to also try one of the following.

Perhaps allow All-Out Defense to give that +2 to any one defense to also give +2 to flat HT-based rolls, or even +4 to the Parry-like 3+HT/2 roll. So if you go defensive, you might even just be able to clench up and take it.

Another option would be sort of an active defense option: if you forgo a parry or block, and choose to just clench up and take it, you get +1 or +2 to the roll.

Parting Shot


GURPS turns, the lack of a real impetus to Wait or Evaluate in the basic rules, and the generally high nature of even punching damage means that lasting through a full round (again, 180 turns per round!) is virtually impossible.

The perceived problem that this is trying to solve is that boxers and other barehanded fighters just don’t wind up dead or unconscious in the first round of every fight.

Well, no sane person would play through 180 rounds of combat anyway, and this would be a good moment to invoke some sort of “OK, you both took either Wait or Evaluate, so 3d seconds later . . . “

Still, the number of blows that would successfully land means few fights would last long enough for the round-timer to sound. If we don’t change GURPS’ basic damage structure, then mitigating the damage of a successful blow is sort of the only option.

I love Divine Favor. I think it’s a far better and more elegant solution to the question of miracles and clerical “magic” than the existing GURPS system, which is basically the same as Magic, with Power Investiture standing in for Magery, and Sanctity making the tag for Mana levels. You pay your cost and you cast your spell.

With Divine Favor, you are (thematically) buying a level of influence with your god(s), and you can appeal to them for aid. The quality of the aid is based on a reaction roll, and can have pretty far-reaching effects.

Cadmus, my Dungeon Fantasy character in +Nathan Joy‘s game based on Pathfinder’s Golarion and Jade Regent Adventure Path, has “Divine Favor 8” which is good for getting my deity’s attention about one time in four if I’m subtle, about half the time if I wave my holy symbol in the air and generally act like a street preacher.

Now, you can request a specific effect, such as the ever-popular Smite, which inflicts 2d burning damage of really ugly holy fire on malign supernatural creatures. It’s particularly effective against the undead. Anyway, the book comes with a list of pre-defined miracles intended as guidelines for effect, and each “level” of miracle has a reaction minimum that comes with it.

You can also buy these as Learned Prayers, which are basically something you can just do, since you’ve paid points for it, and your god has granted you the ability to get the job done more or less at will.

Game mechanically, these are Alternate Abilities, costing 1/5 (round up) the cost of the power that is bestowed; the buy-in is the level of Divine Favor required to “qualify” for the prayer.

Cadmus has used his LPs to great effect, and has several. Protection from Evil (Enhanced) and Smite are great for stomping undead, while Righteous Fury turns him into a Cuisinart for 3d seconds (adds 1d to each of ST, DX, and HT).

Recently, though, I have started to wonder if the “IF Pray, THEN Miracle” nature of how Learned Prayers work might make them a bit too “by rote,” taking away some of the variability and thus mystery of divine intervention.

I’ve not thought this through completely, but I wondered if it would be interesting to work off of the following:

When using a Learned Prayer with things that have a defined benefit, roll 3d and consult the following table:

6-       Half normal effect, double time, or -2 per die damage
7-8    2/3 normal effect, 1.5x time, or -1 per die damage
9-11   Normal effect
12-13   1.25x normal effect, 80% time, or +1 per die damage
14+     2x Normal effect, half time, or double damage

Now, the approximate weighted average of all that crap is about 105%, meaning that on the average, your Learned Prayer is about 5% more effective than the rules-as-written. Kind of a bonus for rolling dice.

Let’s take a look at a few common prayers, and see how this would impact them.

Final Rest: Here’s a great example of an example that isn’t great. You pray for a minute, and at the end, your subject (who is dead) can’t be made undead later. The only thing I can think of here is that the prayer takes longer – two minutes if you roll a 6 or less, but only thirty seconds if you roll well. Big deal.

Protection from Evil: Again, this minor miracle doesn’t let malign supernatural entities approach within a
yard. in this case, you might say that the bad results mean then can get within your hex but can’t touch you, while the bonus effects mean they stay 2 yards away. That’s actually a real benefit, especially for (say) skeletons of the sword- and axe-wielding variety.

Lay on Hands: You can transfer HP from yourself to your subject. This one’s straight-forward, I think. You say how many HP you want to transfer, and roll the dice. If you are planning on transferring 6 HP, a bad roll means you spend 6 HP to restore 3 or 4. A good one means that you either spend 6 HP and restore 8 HP or 12HP, or if (say) your guy is only wounded for 6 HP, you might spend 4 HP or 3 HP in order to restore 6 HP.

Smite: This one’s easy. Roll variable effect, roll damage. You can either just roll the damage and modify that flat out, or use the per-die suggestions above.

Righteous Fury: Cadmus’ favorite prayer, it adds to your physical stats: 1d for 3d seconds. This one could go either way, meaning you might roll only 1d-2 on a bad roll, but roll 2d on a great one! Alternately, for those who don’t relish the possibility of +12 to DX, 3d seconds might be modified directly.

Why bother? 

Honestly, I like variable effect rolls, though in many cases, the effects are already variable. The bottom line is it makes relying on your relationship with your deity just a bit chancy, but also potentially even better than you think.

Why not just use the Reaction Table again?


Um, because I didn’t think of it initially, but it’s a good idea. It’s more granular, and it’s the same basic mechanic used for Divine Favor in general. What the Learned Prayer would do, then, is bypass the Petition Roll, and have an average effect on the same magnitude as the current LP.

Try this as an alternate:

Very Bad 25%
Bad  50%
Poor 75%
Neutral 100%
Good 150%
Very Good 300%

I said, WHY BOTHER?


Some people like rolling dice. 🙂

More seriously, it would definitely take some real prep on the part of the GM and/or player. Using the guidelines above, you either need to be willing to make stuff up on the fly so that you adjudicate the prayer results as you go, or you need to create the reaction table for each prayer on the PC’s sheet. Might be too much trouble, but I still like the idea that you can never really guarantee an effect when negotiating/praying for intervention.

Magic is not Technology


People who are keen on this can take it one step further, and apply the same sort of thing to magic. Either make the effects per mana point spent variable as above, look up the margin of success or MoS+some number (maybe 5?) for a casting on the reaction table (that might easily be too good), or some other “you can’t really use a magic spell the way you use a gun” type impact.

Parting Shot


Again, some campaigns styles or player character concepts would break doing this; some players would not enjoy this sort of thing. But as I said when I started, the variable and occasionally unknowable impacts of prayers is a lot of fun in the game I play now, and applying that to Learned Prayers as well is something I jotted down in my Journal of Pretentiousness as a thought experiment.

I was never really a big Marvel comics guy when I was younger. I was at Edinborough Park with my family yesterday, wearing my Superman t-shirt. Seems like it was DC Comics day – I saw two or three other Supermen (all kids, one in full rig), one Green Lantern (adult), and a whole cave full of Batmen. Bat-toddlers?

Anyway, I was never into Marvel much, and Thor least of all, really. Don’t know why. But when the Avengers preludes started coming out, I naturally started watching them. Iron Man was brilliant, and I even did OK with both Hulk movies, though I think I saw only Iron Man in the theaters. But I’m a completist sometimes, so I picked up Captain America, which I’d really meant to see anyway but hey, toddler, and Thor.

I picked up Thor just to pick it up. It even took me a bit to pop it into my player.

Naturally, I loved it. Y’all saw that coming, right?

I find the story compelling. It’s beautifully done, with even the costumes feeling right – with the obvious exception of Lady Sif’s sternum-baring armor, which is an entirely separate conversation.

But still, the story is pretty basic. Thor, son of Odin Allfather, is an arrogant git. He’s also in line to be king (Odinson, right?), but his poor judgement leads him to be booted out of the Realm Eternal in an act of extraordinary Tough Love, by the always-awesome Anthony Hopkins as Odin.

As a by-the-way, in your copious free time, check out the deleted scenes and featurettes. The extended cut of Odin dressing down Thor is worth watching. I know why they trimmed it, but every inch of it is good.

Anyway, I find the story basic but compelling. It’s the “find yourself” plot, done credibly. I found that between Thor and his follow-up appearance in Avengers, it made me want to learn more about the character, and the world.

I find Thor an always-enjoyable popcorn movie with immense rewatch value.

But it also made me think of how I’d include him in an RPG. My game engine of choice is probably capable of doing such a character – and I’ll admit I’ve not absorbed Supers enough to really think about this hard – but it feels to me like it’d squeak badly around the edges.

I mean, just think about Mjolnir (and thanks to the movie for finally telling me how to pronounce it). With it, he can fly, fight, defend against nearly everything, control the weather . . . wow.

I’ve been involved in precisely one game of FATE Core, playing a guest spot as an Indian help-desk operator. It was fun improvisational theater, and an interesting take on RPGs. Yes, one day I’ll do a read-through and commentary; I’d hoped to get through my Pathfinder readthrough first.

Short version: I can see Mjolnir as being an Aspect. It would be an Aspect that would get a ridiculous amount of use given the large number of uses and powers ascribed to it. Heck, just from the Wiki:

Mjolnir itself has several enchantments: no living being may lift the hammer unless they are worthy; it returns to the exact spot from which it is thrown and returns to Thor when summoned; it may summon the elements of storm (lightning, wind, and rain) by stamping its handle twice on the ground;[1] manipulate the weather on an almost global scale;[4] open interdimensional portals, allowing its wielder to travel to other dimensions (such as from Earth to Asgard);[5] and transform Thor into the guise of a mortal, the physician Donald Blake, by stamping the hammer’s head on the ground once. When Thor transforms into Blake, his hammer takes the appearance of a wooden walking stick. When disguised, the hammer’s enchantments limiting those who may lift it are not in effect. The hammer itself has also shown to be unaffected by external enchantments.[6]

Were I to try something like that in GURPS, the temptation to overly prescribe the abilities of the hammer might be pretty large. I think that the old Champions game might have handled this with a Variable Power Pool, but it’s been a long time. This means that Mjolnir itself might need to be used with modular abilities in GURPS – this seems likely – but with a crazy-varied point base. The need for a Pact (Must be Worthy as deemed by Odin Allfather, who you damn well bet is always watching. Everything.) is pretty clear.

Anyway, I really dig the movie, but then, I’m fairly easily entertained by superhero flicks.

I swear that this blog will never digress into any sort of political stuff that doesn’t directly involve gaming. That’s not what it’s for.

But politics and rulers and kings and kingdoms are a staple of gaming, and one of the things one hears a bit is how certain plot devices, like the evil mad king that spends a lot of time chewing the scenery is a hackneyed, tired, overly-used trick.
Way better to have “evil rulers” that don’t think of themselves as evil. Not “misunderstood,” but they really do think they have the right plan, that only they can shepherd the people/their clan/the country/the world into a better time. 
Every now and then, it’s interesting to even make them right.
But for all of that, sometimes the world – our own world – actually serves up someone who really is the scenery-chewing type. The current third-generation ruler of the unfortunate and starving country of North Korea seems to fit the bill. And he’s clearly dangerous, along with his military ruling cohort, possessing a rather large army and nuclear weapons.
Without too much effort, this real-world country that is nearly totally dark at night would make a fine stand-in for a fantasy kingdom. A large, militarized country where the strong rulers do what they like. A ruling council of the powerful, rich warlords. And a mad sorcerer-king with a terrible magical weapon that is enough to plunge a world into chaos or devastate an area, but not enough to win any significant victory.
But perhaps that destruction would be the displaced twig that triggers the flood. A more powerful neighbor or three? Longstanding tensions? By taking some of the local tensions in this region and imbue them into your fantasy world, with a twist as you like, you impart some very real political pressure and motivation, with some pretty big potential consequences if the wrong stone is removed. 
Such an evil king might only be dealt with by a party of adventurers, which are really a good analog for special ops troops in most cases (though they are plundering murderous spec-ops for hire, as often as not).
But hey, that’d never be a fun RPG romp, right?

When I wrote the post on making snap decisions under fire, I touched on aiming a bit, as well as tracking targets.

I’m going to revisit that a bit, somewhat inspired by this thread, but not entirely. I’m going to be speaking qualitatively here, since some of the ideas kicking around in my head might well be nice as actual rules.

The way I see it (and have done it, so I’m not just making stuff up here), as you try and draw a bead on a target, you’re going to need to consider a few things.

Got Target?


The first, and most obvious, thing you need is to be able to see what you’re shooting at. This will be some sort of modified Perception roll. The usual is Per+10 if the target is in plain sight, less range, lighting, and camouflage or stealth (or both) factored in. If you can see the target, you might want to shoot it. However, in order to do that . . .

Line it up


While this is usefully abstracted into a Guns roll in vanilla GURPS, as you aim, you first have to ensure that your sights (or scope!) and your target are more or less lined up. That is, you need a sight picture so that you might deliver your shots more or less where you think.

Hans-Christian Vortisch does a nice job of describing what happens when you shoot without such a sight picture in his section on Unsighted Shooting (GURPS Tactical Shooting, p. 13). You don’t even need to see the sights or gun; just go with where you feel is the right place to shoot, and pull the trigger. This is far, far more accurate (or can be) than it sounds, with practice. You still have to see your target, of course.

If you’re lining up the sights or using a scope, you need to get the sight picture aligned with the target. This is the first part, but not the only part, of Aiming. Once you do that – and in GURPS, that happens automatically as soon as you declare an Aim maneuver – you can either shoot, or try and dial in your shot a bit more.

Now, in GURPS, you have two choices. Well, one, really. You can continue to Aim for another few seconds, after which your Acc tops out at +Acc+2 and that’s it, or you can invoke Precision Aiming (Tactical Shooting, p. 26) to increase that to up to +Acc+7 by taking a series of difficult (IQ-based) Guns rolls. Fail and you have to start over, and it takes more than a minute (90 turns!) to claim the largest bonus.

Now, in reality, to get that large a bonus, especially at distance, you had best know the ballistics of your weapon as well as the target’s range. Even so, the “Minute of Angle” rule should apply, which caps the maximum effective skill before range, speed, and size modifiers are assessed, at 22+2*Acc, and that’s the base Acc of the weapon (match-grade ammo and quality weaponry increases Acc; I quibbled with this in the playtest a bit).

Scoping it Out.

One of the interesting things to deal with in GURPS are telescopic sights, also known as scopes. GURPS gives you a +1 for each x2 multiplication in range. So a x2 scope gives +1, a x8 scope gives +3, etc.

Variable scopes can be dialed in, and it’s always been a bit weird how that’s figured – why not always use the maximum bonus?

FoV Width (yards)

The one rules nugget I’ll toss in here is a different way of looking at scopes. Simply treat the magnification as what it is – something that makes the target larger. Look up the magnification on p. B550. Yes, that’s the Size and Speed/Range Table, and just remember, that in GURPS, if the answer isn’t “consult the Size and Speed/Range Table,” you’re probably asking the wrong question.

Anyway, look it up, consult the Size table, and add 2. Use the smaller number if you have to pick. There is no x4 entry (you choose between 3 and 5), so you choose 3 and you get a +4 bonus. A 30x scope is +9.

That’s a much larger bonus than usual, but what it basically does is says “hey, you’ve just made your 6′ tall target effectively 24′ tall,” and treating that as a linear increase in size – that is, you’ve effectively increased the SM of your target, and you get a commensurate bonus.

However, and there’s always a however, a scope restricts your arc of vision. In GURPS, you can see pretty much anywhere in your front 180 degree arc. At 100 yards, that’s effectively a 314-yard field of view wide (the half-circle in front of you). A typical 3x riflescope might restrict that down to 30-ish feet, and a 9x is about 14 feet. So says  this website, anyway.

So if we do some funky math (and honestly, I’m curve-fitting because I have no desire to actually derive this, and it seems more complicated than what I thought) we might say that through a scope, your field of view, even for a 1x scope, is restricted to 20 yards wide at 100 yard range. A 10x scope is only 4 yards wide.

What does all this crap mean?


Basically, it should probably take time to find your quarry through a scope. The higher the magnification, the narrower your field of view, and the more you probably have to search for it. Novices can wave their guns around quite a bit.

Red dot type sights (usually not scopes, but you can get magnifying objectives for them in the 3-4x range) keep field of view, which is cool, but don’t usually magnify, meaning you suffer full range/size penalties for what you’re shooting at.

How would I attempt to resolve it? Well, +Peter V. Dell’Orto will mock me, but it will be more die rolls.

First, you need to find your target. This would be a Per roll with naked eyes, using the usual rules.

Then, you need to get a sight picture. I would probably do something like a Per-based Guns roll, with a penalty for field of view and the Bulk of the firearm.

Once you get that, I’d probably make the shooter make a DX-based Guns roll to position the sights on target. Margin of success would determine the Acc bonus. Roll well, you get a big boost. Roll poorly, and you might even loose the target and have to re-acquire.

Parting Shot


I like having PCs roll dice. I think it’s more fun for the player to invoke skill (via the Guns roll). I think making Aim effectively an attack roll, which can be done quickly with Rapid Strike, which would require All-Out Attack (Determined) to claim certain bonuses, and which potentially could get a perfect sight picture in a moment, or spend several seconds and not get much of anything, feels a bit more real to me. You could also perhaps have scopes, sights, etc. only cancel out range and target size penalties. It does need to be worked out – GURPS has a lot of detail with respect to firearms, and you’d need something that replaces the “you get your Acc bonus to your skill” with a satisfying mechanic that gives more or less the same realistic results we get with the current system, but has variability in how long it takes to get that target fixed.

And if I’ve been unusually vague on this one, well, I’ve not worked out the math and mechanics fully, and who knows . . . maybe it’ll show up in Pyramid one day.

GM: +Nathan Joy 
Players: +Mark Langsdorf , +Theodore Briggs , +Kevin Smyth , +Emily Smirle 




The Boss Fight

The game starts out with fire shooting out of a well in the center of the room. We initially fear monsters or death . . . but it turns out to be the sword we’ve been looking for all this time, narrowly wedged down the hole. We scrounge around in our stuff, because for a bit, it looks like no one brought rope.

Staver to the rescue with 20 yards of rope. Michel casts Glue and Apportation on the thing, wraps it up tight, and we haul it to the surface.

Mark: Is this cheating? It feels like cheating. 

We retrieved the sword, and then went down another level. This opened into a small corridor, which itself led to a few rooms with doors – one of them magelocked, much to Michel’s unpleasant surprise.

Finding little in the rooms we could easily access, we proceeded down the way to throw open the double doors, into a huge chamber that looked like a square room 20’ high, with another square room offset 45 degrees, culiminating in a pyramidal shape above our heads.

Initially, there were four ninja and a blonde woman they were all worshipping or something. These were the same demon-bird ninja from earlier. Our new companion, Dawn, rushed into the room to do battle, and that’s when we found our our first unpleasant surprise: the entire room was some sort of Unholy temple. Dawn would take damage or at least be very uncomfortable, while the other two clerics (Cadmus and Michel) are nerfed a bit.
Anyway, the battle joined, we then got an unpleasant surprise. An “executioner’s hood” dropped down and tried to start smothering Thumvar, the knight. Thumvar, of course, did what anyone who was a gargoyle encased in steel would do: he hit himself in the head four times with full-strength blows from his own axe over two turns, killing it despite impressive regen abilities.
Dawn managed to cut off both arms of one bird-ninja on her successive turns, and Thumvar and Cadmus – whose Righteous Fury should have been +6 to DX, +5 to ST and +2 to HT, but the Unholy cut that down to +3, +2, +1 – did in for another one, aided by Michel casting Great Haste on Thumvar.
Michel then cast Continual Daylight on the hoods, which a good roll of his identified as part of the “Squid” populatin (Good-Evil-Bunny-Squid), and the thing spent a lot of time thrashing on the ground subsequently.
Whereupon, a scary female voice called us fools, the screens all fell down, and a metric crap-ton of Viking zombies stood there slavering at us.
We broke there, facing two spellcasters, a lot of zombies, two more ninja, and possibly a few other baddies that escaped along the way. 
Next Tuesday’s going to be interesting. Hopefully, we’ll all remember the freakin’ magic artifact that is Ameiko’s ancestral sword in time for it to do something really impressive.

A while ago, I wrote a note about the relative perils of doing what is effectively a joint venture between any two companies. This was in relation to how cool I thought it would be, nonetheless, to have the world of Golarion written up for GURPS, and available for actual adventures. I’m playing and writing about the Jade Regent Adventure Path done with GURPS Dungeon Fantasy, and it’s tons of fun. I’ve heard tell of others doing the same thing.

Well, if you’re in the mood, check out +Andrew Hackard‘s last line in the April 13 Daily Illuminator.

“Thanks, as always, for your enthusiasm! I’m really proud of this set, and I hope that it brings Paizo for all of their help and for letting us play in their sandbox in the first place — they’ve been great partners and I look forward to working with them again very soon.”

Whether it’s more Pathfinder Munchkin or something deeper, more sinister . . . the unholy spawn of such twisted minds that hell itself recoils in shock [1] . . . I’m quite excited to see my favorite game company teaming up with Paizo for stuff. 
It’s possible to be a realist and an optimist at the same time. That way, all your surprises are pleasant ones!

[1] …and then goes squeeeeee! as that much fun is dumped in one place. I’ve heard hell has good parties, but the cover charge is kinda steep.

This is 100th blog post here on Gaming Ballistic.

I was considering a retrospective.

I was considering a juicy piece of rules goodness for GURPS.

Instead, I say something I will hopefully never have to do again, but probably will, in regrettable variation.

Forget gaming. Remember Boston. 

Whether the fanatics were religious or secular, whether they be left or right wing murderous thugs, remember two things:

1. It was a barbaric, criminal, heinous act that cannot be justified, no matter the tortured logic, and . . .

2. This is America, and when the shit hits the fan, far more of us will run towards danger than away from it.

God save the helpers, comfort the fallen, and bring justice and peace in full measure to those who deserve it.

I can’t find the thread anymore. But over at the SJG Forums, someone was talking about starting perhaps an Old West style game. But then, there would be Zombies. But the players wouldn’t know ahead of time.

This brought up the concept of the Bait and Switch, where the players are ready for one style of campaign, but the GM drops another layer, or changes it up completely.

Why is this annoying?

It sets up a pretty spectacular clash of expectations. If the GM were to hand out a campaign prospectus (or a set of them), and everyone likes Old West but no one likes Horror, then to layer your Old West with Horror doesn’t necessarily invoke the Peanut Butter Cup effect. It may just piss your players off.

It may also result in characters that are entirely useless. Not just “gee, my combat skills are mostly in ranged firearms, but I have some brawling and jujitsu as well, so I better go find me a crossbow.” But potentially “I designed an expert forensic accountant for a game involving corporate espionage, and this frackin’ GM Banestormed me into a world where this kind of bookkeeping doesn’t even exist.” Way more so even than being short on one or more of Kromm’s List of Skills Every Adventurer Should Have. This is serious “my character is 200 points of useless” stuff, and sets up for potentially very angry players.

Ultimately, it’s about assumptions clash, and purposefully misleading the group as to your intentions sets up that clash purposefully, and demands the group find it fun.

And yet . . .

Why can this be fun?

Some really great gaming can occur when things are very, very different than one expects. I went into The Matrix more or less blind. I totally didn’t see the major twist coming, and was floored when it did.
What works in cinema can also work in RPGing.

It can also be fun when it’s done by plunking the characters into a slightly different genre than is expected, but one that is also enjoyable. If the group settled on Old West, but would have played an explicit Horror campaign . . . well, maybe that Old West Zombie Horror campaign isn’t so far wrong after all. Or a criminal escape that doesn’t turn out as expected.

It also, of course, provides for great roleplaying opportunities – and if it’s arranged such that characters are unprepared or out of place, but can rapidly adapt and rise to the challenge, maybe that’s not so bad after all. The accountant suddenly finds he’s got Magery 8 and spontaneous spellcasting. This only works if . . .

Parting Shot

. . . the players enjoy the new campaign premise and feel like they can have an interesting and fun time with the character they’ve brought to the table in that game.

This can, of course, be entirely above board, in which case the character is being switched, but not the players.

I did this once – above board, mostly – in an old game I called Lords of Light and Shadow. I had the
players all be part of a town’s special emergencies teams. Volunteers with medical or crisis skills, including combat skills, that would respond to trouble. So the players were forewarned that odd things would probably happen, and I’d prepped them by saying that I wanted to have a campaign kinda like the clash between the Vorlons and Shadows from Babylon 5 . . . but on Earth and much nastier. Sterile order and raw chaos, rather than the more altruistic-ish versions displayed in that show.

It didn’t last long, but the first campaign sessions were pretty good.

It’s all how you set it up, I think. And the more buy-in you have, the better.

Over at The Troll Dens, +Stephen Chenault links to this image of a fortified town.

by ~solon-deviant Photography / Urban & Rural / Cityscapes & Skylines
City of Carcassonne, photographed by air, south-west France.

This fires up my imagination something fierce. He notes that this is what the dragon sees as he decides to get take-out. True, true. The thing that gets me is just how cool it is. Wiki has a list of fortified towns in England, and of course France, home of Vauban (whom I studied in college, many years ago), boasts quite a few.

The Citadel of Besançon, shown to the right, is something that even when I spent hour upon hour designing
castles and keeps out of the old AD&D books, I would not have had the moxie to set down. Not ten-foot walls, but 15-20 feet wide, and up to 60′ high! Interlocking fields of fire, concealment in defenses and terrain – well, Vauban was Vauban.

We look at our modern constructions, cities, etc. And they are impressive. But out ancestors did all this stuff without the diesel engine, and certainly without magic!

As I noted in my post on Pirates, magic – especially the more banal but far reaching infrastructure magic in GURPS, should allow all of the above, and more. Truly fantastic castles, towers and towns.

Makes me want to run a DF campaign, it does.