I was thinking for a moment about campaigns I have run in GURPS.
We got into a battle with lasers and slugthrowers. There was an awful lot of successful dodging going on. Some of this just “the dice say what the dice say.” But after a bit, you could tell from the body language (and post-game conversation) that the overall assessment of that was “no frackin’ way.”
GURPS has a fairly realistic outcome level when it comes to gun battles. The real level of hits in combat at ranges spanning a mere 3-10 yards is something like “less than 10-15%.” If you figure GURPS Dodge scores on the order of 6-10, (15-50% chance of a successful dodge), you’re still looking at “attack” level percentages on the order of no more than 30%. That’s 8- or 9- at best net/net, even before dodging.
So at 3-10 yards (-4 down to -1) skill levels are presumably in the 9-13 range (not spec ops, from “joe average or a cop who doesn’t do much range time). Again . . . realistic. Most of these exchages involve considerable fear and andrenaline, and sighted but not aimed shooting. See GURPS Tactical Shooting for how these differ.
Given “on the range” bonuses of something like +6 to +8 for knowing range, not being in any sort of danger, no stake in the outcome, etc, that’s likely looking at range-level accuracy on the order of 15 to 21, plus Acc 3 of the gun. Net raw score is likely 17-24, meaning that on a quiet range shooting once every second or two, you can probably put every shot on the paper (at a raw skill of 9) to being able to eat a -6 penalty to put 90% of all your shots in a 0.2-yd circle: every shot in an 7″ circle.
When I took a range accuracy test in Texas years ago, shots from 3-25 yards were all within 6″ of target. I’ll admit it (Texas rules apply – if you can do it, it ain’t braggin’): I’m a good shot on the range. You might also call much range shooting Guns (Sport) and hit shooters with an additional -3 in real combat situations unless they’ve been on live-fire, shoot/no-shoot, or kill house training.
And yet . . .
Lasers. There’s no recoil to deal with, unless you’re ejecting a chemical cell. If you can put the red X on the target and pull the trigger, they shouldn’t get to dodge. They just take it. Beam spread is certainly not appreciable at the kind of distances we were facing.
DECIDE . . . and quickly
Well, one possible thing to do is steal from T-Bone: use his DECIDE rules where you declare your defenses before you know if a blow hits. That means you have to declare defenses before the to-hit roll is made, or sometimes you can do it retroactively at a penalty (but not for lasers, he clarifies).
There are ways to tweak this, such as if the defender succeeds, you still roll to-hit, fishing for a critical.
You can also do something like this:
Evasive Movement (a sort-of variant on All-Out Defense)
At the beginning of your turn, you may declare you are moving evasively. You’re bobbing and weaving, moving side to side, up and down, etc. You can take a certain penalty to all your actions on your turn, in exchange for inflicting that same penalty on your foes’ ranged weapon attacks. This has zero effect on your foes’ incoming melee attacks (but still penalizes you!). The maximum penalty you can voluntarily accept is (say) how many yards you actually moved this turn, plus your Basic Speed.
I might need to divide that by two. So if you have Basic Speed 6 and have moved your full 6-yard allotment the best you can do is take a -6 to your own stuff and -6 to your foes.
Maybe I even need an exchange rate. You can inflict up to -6 on your foes, but you take -12. You may be disrupting everything you do, but it’ll be easier for your foe to plug you than it will be to shoot him while doing the crazy dodge and zigzag thing.
I have always liked the logic of DECIDE, but the all-or-nothing of the attack/defense sequence, even when you declare first, bothers me. There’s an argument, and not a bad one, for allowing Prediction Shot (-2 to hit for -1 to penalize Dodge for ranged weapon attacks) in realistic games. It’s in GURPS: Gun Fu, probably among other places.
Yes, both Gun Fu and Tactical Shooting were written by +Hans-Christian Vortisch. He’s just good that way.
Still, a nice way to split the difference is to reverse it. Use DECIDE, and make the defender choose his decision first. But . . . apply double the margin of success of the Dodge roll to the to-hit chance. A critical success on the defense roll means your foe must fire, and always misses (though might hit someone else). But any other result only alters the to-hit penalty. A critical success on the attack roll obviates any penalty from the defense except a critical, which has primacy of place. This favors defense over attack in this case, but since defenses are usually so very much lower than attacks, I’m cool with that.
I think I like DECIDE + Blended.
You’re shooting a laser at someone. They can’t react to the fire after they know it hits; they must choose whether or not to defend (nearly always dodge). If they roll vs. their Dodge-9 and get a 6, making it by 3, then you take -6 to hit. If you miss, you miss. If you hit, or hit with many shots, so be it. But they have to declare the defense (and suffer the consequences for things like Dodge and Drop) ahead of time.
[Note: I clearly have a rodent living in my wall, eating away at my insulation. It is distracting, and will ultimately be expensive. Sigh. I can hear the bastard chewing away.]
The decision order and how defenses only need be rolled on a successful hit raises eyebrows for nearly everyone. I can see why it’s done; why drive extra rolls on a miss? But for people with sparring, combat, or any kind of experience with fighting, it always strains, sometimes breaks, suspension of disbelief.
I think there are fixes to this that won’t burden the GM or players, but will help with the “yeah, that makes sense” factor.
Might result in some dead PCs, though. Better hope you took Luck and its variants.
Seeing It Coming
After I posted this, I remembered something. GURPS appropriately doesn’t allow any defenses against stuff you can’t see coming. So in order to actually be allowed to make the DECIDE roll:
- If you’re defending against someone you’re actively attacking or aiming at – you get to make the call, no problem. Just DECIDE.
- If you are not engaged in an Aim or other “stare at someone” action (Wait, Evaluate, for starters) you should probably be able to make a modified Perception roll to see someone bearing down at you.
- If you are actively focusing on someone, then your Per roll is modified severely downward for tunnel vision.
What’s a gun?
OK, back up. We know what a gun is. A slugthrower. Chemical combustion or explosive powered projectile delivery vehicle.
Or is it?
In GURPS, a gun is a kinetic energy delivery vehicle. Since Fourth Edition did away with blowthrough – a mechanic where massive damage would overpenetrate and be lost – more energy is more damage is more dead foes. See an old but interesting discussion thread here.
The mechanics of GURPS damage, their basis in a formula based on the square root of kinetic energy, divided by some factor related to caliber . . . all based in solid approximations of real-world physics.
But . . .
What about in TV and movies?
Well, there’s TVTropes. Wow. That’s a lot of tropes. And most of them? Most of them don’t make much physical sense. In fact, one of my hidden moments of infamy is here in GURPS’ TVTropes listing:
Skipping over all varieties of introductions and back story.
Brody, our resident sneak-a-holic, returns from a foray into infiltrating the local nest of scum and villainy, to report that the girlfriend of the leader of the local Rimerunner’s guild has become recently reclusive and purchased an old hall a few days outside Karlsgard, the town we’re in. Naturally, Brody came by this information through legal but duplicitous means – Social engineering for the win.
Lot of money being poured into the place, and the girlfriend spends a lot of time there. We’re hoping to find the long-lost sword from far-off Tian. Of course. In the words of our GM, +Nathan Joy relaying this to us:
“…a sword from far-off Tian, and we were attacked by shadowy warriors who fit the description of elite assassins from far-off Tian, and the Rimerunners Guild is apparently a front for an assassin’s guild called the Frozen Shadows, whose modus operandi matches that of the shadowy warriors who attacked us….”
A few of our party are afflicted with the Honesty disadvantage, which means that we can’t just haul off and break into stuff. I will admit Cadmus, my Warrior Saint, is one of those, and so is Brother Michel, +Mark Langsdorf‘s Mage/Cleric Uber-IQ guy.
But we’re told there might be demons there, and since Pharasma and demons do not get on well, Cadmus states that where there are rumors of demons, there must I go.
Oh, and we also find out that the undead Viking we just killed used to own the house. And his notional second-in-command now owns it. So the Ravenscraeg hall is now owned by our prime candidate for current bad guy’s (Longthews) girlfriend Silverskorr, being fixed up. That was enough for us to decide to pay a visit. Despite the rumors of horrible things, people never return, Mad Reaver, etc.
We’d placed an order for better gear, spending money from the loot we got from Brinestump Castle. Our group is using a mish-mash of Dungeon Fantasy and more advanced rules (lots of stuff from Martial Arts, the armor weights from Low Tech), so my old panoply was pretty darn complicated. A mix of mail and plates (one of the best armors by weight and cost per unit of DR, in Low Tech), cheap mail (which ain’t bad either), different quality and thickness front and back to save cost and weight, etc. There’s only so far $3500 in signature gear and starting cash can take you, and I optimized horribly (meaning as munchkinly as I could manage. This is Dungeon Fantasy, after all).
The new kit cost me just shy of $12,000 but is both simpler and better. We have a couple house rules in play that boost the cost even more. You can only enchant gear that has at least a x2 cost multiplier. TL 4 armors also have that same x2, and that counts. So I wind up with a Lightened full suit of padded cloth (DR 1*), Heavy Mail legs and arms, both with lighten x3/4 and fortify +1, and a full helm and torso armor with DR 7 plate as the base, with fortify and lighten again. So DR 9 on the torso and head, DR 6/4* arms and legs. Plus some pretty lame boots, honestly. Better not step on any caltrops.
So we find out through research and carousing where this house is located, and set off. After some riding (we all bought horses, using this excellent writeup of various horse types by Icelander; Cadmus has a Rouncey), we were making our way through a swamp when my horse stepped into a puddle of water, only to come up with skin blistering, covered in some sort of goo.
I forced the horse to jump over the water, clearing the obstacle. The goo continued to smoke and hiss, and the water began to writhe and ripple, and something emerged from that. My comrades and I immediately “took a tiny step and there conclusions were” and decided that hitting this stuff with regular weapons would be Grade A stupid. So Staver, our resident infernal scout, started shooting 2d fireball arrows at the ooze. It hit, boom, splat, and a whole bunch of these things make their appearance.
They start flinging acidic slime balls at us. Our Knight, Thumvar (winged gargoyle knight) blocks twice, and I dodge twice, succeeding both times thanks to my +3 Defense bonus from my light large shield. The shield is not happy. At all.
We continue with fireball arrows, throwing liquid fire, casting Create Fire, etc. Cadmus moves his horse 7-8 yards away, and critically succeeds in my rapid dismount roll. 9.8, 9.9, 9.7, 9.8, and 4.5 from my mother, disguised as the East German judge.
Then the ooze starts moving towards us. Yeeps.
So my Warrior Saint does what Warrior Saint’s do in these cases.
He prayed. He prayed for the confounding of his enemy and the health of his mount. These rolls are made in secret, and are against my Divine Favor of 8 (with modifiers, etc) and then a reaction roll. Also, I have to pray for 1d6 seconds to make this happen.
Nate must have rolled really well. The very next turn, all the oozes freeze in place, and my horse’s leg stops smoking, as I receive a tailor-made miracle, with thanks to Pharasma. I choose to maintain my prayer, noting that faith is not a fire-and-forget missile. Nate says “good call” in retrospect; my awesome effect would have been lost had I tried anything else.
The oozes flung more acid at us; three more balls at me, one of which crit-hits, one misses, the other I dodge. The crit spatters on my nice, new, magical breastplate. But our resident mage can burn them all to death and Mend my armor before the acid ball eats all the way through my DR 9.
We called the session there.
That could have gone a few ways, and that any of these methods would have been viable is why I love GURPS.
1) We could have tried to jump the puddle and just left. But seeing the fire arrow hit for effect, we decided to stay.
2) My prayer was technically a long shot. Maybe 9 or less on 3d6 (37% chance). It only took me 1 second to pray, and it could have been six. And my petition roll, which was good enough to heal the horse and freeze them in place, turned this into “have the fire-wielding guys burn them all to death.”
3) Had this not worked out, it was pretty clear that had we stood and fought, we were risking massive damage to our gear. Cadmus has a dueling poleaxe that he rarely uses that he could have tried, but it just seemed intuitive (especially after Thumvar deliberately sacrificed a thrown hatchet to prove the point) that mundane weapons would just be ruined. Fire seemed the only way, though I’m sure that there’d be others. Not all of us have fire. Might have to fix that.
I had options the entire time. Ride, pray, swing weapons, etc. Cadmus is 313 points, so his combat options are pretty good. But melee wasn’t in it this time, and that was pretty fun. We’ll have to work a bit on the teamwork thing, and I’m still getting used to the DF threats. As an example, I did not silver-coat my axe, which is an “of course!” move for the more experienced crowd. We are not purposefully equipped (yet) against creatures who do not respond well to being chopped or bashed, though our mage/cleric (Brother Michel) is darn versatile and eats paut (a magical version of a Cliff Bar) like there’s no tomorrow (in fairness, he eats it because if he doesn’t, for some of us there will be no tomorrow, so it’s all good).
Lessons learned? We’ll see.
This is a continuation of my read-through of Chapter 3. Eleven base classes means a crazy-long entry; I broke it up.
A retroactive 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
So: we continue!
Hit Die (HP at 10th): d10 (60 HP)
Skill Ranks (Number of Class Skills): 2 (10 skills)
Skill-Ability Breakdown: STR (0); DEX (1); CON(0); INT (4); WIS (3); CHA(2).
BAB Total (10/20): +10/+20 (extra attack every 5 levels past first)
Save Total: (+17/+30)
Everyone loved to hate on Paladins back in my day. Well, it’s still my day, but they did get trash-talked a lot. Goody two-shoes holy roller, God-Botherer, etc. I always thought that the stalwart protector of Good was a great character concept. Then I read Elizabeth Moon’s The Deed of Paksenarrion, which I really, really enjoyed, and saw what fun a Paladin played right could be. I play one now (technically a Warrior Saint of Pharasma), in a Pathfinder-based GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Campaign.
Wow, that was a lot of links.
Paladins get the same choices of weapons as Fighters, less tower shields, which seem to be a specialty item. Right away, Paladins pick up the ability to detect evil . . . and be detected as Good. The Smite ability allows some serious bonus-stacking, based on CHA and level. Plus nifty AC bonuses against the smitten (smote? smacked-down? smited?) foe.
Note that the Paladin’s smite evil ability and the Dungeon Fantasy Learned Prayer called Smite, and it’s bigger, much badder cousin, Smite (Enhanced) from the exceptionally awesome book GURPS Powers: Divine Favor are cousins in terms of badassery.
As she levels up, the options for smiting become pretty varied, sometimes transferable, and you get access to a limited number of spells, plus some cool healing powers. The Paladin powers aren’t as universal as Feats (again, the Fighter’s niche), but boy in their element they seem pretty rockin’. If you want the maximum spell level possible (level 4), you’ll want at least CHA 14 – in practice, more than that since many of a Paladin’s abilities are keyed off of CHA.
A Paladin is a living embodiment of doing good through personal risk, putting flesh and faith between evil and those whom evil would seek to harm. They are a God’s will made manifest, and those who fight near them are inspired and enabled by their presence.
Quibble: you have to be mighty close – within 10 feet – to benefit from some of these nifty features. In GURPS that would be three hexes to the left or right, in a battle line, which is quite reasonable if the PCs can get their shit together and form a line of battle. I’m not sure how many Pathfinder tokens fit in a 10×10 square, normally. Presumably this will be explained in the Combat chapter.
I make no bones about loving the Paladin archetype. It’s a bias of mine, but I have a ton of fun with this class, even (or perhaps more so) when I play in classless systems like GURPS.
I don’t know much about Prestige Classes yet. It almost seems as if Paladin would make a natural one – and indeed, checking the net finds the Holy Vindicator, where a fighter/cleric or cleric can pick up some paladin-like abilities without actually being one. Hrm.
Hit Die (HP at 10th): d10 (60 HP)
Skill Ranks (Number of Class Skills): 6 (15 skills)
Skill-Ability Breakdown: STR (2); DEX (2); CON(0); INT (5); WIS (4); CHA(2).
BAB Total (10/20): +10/+20 (extra attack every 5 levels past first)
Save Total: (+17/+30)
Along with the Barbarian, Fighter, and Paladin, Rangers are front-line types in essence, with BAB equal to their level. They use up to medium armor and shields (without tower shields) like the barbarian, and use simple and martial weapons.
The Ranger’s first schtick is the ‘favored enemy.’ One or more types of critters that they get bonuses to identify, know stuff about, track, and (of course) kill.
They must also specialize in either archery, making them a stand-off expert, or two-weapon fighting, which can put them on the front line (but watch for that lower armor and no shield thing). This increments every four levels; you must choose your path on hitting 2nd level – that is, almost immediately.
Like their namesake Strider from The Lord of the Rings, Rangers are long-walkers and far-trekkers. Their bonus feats are mostly based on movement, and that includes endurance, moving quickly through obstructed terrain, evasion, and survival. They also pick up spells that feel pretty Druidic in nature, which is appropriate to the archetype.
I remember from my old AD&D days that rangers were one of my favorite classes. Good fighting, with a smattering of cool abilities that made you a bit of a fighter-cleric or (later) fighter-druid. This still seems true. They can fight, but will have lower AC than others (it’s still weird to say that, since I’m old enough to remember when low AC was a good thing; I dimly recall that plate mail and DEX 18 was an AC of -2, perhaps?). They will do well hunting and killing from a distance, and can cast spells and gain abilities to do this over long marches and with some degree of surprise. They seem to also, at higher levels, potentially make pretty good back-up healers.
Hit Die (HP at 10th): d8 (49 HP)
Skill Ranks (Number of Class Skills): 8 (21 skills)
Skill-Ability Breakdown: STR (2); DEX (5); CON(0); INT (5); WIS (3); CHA(6).
BAB Total (10/20): +7/+15 (extra attack every 7-8 levels past first)
Save Total: (+17/+30)
Sneak Attack and mondo levels of skill. Oh, sure the Rogue Talents can be cool, but with a decent INT score you are going to be putting +1 in half your skill list every level – and depending on what kind of Rogue you want to be, that won’t bother you. If you’re a Traps and Stealth rogue, you can cover that and more. If you’re a Merchant rogue, no problem. You might not even have to choose. With the right racial and feat bonuses (+2 Per, +1-3 for ability scores, and Skill Focus) my 4th level piratey rogue has Stealth +12, Perception +11, and a bunch more in the +6 to +9 range. And that’s AFTER I fixed the problem I had giving more ranks than hit dice (oops).
The sneak attack thing is pretty nice too, since you basically get +1d6 every two levels to damage, an average of just under 2 points of damage per level . . . if you can flank your foe, which you should always try and do anyway.
You’re going to want to avoid direct combat, since you’re restricted to light armor, no shields. I have gotten far more mileage out of a composite shortbow than any amount of Dagger Fu. That being said, some of the other simple weapons, such as the heavy mace, do a bit more damage than my rapier, and the long spear is a reach weapon with 1d8 and a x3 critical. A heavy crossbow is pretty nasty too, but only every other round capable.
I might really need to look into using a long spear.
Hit Die (HP at 10th): d6 (38 HP)
Skill Ranks (Number of Class Skills): 2 (9 skills)
Skill-Ability Breakdown: STR (0); DEX (1); CON(0); INT (4); WIS (1); CHA(3).
BAB Total (10/20): +5/+10 (extra attack at 12th level)
Save Total: (+13/+24)
These guys can’t take a hit, don’t have very good saving throws, and have very few skills.
This bodes well for what they are good at, I presume. It better.
Sorcerers are new to me, since they’re not even close to anything from the D&D games I used to play. They can cast spells because they are inherently magical, rather than through study. You have to choose a background, called a bloodline, that defines from whence your magical gift flows.
Some of these are pretty horrid. At high level, an Aberrant gains misshapen and deformed physiology. Abyssal, Infernal, and Undead bloodlines do not end well. Well, unless you’re into that sort of thing. The book says any bloodline can be paired with any alignment, but that grates. “O Hai! I’m a Lawful Good sorcerer with an Abyssal bloodline! I have claws, can summon demons, and like long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days!” (Warning: that link is Not Safe For Work).
You get a few powers along the way. These seem to be a limited set of immunities, one or two ways to do damage (not trivial: Gold Draconic bloodline at 18th level can breathe fire in a 30′ cone twice per day for 18d6 damage), and often some sort of movement power.
The sorcerer can know a limited number of spells, but can cast up to 6 spells per day, plus your CHA bonus (interesting choice of Ability base, there). You may, however, only learn a certain number, and this is independent of ability scores. That being said, if you like Fireball and have CHA 18 for a +4 bonus, you can cast it ten times a day at 9th level. That will thus be the only 3rd level spell you cast that day, but you can sling a lot of fireballs.
Sorcerers and Wizards use the same spell list. Way back when, if you managed to live through the lower levels, you became a walking artillery piece, capable of rearranging whole battlefields; +Wil Wheaton makes exactly this point here. I have since lost my old AD&D books (maybe my mom tossed ’em; she never liked me roleplaying anyway – now that I occasionally get paid for it, she merely vacillates between neutral and unknowing. Improvement? Perhaps.) but let’s check out some 9th level Wizard/Sorcerer battle magic that you pick up at 18th level. I’ll presume level 18 and key stats, where they matter, of 20. Yes, that’s high, but since your max spell level is often 10+the spell level, you need ability scores of 19 or 20 to lay down proper fire and brimstone. So, 20 it is.
Crushing Hand and Meteor Swarm. Hey, Meteor Swarm . . . I like the sound of that. Range is over 1,000 feet, four impact zones of 80′ in diameter. 6d6 of pain fills the area, and you can hit a creature more than once. So up to 24d6 (24-144 per strike). The entity known as Treantmonk posted a guide to making Monks, and notes that with the right build, you can get up close and personal doing seven to nine hits per turn, each at maybe 2d10+20. Call that 16d10+160, and you’re looking at 176-320 damage per turn until you run out of ki. I suspect a dedicated Fighter build can do as well. Of course, you have to overcome your foe’s AC, where spells, I believe, are a save vs. the DC of about 24.
Of course, the Sorcerer hits you at 1000′ away if he can. The Monk has to get a wee bit closer.
I’m out of my league comparing builds, but it would appear that the up-close-and-personal types can lay down some serious hurt.
In GURPS, the trick to running a spellcaster is often not to try to deal direct damage. You buff your friends – Great Haste is a perennial favorite – and do tricky stuff. The Tickle spell, for example, incapacitates your foe for a full minute – that’s 60 combat rounds – of hysterical laughter. Whereupon your fighter or some random barmaid can slit his throat.
Perhaps the Sorcerer/Wizard follows the same path; I will find out when I get to Chapter 10!
Hit Die (HP at 10th): d6 (38 HP)
Skill Ranks (Number of Class Skills): 2 (7 skills – but one is “any” Knowledge skill)
Skill-Ability Breakdown: STR (0); DEX (1); CON(0); INT (5); WIS (1); CHA(0).
BAB Total (10/20): +5/+10 (extra attack at 12th level)
Save Total: (+13/+24)
The wizard is the book-larnin’ relative of the Sorcerer. Familiars, the power item, and the spellbook are all present, which satisfies my sense of nostalgia. The key stat, as you might imagine, is INT. As high as possible. CON probably couldn’t hurt; you’ll need the HP.
No armor, no shieids. You can probably, and should probably, look for magic robes to give some sort of armor bonus, but really, just stand back and fling arcane energy from a distance.
No doubt someone can come up with an up-close-and-personal Wizard build. To that I say: Cool! Bring it on, post comments. Lemmee see it.
One thing that’s interesting about Wizards is they do get an unlimited number of castings of 0-level spells called cantrips. Up to four can be prepared per day, but cast unlimited times. Some of these are fairly cool: mending looks useful, as does a spell that can create torchlight.
Note that it says prepare, since unlike sorcerers, wizards can know as many spells as you like, but you can only prepare a certain number per day, and once your slot is expended, it’s gone for that day. That being said, if you want to fling three fireballs in one day, booyah – but it’s going to cost you three slots.
The wizard’s familiar seems a bit of a big deal. It grants abilities, and can be used to extend the wizard’s power and reach. It can also attack and fight – but really, if you want that, look at Druids, I think.
Each wizard gets to choose whether to be a Universalist (no specialties) or a focused mage, in which you pick a particular school and get goodies pertaining to it: an extra spell slot per level you can cast, and a short list of bonuses or pseudo-spells. But (there’s always a but) you also have to pick two opposed schools at which you suck, and casting spells from those schools is done at 2 slots per 1 spell. Yowch.
And that’s it! I’m not sure if the classes are balanced or not as they go up in levels. I’ll rely on others to tell me (though looking at vitriolic threads on RPG.net about such things, perhaps ignorance is bliss).
Next up for Pathfinder: Skills and Feats (Chapters 4-5), which I will probably tackle separately.
I’ve officially been at this for a month, having started Gaming Ballistic on Dec 26, 2012.
Well, I’ve found it’s not too hard to keep up a pretty steady stream of posts. My wife is less than completely pleased with this.
On the other hand, it would seem that over 450 people have checked this out at least once, and while Blogger reads high for various reasons, it reports about 4500 page views in that time, so I’m probably hitting about 100-150 real views per day. Cool!
More importantly, 170+ comments, which honestly is where the real fun is – the interaction.
No one seems to really use the check-boxes at the bottom of each post, so that’s not a good tool for judging the interest level of particular posts.
The most useful kind of post, to me, seems to be the read-throughs. I’m slogging my way through Pathfinder (slogging because it’s over 500 pages long, and very technical), but I have plans to also review the new FATE Core, as well as GURPS Monster Hunters and Action, which is probably the most under-appreciated two-volume e23 release in GURPSdom.
The post I did on Technical Grappling was well received, so once the Big Damn Ogre is out of the way and we start really seeing GURPS releases again, perhaps it’ll even sell a few copies.
But, it’s fun, and I’m going to keep doing it. So . . . successful first month!
Continuing the play report for the Skull and Shackles game, as always GM’d by +Jeromy French , with +Matt Sutton (Malgrim) , +kung fu hillbilly (Alejandro) , +Joshua Taylor (Gimbal) as my (Pel) more-or-less trusty allies. Hey, we’re pirates, trust is a guideline, not a rule.
Play started with us waking up to find one of our new crewmembers missing from the ship, but clearly bad things had happened. There was evidence – messy evidence – that a Sahuagin had climbed aboard and munched off with him. Boo!
Not likely going to find him, we went marauding.
Naturally, before we found prey, prey found us. Six sahuagin (bipedal piranha beasts) came aboard, and the four of us plus Malgrim’s pseudo-dragon creature (Matt’s character).
Initiative was ours! My first shot was a sneak attack, single shot on the farthest enemy from us . . . which was a rousing success. A good hit, and 15 HP later, one went splash. Malgrim cast Enlarge Person on himself, stepped up and nailed another with his masterwork greataxe. He did even better than I did, for 16 HP. Thunk and dead. A sleep spell, a +1 rapier thrust for 6 HP, and then they got to go. Miss, attack on the dragon-familiar (hit, 6 HP), shoot at me with crossbow (miss), and claw/bite at Gimbal (miss).
To borrow a line from 300: “A good start.”
Next round, I tried two shots at +4, with one missing totally, the other barely missing vs. the AC 16. No luck. Malgrim beheads one, another claws him for a minor wound. One claws at Gimbal to small effect. Then Alejandro whiffed a stab with both rapier and dagger. Gimbal, our resident bomb-throwing alchemist, quaffs a couple potions – anything labelled “Mutagen” can’t be good, and yet it is – chucked a bomb at his foe after a quick step backwards. 6 HP and his foe is on fire. At least it’s not the ship.
I pivoted my fire to Alejandro’s target, hoping that I could kill him and then Alejandro can do his Bardsong thing. Two shots, two hits, total of 7HP. Decent, not great. Malgrim wastes another with a mighty axe blow. The key here seems to be allowing Malgrim to cast his enlarge person spell and stepping out of the way. The rest flee at this point, grab hold of sharks, and skedaddle. Well, they are IQ 14 – and they were going to be short-lived.
Only real loot was a coral and somethingorother heavy crossbow.
Gimbal, our resident evil-aligned character, gets out some Pathfinder Pliers of Dentistry, and decides to make a tooth necklace out of the fallen foes. He then gifts me with some naga poison and giant wasp poison, for future arrow-envenoming.
We then go looking for trouble, and find an oared fishing boat. Not worthy of our attention in a violent way, we try and engage the dwarven leader Vesgal Falkirk. Or something like that. We chat for a bit, and once again we crit-fail the Diplomacy roll. Sigh. We do know that they’re from Bloodcove, a pirate-neutral village/town to the south. Though it’s neutral ground for piracy, it’s strongly influenced by the Aspis Consortium . . . a group of magic-wielders who groove on artifacts. Powerful, and opposed to the Pathfinder Society. We’ll have to deal with them at some point.
We look for a ship to attack, and find one. We sick the seadragon on the other ship’s rudder, so now they can’t turn. We maneuver up so they can’t hit is with their own catapults, and then to the tune of a lively pair of bard songs, we pepper the foe with one successful catapult shot, and a bunch of really ineffective ballista fire; I manage to crit-fail a roll and jam up one of the ballista, but we do fire through one of the windows, hitting someone.
We whittle away at the crew with arrow fire, spellcasting to put a few more to sleep, and seadragon harassment, then grapple to board. The captain (female half-elf) and mate (male human) come out, weapons drawn, and Malgrim does enlarge person again, and goes for Intimidate. He doesn’t crit this time. She is cowed, and gives in fairly readily. The ship is loaded with manufactured goods – tools, furniture, and the like. We transfer their one catapult to our own vessel (making three total), and inspect and take the choice bits from the other crew’s stuff. We also don’t have enough crew to actually make off with the ship itself, so that value, which can be tens of thousands of gold, is left behind.
We keep the rest of the crew alive, and go our way. Jeromy will be emailing us the rest of the treasure and loot offline.
And that was the game.
Let’s see. This was a pretty good game, but the system definitely has some quirks to it. For one, we seem to always follow a bit of the same pathway. A bit of chatting amongst the characters, usually to re-establish momentum from a previous session. Then some NPC interaction, perhaps, and then, the “pseudo-wandering-monster combat de jure.” After which, we move the plot forward, which may or may not also involve combat.
I’m starting to get a better feel for Pel, but I still chafe a bit at the level of detail and tactical choices we get at this point in our character development.
Examples: Pel hid in the rigging in one of the battles, and so got to use his sneak attack. The rule seems to be once you attack, you’re exposed. So despite our foes being widely separated and me rolling very well for Stealth, one I shoot, my sneak-attacking days are done. So I was able to do a very respectable 15 points of damage in one shot, but after that, back to 1d6 each. I can’t do careful aim to target vulnerable spots like I can in GURPS (at least, not yet . . . perhaps there’s a later Feat). The tactical variability of how you smack down your foes also seems fairly low, but again, we’re playing 4th level characters at the moment, so perhaps “Hit Him With My Mace” is all that we should expect.
Also, I’ve got Rapid Shot, which is two attacks at -2. For any hit value for me down to something where I’m rolling 1d20+6 vs. AC 24 (so a 15% chance to hit), it is always better to take two shots. it’s not really a trade of many mediocre shots vs. one good one. It’s Just Better.
I rearranged Pel’s skill ranks in accordance with the “no more skill ranks in a skill than you have Hit Dice,” which I missed the first time through; this actually was more fun, since it gave me more things I was good at, which was satisfying. Next level I will likely become eligible for a Prestige Class for an open-water pirate. We shall see if I want to go down that route or not!
I also definitely need a better bow. So-so would be adding my STR bonus (a meager +1) for each shot. Better would be something, if it exists, that allows me adding either my BAB or DEX bonus – or both! If those aren’t real things, then if there’re magical bows that deliver proper smackdown, I’ll have to go searching for one.
One last point: the ability to go to the Pathfinder Wiki and various other online resources to look things up, whether it’s creature stats or the gp value of a ship, is huge.
In my last play report on +Jeromy French ‘s Pathfinder campaign, I made a drive-by reference to the effect that it would be pretty cool to see support for Golarion with Dungeon Fantasy. I noted that it was unlikely for “what are presumably a whole host of reasons.”
I was surprised to see someone bring this up on the SJG Forums. Mostly because I’m still intensely gratified people actually read this blog.
Still, as I said on the forums, I’m only going to deal with this in a general way.
Here was the advice I got in my McKinsey min-MBA training way back when when it came to Joint Ventures: “Don’t.”
It’s the business equivalent of a spiked pit trap.
They tend not to work, by and large. And for every one that does, there a many, many more that fail. Some utterly, some just don’t meet the needs of one or more partners.
Let’s say I were to start publishing Doug’s Improvisational Simulationist System (“DISS”) as a new, awesome, groundbreaking attempt at a roleplaying experience. Now, I’ve got a good rule set, a niche I’m trying to fill. But I also have my way of doing things, not just because my name is on the cover, but the feel of a system, the way it’s written and presented, from style to trade dress, is key to my success and ability to eat, live, and continue to publish more cool stuff.
Let’s say I want to contact Pizza, the 800-lb gorilla of the game industry, because I think DISS and their immensely popular gameworld might go well together. Gotta be win-win, right? I bring them money for their world (call it Gorilla), and people who like Gorilla can play with DISS!
Well, first, how do I approach this? I could try and hook up with someone creative over at Pizza, and we could try and set up some sort of true joint venture, where we combine resources to make a new sub-company (Pizza-Hampton Publishing?) that would write, publish, and distribute this new product. Gorilla with the DISS rules! Their (um) Trailblazer system isn’t required!
OK. We have an upstart (me), working with an established brand (them). I have Very Definite Ideas on how things should be done. It’s my DISS system! Yeah, but it’s their property, and they be bigger than me. So any issues in how things are to be approached – what are probably referred to in Hollywood press released explaining why some ex-Director is in surgery for a broken nose after being escorted off the set of a theoretical-Blockbuster movie as ‘creative differences’ – will need to be resolved. Unless I’m particularly ego-less, this won’t go well for me. Even if I am a leaf on the wind, it may still end the same way. [If you haven’t seen Serenity but might one day, do not click this link. I mean it. By the power of Captain Tightpants, I command you to Stop.]
OK, so a “true” joint venture might not be ideal. So perhaps I like the world so much I want to try and licence it. Hrm. Why would they do that? Well, to make money, of course. For every player that does DISS but not Trailblazer, or DISS and Trailblazer, they might get a bit more cash.
Great. But how do they get that cash? Money up front? DISS is good, but not huge. It’s not their system or anything like it. So I might not have enough money for any up-front payment they might like to receive. Sure, they might take a chunk of my profit every time I sell a Gorilla-based DISS product, but would it be worth the administrative hassle for what might be like nine sales?
Also, what happens if I take Gorilla in a direction Pizza doesn’t like? Is it worth risking the damage to the brand?
Why would they take valuable resources and siphon them off to anther company or project that will probably make them less money if they do something with those resources that directly supports their own game?
Finally, how viable is the partnership/licence anyway? Will they really add to their business, and me to the DISS base, by this? Or will it really be that the number of DISS players will be constant, and only a small fraction will also play in Gorilla? Are there really enough additional potential sales of Gorilla-based stuff that it will be interesting to Pizza? Will they want to review whatever publications I make? Will they ever recoup the opportunity cost of the editing/review resources?
So, for a bunch of reasons, this is going to be a tough sell, even neglecting more proprietary possibilities like “if you’re going to play Gorilla, play it with Trailblazer.”
The opposite can also be true! If DISS is based in a default world of Hamptonia . . . then I might not want to drive to a Gorilla-based campaign, since it will consume sales from my own world.
Anyway, that’s the kind of thing that I think of when I think of this sort of venture. Any of these might make one of the two parties nervous about even starting up a conversation.
After all, the first rule of Joint Ventures is still “Don’t.”
Final note: David Pulver (thanks for reading!) points out in this post that SJG does, in fact, have a long history of trying out licences. So it’s not unheard of or impossible.
Sometimes it goes right, and sometimes it doesn’t.
So, let’s talk about another show that started out one of my favorites, and then . . . faded.
The re-imagined Battlestar Galactica.
First, a few words about GURPS BSG. There was a short thread on it in the SJG Forums, but I’ll ignore it for a moment.
I think that as a setting, BSG makes excellent roleplaying fodder. Especially since I think the series could have gone in a couple, maybe better directions. Such jumping-off points make for nice campaigns.
It’s mostly TL8 or TL9, but with some real excursions into superscience for plot purposes. It’s got nearly infinitely scalable engines (from the Viper to the Galactica – they all run on the same fuel), artificial gravity, and jump drive. The Colonial economy was able to support very large starships on a scale of fleets.
The tech is a blend of the familiar and the awesome. They use nukes, but they’re believably limited in power as space weapons. The need for swarms of fighters is a stretch – it always is – but it’s presented as a “just accept it” part of the genre that works (for me).
The awesome part of this as a RPG campaign is that it thrusts the PCs into any imaginable encounter in a believable way. You’re planet-hopping, so nearly anything is possible. You need to periodically refuel, there’s a bad guy who is entirely likely to show up every episode, and can also show up as a surprise since the new cylon models can blend in with people. You can have mining, special ops, fighter pilots, politics, and interpersonal stuff, up to and including trading, crime, and romance.
GURPS? Well, GURPS can handle the PC stuff no problem. You can just mostly crib TL8 weaponry – and a lot of High Tech’s TL8 weaponry outclasses Ultra Tech’s stuff . . . but you’ll want the TL9 ammo types to scrap toasters with. For the ships, you can just pick up GURPS Spaceships and wing it and if you want tactical combat, you can grab Spaceships 4 which has some mods for cinematic fighter combat.
Honestly, that ought to do it.
But . . . what about the Awesome?
Well, it started great. The miniseries was wonderful, I think, and the first regular episode, 33, is one of the finest hours of television in the genre. All of Season 1 is very strong. After all, “. . . and they have a plan!” is the tagline.
Season 2 was also strong, but soon after, it very much seemed that while the Cylons had a plan, the writers did not. They tried to be pretty political with “ripped from the headlines” stuff with suicide bombers on New Caprica, and that entire plotline could have been handled better, I think. The show lost its way in a fashion that Babylon 5 did not.
It didn’t hurt that J. Michael Straczynski had all five seasons plotted out in advance, more or less. Despite jamming the fourth and fifth seasons into what became the fourth, the fifth was strong enough to stand up, though not stand out. But the entire show had the right pattern to it.
BSG seemed to have that for the first two seasons, or maybe the first and the first half of the second. But then the show seemed to lose its grasp of itself, losing it’s theme.
I’m not hating on the show. I liked it, and the first few seasons were very strong . . . but when the Cylons seemed to, well, not ‘have a plan,’ it foundered. My expectations were not met, since both the humans and cylons seemed to be making it up as they went along. Whatever the Cylon’s grand plan might have been, I never got a sense that the cylons or the writers knew what it was.
Destroy the humans and enslave them? OK. Fine. They WON. Why was Galactica (and later Pegasus) so freakin’ important? Let ’em go. Set up a Colonial perimeter and let them come to you, where you can toaster-pile them instead of trying to hit ’em one Basestar (or two, if you’re going against the Pegasus) at a time.
Anyway, I think that somewhere in Season 1 or 2 would make a great jumping-off point for an RPG campaign, but a prospective GM would be wise to ensure that his Cylons actually have an overall plan. The bad guys would not be bad guys in their own minds – and in fairness, they weren’t in the show, either – and should have a clear objective (or set of objectives) that they are trying to achieve.
OR . . . if they don’t, one must understand why. Did they get wind that Galactica is looking for the lost Colony of Earth? Does that fire the imagination? Why? Why chase them across the light-years.
I don’t know if that was ever clear to me – perhaps there’s more information out there than what I picked up from the show. But one thing I did understand: the primary driving force of the Telepaths, the Shadows, the Vorlons, and the Centauri were all clear to me.
Not so much. That made it hard to get swept up in the arc, even if some individual shows were quite good.
For a while I had my posts scheduled for a 1am release on any given day. I tend to write ahead by 2-4 days when I can, so that I can put something out there every day or two.
On the 18th, I experimented with posting at 6-8am . . . and had something like 100 views in about an hour!
For the bloggers out there: what’s the right posting frequency? Every day? Every other day?
What time to post gets you the most interest?
What kind of posts make people flock to your site? Rules nuggets? Play reports? Reviews?
I’d think that having one solid post every few days would ensure that so much doesn’t happen that people miss things . . . but Google Analytics tells me that, perhaps unsurprisingly, my “best day” since GA started tracking was January 10, with over 100 unique visitors that day. I posted three times: Forthcoming part 2, Serve up the Fun, and Travel in Gaming part 2.