GURPS has been poked at – with some level of truth – for not having a lot of adventure support.

Well, someone went and made one – an adventure for 250-point dungeon fantasy characters.

You can find a PDF file here, or a Wiki page here. The maps for Level 4 and deeper seem to be missing at the moment (about noon on March 3), but I’ll poke the author and see what’s forthcoming.

Kudos for making this, and making it available – on GURPSDay nonetheless!

Tonight we played in another session of Castle of Horrors. We set up a proper fire lane against some four-armed seige beasts, and more or less made as short work of the as one would expect with that many guns trained on flesh-and-blood 12-foot-tall humanoids. Which is to say: very short.

We can’t stand toe-to-toe with just about anyone, but give us some time and a bit of distance, and our motley collection of .308 rifles and 12G shotguns will do the trick on flesh-and-blood creatures. Turns out, they bled gold when killed.

I have never in my life seen a better rationale for murder-hobo-slaying for profit. Both our silver and our gold treasure turned out to be the death-blood of enchanted animated (?) creatures.

We recovered the statue of a crow that was calling to Jaime or Raleigh (I can’t recall), and circled the castle. We surmised – it turns out correctly – that the statue was a key that would open the portal to take us home.

We were right.

We ‘ported back and sold our precious metals for about $1100 each, I think. We kept some of the other things – like the old armor – we’d found, scouring off the rust and patching what holes existed. That turned into a Good suit of DR 8 plate that fit Raleigh. So yay.

Neil (me) grabbed his kevlar (DR 5, DR 10 vs bullets) vest and DR 25 trauma plates (vs. everything) that cover his chest. So now he’s DR 30 on his chest vs most things, DR 35 vs pi damage, but only DR 5 on his abdomen, and nothing anywhere else.

We started to fix the “anything else,” too. Mark allows us to get anything that we can find on the web, at the price listed. I express-ordered a Class IIIA ballistic helmet ($700) and integrated hearing protection and tactical communicator ($1300). That’s enough to protect against .44M rounds – 15.6 grams at 436m/s.

I also bought a fine katana (because I knew where to get one online that was ‘good enough’ quality) and a hatchet, for a bit of melee ability.

Then we decided to go hunt gargoyles.

We set up a trap, triggered it . . . and now have at least four gargoyles chasing Ryan (Emily’s character) down the hallway as we shoot at them. We formed a firing line and created a “funnel of death” for our ambush.

But they’re unliving and homogenous. pi- only do 1/10 damage, pi is 1/5, pi+ is 1/3, and pi++ is 1/2.

My rifle? 7.62x51mm SCAR 17S. So 7d penetration turn into about 1d+1 injury pretty fast, and these guys seem to have plenty of DR and HP.

We didn’t think this through the entire way. Our goal was to trap, isolate, and kill one of the gargoyles, and whittle them down one at a time. That’s still our goal, and we’ll see how our Endor-trap works.

Gargoyle Hunting: Not got-d**m big enough!

We have the right idea, but probably the wrong firearms. My .308 only will deliver about 1d+1 injury per hit, assuming DR 0 (which is a bad assumption from the get-go). So only a few points of damage per shot.

Contrast with other weapons:

A Ruger Super Redhawk in .454 Casull does 5d-1 pi+. That’s about 16 points of penetration, which will translate into 5 points of injury. That’s on par with my 7.62, so I’d still take the rifle.

The shotguns fare better. Full-bore slugs are nasty, and sabot slugs even nastier, and both are pi++. The rules say multiply shotgun damage by four, for 4d+4 each, which means 2d+2 injury depending on what gets past DR. that’s 11 points per shot, nearly doubling the rate of destruction. The Kel Tek KSG (which one of our characters carries) would be a good choice here. Sabot slugs are frequently about 12.7mm (pi+), and can hit very hard. The Remington 3″ copper slug – hollow-point no less! – should clock in at about 4d+2 pi++. So 16 points of penetration should then do 8 points of injury, again assuming that DR doesn’t drop it too much.

Unless you’re shooting actual slugs, you need to hit .60 caliber (15mm) before you eke out the real hurt.

An H&H Royal Double would do it. that’d 5dx2 pi ++, or 35 points of penetration, and 17 points of injury. That’s very nice if you have the $10K to spare. And you get two shots and probably a bruised shoulder.

The .50 Beowulf seems like it might be interesting but it works out to 5d or so pi+. That’s not terrible, but the shotgun is better, and the KSG has quite a few in the tubes.

The next step up has to be the .50 BMG. There are some quite portable bullpup .50 caliber rifles, such as the Desert Tech HTI. This bullpup, magazine-fed 12.7x108mm (.50 BMG) “only” weighs 20 lbs (unloaded) and has a 29″ barrel, which will hit for 12d pi+. That will strike for 4d injury, or about 14 points per shot. That’s the best yet, even better than with slugs, and with more raw energy in the round so as to better handle DR.

What about stone? Well, you can order armor piercing .50 BMG for those pesky gargoyle problems. At only $4 per shot.

The rifle itself isn’t cheap – it’s about $5,100. Ironically, for this particular mission, the usual Leopold or Schmidt and Bender optics can probably be ignored in favor of a high quality reflex sight. So for about $6,000 you can nab the rifle, an optic, and a few magazines of ammo (which won’t be light).

Parting Shot

That’s serious anti-gargoyle hardware. And since you don’t want to miss, you’ll want two people toting them, so you can aim/fire or fire/aim and hit hard once per second. Against flying targets that can dodge, you’ll want that.

But it is five inches longer (and 10-12 lbs heavier) than an M16 (though only an inch longer and 8 lbs heavier than an M14 . . . well, probably more like 10-12 lbs heavier with 10 rounds of .50 embarked).

But really, we knew we were going after up to eight nasty creatures with stone for skin that tended to shrug off bullets. Our “Let’s lure out a gargoyle and take them down one at a time” may still be a good plan. But they’re hard targets, and we’re not as well kitted out against these guys as we could be.

We shall see . . . next week!

We got in our first game of Castle of Horrors, a GURPS mash-up with modern day characters that get transported to a Dungeon Fantasy world. 

There are lots of house rules and altered point costs and stuff. I won’t go into that now – you can probably read all about them on +Mark Langsdorf‘s blog. The rules were arrived at more or less by consensus, in that Mark posted them, gave us time to offer objections or changes, and then locked ’em in. 

We were old friends from college, meeting on a big ranch in eastern Texas for a hunting weekend. In 2012, there was a Shadowrun-esque genetic expression event, so some of our party are non-humans/demi-humans. One troll-like creature, one dwarf, an Orc, I think. 

We started in the famous “you wake up from a night’s sleep” ploy (usually associated with bait-and-switch, but in this case, we were all forewarned, so booyah), and found ourselves in between a castle wall and its keep.

Initial exploration led us down a hallway, and it was spooky enough that all of us brought out weapons – especially after looking at what seemed to be bloodstained crossbow bolts embedded in a door. And the bolts were very organic-looking. Chitinous heads, some sort of bone-like or tube-like shaft, and freaking dragonfly wings for fletching. Looked grown,not made. So weapons out.

We were well provisioned, as one of the conceits of the campaign was that we were hunting deer, birds, and feral hogs, which are an agricultural pest. Ergo, some of us had fairly serious weaponry. My former Ranger, ex-Cop, current Private Investigator has a SCAR 17S, a Five-seveN pistol, with ammo. He’s also got a FN BAR .300 Win Mag somewhere – maybe “in camp,” but we were all in camp. So I might have it with me. He’s got a bunch of other stuff – like armor and trauma plates – in his car and trailer back at the ranch owner’s house. But not with him.

Anyway, we explore, we get shot at by a four-armed giant dude (!) with a crossbow. which strikes one of our NPCs in the chest, bringing him from 15 down to -13 HP in one shot. Roll for mortal wound, etc. We drag him out and close the door, and are not pursued.

Raleigh, who has always professed magic is real, mutters something in latin and removes the arrow and completely heals her boyfriend. Yowzers. We freak out even more. Well, except for Yousef ( +Nathan Joy ) and Neil (me), who are both ex military and were watching the line of approach of potential 4-armed bad guys. 

We collect ourselves, and as we try and leave. the statuary (four dragons) starts waking up. One tries to breathe fire on Ryan (our troll, played by +Emily Smirle ), who tries to step in and melee parry the jet (which means pushing the face in a different direction). That doesn’t work: he’s burned for 1 point of damage, but has DR 5 so mostly ignores it. 

We fight, and these SM -4 critters are easily slain at close range (just a few HP each) by our weapons. My first shot was 31 HP of damage with three single shots (one hit) with no time to Aim from my SCAR. Yousef pasted one as well, as did a shotgunner with a 3″ 12-gauge buckshot load. One of us got his face a bit flambe’d, but only minor damage and sartorial embarrassment. So we ran for the outer courtyard.

We huddled up, and decided to explore the outer area. We saw, through a gateway which featured a crane that had hoisted up a functional portcullis, a bunch of . . . well . . . gremlins? Yodas? Goblins? Hrm. Goblins. 

Ryan, being a friendly, non-shooty troll, waves. Neil, being less friendly, takes careful aim.

They wave back. Yousef, whose job in the army was as a translator and liaison type (maybe Special Forces?), muttered about not wanting to do this crap again which is why he got out, etc., and goes in to play diplomat. He does not manage to start a fight. We manage to not ruin his perfectly good liaising. We, however, look into a window and see a cool silver statue of a raven (Crow! Crow, dammit!) on an altar inside an obvious chapel . . . which seemed to be all blocked off as if to ward of a horde of zombies.

The hits just keep on coming.

Anyway, we decide to venture back in, and note that the dragon statues blood looked like actual silver. It was. Maybe a few pounds of the stuff, which was probably worth about $500. 

We decide to explore, just a little. We take down a door, encased in brass or bronze, by removing it off its hinges, and prop that against the entry beyond which was the four-armed creatures. We go down south again, and find a statue upon which is a suit of full-on plate armor. DR8, cheap, reinforced vitals, weak back and limbs, weighs about 55 lbs total . . . and only fits Raleigh. We suit her up (she’s got ST 11, Lifting ST 12, and HP 13 . . . so no wilting flower is she). 

As we all head back to the main room, which we called “the octagon,” (on account of its being shaped like . . . well, you know), the gargoyle statues in each vertex (eight of ’em!) start to writhe and wake up, as did the dragon statues in the prior room.

We end there . . . but it’s on. 


I’ll keep updating this with edits from the other players as they make them. I did not try and capture every detail, and I was having too much fun to capture screen shots.

Mark did a GM-view post on our first session as well, and it’s worth reading. He also links to the CoH Wiki as well as a list of house rules. especially his new fright check rules, which worked very well.

This is the fourth issue that is devoted to Dungeon Fantasy. No surprise – it’s the most popular sub-line, having spawned at least 16 or 17 books, and of course, since it occupies the same turf as the most popular game today (D&D in all its flavors, be it D&D5, Pathfinder, or the various OSR or D&Derived versions).

This issue is quite eclectic in its coverage, and some of the articles are downright . . . well, somewhere between odd and squicky, but in an I have to put that in my game kind of way.

So, let’s delve in . . . but remember you’re descending from an upper level, where psychic freakin’ Jedi can be found . . . or slighty below that, where books and mighty spells can’t be found. Nope. Nothing to see there. Though you’re going to want to lose your lunch after spending time in the horrid living room of your bad guy. But don’t worry, you can always punch him in the gut with a magically-enhanced fist of death.

But what’s this we see here? Awww . . . it’s so cute. A tiny, fluffy little bunny. I’m sure it’s cuddly and oh my glob, it’s attacking me! The pain, the pain! Aaaaaahh!

Dire and Terrible Monsters ( +Peter V. Dell’Orto and +Douglas Cole )

Of course, I co-wrote this one, so you can take my review with a grain of salt. That being said, I noted in a previous post that this article was more fun than any other of mine to write thus far. Peter wrote about it as well.

This article presents a couple new prefixes, a staple of DF monster-making, which turn regular monsters or other creatures into something else Angry monsters, Enraged, etc. The article presents two prefixes – Dire and Terrible – that take an ordinary creature and make it larger and more ferocious (Dire) and surprisingly lethal (Terrible). The text and sample monsters are presented in an over-the-top, humorous fashion, but the prefixes themselves are not inheretly silly.

Style, Writing, Execution [-2 to 2 points]: Peter and I had a great time writing this, and it shows. Others that read this one loved it; even my wife, who doesn’t always read my stuff, read it end-to-end and loved it. 2 points.

Background, Inspiration, Epiphany [0 to 4 points]: The premise here is good – and can be applied to any and all monster creation to amp up any critters you need. 3 points.

Drop-in Gaming Utility [0 to 4 points]: You can use the prefixes for any DF game to give your players a challenge, or a quick, surprise, nasty fight. Applied to (say) a werewolf or mundane animal, a new challenge can be made of an old threat. 4 points.

Overall: 9/10.  A good premise, easily extendable, and a fun read. 

Would I use it? Yes. Obviously. I’m biased, of course; I wrote it, and Peter’s one of my favorite authors, as well as an outstanding collaborator. 

Biases Aside: An alternate scoring if you’re approaching the article as not-me.

Build it Yourself: Even though there are sample creatures, there’s some work to be done, especially on the Terrible creatures, to make them useful. That would take it down to a 3.

Your Humor is Lost on Me: Some may object to the tone and flavor of the article – silly creatures like the Terrible Terrier might not be the right tone for some. That doesn’t lower the mechanical utility of the article, though. Writing score would drop to 0-1.

Background for DF?: I knocked it down a point because it’s light on why, and jumps to how. But if you just don’t care, then what you can do with more prefixes is simply pure fun. 

Upper-Lower bound Rating: The worst this one will rate is about 6, and the upper bound is the only perfect 10 I’ve given. It’s the same score as Pointless Slaying and Looting, which is probably my favorite GURPS article to date, bar none. On that scale, I’d say that this one is closer to 8-8.5 . . . or pointless slaying is better than I gave it credit for (probably true).

This is the fourth issue that is devoted to Dungeon Fantasy. No surprise – it’s the most popular sub-line, having spawned at least 16 or 17 books, and of course, since it occupies the same turf as the most popular game today (D&D in all its flavors, be it D&D5, Pathfinder, or the various OSR or D&Derived versions).

This issue is quite eclectic in its coverage, and some of the articles are downright . . . well, somewhere between odd and squicky, but in an I have to put that in my game kind of way.

So, let’s delve in . . . but remember you’re descending from an upper level, where psychic freakin’ Jedi can be found . . . or slighty below that, where books and mighty spells can’t be found. Nope. Nothing to see there. Though you’re going to want to lose your lunch after spending time in the horrid living room of your bad guy.

But what’s this we see here? A small, harmless-looking guy in a robe? The rube has no business in a dungeon. Or does he?

The Magic Touch (+Matt Riggsby)

This short article presents a set of magic items tuned to the martial artist archetype. Martial Artists usually eschew weapons and armor, and so much of the common loot one finds is inappropriate for them. This article tries to help balance the scales – but many of the items are not unvarnished benefits to the user!

Style, Writing, Execution [-2 to 2 points]: The writing is casual and approachable, with game mechanics present, but woven into text. 0.5 points.

Background, Inspiration, Epiphany [0 to 4 points]: The basic concept is sound – give Martial Artists more stuff to play with. And each one, mostly, requires some sort of sacrifice to the user, which is very in the spirit of “discipline for power” that is the core of the martial arts philosophy. It makes you want to create more of these, which is good. 3 points.

Drop-in Gaming Utility [0 to 4 points]: These are easy drop-ins to any game where magic items and and martal artists can be found. The “bite” that makes some of these items less than an unvarnished good might detract for a few of them, but there’s always the Concussion Amulet. 3.5 points.

Overall: 7/10.  A short utility article that delivers on its premise – cool stuff for martial artists – with no wasted motion. 

Would I use it? Yes. Maybe not all at once, but the overall lesson here is solid: provide cool stuff for each player’s character.

Biases Aside: An alternate scoring if you’re approaching the article as not-me.

It’s Just A List: Of course, that’s the entire point. Ready-made items. But if you don’t like the gear-catalog flavor, then drop-in utility will be degraded for you. I’d not go lower than 2, though – because it’s the very definition of drop-in.

Exposition, not Mechanics: You might get more satisfaction on the presentation than I did, enough to boost the Writing score to 1.0 or 1.5.

Upper-Lower bound Rating: This one’s pretty tight. It’s a solid 6-8 any way you look at it. It’s not long enough that anyone could say “this was a waste of time,” and it has high-level lessons to be extracted. Plus, ready-worked examples save the GM time and inspire other creations. 

This is the fourth issue that is devoted to Dungeon Fantasy. No surprise – it’s the most popular sub-line, having spawned at least 16 or 17 books, and of course, since it occupies the same turf as the most popular game today (D&D in all its flavors, be it D&D5, Pathfinder, or the various OSR or D&Derived versions).

This issue is quite eclectic in its coverage, and some of the articles are downright . . . well, somewhere between odd and squicky, but in a *I have to put that in my game* kind of way.

So, let’s delve in . . . but remember you’re descending from an upper level, where psychic freakin’ Jedi can be found . . . or slighty below that, where books and mighty spells can’t be found. Nope. Nothing to see there.

But what’s this we see here? And why does the floor . . . move?

Eidetic Memory – Living Rooms (+David Pulver )
In this installment of Eidetic Memory, David pulls out all the stops in making delving as awful, gross, and cringe-inducingly squicky as possible. And I mean this in the best possible way. The article covers some of the history of having part of your dungeon be actually alive, as well as what various viscera and giblets can be found within. Living rooms (a phrase I will simply never hear correctly again) as traps, as rooms, as diversions . . . and monsters. It’s all here. Including making chili out of the dungeon floor. I mean, yuck.

Style, Writing, Execution [-2 to 2 points]: I have to admit it, despite repeatedly cringing at the text, I couldn’t stop reading. I mean, ewwwww. But it really drew me in. Now I have to bathe. 2 points.

Background, Inspiration, Epiphany [0 to 4 points]: The article is strongest in this category. Between the history of living rooms, lots of ideas to make them either gross or spectacularly gross, stats as a monster, or advice on using them as traps, you’re covered. 4 points.

Drop-in Gaming Utility [0 to 4 points]: You can always populate a room with this stuff, but you may need to design a special location to properly host it. There’s lots of generic advice, and a few drop-in statblocks, but again, this is a how-to guide, not a “do this immediately” style of article. 2 points.

Overall: 8/10. Very, very strong offering from David this round. It’s simultaneously disgusting and useful.

Would I use it? Yes. I might need to wash thoroughly after planning an adventure with this advice, or maybe not eat for a day or three. But overall, this is great fodder for a DF alternate mission, as well as any horror adventure.

Biases Aside: An alternate scoring if you’re approaching the article as not-me.

I don’t have much to say here. Drop-in utility could be lower if you don’t like the overall concept. Higher if you want to do this as a level of your existing megadungeon. Likewise, I think that at worst you’re in the 3 zone for Inspiration because of the cross-over possibilities for horror and maybe even sci-fi.

Upper-Lower bound Rating: If you stop reading because you’re grossed out, well, I guess that’s a tough one. So if you despise the concept and aren’t willing to read through, you could wind up with as low as a 4. If you have an existing megadungeon you can drop this into, its probably as high as a 3, which makes the range 4-9, but probably clustering in the 7-8 range.

But I still need to get some mental floss and clean up.

This is the fourth issue that is devoted to Dungeon Fantasy. No surprise – it’s the most popular sub-line, having spawned at least 16 or 17 books, and of course, since it occupies the same turf as the most popular game today (D&D in all its flavors, be it D&D5, Pathfinder, or the various OSR or D&Derived versions).

This issue is quite eclectic in its coverage, and some of the articles are downright . . . well, somewhere between odd and squicky, but in a *I have to put that in my game* kind of way.

So, let’s delve in . . . but remember you’re descending from an upper level, where psychic freakin’ Jedi can be found.

Hidden Knowledge (+Christopher R. Rice)

Christopher Rice offers up a new take on spells. Not just spells, but secret spells. With cool names. Known for his fondness for Ritual Path Magic, this article nonetheless covers conventional magic, of the type used in bog-standard DF. Of course, the article does touch on RPM, as well as spellbooks, with sections on Secret Spells, Secret Magic, and Knowing Your Letters (grimoires and spellboks).

Style, Writing, Execution [-2 to 2 points]: This article is quite dense, but very readable. It’s mostly SJG-official format, since the bulk of it is a list of spells, powers or abilities, or bullet-point lists of choices for the GM to create a secret magic portfolio that works for them. Of particularly high cool-factor is one of Christopher’s nearly-trademark tables, in this case a full-page box of descriptors (prefixes and suffixes) to make otherwise bland spells pop. 0.5 points.

Background, Inspiration, Epiphany [0 to 4 points]:  This article has the same utility as a book of power-ups, which it basically is. It provides enhancements to spells that make them both better as well as allowing that ability to be secret. I think people will like the ability to give their fighters and foes some surprise mojo. The power-ups for spellbooks make a mouldy old book even more desirable. 2.5 points.

Drop-in Gaming Utility [0 to 4 points]:  So long as your game has magic in it, you can even drop this stuff into an existing campaign. After all, it’s secret magic, not “gee, everyone can just go to and look it up.” 4 points.

Overall: 7/10. If you like magic and want to introduce some cool power-ups, Christopher has you covered.

Would I use it? Yes. I think it’s best used sparingly, and probably not during character creation. But as a Macguffin to reward spell-casting magic users, or as a “I did not know the bad guy could do that!” surprise, I think it has great potential.

Biases Aside: An alternate scoring if you’re approaching the article as not-me.

Rules are Inspiration: If is all it takes for your mind to start racing and your heart to go pitter-patter is the right set of mechanics, this article provides many sparks to get the fire burning. This would boost inspiration and background to a pretty high number, boosting the rating to 8.5/10.

Rules are Boring: If you don’t care for this approach, then this is a dry, technical presentation (-1 to writing, like I gave my own TG), with only moderate background (but still no lower than 2; this is good stuff for secret magic). That would bring it down to a still-solid 5/10.

I Hate Magic: Obviously if you’re not into extra-powerful and secret magic, or magic at all, this will have little drop-in utility.

Upper-Lower bound Rating: Depending on your preferences, this article will range from about 5-8.5; if you have no use for magic, well, this one is obviously not for you.

This is the fourth issue that is devoted to Dungeon Fantasy.
No surprise – it’s the most popular sub-line, having spawned at least 16 or 17
books, and of course, since it occupies the same turf as the most popular game
today (D&D in all its flavors, be it D&D5, Pathfinder, or the various
OSR or D&Derived versions).
This issue is quite eclectic in its coverage, and some of
the articles are downright . . . well, somewhere between odd and squicky, but
in a *I have to put that in my game* kind of way.
So, let’s delve in.
Psychic Swords Against Elder Evil ( +Sean Punch  )
Summary: Sean reviews the history of psionics and mentalists
in DF3:The Next Level and DF14: Psi, and decides that what is needed is more
cowbell. In the form of psychic lightsabers. Which is, of course, true.  The natural enemy of the mentalist is the
Elder Thing, and this article adds the Psychic Slayer (and several variants) to
the Template list. These psis are of a more physical bent, and their weapon of
choice is the psychic sword.

Style, Writing, Execution [-2 to 2 points]: Sean’s always an
engaging writer, and this particular template – and there’s only one – is covered
in many different ways and facets. Still, and this is where my biases show, I
cannot read through a template word-for-word without my head psychically
exploding all over my movie room. 1 point.
Background, Inspiration, Epiphany [0 to 4 points]:  The template is cool and well executed, but
this one gets full marks because of how comprehensively the topic is covered.
Sure, you’ve got a full template. That’s expected. Only one? Hrm. But the
Customization notes, which span a full page (and in Pyramid, that’s a lot of
words), really hit home all the different flavors that you can scoop into your
sundae with this concept. Not content there, we get “Making the Psychic Slayer
Useful” as a C-HEAD, which serves a model to consider the utility of all
templates in DF (or Action or Monster Hunters, for that matter). 3 points.
Drop-in Gaming Utility [0 to 4 points]:  If you’re playing DF, this template is the
definition of drop-in. A template, some powers, a whole table of psychic swords
with alternate stats, psychic defenses, and a pointer to where psychic monsters
live in print, plus a bunch of new
stuff to fight and kill. 4 points.
Overall: 8/10. A ready-made template and copious advice on
how to use it. This one stands well on its own.
Would I use it? Yes. This is a fun template and a solid
alternative to other first-line fighters. Much like the Holy Warrior or Warrior
Saint, you can make a competent combatant that is simply indispensable against
monsters in his “must kill X” niche. The monsters section is useful regardless
of whether
Biases Aside: An alternate scoring if you’re approaching the
article as not-me.
Wall of Text Alert: I’m on record as finding the templates
very, very useful but also very, very hard to read in print. If you use GCA to
code these in as menu-driven choice lists, the overall article feels like it
might pick up a point (ish) each in both writing and inspiration. That would
make it a 9/10 . . . and I think given the strength of the monsters section and
the comprehensive coverage, it’s probably close to that.
Upper-Lower bound Rating: Overall, this one is probably 8-9
overall. It’s a neat concept, well and thoroughly executed. If your GM/Campaign
doesn’t have psychics or elder things, it’s probably still 5/10 because it’s
engaging and hits the “how do you think about a character archetype and its
utility in game” angle in a definitive way. If you love these things, it’s
probably 9/10. Maybe higher – this is more or less a psionic Jedi, so there you

While I’m sure I’ll follow my narcissistic tradition of doing a full-issue review of Pyramid #3/76 – Dungeon Fantasy IV, I did want to drop in and note that yes, I do have an article in it, which I co-wrote with +Peter V. Dell’Orto.

This isn’t a designer’s notes post, but I do want to talk a bit about how ridiculously fun it was to collaborate with Peter on this one.

I can’t remember where it started – I think it was a series of comments about a Dire Yorkie or something. But we started with a fart or crap joke, I think, and ran with it to terrible places. Probably during one of +Erik Tenkar‘s Swords and Wizardy games.

So maybe that was the origin of the Terrible power Not Cleaning That Up. Maybe it was something else. But poop jokes sound about the right level for a game that features +Tim Shorts, so I’m going with that.

Still, one thing led to another, and pretty soon we had an entire series of really awful jokes masquerading as powers and monsters.

And then +Steven Marsh asked for more. And boy did we have fun with that. The article was an odd size, and so we could either cut or add. He asked us to add, and so we did, and the Terrible Foliage and Terribly Dire Wolverine were born. More and better bad jokes were made. Plus references to both Into the Woods and Transformers, which is just win/win.

If you play Dungeon Fantasy, I think you’ll like this article. Seven ready-made monsters that will rock worlds. Plus, of course, the opportunity to go buy Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 1 and get more.

But ultimately, I hope you have a least as much fun reading it as I had helping to write it.

Over on Google+, +Benjamin Baugh was thinking about damage reduction in place of increased hit difficulty for D&D armor.

This obviously strikes a chord with this GURPS (and D&D) player, and I replied:

Even if you run screaming from the game, the implications of negated attacks and armor as damage reduction/resistance are fully fleshed out in GURPS. It assumes that an attack “good enough to hit” is only the first step, and there are two different opportunities to negate it – a defense roll and the “damage soak” provided by armor.

Lots of concepts implicit in the rules that you could choose to ignore or map to D&D mechanics.

In fact, I think I’m going to yoink this thread and see what I can make of it. :-)

Rather than write a post that says “do this,” I’m going to start with thinking about the kinds of things that might have to be true in order to map a GURPS-like combat sequence to D&D mechanics.

Why Bother?

Well, firstly, I obviously like the GURPS sequence of attack-defend-penetrate armor-resolve injury. I feel that it involves more player agency, since the defense roll also comes with a plethora of tactical options, including yielding ground, special parry types, damaging parries, and the ability to do a “riposte” that sacrifices the ability to defend this around for an extra increase to hit in a following round. 

So yeah: if you just like roll 1d20+bonus vs. your AC, by all means keep doing it. I do it five times a month and have a riotously good time, so this is in the nature of a thought experiment.

The Key Questions

GURPS asks different questions for resolving attacks than does D&D. They are, basically

1) Did you throw a blow good enough to hit a target, assuming he doesn’t do anything about it?

This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s not. If you’ve even been in martial arts training, you’ve either thrown, or seen thrown, kicks and punches that are terribly, awfully mistimed, or (more often) where the distance is just completely wrong. The defender could just stand there, and the attack would still miss. In fact, more advanced students will do exactly that, while beginners will attempt to defend anyway. 

In GURPS, the basic hit chances can start out pretty low, especially for Joe Normal. A punch would default to DX, while a weapon attack would probably default to something like DX-5, which is a crazy-low Skill-5 which you can see in one of my more widely-read Melee Academy posts is really, really awful. If you’re attacking another Joe Average, you’re probably looking at an All-Out Telegraphic attack. That would be an 83% chance to throw a blow worthy of landing (but your foe’s defenses will be 50% or higher in that situation). 

But I digress. The key is, the first question is “did you throw something worthy of hitting a doofus who’s basically just standing there?” It doesn’t take that many points in skill, plus the All-Out and Telegraphic options, to make the answer to this question “Yes, yes I did” often enough that you can presume it. 

Of course, you can’t defend if you do that.

2) OK, here comes a blow worthy of hitting. Does the foe defend, and how?

This one gives you three options. You may always try and dodge; and if terrain and your maneuver selection allows, you can also retreat for a big honkin’ bonus. If Joe Untrained can back the hell up, this one will start at about 62% chance of success, boosted to 83% if he’s receiving a Telegraphic Attack.

He can also parry, which is to use a weapon or unarmed technique to ward off the blow. This is based on combat skill, and the more skilled you are, the better your defenses. But it takes a +2 in your skill to give you a +1 to defend – it’s presumed to be harder than attacking.

Finally, if he’s got a shield, he can block. This is basically a parry with a shield, but it also works with arrows (which normal parries do not) and has some advantages when parrying weapons like flails. 

Dodge is based on your speed, equal to 3+(DX+HT)/4; Parry and Block are 3+Skill/2.

3) OK, you hit the guy. Was he wearing armor? If so, did you hit it hard enough to either penetrate it or deliver damage through it anyway?

Once you hit and your foe fails to defend, you roll damage . . . and if your target has no Damage Resistance, he takes HP of injury. If he does, you subtract the DR from the damage. This can nullify the attack, even if it hits.

4. You penetrated his armor. Is he dead yet?

This one’s pretty universal. Get down to 0 HP or lower, and Bad Things happen.

Good grief, get to the D&D part already!

Right. Now we start to play.

The D&D question set is smaller. It basically treats steps 2 and 3 as a single, passive score. If you overcome this score, you proceed to 4. Now, there are a few exceptions. You can Dodge in D&D, a whole-turn action that, well . . . the rules are now online. So:

DODGEWhen you take the Dodge action, you focus entirely on avoiding attacks. Until the start of your next turn, any attack roll made against you has disadvantage if you can see the attacker, and you make Dexterity saving throws with advantage. You lose this benefit if you are incapacitated (as explained in appendix A) or if your speed drops to 0.

With apologies to WotC, I’ve linked some commentary I made about Advantage and Disadvantage, a mechanic that keeps on giving. Really, it’s genius.

Still, what happens here is you roll your attack, and if you beat the Armor Class of your foe, you injure him – or if you’re bugged about injury in the face of short rests, you at least reduce his Hit Points.

A starting D&D character – who is probably NOT Joe Normal – swinging at a guy with average stats in mail armor (call it a chain shirt) will roll 1d20+2+his STR bonus, and that’s likely to be a +3 if you choose from the Basic Array and play a human. So 1d20+5 vs an AC 15 (assuming DX bonus of +2, from the Standard Array). Basically a 50% chance of doing injury.

It of course will depend on how far you want to go with this, but in general, if you’re going to look at attack, defend, absorb damage:

  • Hitting should probably be easier, and you should get better at it as your level increases. The second part (thanks to proficiency bonuses) is true already.
  • Defending should be a thing. Dodge and defensive movement might still be rolled into a passive effect, or they might be active effects. 
  • Damage resistance would have to be worked out by armor type. Weapon damage might need to increase to compensate. Maybe not. If high level means you are negating more and more attacks with active defenses, this may mean HP need to come down. Maybe way down.

Let’s Try

OK, so we’re going to GURPSify D&D. [Cue howls of outrage. OK, better now? Good.]

The attack roll

I’m tempted to just say Roll 1d20 plus the usual bonuses vs. a DC of 10. This gives our Joe Average (well, not exactly average, if he’s a 1st level fighter with STR 16, CON 15, DEX 14, INT 11, WIS 13, CHA 9) at first level 1d20+5, and a 20th-level character with STR 20 and a proficiency bonus of +6 a 1d20+11. He’s always going to hit. As he should.

I’m going to speculate that we’ll want how well he hits to matter. In GURPS, this is done by the mechanic of Deceptive Attack – you take a penalty to your hit roll, and half that penalty applies to your foe’s defenses.

This is a bit more risky than the Margin of Success method, but this is D&D, not GURPS – let’s forget that. We’ll go with a single roll, which determines your quality of hit:

Make an attack roll vs. DC 10. Note your margin of success.

Level 1 character: average hit chance 75%; average margin of success on a hit 7.5.
Level 17 character (assumes STR 20): 95% hit chance; average margin on a hit 12

The Defense Roll

The defender gets a roll to ward the blow. The skill of the character (or level of the monster) should matter for parries and blocks. Many animals and monsters will simply try and dodge. Let’s call that Evade, to distinguish it from the official Dodge rule above.


This should probably be a DEX-based roll, against something like 8 or 10 plus the foe’s DEX bonus, and maybe the proficiency bonus as well. At 1st level, that’s going to be about +4, while the incoming hit roll will have succeeded (or else you wouldn’t defend) and so have a margin from 0 to 15 (assuming another 1st level assailant). If you want two first level characters to stay more or less the same chance of a successful blow landing, defenses are going to be pretty low. Something like only succeeding 30-35% of the time. So if you’re rolling with DEX and proficiency of +4, you’re looking at DC 18 or so, which conveniently means your target might be something like 10+Margin.

How does that work for our Level 17 hero? A fighter gets seven ability score increases, each of which is a +2. He can get to his STR 20 with a two +2 bonuses, or a single +2 and two well-chosen Feats. That leaves four or five others. Let’s assume he gets a single +2 to DEX, with another +2 for CON, and then two or three actual martial Feats. So STR 20, DEX 16, CON 18, and a bunch of Feats, probably four (one of which probably raises STR by 1). Lots of ways to get there, but the point is, our Level 17 fighter is rolling 1d20+9 against a DC 22 incoming blow. He’ll succeed 40% of the time vs. a foe of his own quality, and against the 1st level guy at DC 17, 60% of the time. 

I don’t think this is enough disparity between Level 1 and Level 17 here. But then, our Level 1 character will be rolling 1d20+5 against our Level 17’s AC of 20 assuming non-magical plate and a shield. 30% chance to hit. Against the active defense roll, he’ll make a successful attack 75% of the time, and Level 17 will fail to defend 40% of the time . . . for a 30% chance to hit. Maybe not so bad after all.


This is just a defense using a shield. Again, skill matters, so proficiency counts. I’m tempted by four options here:

  1. The shield’s usual bonus to AC of +2 adds to the roll, making it 1d20+Proficiency+2 (Shield Bonus)
  2. Double the shield’s usual bonus to the roll: 1d20+Proficiency+4 (1d20+6 for Level 1)
  3. You get your STR bonus plus the shield bonus. For our +3 STR guy, that’s 1d20+7 (shield, STR, proficiency).
  4. You get your DEX bonus (retaining DEX as the thing that makes you harder to hit with armor), proficiency, and another 2 for the shield. Our sample Level 1 guy is 1d20+6 in this case, picking up 2 for each.

The DC of the incoming attack doesn’t change – about 17 for the Level 1 attacker and 22 for the Level 17 one. In theory, you want about the same as dodge, but maybe a little better. So I’ll pick option 4, and retain DX.


Again, this one is going to be similar, with proficiency counting to your ability to parry. However, for this one, I’m sorely tempted to allow STR to be the dominant factor here, since it’s your STR that gives you bonuses to hit when attacking, and so perhaps it should also give bonuses to parry.

That would make our Level 1 guy parry (with STR 16) at 1d20+5. That means his best defense would be a block if he carries a shield, second best is a parry, and third is dodge. Not unintuitive for a STR-based fighter.

Damage Resistance

A bog-standard longsword will do 1d8+2 in one hand for our level 1 guy, and 1d10+2 in two hands. If that has to (say) punch through armor before it does injury . . . well, that’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax.

We’re not going crazy here – no calculations of armor thickness. I’d just start with the native AC of the armor – 10. So hide will only remove one point of damage from an attack, while full plate will provide 8 points of protection.

Clearly, this begs for a modifier to the hit roll to aim for chinks in armor, which might (say) halve the damage resistance, rounded down.

The implication there, though, is that instead of doing 1d8+2 for 3-10 HP per hit, against our guy with the standard chain shirt (AC 13, or in this case 3 points of protection), he’ll do slightly less, 0-7 points, but 90% of his blows will still be telling. Against more serious armor, like plate, he’s looking at 0-2 HP of penetrating damage per hit, and 75% of his swings will be nullified.

I’m guessing you’d want to cut HP in half, roughly, to keep the fights from taking forever.

Parting Shot

Why would you ever do this rather than just play GURPS or some other system with active defenses? 

Well, for one, D&D-type games are the #1 force in the tabletop RPG market (though other kinds of games, like card games, are likely even bigger). So if you want a system nearly everyone plays, you’re into D&D, Pathfinder, and the OSR. 

The other reason, of course, is because it might be fun. One of the nice things about playing Dungeon Fantasy with GURPS is that you get more options on both attack and defense. The game is very interesting from a tactical perspective. You can go all-in on your attacks, sacrificing your defenses to try and strike home accurately. You can do the same thing and trade off defenses for a really hard hit. You can aim for various hit locations. You can retreat bit by bit and hold a foe at bay with a long-reach weapon.

Some of these things you can do in D&D, but many you cannot. While the games I play in that are helmed by +Erik Tenkar and +Ken H are outstanding fun, I do miss some of the cool things I could choose to do with GURPS that take combat beyond “I hit him with my sword again for 8HP more damage.”

I also really like not just sitting there when attacked. Yeah, it’ll slow down the game by making every contest two or three times as long from a rolling dice perspective. Every time the GM or player rolls a notional hit, you have to defend (or not – there needs to be an option and a benefit to not defending), then roll damage, subtract armor DR. I’m used to that in GURPS, and I feel it enhances my game experience rather than detracting from it. 

Personally, I really like the agency. I also like that the quality of the hit in the concept presented above matters. The better you roll, the harder it is for the foe to defend. 

Obviously it would need tons of testing – but I started out wondering if you can map the attack-defend-damage paradigm onto D&D, and whether or not it’s a good idea, it seems plausible and not inherently game-breaking off the bat.

One-Step Opposed Resolution

I had a funny feeling this would be true, and it is. My reliance on 10 as a base DC for both attack and defend allows me to write the following:

Hit occurs: 1d20+Attack Bonuses > 10, or 1d20+Attack Bonuses – 10 > 0

Defense Successful: 1d20+Defense Bonuses > 10 + 1d20+Attack Bonuses -10

Defense Successful: 1d20+Defense Bonuses > 1d20 + Attack Bonuses

No surprise there. It’s a contest. The only caveat is if your attack or defense roll inlcuding the bonus is less than 10 (the base DC for most of this stuff), you fail anyway. 

So the sequence, without the math, would simply be:

Attacker rolls his to-hit roll: 1d20+Bonuses; Defender simultaneously rolls his chosen defense: 1d20+Bonuses. 

  • If Attack roll < 10, you miss.
  • If Attack roll < Defense roll, you miss.
  • If Attack roll > 10, defense roll is <10, you hit
  • If attack roll > 10, Attack Roll > Defense Roll, you hit

This combines well with +Peter V. Dell’Orto‘s idea in the comments, since Dodge gives advantage (roll twice, pick the best) to the Defender, while an All-Out attack would give advantage to the attacker, and rather than have them somehow cancel out, you can just use the rules independently.