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. 

In Monteporte 44, the session began and ended with animated discussions on the rules for attunement to magical weapons. +Rob Conley had created a chart or an excel file listing all the weapons that required attunement from the DMG, and we played around with the concept a bit. We all, I think, liked the general concept of attunement, but were all equally bothered by some of the implications. In addition, since Monteporte was migrated over from a game with different assumptions than went into D&D5, there were many more magic items than seemed typical for a D&D5 party.

Attunement (DMG pp. 136-138)

The basic concept behind attunement is simple. To use a weapon with magical properties in a magical way, you have to spend a period of time – a short rest – bonding with the item in an appropriate way. If you don’t do so, the items functions like a normal, non-magical item of that type, but no nifty stuff can be generated from it. A Sword of Sharpness might act like a regular sword and would cut things just fine, but no other magical abilities would be present, and I’m not even sure it’d damage creatures that are only damaged by magical weapons – the text seems to suggest not. A suit of plate armor that requires attunement would still give you AC 18 for wearing it, but whatever powers it has would not be available to you until attunement is complete. A wand or ring, which otherwise serves no purpose than to give you certain powers, is basically useless. Maybe you could use it as a napkin holder or a stir stick?

Limits on items

The biggest thing that the DMG rules hit you with is that you cannot be attuned to more than three items at a time. Period, done . . . see you later. So you can’t (for example) wear ten Rings of Protection, one on each finger, and another couple on your toes. Firstly, you can’t usually wear multiple of any given item, but also, three is the limit, and the limit shall be  three. Not two, unless proceeding directly to three, etc.

This makes any given player decide what she wants to be equipped with, and since you can only detune-attune to an item with a short rest, you can’t just swap out inventory slots and always get the benefit of the good stuff. So you have to prepare. It’s not quite as restrictive as spell slots and long rests, but it’s there to make you think about what you’re doing.

What requires attunement

The magic item lists speak to what requires attunement – sometimes by a particular class – and what does not. There definitely seems to be a pattern to it, and some very useful stuff does not require attunement. 

Let’s start with some examples:

Basic Magical Weapons and Armor: Your basic +2 Mace or longsword, or +1 Chain Mail, or +3 half-plate does not require attunement. OK.

Mace of Disruption: Requires attunement. If you smack a fiend or the undead, you do extra radiant damage. If the critter has fewer than a certain number of HP, it must make a saving throw or be destroyed outright. The foes of the affected type are afraid of you. Also, the weapon glows if you hold it.

Mace of Smiting: +1 damage, more against constructs. If you roll a 20, you get extra damage, and can destroy constructs on a lucky roll. Does not require attunement.

Immovable Rod: Hey, the thing doesn’t move. Ever. Does not require attunement.

Gloves of Thievery: Provides a bonus to Sleight of Hand and DEX checks while wearing them. Does not require attunement.

Most any Cloak of X: Protection, Elvenkind, Invisibility. All of these require attunement, but . . . 

Cloak of the Manta Ray: Allows you to breathe underwater, and swim pretty fast. There’s another item like this that makes a bubble of air around your head. Neither require attunement.

What’s the Common Theme: The key bit here seems to be that if the item is magical because of itself, such as magic armor, it does not require attunement. If the item has powers that only affect the victim or the environment – that is, the magic is outwardly directed – it does not require attunement. But if the thing is basically casting a spell or giving its blessing to the user – something that if malign would be resisted by a saving throw – then you need to attune to it. 

It’s a fine line. The Cloak of Protection is just a cloak, it’s not particularly sturdy. But even it it is sturdy, the bonus to saving throws impacts the wearer as if it were a spell. That requires attunement. The Manta Ray cloak and the bubble-head charm (whatever it is) probably work their magic on the water and air around you, not you. They don’t bestow gills, they create a space of breatheable air.

I have no explanation for the Gloves of Thievery. I’d probably force you to attune to them, but perhaps the skill/DEX boost provided is actually a spell that impacts whatever you’re working on, not you. 

Basic magical swords are just magical. The Mace of Smiting is totally outwardly directed. The Mace of Disruption . . . seems like the mace of smiting, but makes creatures afraid of you (not the mace) and casts light. I suspect it’s the fear thing that turns the tables.

Armor that’s just magical is simply better made and enchanted. That’s inherent to the item. But if it also provides extra spell-like abilities, that requires attunement. 

Anything that requires conscious activation seems to require attunement.

House Rules?

Wouldn’t be a blog – specifically my blog – without the tinkering. So, here we go. What could we do to tweak out what’s basically a good concept?

More Awesome is More Awesome

The first one is easy. Allow the number of magical items to which you can attune vary by character level. Specifically, something like “you may attune to item equal to your proficiency bonus” would allow two items for beginners, but up to six at very high levels. Another would be you may attune to one item plus half your proficiency bonus. That’s still two items at low level, but four at high levels. 

In any case, items tend to grow with power at high levels, so another way might be a slot system. Each rank from Common through Legendary is given an effective number of slots: say 1 for Common, 5 for Legendary. You might get a number of slots equal to 1 plus your proficiency bonus, so slots vary from 3 to 7. So you can attune to seven Common items at very high level, or one Legenary item and two Common ones. Or two Uncommon and one Rare. Still limiting, but if you really want to wear seven common items instead of carrying around that Vorpal Sword . . . 

Partial Powers

Not attuning to an item having it behave as completely mundane seems off to me. Of course, that thought was started by Ken thinking that any item of +2 bonus or higher, including armor and weapons, requires attunement. I was thinking that in that particular case, the weapon or armor would still be magical, just provide no bonus. So not attuning to said Vorpal Sword would give you a magical longsword which could damage creatures that are only harmed by magical weapons (if such exist anymore in 5e), but would not suddenly decaptiate anyone.

Gotta Fight, for the Right . . . 

One thing that would be interesting for non-attuned weapons would be that yes, you can still use them, but you have to force the item to obey. You’d need to make some sort of saving throw, and I’m thinking INT, WIS, CHA rather than the physical stuff – basically willpower – in order to activate the item’s powers. 

In fact, one interesting thing would be to have attunement be a gradual process. Each short rest spent attuning would give you a bonus to the roll to master or attune to the item. You have to successfully use the item in order to claim your next bonus. Eventually, your roll will be high enough that you automatically beat the item’s DC. At that point, you’re attuned permanently unless you voluntarily switch it out – then you have to start again.

That would make it a bit of a process – and narratively interesting – to get to know a weapon or armor or magical device. If the process were intersting/onerous enough, there’s a barrier to switching out.

Naturally, you’d want the DC to go up with item power. So maybe if we use the level analogy above, the DC might be 10 plus twice the slots. So a Common magical item would be DC 12 for mastery, a Legendary one would be DC 20.

Parting Shot

Attunement brings a very cool dynamic to equipping magical items in D&D5. The core concept is very good, and it forces you to be choosy about what items and powers you can have. It keeps the focus, to some extent, on the character rather than the gear – though some of the Legendary items are truly badass, so there is always going to be a certain cache to having that Hammer of Thunderbolts paired with the Girdle of Giant Strength, which is also good.

Tuning the attunement rules also provides knobs for campaign-specific flavor. This is also good.

We’ll see what Ken decides to do with it, but I can certainly see options.

What you are looking at here is a .338 Lapua Magnum custom built XS-1 Precision Guided 338 LM, put together by Tracking Point.

For the low-low Price of $27,500, you can take this bad boy home.

For the low-low price of reading this blog, you can learn how to do it in GURPS.

Tag your target

Ironically, the first thing one is going to need to do is to make a Guns skill roll – though perhaps Beam Weapons should be allowed at no penalty – because you have to tell the scope where to shoot. This seems to be done by a laser, perhaps. But the process will give you an exact range to target, as well as the target’s velocity. The targeting computer will then give you a dot to aim at, somewhere on the scope.

The specs of the system state that the designator is good for 0.047 Minutes of Angle. Goodness gracious – that’s 4.7″ at 10,000 yards, more or less. A skull shot at more than five miles.

More importantly, it’s about Acc 9.5, using my MoA to Acc conversion guideline.

So you’re looking at +9 for the inherent accuracy and spread of the beam, and (depending on the model) about +4 (scope bonus for 16x-31x) or even +5 (the .338 LM rifles have a scope that goes up to +5). Furthermore the thing can cancel out penalties for constant movement (no jinking or even run/walk) of up to Move 10-12.

Designating the target would be a Guns roll following an Aim action. If you hit, your target has a “shoot here” dot on it. If not, I’d rule you’re off target by a distance that you’d read off the speed/range table somehow if you’re (say) targeting the vitals, you might still wind up on the target somewhere. Or just treat it as a miss (easier).

The charts say that a shooter typically achieves lock-on in about a second. If you take a shooter with Guns Sport (Rifle)-12 after an Aim and with the scope set to +4, you’re looking at a chance to hit (14 or less) a head (-5) at 1,000 yards (-16) requiring an effective skill of 35. Mechanically, the Acc and scope account for 13 of that. Braced and All-Out Attack give you another 2. A not-great-but-decent shooter as above gives 12 . . . total of 27, meaning we’re about 8 short.

But hey, no one’s shooting at us. So all the non-combat bonuses apply. We’re probably at an outdoor range for the demos, so let’s say +7 minimum. So we’re almost there, achieving (in one second) a “lock-on” to a head-sized target at 1,000 yards about 83% of the time. That means after two seconds you’re about up to 97%. A better sports shooter could do this even more reliably, which probably underpins the “one second to lock on” numbers.

I bet it also gets easier with practice; ask any First-Person Shooter player.

In combat, the rangefinder bonus stays (+3), but the rest drop away. Still, if you say that paying tens of thousands of dollars for the setup gives you full Acc+Scope+Rangefinding bonuses in one Aim action, that’s +16 right there. So at 1,000 yards, you’re rolling full skill less location penalties to designate, even without AoA/Braced. Not too shabby.

Now, it’s possible that the “one second” lock time is after target designation. You don’t actually know the range until you tag the target, but the other non-combat bonuses for relaxation (+3) still apply, along with the +1 for a nice outdoor range. So that’s Shooter skill (12) + AoA/Brace (+2) + Acc (+9) + Non-combat modifiers (+4) for 28 skill. At 16 for range, and 5 for head, that’s only 7 or less. Still, that’s a 15% chance, which means you’re looking at about six seconds to achieve the designation you want. But wait . . . then you get the additional bonuses for two more seconds of aim (+2) and the scope (+4), whcih pushes you to 13 or less by the time two more seconds go by. 

So what that means is that it might take a second to aim, then less than six seconds to designate. Then once you hit the button, one second of calculation goes by while it does it’s thing. Then you’re ready to shoot.

Looking at the videos, they mostly show the aiming dot already on the target, so I’m going to presume that it does, in fact, take a few seconds to get this done. 

Permission to Fire

Then comes the interesting part. Having designated the target, you guide your reticle onto the aim point until the computer decides you’re properly aligned. Pulling the trigger basically gives the gun permission to fire when it’s darn good and ready.

When it does shoot, you’re basically getting something very close to the perfect mechanical accuracy of the firearm. That’s given by the bench-rest accuracy of the weapon, or close to it. That’s given by about 22+2xAcc of the weapon (not the scope). For a weapon this good, you’re probably dealing with Acc 6 or even Acc 7, meaning that you’re shooting with an effective skill of 34-36 or so . . . when you shoot. Again, at a head at 1000 yards, that’s -16 and -5, for 13- to hit. 80-99%. 

Which you can’t necessarily do right away. You’re trying to put the crosshair on the dot. Which seems to take a few seconds. If it takes 2 seconds, you probably have a net skill of 10 to do this, 4 seconds is 8. 

Sounds like a Guns roll at -4 to me should do it. Succeed in that, and the gun fires, as above. Fail  . . . and nothing happens. I’m not sure what would happen if your target left your scope field of view. If you’d lose lock, that would make an excellent result for a crit.

Parting Shot

A weapon with all this cool tech on it can run you $30,000, which means that what we’re looking at is an outstanding example of TL9 targeting systems. That means that when/if it simply became “the way weapons are built,” you’d expect the weapons system to run you around $3,000.

What does Ultra-Tech have to say about that? Well, let’s see . . . the firearms in UT frankly stink. The best you can do is an Acc 4 7mm hunting rifle. 

Forget that. 

Let’s grab a CheyTac M200 for stats. It’s more than $10,000 and Acc 6 without the scope. That leaves us something like $15,000 for the targeting scope and program.

Back to UT for some gadgets. The Compact Targeting Scope is $1,000 at TL9. If you apply a 10x multiplier for being TL9 gear at TL8, you’re looking at $10,000 for the optic, and another $10,000 for the rifle, for about $20K, which is in the ballpark.

This just shows that UT was conservative. This scope system allows you to recover the full mechanical accuracy of your firearm assuming that you’re capable of a good target lock and can put the reticle on target. That second part seems like it’s harder than you might think, but if you can achieve that melding of dot and crosshair for even an instant, you’re going to hit unless your prey does something that alters the truth of the ballistic prediction. It going to have to be big, though – the scope is stabilized, and seems to adjust the aiming dot dynamically too.

If this reads like a giant wet kiss to TrackingPoint, well, maybe. I don’t own one, nor do I expect I ever will unless I win the lottery. I’d surely love to, though, and I’d relish the chance to put one through it’s paces.

I have to think that the Army, especially the SFOD-D guys, the USMC, and SEALs would simply love this system. More scary, though, it’s clear that given the WiFi capabilities of the system that a The Jackal remote-mounted sniper platform of ridiculous accuracy is more than possible . . . it’s here.

I blame my kid. As someone who used to do gold evaporation for my PhD thesis, I was always shocked at just how heavy it it. We always talk about uranium and tungsten as being dense, and they are. They’re also hard, high-melting refractory materials, so they do occupy a unique place in the hearts of ammunition designers everywhere.

Gold, on the other hand, actually has remarkable atomic mobility even at room temperature. It’s malleable – almost the definition of malleable – since it can be pounded and drawn to remarkably thin or fine layers.

But most of all, it’s heavy. The density of uranium is about 19 g/cc, and tungsten and gold are both 19.3 g/cc. There aren’t many heavier, and these are all about 2.5x heavier than steel.

At my desk at work – well, next to it – I have a chunk of titanium. Ti-13-11-3 alloy, specifically. It’s maybe 3″ tall and perhaps a foot square. I barely remember why I have it, but there it is. It weighs about 67 pounds – metal is remarkably heavy in big chunks.

Well, that same size piece of gold? 286 lbs.

Fort Knox?

  • Highest gold holdings this century: 649.6 million ounces (December 31, 1941). 
  • Size of a standard gold bar: 7 inches x 3 and 5/8 inches x 1 and 3/4 inches. 
  • Weight of a standard gold bar: approximately 400 ounces or 27.5 pounds. 

That’s 18.2 million kg, or 943 cubic meters of gold. A block 9.8m on a side, or roughly 30′ x 30′ x 30.

18,200 tons. Or enough to build two solid-gold Arleigh Burke class destroyers, if one were inclined.

Which you wouldn’t be.

The value of that giant block? About $800 billion.

Now that’s enough to build a giant honkin’ castle.

OK, so yesterday we talked about loot. About $100,000 in loot, conveniently packed into a box no more than six inches wide, and maybe three inches deep and two high. More or less.

What about real treasure. The kind you imagine you find in a dark hole that took you months of delving?

Well, let’s consider the value, and then, how to move that value.

The pirates treasure chest diagrammed is a home-built design, for fun (not mine), and the base measures about 16x24x9″.

Let’s go with that figure, and look at the gold bars in the first image. They’re about eight wide, two deep. So figure about 8″ long, perhaps 3″ wide, and let’s go with about 2″ deep. Or for Canadians like +Tim Shorts, about 20×7.5×5 cm.

In short, that chest can notionally hold 2x8x4 = 64 gold bricks.

Each brick is 825 cubic centimeters – and again I use this number because I know the density of gold easily in g/cc, which is 19.3. So each brick weighs 35 lbs. And there are 64 of them. At about $70,000 a pop.

The hard part won’t be killing the monster. It’ll be the physical therapy from literally a metric ton of gold: 2,250 lbs in that one chest.

Hell, I wonder if you could even lift it? Without ruining the chest, I mean.

The good news, is that our established price of $44,000 per kg makes 1,000 kg easy to calculate – $44,000,000 in one not-terribly transportable box.

What about other metals? Well, an equivalent brick of copper would weigh 16.2 lbs, and sliver, at 19 lbs.

So silver would be $19,000 per brick, and copper? A measly $1,000 each, but it’s only a half-ton, with silver being only slightly more, tipping the scale at 1,200 lbs.

That chest full of silver ain’t bad, a cool $1.2M, and literally about 1,000 lbs of copper would be required to purchase Cadmus’ enchanted armor suit.

Of course, if you really want to go big on your treasure, consider the world’s largest solid gold statue. A golden buddha about ten feet tall. The statue isn’t all pure gold, but the higher up you go on the body, the more pure it is, likely for structural as well as spiritual reasons.

It is 5,500 kg, and if we assume the bulk of it is about 60% pure, we’re dealing with 3,300 kg of gold, plus other metals. $145 million. If it were pure, it would be $240 million.

How hard can it be to move a few tons of metal, or stone? I mean, the Assyrians could do it . . .

Not unusual, but today I was playing with my daughter, and she brought out her pirate treasure. It’s a small box, with metal stamped coins that are gold, silver, and copper colored.

At first, I just thought it was a fun little box. Then I got to thinking. How much gold could you really get in one of those?

I mean the box itself has maybe 3.5 by 6.5 x 10.5 cm of interior space in the bottom piece.

Each “coin” or imitation doubloon  is not round, but varies between 20-25mm in diameter, and is 2mm thick. This means it’s basically as big around as a gold Half Eagle, but basically twice as thick.

A gold half-eagle has varied in dimensions and purity, but was often just shy of 8.5g of gold, which was a 22-25mm disc about 1mm thick. I did a quick calculation, and figured if the gold coins were real gold, each would be about 0.8 cubic centimeters, or about 15g each. Since the box can probably handle 120-150 gold coins, that’s about 1.8 to 2.25kg of gold.

Gold recently has been something like $40-50,000 per kg. So that little box could be worth about $100,000 in coins, or if it were actually filled with a solid gold ingot, about twice that.

What about in DF? Well, gold is $20,000 GURPS dollars per pound . . . or about $44,000 per kilogram. Almost exactly the same as today, so that small box of coins could be worth a small fortune.

I was surprised at how portable that loot would be. You can get a sweet, sweet set of armor using the rules in Low Tech plus some house rules making plate more expensive for that (Cadmus’ kit was something like $60-65,000 if I recall, and is DR 12 on the head, neck, and torso, DR 9 everywhere else).

A treasure chest might be quite small.

Edit: Here’s a picture of some real gold coins found off of Florida. Regrettably, scale is not provided.