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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GM: +Nathan Joy
Players: +Douglas Cole , +Mark Langsdorf , +Kevin Smyth , +Theodore Briggs , +Emily Smirle
Reference for this game 

We start in media res. There’s no Ravenscraeg 3 because I didn’t write up last Thursday’s game. We’d gone upstairs in the tower, and been jumped by a bunch of demon ninja or something. Then a few air elementals showed up, and then Thumvar, the Knight, went up some stairs and found a bloodraven, who threatened him in plain language.

Two air elementals, called Stormy2 and Stormy3 are in the local area. Cadmus had just done Protection from Evil (Enhanced), causing all of the pesky Ninjas – some sort of demonic bird-thing with supernatural durability  – to jump out of far-too-convenient windows. Thumvar, our Knight, had wandered upstairs, and managed to likely walk into the Big Boss encounter with a really big “bloodraven.”

Who immediately cast a spell at him. Unknown effect. Stormy2 throws air back at Brother Michel – a cone attack. Stormy3 fires off a lightning spell at Brody’s flank. It hits for a graze, and the graze, at half damage is still 3d6 (2) burn surge, roll of 16. He’s on the ground, stunned, suffering a major wound.

Yow. Things are not starting off well for Team Ameiko.

Staver does an acrobatic flippy thing over or through Cadmus to get into the room, off the stairs. Lucky him. In the Out-of-Character chat window, we all start fretting about our inability to damage or injury translucent air elementals. Time to seriously think about how we effectively deal with various DF-style threats that don’t respond well to bifurcation via axes.

Thumvar activates the Magic Resistance on his own Named Possession, Svalinn the Axe. Cadmus steps and prays for generic intervention from Pharasma against air elementals. Michel casts a 2d explosive fireball, which will do stuff next turn.

Thumvar gets pecked at by a “black shape,” presumably some sort of construct or spell. Thumvar blocks, which triggers the spell. Some discussion ensues about resisted spells and the general complexity and poor integration of GURPS Magic. There’s an initial roll to cast the spell, and then resisted spells get a second roll. OK, good, important safety tip.

We debate what Thumvar’s about to get nailed with after he fails his roll. The effects bear repeating in full:

You suddenly feel unpleasantly warm. You are Nauseated: you have -2 to all attrib-ute and skill rolls, and -1 to active defenses. As well, roll vs. HT after you eat, are exposed to a foul odor, fail a Fright Check, or are stunned, and every hour in free fall or in any situa-tion where you might suffer motion sickness. A rich meal in the past hour gives -2; anti-nausea remedies give +2. On a failure, you vomit for (25 – HT) seconds – treat as Retching, below. More fun will occur on your turn.

Um. Yow.

Stormy2 drifts closer to Michel and hits him with a horizontal cyclone, which knocks him back a hex. No real impact otherwise, so that’s at least not too bad. Stormy3 chucks an unwelcome lightning bolt at Cadmus, who manages to dodge out of the way.

Brody recovers from his stun, but pretends to still be stunned with an Acting roll. Staver charges up the stairs to shoot arrows at the bloodraven. Thumvar charges up the stairs as well, looking to smite some bloodraven butt.

Cadmus’ turn comes along, and we see what Pharasma has to say in response to his prayer. The entire group feels a tremendous pressure, as with the gaze of, well, a God. Staver, our Infernal, feels like he’s covered in bees. Yucky. Figuring Gods help those who help themselves, he also swings at the elementals torso. And the axe hits the elemental like hitting a tree. The elemental disappears into mist. Yay, Holy Pharasma.

Michel tosses his explosive fireball at the other elemental, and hits it in the face. Vaporized. Fire and Divine Assistance for the win. That’s good: 6d lightning bolts are No Fun.

That leaves the bloodraven and some missing demon ninjas.

…and a bloodthirsty swarm of ravens. Sigh. Why does it always have to be birds. Fortunately, when they swarm around Staver, she’s covered in enough DR to ignore their pecking, at least this turn. Brody chucks a ninja flashbomb, which blinds the swarm, but not the rest of us, and the swarm flaps around confused. Staver leaps backwards, draws a 3d explosive fireball arrow found in a previous adventure, and hits for 10 points, x3 for internal. Kaboom, burning feathers are all that remain.

Staver: “I need more of those.”


Thumvar continues to fight off nausea, and looks around, since our bloodraven quarry seems to have gone missing. Crap. Invisible birds? Teleport? He passes, more or less, and Cadmus starts to head up the stairs. Michel fast-draws a healing potion, and Brody likewise tries (and fails) to Fast-Draw a Healing Stone.

Brody then notices the formerly missing bird-ninja, popping up conveniently (for them) behind various PCs on the lower floor. Staver gets stabbed for 8 imp, while Michel, who is perceptive enough to get a defense, but not agile enough to dodge, gets nailed for 14 injury. Naturally, the weapons are poisoned; Staver gets hit for 4 toxic damage, while Michel, who made his HT roll to resist poison, takes the minimum 1 point of damage. Dwarven constitution for the win.

Guess Cadmus shoulda stayed downstairs. These are demon ninjas, so his Smite (auto-hit 2d burn to all malign supernatural creatures in 4 yard radius) might come in handy.

Thumvar is still rolling HT each turn for nausea from the bloodraven spell, and goes 3-for-3 in making is roll. Cadmus fails to notice anything upstairs, hears the pained screams from downstairs, and books back down. Getting his exorcise. Get it? Exorcise?

Well, Staver’s an infernal, so I can’t Smite near him. So I Heroic Charge, and wind up right behind the guy who just stabbed Brother Michel. I do a Deceptive Attack to the torso, because sneaky ninja, and am glad when he makes a Blindfighting roll and gets to defend anyway. He fails, and I deliver 9 (2) cut to his back; he takes probably 10-12 injury, and falls forward, maybe dead.

Michel does not go unconscious, and drinks his healing potion that was meant for Brody. Heals 12 injury, which is pretty sweet.

Brody too moves away from the ninja and crushes the healing stone to himself, but Brody’s player was pulled away to a tech support call, so we moved on without noting the results publicly.

Staver turns around, draws a demonsbane arrow – his only one, but clearly no time like the present – and shoots the guy with it. 9 imp for the arrow itself, plus 4d more for demonsbane. The demon explodes with a splortch into purple-green ichor. We like results like that.

The last ninja runs out of the window. Again.

Thumvar (again! 4-for-4!) makes his HT roll to resist the effects of the bloodraven’s spell, and jumps back down to the first floor.

We have a break for a moment. Michel figures out that Thumvar’s inflicted with Burning Death, and Cadmus heals Brody from 6/12 to 12/12, taking the injury on himself. Six minutes to recover that. Hope we don’t get attacked in that time.

We then beat feet down to the basement of the tower, hoping to find and slay the bloodraven. Assuming the raven was real. Maybe a construct. Anyway, through a couple of doors, but MapTool is lagging so badly in movement and graphics updates that it’s painful to explore manually.

We decide to head through a passage that branches off north, but is interrupted by running water. There’s a bell and clapper in the wall on the near side of the stream. Cadmus suspects hinkiness, but the successful Holy Warrior roll goes unnoticed, or unimportant, or both. In retrospect, the GM thought my Holy Warrior roll for “detect hinkiness” was jumping the stream. Ah ha.

There’s a five-yard plank that’s nearly a yard wide, and we do something to it, but for the life of me, I can’t parse what it was, or what we did. The lag is bad enough we decide to call it for the night.

Edit: OK, all but Michel jump across the three-yard stream of running water. Michel asks Cadmus to hand him the 3′ wide by 15′ long plank, which thanks to a well-made ST roll (I hate ST rolls) he does. Two trolls come shambling down the hall; Michel plans on negotiating with them. We’ll see how that goes.

So, Pyramid has an upcoming issue on Swashbucklers and Pirates. I’m playing in a Pathfinder Skull and Shackles campaign GMed by +Jeromy French.

This puts me in a piratical mood, and I was thinking this morning about what would happen if the typical DnD or Dungeon Fantasy world were to take to the open seas. This really applies to most magical fantasy tropes.

Ah, my ship. My glorious vessel, perhaps similar to the ships in the picture.

“They might have the weather gage, but we have the weather gods.”
       – Master and Commander

The ships portrayed in the Aubrey-Maturin novels (if you haven’t seen it, go see Master and Commander. It’s good.) seem to range in length from about 100 to 170 feet or so. Why does this matter? Well, the Wind spell has a base cost of 1/50, meaning you can enclose most ships in the spell’s area of effect for the base cost of the spell: 1 point of energy gives you a 50 yard radius. And for the price of exhaustion of one man (say, 8 FP), you can get a ship from the doldrums and becalmed to steering in a couple of knots of wind for eight hours. Then he can rest for an hour and a half and do it again. It ain’t fast, but it’s not motionless, either. With a few mages, or some sort of manastone or other power source, no ship would ever be motionless. That’s kind of a big deal.

You can also shift the wind by 22.5 degrees with the same spell. While many age of sail ships had issues going directly into the wind, again, one magic spell later, and you can all of a sudden get that much closer. With enough magic, the concept of “the weather gage” largely irrelevant.

An army travels on its stomach.
                     -Napoleon Bonaparte 

Another big deal in long-distance sailing is of course food and water. A frigate would carry a shockingly large quantity of food and water, with “six months’ stores” being a common figure.

Guess you don’t need that if you can purify water, eh? Or create it? Essential food, at six meals to the pound, is 1-2 man-days of food per pound. For a 250-500 person crew for 180 days, that’s less than 45 tons of food. That seems like a lot, but it’s probably not. A thousand-ton ship wouldn’t even notice it (it’s only slightly more than the weight of the crew). If you need a gallon of fresh water per day (ish), call it 10 lbs per man per day, that would normally be 450 tons (you’d probably never carry that much, after all, that’s 450 cubic yards of water).

You can see where this is going. Cornucopia for powder and shot, perhaps. Or bolts for ballistae and stones for catapults if that’s your thing. Forget a ship’s surgeon doing more harm than good – ships would probably sail with an alchemist for various potions, and more than one cleric both as a spiritual leader as well as for healing. Gods of water would be big, as would death or thievery for those of a piratical bent.

Of course, just because you can cast spells doesn’t mean an opposing ship’s wizards will let you. So an evenly matched duel would still be on terms that make the sailors important, if the various supernatural forces are cancelled out by each other.

Finally, if your response to all that is “frack that, you scurvy dog, I’ll hang you from the yardarm!” then you can always go Dresden on it’s ass: Water grounds magical energies. On the open sea, you’re on your own.

Healing and whatnot might be divine, and still work. Learned Prayers for wind might also be OK, though a quick look at GURPS Powers makes it look frightfully expensive.


Sorry it’s been a bit dry this week, but work’s been really busy. Today also marks the first time that I’ve tried to embed an image in the flow of text. Blogger handles this quite well, with autoflow around the picture. You guys know what this means, right? Pretty soon, my blog will inevitably have graphs.