Dungeon Fantasy RPG Kickstarter

If you haven't already heard (and I'd be surprised if anyone that reads my blog hasn't... but who knows), Steve Jackson Games has a Kickstarter for a new boxed set Dungeon Fantasy RPG.

Fans (myself included) have been saying for some time that an "Introductory" product like the D&D Basic Game, or Pathfinder's Beginner Box, is what is really missing from GURPS 4th edition. GURPS Lite is nice, but you have to direct people to it.

Using Dungeon Fantasy is a great idea, as fantasy is clearly the most popular game genre, and the DF line has done so well in PDF. Hopefully if this kickstarter (and the later retail release) does well, we'll see more physical products and other boxed sets in the future.

So, if you want more GURPS and Powered by GURPS products, I encourage you to check out the kickstarter and back it if you can. It's already in the 2nd week, so don't wait before taking a look.


GURPS News and Wild Speculation

Well the GURPS news has been updated. Seems like the lateness is due to keeping everyone busy. Aside from the recap of the products released since last time (and there are some great ones!), there are some hints at unannounced produces.

That means: it's time for wild speculation!

First up is a mention that the editors are "assembling" the next issue of Pyramid. That term is generic enough that it could literally mean they are putting it together, and just about everything is assembled in GURPS. BUT... this is wild speculation so Robots maybe?

Next is a mention of Bill's latest work. No clues but I think it's pretty safe to say this is GURPS Adaptations.

Then we get to three Dungeon Fantasy books: something "flashy", something "otherworldly" and something "game-changing". Let's look at each:

  • Lots of things in DF could be "flashy". If it was "shiny" I'd go with a treasure/loot book, but it isn't. It might refer to flash powder, so guns/cannons maybe? Many spells are "flashy" so it might be a look into changing up magic or adding new spells?
  • Otherworldly and DF makes me think "Spelljammer" (for you old Grognards). Or this might be a look at the other "planes" (Astral, Elemental, etc.). That was a big part of the old D&D basic games I played in.
  • Game-Changing could be just about anything. We've already had "Alternate Dungeons" in Pyramid, but this might be a more full treatment of some idea(s) from there, or something new. In any case, I expect this is alternate rules of some sort.
"Hot spots is due for some love": Paris? But what time(s)?

There is also mention of a new Monster Hunters book (yay!), but nothing I glean as a clue to what it is.

A new series "helmed" by Phil Masters? GURPS Helmets, you heard it here first! Seriously, the bit about "technicalities" makes me think we're getting a Techniques series, but it could also be something similar to Technical Grappling.

Mr. Punch's big project is something "good for GURPS as a whole". Hm, GURPS 4th Edition Revised. GURPS Beginner's Box. GURPS Magic (4th edition). GURPS 4th Edition Lite Revised....

Well, that's it for me. I could be way off base one all of these, so that that with a grain of salt. The only thing I think we can all agree on is that GURPS Half-Life 3 has been confirmed.


Google Sheets NPC Sheet

While trying out different ways to keep track of my NPCs and monsters in games, I decided to take the Google Sheets Character Sheet I had created and trimmed it down to a single page NPC sheet. Here is a link if anyone wants to copy and use for their own games.


Water Wizards, the Direct Damage Mages

GURPS provides damaging attacks in the form of Melee and Ranged spells. Some players don't like these spell because:
  • It takes a minimum of 2 turns to attack.
  • Requires 2 rolls to hit.
  • With Ranged attacks, you need to be close, or have high skill, or take time to aim.
  • Melee skills require you to be in melee range.
Of course there are plenty of other ways to deal damage in combat. Area spells make a nice continuing damage source for the length of most combats. There are many spells that neutralize enemies completely (on a failed resist).

Still, for those players that want to deal damage, I suggest focusing on Water spells.

As far as I can tell the water college is the only one with Regular, Resisted spells that do direct damage to the subject. Dehydrate and Frostbite are similar to melee spells like Deathtouch, Burning Death, and Rotting Death, but don’t require that the caster be touching the subject. Dehydrate takes 2 seconds to cast and Frostbite, 3. So, skill levels of 20 and 25 are required for these skills for cast every turn, but you’ll want high skill to offset the -1 per yard distance penalty for regular spells.

So, next time you have a player (or are that player) that wants a damaging attack spell that can be cast every turn, build a Water Wizard!


Warehouse 23 Top Ten

Today's Daily Illuminator has the top 10 products from March. Four of which are GURPS products. I'm a little sad that not one got a shout out in the blurb, but it is still nice to see this list.


Shared Doc for Online Game Character Sheets

I game almost exclusively online. This creates a whole new set of problems than playing face to face, but there are some advantages.

One issue I had thought was making sure that my players and I were looking at the same thing when it comes to character sheets. We were using a character creation program, and my players would often load the program and use it as the character sheet. We even had the save files stored on a shared cloud based service, but there would still be issues with desync. And my UI might not match their's. So, I started looking for a better solution and found it with Google Docs.

There are several character sheet templates out there, and I have to admit that mine is mostly based on a couple of really good ones, but I made this one to fit my group's needs.

The advantage of using a Google docs and sheets is that we can see edits, make notes everything updates right then. It has eliminated the issues I had before.

Take a look and feel free to copy, clone, whatever. There are quite a few calculated fields, so take care not to edit a cell till you're certain that it isn't a formula. (one of these days I may make an instructions page for this).


Making Traps Fun

A friend and fellow GM wrote during a chat we were having that he hates traps in RPGs, but that since they were so prevalent that he'd like to find a way to make them more fun. So, here are some of my thoughts are what traps are good for and how to make them fun and interesting in games.

The argument against traps goes something like: Traps if detected are annoyances that have to be dealt with. If they aren't detected they are surprise damage. In both cases they are not very interesting.

Now we could punch holes in the above statements all day long, but what I'd rather do is prevent traps, or players' perception of traps, from resembling it. Here are some of the ways that I try to make traps interesting.

1) Players need to be aware that traps exists. In many games this shouldn't be an issue, but if you haven't been using them, then they suddenly show up, players will be taken off guard. Having a sprung trap near the entrance to your Trapped Halls of Dangerous Traps, with the remains of a less fortunate adventurer nearby, should give the players a good heads up.

2) Traps react to players not the other way around. Traps should trigger off of player actions, and a group that stays still shouldn't find themselves suddenly springing a trap (that's what wandering monsters are for). Conversely, players should know that opening a door, chest, traversing a long hall, etc., could all trigger a traps.

3) The Dungeon/Cave/Wilderness/etc. is an enemy character, and traps are one of the ways that it attacks the players. Traps should fit thematically with that character. Put a bit of thought into types, appearance, and effects of the traps. This will create a sense of consistency and generally be more interesting than just another pit trap.

4) Don't make traps binary! A hidden GM roll followed by damage isn't very fun. GURPS players, especially, are used to having an active role in avoiding damage. So, when traps are triggered, have the players roll a reaction before they are hit. Some examples are: Dodge roll to avoid projectiles, DX rolls to catch a ledge on pits or drop away bridges, or even a series of rolls such as a regular contest to out-run, hold-up, or otherwise struggle against a trap's reaction.

5) Narrate! This is perhaps the most important aspect to making traps interesting. Take the following, Bob heads down the hall, fails to spot the illusion floor, falls, fails to grab the side, then hits the floor hard. This could just be a GM roll to spot the trap, a player roll to grab the ledge, and a damage roll. Or:
GM: <roll> "As you pass down the dark corridor, you step forward and begin to fall. The floor is an Illusion!"  Roll vs DX. 
Player: <roll> Missed by 2. 
GM: "Your arm shoots out reflexively to grab the side, but you just manage to get a handful of loose dirt as you plummet to the darkness below." <rolls damage> "You land hard on at the pit's bottom. Your leg screams in pain and your are bleeding from cuts and scrapes all over. As your eyes adjust you find yourself surrounded by the broken bones of others that were less fortunate than yourself. The calls of your companions from above echo down."

6) Make failure interesting. Aside from colorful narration, have traps cause some sort of change, reveal a clue, or otherwise cause some sort of new information or new action to take place. A trap might fire a dart at the player and cause a hall to shift, doors to seal/unseal. A pit trap might contain treasure or the journal of someone else who had died there.

I could go on, but I think this covers some of the basic ideas that I think can make traps more interesting and fun. I'd also like to mention Pyramid 3/60 for Christopher R. Rice's, "It's a Trap!" which has many great ideas for traps and how to design them.


2015 Gaming Review

2015 was an odd year for me. "Unstable" is probably the best way to describe it. And that goes for my gaming as well.

The beginning of the year saw a false start on a Technomancer game. This was a case where working on the world and templates was more fun than figuring out what exactly is going to happen in each session.

And after the false starts we had at the end of 2014, I decided to go back to something that had worked really well previously: Dungeon Fantasy.

This time around I went with a "kitchen sink" approch to DF. Just about anything was allowed in the setting. Instead of getting a party of totally mismatched crazy characters though, everyone wanted to play Arakuns (my Racoon-men race). This game when on for five sessions then sort of came to and ending point.

The big story arc was somewhat resolved, and I wasn't sure where to go with the game. Again this was reflecting the general chaos in my life. So, we started another new DF game.

Since my own creative process kept stalling on me, I decided to go with a ready-to-serve solution. I ran the Lost Mine of Phandelver using GURPS Dungeon Fantasy (for those that don't know. LMoP is the adventure packed in the D&D 5th edition starter box).

The game went very well and things started to get back to a more consistent format. The Players made many interesting choices so as a GM I was kept very entertained. The most challenging part was converting the D&D monsters to GURPS. I used a few simple rules for conversion, But the special abilities of some monsters are still geared for D&D and I knew that any session could be the last.

Well the session I expected to be the last was... but not for the reasons I thought. The party were practically right outside the "big bad's" room, when they decided to circle back around. Some enemies had fled, and they didn't know what the rest of the dungeon looked like. This cost the characters' lives.

They got ambushed by a bunch of ghouls with paralytic attacks. This was bad enough, but they also never seemed to get the upper hand in battle. Some bad dice rolls, some turns spend on positioning that didn't really help, and a few other factors led to the death of the PCs.

TPKs are never good, but I still felt that this was a good campaign. It lasted a good while, and was a lot of fun. ( 10/10 would TPK again! )

There was another false start with an Infinite Worlds game. Then we went back to another familiar setting: Fallout.

I've run 8 sessions of Fallout so far, and it has been fun. We're running through the events of the first game, but I think things might take a left turn from that soon.

So, here is to another year of gaming!

A note on the blog: updates have been few lately. This is due to a lack of time and because I am not pondering on rules as much (my Fallout game is not using tactical combat). Still, I plan to post more this year.