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Commentary thread for that “Describe your game in five words” thread.

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Pathfinder Kingmaker:

Must save skeletal champions' spirits!
We're in part 4 of Kingmaker, in the Tomb of Armag. We're looking for the present-day barbarian leader of the same name who thinks he's a reincarnation of the historical one, or something like that.

The evil priestesses were a bit of a pain, via demon summoning and various blast spells, until we got to close quarters. Our wizard is an air magic specialist, and his response to the magic fog in the entrance passage had been to put up a Windstorm, a tiny hurricane about four yards in radius, with a two-yard radius eye, centred on him and moving with him. That cleared the fog just fine, and when we reached the priestesses and moved the windstorm over them, they realised they had Strength 8 each, which meant that the Strength-5 roll to stay standing was a bit tricky. They ended up in a heap on the floor and got chopped up rapidly.

We had to pick a direction to search for Armag, and took East. It doesn't look as if he came this way, though. There was an Iron Golem, which our Weapon Master dealt with, assisted by a bunch of defensive spells and attacking the joints to reduce the thing's damage resistance.

Then we found a large cavern, with a raised area, populated by "Skeletal Champions" with longbows and two-handed swords. None of the players have any familiarity with the differences between Pathfinder 1e and the pre-3e D&D we were brought up on, so we don't know what's special about Skeletal Champions. However, our necromancer ("Psychopomp!") noticed that their spirits didn't depart when their skeletons were dismantled, and were slowly re-assembling the bones. So now we need to find out what's going on and free their spirits to pass on. This is unlikely to be part of the scenario's intended plot, but who cares? It's interesting.
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We just had session 2 of our fledgling GURPS DFRPG. I am running the The Tomb of Absythor from Frog God Games.

This far GURPS combat is just very slow for us. I’m hoping it picks up. On the bright side I’ve prepped the first two levels of the dungeon and at the current pace that will cover me for a year.

This far GURPS combat is just very slow for us. I’m hoping it picks up.
It does with a little practice. For example, fighting that Iron Golem above, I found out in the first turn that it had DR in the 15-20 range, which meant I wasn't getting much damage through with ordinary hits. A quick PDF search revealed that attacking chinks in armour is at -8 to the torso, -10 to everywhere else. The calculation went: Skill 22, +2 weapon bonus, +3 for SM of the golem, -10 for chinks on the legs makes effective skill 17. Write that down. Since I'm a Weapon Master, I can make two attacks at -3 to skill, for 14 or less. Write that down too. Then each round went like this:

Me "Two attacks (roll, roll), two potential hits."
GM (roll, roll) "Two hits."
Me "(roll) 24 and (roll) 22 cutting, against half your DR."
GM "Golem attacking, at -5 for your Blur effect (roll) one potential hit."
Me "Dodge, at +4 for the Shield effect (roll) successfully."

It does help a lot if you can compare, add and subtract two-digit numbers without conscious thought. I was using our GM's JavaScript dice-roller, which let me program buttons for 3d6 and my 3d+11 damage roll.


Last session, the party found the coeurl in their hex and negotiated with it to leave and go bother Thief’s Town instead. That took care of the last problem, clearing the hex (converting it from wilderness to frontier). I meant to post about it here, but I never got around to it.

raiders are different from bandits

This session, we picked up where that session left off. After they cleared their hex, the players decided the group’s goal was to do something about the raider harassment. The raiders have taken an interest in them, and they’re trying to get the party’s attention by bothering their people as they travel from the party’s settlement (Cal Maestros) to the main outpost (Finland, named after the Fin River on which it is located). I spent some time prior to the session preparing the raiders to get an idea of what they were actually about. It had been established that (some) people were afraid of them, but they didn’t seem to be bothering people really.

It turns out the situation is a little complicated. What the PCs know is the raiders have been bothering adventurers but not messing with the military or government in Finland. They have political reasons to avoid direct confrontation with the authorities, but they will try to recruit or eliminate (often the latter) adventurers who pose a risk to their operations. Hence why adventurers tend to be wary of them (because either way they tend to disappear).

Anyway, the party departed from Cal Maestros to Finland. Along the way, they ran into some interesting things. On the first night, Dingo (the thief) was on first watch. He noticed something watching them from the forest. He lit a stick on fire and went into the forest to try to shoo it away. He rolled Coercion + Willpower with possible consequences such as provoking trouble (either from it or something else). He got a mixed success, so he drove it away, but it was going to take interest in them.

During the second day of travel, they noticed a couple of guys on horses. These were bandits (not to be confused with the raiders) who have taken over the ancient tramway station nearby. One of the things they learned last session was that a group of adventures had gone to investigate it and disappeared. While making camp, Dingo decided to follow some tracks the party saw while Tama (the cleric) and Deirdre (the barbarian) took care of the horses pulling their wagon and finding a supply of water.

He followed the trail for half an hour or so. He rolled Tracking + Wisdom (how to follow discretely) to try to avoid being noticed as a consequence. He got a success though, so he found the trail lead to a raised stone platform (or what appeared to be one). He had a hunch the bandits were located there but did not see any direct evidence for it. Dingo returned to camp and updated Tama and Deirdre.

That night, Tama was awoken by the sound of something going through their cart. While they had built a campfire the first night, they did not build one tonight out of concern for being noticed by the bandits. Since there are no stars and moon, the only light was the one coming from their cart. Tama woke Deirdre, who chucked a satchel at Dingo to wake him up. Deirdre grabbed her axe and went over to the cart to investigate. She say a youngish guy (17~18), wiry with red hair and a light around his neck and a ration stuffed in his mouth. He was shoveling rations into a bag. Deirdre tried to suggest it was a bad idea.

The kid threw the bag over the side and jumped the other way. Deirdre ran around and tackled him. This was Athletics + Strength with consequences such as finding out something unwanted from tackling him (or he gets away as a big consequence). She succeeded, and he was down. The kid’s name was Roy. Roy was interested in their rations because he likes people food. He lives with his family in the forest (and Roy was the one who was watching the party the night before). The party gave Roy some rations and then started asking him questions about the area. The more information he gave them, the more rations they gave him.

According to Roy, a dozen or so bandits had moved into the area near the platform. According to the family elder, it was a dangerous place with some kind of metallic monster. It’s not known what it is (it’s some kind of kill bot), but they know when a group of adventures showed up recently, the bandits forced them down below the platform, and they weren’t seen again after that. The party was appreciative of the information. They had an interest in the platform and using the tramway as a means of accessing the capital. This saved them from having to investigate more themselves when they have other problems pressing them.

Roy then turned into a tiger and left with his rations. The party had suspected something, but Dingo was not pleased by this revelation. The party encountered tigers as noted in post #84, so maybe it was the lycanthropes taking an interest in them when they were first traveling through the area.

The next morning, the party packed up and headed the rest of the way to Finland. On their way into town, the guards were much more diligent about following procedure when admitting the PCs into town. It turns out Léon the representative from the Warin-Graf Occult Society (i.e., the vampire hunter mentioned in post #288) had arrived in town. He was being put up as a guest of the administration, so security was increased a bit.

The PCs paid for their usual accommodations (private rooms at Sugar’s Place), giving them two downtime activities they could do while in town over the next week. Tama decided to research dragon vulnerabilities. She’s concerned about how they will deal with Firlax when he shows up. It’s possible to negotiate with dragons, but they’re used to imposing their will, and fire dragons tend to have hot-headed, so it can be dangerous. She decided to look for leads on magical weapons (such as ice swords) that would be effective against it.

Unfortunately, she did not make progress on her research clock. Fortunately, when I rolled to advance clocks, the incoming dragon clock only increased by 1 (to 7/8). If it had arrived, Cal Maestros would send a messenger requesting the PCs return since they’re the masters of the demesne. The party’s construction made a bit of progress. The clock tracking Kitty’s preparations (for the heist also mentioned in post #288) also did not advance.

Dingo decided to misdirect Léon. His plan was to break into Léon’s room, look for any information (and maybe treasure) then leave a note from Diane (Deirdre’s vampire hunter alias described in post #273) indicating that vampires were off in a different direction other than hanging out in the guest house at their manor. Tama used her other downtime activity to help Dingo with the forgery by providing information on vampire rituals using her undead knowledge (Rituals + Wisdom). Dingo rolled Craft + Wisdom to create the forgery using his underworld knowledge as the permission to do this craft and his knowledge of hiding things to encode the message in a more mundane one (since the goal was to create a ciphered message).

While Dingo and Tama did this, Deirdre and Ilsa (Deirdre’s bard retainer) spent time looking for raider contacts in Finland. (Ilsa doesn’t usually travel with the party. She normally stays in town to promote Deirdre and update the party on goings on.) Deirdre rolled Rapport + Wisdom (for her knowledge of warriors) to find them. Ilsa helped as part of a group check. They got a success, finding out about a temporary drinking establishment that had been set up in an abandoned warehouse. They pretty much slapped some boards on crates and tapped some kegs. There she found Eric the Dangerous and some other raiders in town on business, having a drink. The guys Dingo gave the chalice in post #273 were also there drinking out of it. (My players found that hilarious.)

Deirdre sat down with Eric to find out more about why the raiders were interested in them. Eric told her that Maria was trying to get their attention because she wanted to meet with them. Deirdre asked if instead of meeting at the raiders’ camp if they could meet here. Eric told her that Maria does not usually meet people outside the camp, but he could see if he could arrange something. This was a lie. Eric does not like that the raiders act so conservatively. He’s trying to create discord among the raiders and depose the leadership. I noted his intent to deceive Deirdre, whose player then foregrounded consequences. In this case, that his deception would not play out back with the raiders as expected (since he needs to manipulate someone there as well).

Eric got a success. He will be sending word in a few days of the meeting. That is the time required for him to return to the camp and recruit Sona to play the part of Maria in the meeting he’s arranging. Sona is enamored with him, so that wasn’t difficult for him. It just happed as a product of the roll (since the outcome is setting up this deception). “Maria” will be meeting with the PCs in a few days after they receive notification at the warehouse that used to be occupied by vampires (again described in post #273).

Even though the PCs lack the fictional position to suspect the deception, they’re still wary of the raiders. Deirdre spent her last downtime activity recruiting mercenaries to back them up. She rolled Rapport + Wisdom with Ilsa helping again (more warriors knowledge). This time, they only got a mixed success. The base rate was 25 S, but since adventurers are also afraid of the raiders, Deirdre had to pay double (for a total of 250 S for five swordsmen). It’s cheap because they’ll only be needed for this job.

Finally, Dingo decided to observe where Léon was staying for his last downtime activity. He’s looking for any gaps in the security he can exploit. Based on what he was able to determine, the are two possible ways he can get inside. The first is to exploit gaps in the patrols. If he’s quick, he can make it up into Léon’s room. The risk is that puts guard patrols on the table as consequences. Time will be precious. The other option was disguising himself as cleaning staff. Dingo expressed enthusiasm only for entering during the gap in patrols, so that is the route he will be taking.

Next session, we’ll be playing out the meeting then playing through Dingo’s infiltration attempt.
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Guard tower collapsed, starting war.
The party are spearheading a small force to clear the guard point at a border, so that a larger force can pass through to attack a regional capital. The guard point has a fairly strong tower on each side of the road, and barracks, mess-halls and stores further back. This is in Greensward, where the style of magic is quite unconventional.

The society exists for the benefit of its noble families, who exert power via armies and warriors. The churches are run by the nobility, and only nobles are allowed to be magic-users. Their efforts go into enchanting equipment for warriors, and into enchanting standards for units. These negate arcane magic, except for enchantments done for compatibility with them, in a radius of between 50' and 500'. Each of those guard towers had a standard powerful enough to cover it entirely.

We, however, have a priestess of Artemis with a fairly druidical spell list, including Transmute Rock to Mud. When the bottom twenty feet of one wall of a square tower, and half-way along the two adjacent walls, turns to mud, the tower isn't good for much afterwards, and neither are most of the people in or on it; those who weren't squashed or killed by falling off are thoroughly disorganised.

Next round, the other tower should go, but the enemy may start to respond too.

aramis erak

Frying Pan exited; Fire Entered.
Since someone did a :oops:...

Last session, they had killed a bunch of bandits - bandits who had made a deal, then attacked the split portion of the party sent to inform them the way was opened...
a way into a haunted building, before said building was cleared...
and then they mutilated the corpses.
So... this session, since they lingered, I had the ghosts of the bandits come after them, tied tightly to the building's island as the random encounter.
All they had to do was leave.. but they tried to fight.
Two PC's almost bought it.
Heroics from other PCs, including the Frog person leaping past ghosts and dragging a downed ally...
At least it taught them that they have a magic item....


Sneaky thief stole nothing. Shazbot.

After some delays, we got to play again. This session was focused mainly on two things: Dingo (the thief’s infiltration of Léon’s quarters and the party’s negotiation with “Maria”.

Dingo’s infiltration was first. He had opted to exploit the patrols in the afternoon during the changing of the guard. That gave him three 10-minute turns of activity. Overall, it was pretty uneventful. He successfully scaled the wall then entered the room. There was a discussion about how he wanted to hide the letter, which affected the consequences that were offered. Things like whether he started investigating sympathizers or even took is seriously. Dingo ended up rolling well on his Manipulation check though, so Léon will be heading north after a lead.

After that, Dingo went digging for more information to see what Léon knows. He rolled really well on his Investigation check, so he established quite a bit about what he found in Léon’s notes. Léon knows about what vampires look like and the habits of a certain friend of theirs (seen at Sugar’s Place). He also has a list of people who have disappeared, which includes Josette and the other (now dead) spawn but also a few more previously unknown to the PCs. Dingo also found treasure along with the journal, but he stole none of it!

The negotiation was the rest of the session. It was a mixed success (and not in game mechanic terms).

The party went to the warehouse where the meeting was scheduled. They knocked, and one of the freelancers with the raiders answered. The PCs had hired a group of their own. (Freelancer being a warrior class.) Inside, there were several more freelancers, a magician, an adept, and “Maria”.

The PCs entered with their own freelancers and sat down. The conversation went back and forth with everyone. I liked the interactions with the PCs, but the experiment with playing the NPC as if I were playing her as my PC felt bad. It’s too much cognitive load to be in charge of adjudication, scene-framing, and playing character. One of those will suffer when you try to do them all. I have more to say on that later.

Early in the negotiation, Deirdre managed to tease out there might be something wrong with Maria. Something was off about her appearance, and that established a tracker for when the jig was up. There was a lot of back and forth and discussion about what Maria wanted. She was trying to convince the PCs her group needed their help to take down a usurper (“Sona”). The PCs found holes in this story. If taking down “Sona” would let Eric assume his rightful role as the leader, then how could Maria be the boss? What do they get out of it? Etc.

I was particularly pleased to see the players making use of Investigation to tease out and establish new details in the scene. They noticed the other raiders weren’t exactly into it. They were kind of lounging around. The façade eventually fell apart. The final straw was when Deirdre picked up Dingo and chucked him into some shelves. He could have resisted but took the damage. It was just too dumb, and “Maria” lost her composure finally.

As it actually turns out, “Maria” was Sona. Eric wants to take over the raiders and was trying to talk the PCs into taking out Maria, who is (as they understand it) the leader of the raiders. They are worried about her because she can “kill with a pencil”. Not literally like John Wick. She’s the face, but she handles a lot of operations stuff and has made previously problematic parties disappear. (In the absolutely worse case, Lady Emma steps in.)

Sona was going along with Eric’s plan because of a romantic triangle between her, Eric, and Urf. She doesn’t care about Eric (like he thinks she does). Sona wanted to spite both him and Urf. Since everything kind of went bad in the negotiation though, she’s hanging out with the PCs until they go to see the raiders, which they’ve promised to do, but they need to take care of the fire dragon situation first.

Overall, I’m not happy with how the negotiation played out mechanically. There were cool moments, but I don’t think playing the NPC as if it were my character is going to work. That’s fine. That’s why I try things to see how they work. It beats doing a bunch of theorizing only to find out what you have designed is crap. I’m going to focus on polishing up the conflict rules. One issue the players noted is there wasn’t an obvious loss condition to the negotiation (which would make it a a form of complex conflict).


dragon burninated the PCs’ plans

We had sessions two weeks in a row. Next week is going for three! 🥳

This session picked up from where we were before. The PCs had successfully negotiated with the raiders. They wanted to make it back to their settlement (Cal Maestros) before Firlax (the fire dragon) showed up. He’d been spotted near their settlement, but so far he was keeping his distance. There was some discussion at the start of the session how best to get back. They opted to pay to store their wagon and bought saddlebags for their horses to use to store their rations. I don’t really understand why my players are so paranoid about rations.

The PCs along with Sona left the next morning to head back to Cal Maestros. Because they didn’t have their wagon to slow them down, they were able to get there in half time. It would still take two days, but that was better than three days. While they traveled, Deirdre (the barbarian) worked on her relationship with Sona. She wanted to impress Sona with their accomplishments, which she was doing to get a boost from Sona when they eventually went to talk to the raiders. (Essentially, Sona would be speaking on their behalf for a +1 to the first roll with them.)

The PCs arrived at their settlement the next day, and my dice decided Firlax still would not be arriving. On 2d6+4, he needed an 8. He got a 7. His arrival was going to be possibly an event consequence, but I didn’t roll well enough on that night’s event either. I decided to check the wilderness encounter table to see what kind of hostile fauna I should introduce, and it said dragon. Right. So the guards report in the morning that Firlax had been seen west towards the statue garden (mentioned in posts #84 and #163).

The PCs decide this is an opportunity to meet with Firlax outside of their settlement (meaning it’s less likely to get torched by an angry fire dragon). They set out west in the morning, but no one has a map to it. Deirdre rolls bad on her Survival roll to navigate, so they get lost, waste time, and I roll another encounter. It says dragon again.

At this point, the dragon is spotted, but it’s fair off in the sky going the wrong way. Deirdre decided to flag it down in what she thinks is some friendly (but suitably noticeable) gesture. She gets a mixed success on this Rapport roll. That means she got what she wanted (Firlax’s attention), but I indicated that any escalation tracker would start one higher than normal (meaning closure to an unwantedly explosive outcome). That was the basic parameters of the conflict. The PCs had to talk Firlax into a favorable position. Given his temperament, they were looking at his possibly blowing up and blowing them up.

The ask from Firlax was pretty simple. He wanted tribute — 10 MS per year (mega-Silver, or 10 million silver). That would be the clock for the conflict. At any time, the PCs could agree to pay it. If they talked him down, then they’d get what they wanted based on what they had negotiated with no monetary cost.

The party inquired early about the extent of Firlax’s territory. He said his demesne ran to the river, which would be about 40 km from the fallen capital (Donarhus). They asked if that included the raiders, and he said yes. Dingo (the thief) wondered about the kind of deal they were getting (using Investigate as a way to gain insight into the situation, effectively adding details they can leverage). He got only mixed success, resulting in only confirmation that Firlax had negotiated something with them (though it would turn out later he’s not happy with everything they’re doing).

Tama (the cleric) asked about Thief Town to the west, which Firlax indicated he had to burn it from time to time to get what was owed to him. She also tried to make the case they were doing good things by redeveloping the area, but Firlax took it poorly. He demanded to know who gave them permission to do that. She said she had a deed to the land, but Firlax didn’t recognize the authority that granted it. Tama tried to make the case they would be good partners. She was a good leader. She rolled Leadership to demonstrate her authority. She got mixed success, so Firlax replied that a leader like she claims she is would command her subordinate to fight him.

He wasn’t asking to the death (only to first blood). At first Tama asked Deirdre to fight, but Firlax is like no. So Tama told Deirdre to fight. (This could have turned into PvP, but the players were going along with it.) Firlax changed into his humanoid form, a tall yuma with firery red hair wielding a pole-hammer and wearing fine silks (but synthetic armor under it). A dragon’s Humanoid Form magic allows them to designate equipment to appear when they change. Firlax equipped Elemental Blast while Deirdre equipped her battleaxe, triggering combat.

The combat was over quickly. Deirdre won initiative, so she charged forward and used Forceful Blow. Forceful Blow trades margin for distance. She beat Firlax’s Armor by 5 then added 3 more for a total distance of 8m knocked back. For damage, she only dealt her weapon’s dice. Firlax’s mitigation from his synthetic armor is 2, which reduced her damage dice from 2d6 to 0d6. She rolled well (5 and 6), dealing 5 damage. That ended the combat with her victorious. Tama offered to heal Firlax and used that to continue to build rapport.

One question that came up is whether Firlax knew who occupied Cal Maestros before. He confirmed that he did, and he knew them from before the calamity destroyed Adal-Sinths (the region where they are). That would put his age at 300+ years old. He had a good relationship with the queen of Adal-Sinths and her warlord daughters, including one who resided at the ruins now where the PCs’ settlement is. She’d been in charge of antiquities and history. Alas, she and it are mostly gone. Mostly, and that proved to be what burninated the PCs’ plans.

As the conversation continued, and the PCs talked down the price, Firlax’s position shifted to two things: first, he wanted access to their property to hold meetings with people like he had used it before. The PCs were fine with this (but not with the tribute requirement). The other was Firlax was not happy with what the raiders were doing with the artifacts they were recovering. As the conversation went on, his ask would get more and more specific. Essentially, the risk is the PCs might succeed eventually in talking down the tribute, but the ask was going to be more specific and more dangerous.

In the end, Deirdre finally talked Firlax down from asking for any tribute. She got a 13 on her last roll for Rapport versus a difficulty of 10 (due to Firlax’s rank versus hers as an additional factor on top of the standard 8). That cleared the remainder of the tracker. Firlax agreed not to ask for tribute, but he said he would hold them responsible for any artifacts that were removed from Adal-Sinths by the raiders. Firlax’s ask is both sentimental and his nature. They’re to bring the artifacts back to the capital where they belong, but it’s also where he lairs.

The PCs plans for the raiders are now a mess. They had planned to go there next and negotiate some kind of deal or passage where they didn’t have to formally join but would be left alone. Whoops. That’s shot. They have to do the thing Firlax asked. Or not. They could try their luck upsetting a hot-headed dragon. Maybe they won’t get burned too badly. Firlax did give them one more tip. The leader isn’t who they thought it was. The real leader tends to keep her identity secret. The real leader is Lady Emma, one of the three surviving warlords from before the calamity (elven live longer than yuma, and warlords in particular tend to live longer).

My players are like: oh, so we get to beat up a granny? No, elven have the Methuselyzation trait, which means they remain young until they die. Lady Emma is an 11th level knight. She’s not going to be an easy fight. (Firlax wouldn’t want to fight her in his dragon form. She’s at least as well-armored and probably better equipped.)

Now the PCs have to decide how they’re going to handle this mess. I really have no particular idea. 😂


Y'know, I honestly can't decide which is a more disturbing prospect, giant lobsters with tentacles or giant tentacles tipped with lobsters.
Just to put your mind at ease, they were Chuul.


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