2018-11-14

Making Automatic Rolls for PCs Between Sessions

Player characters in GURPS Dungeon Fantasy games often have things to do in town between sessions.  Some of these things are interesting and require player decisions and should probably be played out.  Others are boring and don't really require decisions and might just be resolved by the GM between sessions, to save precious play time.  Where do you draw the line?

In DF Whiterock, I have a few house rules for this.

1. Within reason, any spellcaster who has a completely boring spell at 16+ and the Luck advantage can just automatically cast that spell between sessions.  This is the Continual Light rule.  In GURPS, Continual Light only lasts 2-12 days, not forever, so you pretty much want to recast all your Continual Lights before each delve so they don't expire in mid-dungeon.  Yawn.  Fine, they all succeeded.  Because if you rolled a 17, it's just 1 FP and you'd reroll.  And if you rolled an 18, you'd use your Luck to avoid the critical failure.  (Note: "within reason."  Of course this only applies if you're casting a reasonable number of spells.  If you're casting enough to light the whole town, that's boring.)

2. For spells and skills that are boring and obvious to use, but where failure matters and is not obvious, it's up to the player whether to have me automatically roll between sessions, or to have me roll for them during the session.  Luck will not be used, because you don't know you failed to use it.  Popular examples are Analyze Magic on every single magic item (Detecting the Magic is mostly easy in GURPS, for anyone with Magery), Connoisseur (Weapons) on every weapon found, and Merchant on every gem found.

3. If a spell is particularly risky to use, because the PC's spell skill is low enough that critical failure is likely, I'd rather wait until the session to use it.  If a player is going to accidentally summon a demon and be eaten by it, that should happen with everyone around and the player rather than the GM rolling dice.  "Your wizard died between sessions" is a sentence that should never be uttered.


What this means in practice:

1. Everyone has as many Continual Light items as they need.

2. Items that are easy to identify are mostly identified by the next session.

3. Items that are hard to identify (because they require a spell or skill that that PCs don't have, or don't have at a decent level, or because they require roleplaying or other interesting choices, like whether to hire an expert) stay unidentified until the next session, then the players sometimes remember to try to figure them out.

2018-11-11

DF Whiterock Session 26: Daycare Destruction

Date:

2018-11-09

Weather:


Freezing, clear

Player Characters:

Elias (Wiggles), Wood Elf Cleric, 226 points
Garreth (Zuljita), Half-Orc Fighter, 274 points
Ibizaber (Demented Avenger), Human Thief, 262 points
Polly (Kalzazz), Wood Elf Archer, 247 points
Seépravir (Archon Shiva), High-Elf Wizard, 284 points

Significant NPCs:

Caswallon, Dwarf mining engineer
2 Earth Mephits
Labor rat
3 Giant Soldier Stonebore Ants
4 Guard Rats
8 Juvenile Troglodytes


Winter arrived in the Kingdom of Morrain, with the temperature dropping below freezing for the first time since the exploration of Castle Whiterock began.  The first order of business was for the PCs to buy some winter clothing.  This immediately set off encumbrance panic, as several PCs were right below an encumbrance break point, and heavier clothes would reduced their Move and Dodge.  Seépravir decided to learn the Warmth spell and pair it with a stylish but not very heavy scarf.  Everyone else grudgingly purchased some warm clothes, though a couple of PCs decided to leave them in the wheelbarrow once they reached the dungeon.

Caswallon showed up in the Inn of the Slumbering Drake and announced that the dungeon elevator the group had ordered, to add a shortcut from the surface to the Gnomish Academy, was ready to install on the next warm day.  It's early winter, so nobody's sure when that will be.  The PCs discussed possibly using fire magic to warm up the frozen ground, to avoid possibly having to wait until spring to get their elevator.  Though it's also possible there may be a warm spell.

After some time spent looking for interesting rumors, and looking for Lord Flitwick (who was out of town again), four PCs walked to Castle Whiterock.  They walked very slowly, not accustomed to hiking in the cold, but still managed not to get ambushed by any wandering monsters.

There was some discussion of going back to the air elemental that Zaber hoped was female, but since the group only had 1.5 (the flute, and the lute's strings) of the 3 Sorrowsong Instruments, they decided not to bother disappointing it with lack of progress.  So instead they went back down to the level where they fought some deeper troglodytes last time.

Seépravir cast Invisibility and Mage-Stealth on Zaber, and he went scouting alone for a while.  He found a pit trap, a steel doorknob sticking out of a wall for no obvious reason, and a bell with a Dwarf rune on it.  Zaber's Dwarf isn't the best, but he though the rune meant something like "Leave!"  (Zaber successfully resisted his Curious disadvantage to avoid ringing the bell.)  He also found a big rock that looked like it was blocking a passage.  And he found a cave containing a large number of small troglodytes, guarded by a few giant rats.  But the most interesting thing he found was a big cavern containing a flying dwarf-like creature ordering a giant labor rat to drag junk around.  Zaber reported back to the others, and they decided to ambush the flying thing.

Some sneaking ensued, and everyone did a pretty good job sneaking up on the flying creature, until Elias decided to talk to it and spoiled the surprise.  The creature was not friendly, told Elias to eat its waste products, and told the giant rat to attack.  Polly started shooting arrows at it, but it had the ability to magically parry some of them, and dodged others.  The creature (which Seépravir later identified as an Earth Mephit) breathed some stone fragments at Elias, but he blocked them with his shield.  It then gated in a second Mephit, which wasn't happy about it.  

The giant rat attacked Elias, who parried, and then smashed the rat with his Flaming flail.  Seépravir used Rapier Wit on the summoned Mephit, which was stunned.  Polly shot up a Mephit and crippled a wing, leading to a stun and a crash into the ground.  As Zaber invisibly snuck around, the original Mephit cast a spell to loosen some rocks in the ceiling, and drop them on the heads of Seépravir, Garreth, and (oops) the gated-in mephit.  The attack was only accurate against Seépravir though, and she jumped out of the way.

Zaber invisibly stabbed the giant rat in the eye, with his knife crippling the eye and proceeding into the brain, and knocked it out.  Garreth chopped up the stunned summoned Mephit and hurt it badly enough to make it take 3 death checks, but somehow didn't kill it.  It then disappeared!

Seépravir got close to the original Mephit, stopped maintaining all the spells she could to increase her casting odds, and then cast Death Vision on it.  Her spell worked, which meant the Mephit was stunned with no resistance possible, and that was pretty much it.  Polly shot it and Garreth stabbed it and no more Mephits.  It had three different magic items, a ring and a cloak and a pair of bracers.  The dead rat had a sled.  Zaber searched the room thoroughly and found some coins and gems, as well as a bunch of junky mining tools.  

With the fight over, the group decided to investigate the doorknob.  Zaber tried turning it, but failed.  Garreth started ambling over to apply excessive force, but Polly was closer, and she gave it a try first, and she managed to rip it right off the wall.  The doorknob appeared to be a decoy, hiding a falling stone wall trap, which Zaber hadn't noticed and which fell on Polly.  But she's pretty quick and managed to jump out of the way.

Seépravir went into wizard radar mode and cast Seek Magic and Seek Earth (for gold, silver, and copper) and determined that there was some magic and some silver to the northwest.  But then she was rudely interrupted by 3 Giant Stonebore Soldier Ants which decided to come investigate who'd been making all the noise, with all the fighting and walls and ceilings falling.  The elves don't like fighting natural creatures, so decided not to start anything, and Seépravir used Create Fire to try to scare the ants off.  But the ants weren't afraid of the fire, and started trying to bite people.  At that point the PCs defended themselves, and in a few minutes there were 3 dead Giant Stonebore Soldier Ants.  Garreth started chopping off chitin, looking to see if it was valuable, and the group decided to take one big ant corpse back to town to see if there's anything that Quintus the alchemist wanted to buy.

After fighting the ants, everyone forgot about the treasure to the northwest and decided to go ambush the trogs and rats to the east.  Once again, there was much sneaking.  This time, nobody yelled out a greeting, so the sneaking was more effective.  Zaber and Seépravir were both Invisible, and snuck right past the guard rats into the group of troglodytes, who were playing loudly and smelling up the place.  (Everyone made their HT check against the stench attack, though Elias needed to use his Luck.)  Unfortunately, Seépravir rolled an 18 on her Stealth check to move silently, and made a big noise, which alerted some of the surprised rats and trogs.  This was a cue for the rest of the PCs in the back to start shooting and charging, while most of the trogs and rats were still mentally stunned by surprise.  These particular trogs were juveniles, not as tough as the others, and I broke out the Mook rules, so they tended to go down with one solid hit rather than making all those tedious rolls to avoid crippling and stay conscious and avoid dying.  That made this fight pretty much a cakewalk, despite the numerical disadvantage.

Seépravir got off a Mass Daze, but she only made it by a couple of points (despite burning her Luck: she rolled 3 12s in a row) and the victims rolled pretty well on their resistance checks, so only a couple of victims were dazed.  It didn't matter.  Polly started shooting and Garreth started chopping and Zaber started backstabbing and Elias started flailing and all the rats and trogs were down by the time the session ended.  Zaber searched the room, despite the stench, and found a few coins and a couple of very nice purple corumdum gems.

We were out of time, so the PCs decided to go back to Cillamar, bringing along the portable treasure and also one of the dead ants.  Seépravir rolled a critical failure on her Warmth spell for the trip home, and didn't have any Luck left, but I decided that was a pretty tame spell and we didn't really have time for any demon summonings, so just gave her a few easily-healed points of burn damage.


GM's Comments:

This session was a cakewalk.

The Earth Mephit was pretty tough (solid DR, lots of fun attacks), and even managed to gate in an ally, but numbers matter a lot in GURPS, and 5 PCs versus 3 enemies is typically not a fair fight unless the enemies are truly badass.  Plus its collapsing ceiling trap rolled poorly and Seépravir (the only one it managed to possibly hit) made her Dodge.  The Mephits had good blocking spells (Deflect and Iron Arm), but you can only cast one blocking spell per turn, and Polly and Garreth each typically attack twice per turn, so it was needing to make its Dodge rolls against the second attack, and once it missed one and lost a wing, the death spiral began.  Plus Seépravir is good at stun-locking things with Rapier Wit and Death Vision.  And you don't want to be stunned while you're outnumbered by multiple heavily-armed PCs.

The PCs attracted a wandering monster for once, but I only rolled 3 ants, and it turned out that 3 ants are not enough ants.

The troglodyte daycare encounter was not a fair fight.  Zaber scouted it out while invisible and made a critical success on his stealth roll, for total surprise.  This time Elias decided not to ruin it by yelling.  Seépravir partially ruined it with a critical failure on her stealth roll, but she was still Invisible, and the trogs were busy playing not paying attention, so only a few noticed.  And, they were mooks.  It was pretty much target practice.

So the PCs have cleared out a decent part of the second troglodyte level.  Will they find more challenging opponents in the remaining part of the level?  We'll find out next week.

2018-11-04

DF Whiterock Session 25: Deeper Troglodytes and a Pearly Spear

Date:

2018-11-02

Weather:

Cool, cloudy

Player Characters:

Elias (Wiggles), Wood Elf Cleric, 222 points
Garreth (Zuljita), Half-Orc Fighter, 269 points
Ibizaber (Demented Avenger), Human Thief, 257 points
Polly (Kalzazz), Wood Elf Archer, 242 points
Seépravir (Archon Shiva), High-Elf Wizard, 279 points


Significant NPCs:

Lady Chauntessa, innkeeper and amateur historian
Quintus, alchemist and wizard
13 troglodyte warriors
4 huge rats
A gray ooze


The PCs met at the Inn of the Slumbering Drake and tried to deal with some loot.  First they tried showing the tome about golems (written in Draconic) to Ixnay the shoulder dragon, but he wasn't interested.  Then they asked about resizing gnome-sized magic clothing to fit larger people, but got no evidence that it was possible without ruining the magic.  Zaber went looking for his nemesis Lord Granger Flitwick, but he was out of town, possibly in Mystenmere.

Having run out of interesting things to do in town, the PCs decided to head for Castle Whiterock, and sell all the gnome-sized clothing next time.  Everyone made their Hiking rolls for once, so they made excellent time and did not get ambushed.  Seépravir cast a pile of spells, and then everyone went downstairs to the troglodyte level.  Their wandering monster luck remained strong, and they made it south to the Ceiling Snake area and then down a narrow curving passage to a new level, without encountering enemies.

Zaber scouted ahead invisibly and spotted three troglodyte warriors, accompanied by three huge rats.  Unfortunately Polly was also scouting ahead, visibly, and was spotted, so there was no chance of surprise.  Zaber started sneaking behind the trogs, while Polly started shooting arrows.  Further behind, Garreth heard the sound of arrows flying and a trog screaming, and charged for the battle.  Seépravir and Elias followed, but it would take several seconds to catch up.

During those several seconds, Polly pincushioned a trog, while another one commanded the rats to attack her, then ran away.  Zaber invisibly snuck up behind one of the rats and impaled it in the vitals.  Polly ignored the other rats that were closing on her, and shot the running trog, injuring it badly enough to slow its running.  Zaber backstabbed another rat, which was too busy trying to bite Polly, and injured it but not badly enough.

When the running trog finally got out of range, Polly started shooting rats, and finished off the ones that Zaber had wounded.  About then, Garreth reached the battle, and Polly pointed him to the northwest where the trog had escaped.  Those two gave chase, while the others didn't.

Garreth and Polly reached a battle in progress,with two troglodytes fighting a translucent grayish oozy slimy jelly-like thing, and a third troglodyte with a couple of Polly's arrows sticking out of trying to sneak past.  The wounded troglodyte eventually passed out from its wounds.  The ooze appeared acidic in nature, and was dissolving the trogs' armor and javelins, and eventually injured a trog enough that it decided to run.  Polly shot the remaining trog in the skull a couple of times, and killed it.  Garreth put his katana away and drew a less valuable knife.  Polly put a few cutting arrows into the ooze, doing a lot of damage.  Garreth stabbed it with his knife, doing lame damage, but it just happened to be enough to force a death check and the ooze rolled badly, so Garreth got the kill.  His knife did not survive, and neither did Polly's arrows, but those were all fairly cheap.  Polly shot the retreating trog twice in the legs, crippling both, and reducing it to crawling speed.  She let Garreth finish him, and Garreth finished him.

Meanwhile, Zaber had found an exit to the east: a ledge with a knotted hemp rope, dropping into the darkness.  He climbed down the rope, smelled trog, and climbed back up the rope.  Then a tactical conference began: everyone would go down the rope in quick order, except Seépravir would Levitate.  That didn't happen, though, because after Zaber and Polly went down, Zaber spotted a camouflaged trog against the wall, and pointed it out to Polly, who eventually (there was a failed Gesture roll) started shooting.  So once again we had a split-party fight.

Polly shot a trog in the head a couple of times, with predictable results.  Zaber all-out defended while waiting for reinforcements.  Garreth used his Acrobatics and Climbing skills (and his gloves, allowing sliding down a rope without badly injuring his hands) to do a quick rappel down the rope, reaching the ground uninjured in two seconds.  (Climbing down a knotted rope is easy, but slow.  Going down a rope fast takes skill.)  Seépravir cast Missile Shield and Levitate on herself then started floating over the battle, inviting thrown javelins.  Elias used his Luck to defend against trog stench, then got his crossbow out and started looking for targets, but couldn't see any very well because they were out of the light radius of the flaming flail at his feet.  (Only 3 PCs had Dark Vision.)

The trogs were wearing some kind of insect chitin armor, which broke when it took serious impact.  Zaber stabbed a trog and broke its armor, but didn't do serious damage besides that.  A couple of trogs aimed then threw javelins at Polly.  She almost failed to dodge one of them, then used her Luck.  One threw a javelin at Zaber, who dodged easily.  When Garreth reached the ground, he drew a glowing (full brightness Continual Light) sai, and threw it at a trog.  He missed, but that illuminated that area, which gave Elias something to shoot at.  Garreth pulled out his katana and chopped a trog to death, Zaber stabbed a trog in the eye and knocked it out, and the fight was over before Elias got to shoot.

Searching the dead trogs, Zaber noticed that their javelins all had the same symbol on the heads: knucklebones and fangs under a mountain.  Certainly not trog worksmanship: someone was equipping them.  Nobody recognized the symbol though.

Moving on, the party snuck north down a passage, with Zaber scouting ahead in the lead.  He noticed some flickering firelight, which was suspicious because everyone was pretty sure trogs had Dark Vision.  Maybe they were cooking?  For once, Polly refrained from charging forward and shooting, and instead the party formed up to try a coordinated ambush.  First Zaber checked the passage to the southeast, making sure there weren't more trogs hiding there to sneak up behind them.  He didn't see any, so the attack began.  There were three trogs sitting around a fire, and a huge rat nearby.  One of the trogs had an odd-looking white spear with feathers, and it looked magic to the elves.

But the trogs were alert, and the party failed to achieve surprise, so there was a bit of a stare-off, and then the trog with the weird spear threw it at Polly.  She dodged it, ruining her aim, but then the spear flew back to the thrower!  At that point even the non-elves knew it was magic.  Zaber did All-Out Defense (Dodge) and started heading toward the guy with the magic spear, with larceny in mind.  Polly started shooting the assumed leader, but he dodged.  Seépravir, with Missile Shield still on, headed forward to draw fire.  A couple more trogs threw javelins, and missed.

The leader threw his magic spear at Garreth, who acrobatically dodged with style.  (He made a critical success on the acrobatics roll.)  Elias aimed his crossbow at the rat.  Seépravir, tiring of a fair fight, noticed that several trogs and a rat were kind of clumped together, and cast Mass Daze on them.  She made a decent roll but decided to use her Luck and go for a better roll, and got a 7.  That was enough to defeat everyone's resistance, and there were 2 dazed trogs and a dazed rat, staring into space, not fighting.

The trog leader with the magic spear was the only one not Dazed.  Zaber invisibly front-stabbed (I allow Backstab from the front if you're Invisible and your stealth beats the target's hearing roll) him in the eye, and rolled good damage.  The knife crippled the eye, continued into the brain, and did enough damage to force a major wound check with a huge penalty, which was failed by enough to result in an instant knockout.  At that point the fight was effectively over: leader knocked out and the others dazed, with no defense against the first attack.

Everyone started lining up their unfair attacks against the dazed enemies.  Polly double-shot one trog in the skull.  Garreth double-chopped another dazed trog in the skull.  And Elias shot the rat in the skull.  Heavy brain damage and failed knockout checks all around, and the fight was over.

Unfortunately for the party, treasure was pretty sparse.  The leader had the magic spear, a bag of mushrooms, a shield, and some very stinky leather armor.  The other trogs had javelins and stinky broken insect chitin armor.  But it was otherwise a successful delve: many trogs defeated and no PC injuries.  They headed back to Cillamar.

GM's Comments:

The gray ooze was fun because of its equipment-wrecking acid attacks, but it died before it got to wreck any PC armor, and Garreth was clever enough to use a disposable knife instead of a valuable katana against it.

The troglodyte that was supposed to run away and alert the others failed to get away.  It's hard to run away from Polly.  That turned a potential difficult ambush encounter into a fair fight.

Mass Daze and an Invisible stab to the eye turned a fair fight into a rout.

I find the troglodytes rather boring, but the party is tearing through them rapidly, so maybe they'll get to meet some more interesting enemies soon.

2018-10-20

DF Whiterock Session 24: Laundry

Date:

2018-10-19

Weather:

Cold, cloudy

Player Characters:

Elias (Wiggles), Wood Elf Cleric, 217 points
Garreth (Zuljita), Half-Orc Fighter, 264 points
Ibizaber (Demented Avenger), Human Thief, 252 points
Polly (Kalzazz), Wood Elf Archer, 237 points
Seépravir (Archon Shiva), High-Elf Wizard, 274 points


Significant NPCs:

Lady Chauntessa, innkeeper and amateur historian
Findle Glimer, Gnome gemcutter
Caswallon, Dwarf mining engineer
6 small Water Elementals
2 Ceiling Snakes


The group met at the Inn of the Slumbering Drake, with some treasure from last time to deal with.  The first order of business was finding a translator for a scroll written in Gnome.  While none of the PCs reads gnome, they're friends with a couple of gnomes who they rescued from slavers.  Garreth went looking for Findle Glimer at his gemcutter's shop.  Findle isn't a wizard, but was able to read enough to see that it was a Shrink spell, designed to make the caster smaller.  This excited Seépravir, since Shrink is a secret spell that she hadn't heard of before.  Seépravir went looking for Katanya Glimer to possibly provide a better translation and let her learn the spell, but Katanya was out of town.  However, Elias was able to cast Gift of Letters on Seépravir and keep it up long enough for Seépravir to get the gist.  She needed to learn a few other Body Control spells first though.

The giant tome written in Draconic was a tougher puzzle, as the PCs aren't friends with any dragons.  Lady Chauntessa mentioned that she knew a little bit, though.  She flipped through the tome, which had a lot of pictures of golem construction alongside the Draconic text, and announced that it was a manual on golem construction, that it was probably worth a lot of money, and that she'd pay her usual purchase fee for books found in Castle Whiterock just to rent it for a week, then let the party look for a buyer more interested in golems.  Garreth consulted with his friends then agreed to the deal.

The two huge scrolls of what appeared to be gibberish remaining gibberish after casting Gift of Letters, so Elias figured they were either pranks or decoys or the ramblings of a crazy person.  Lady Chauntessa offered to pay for them anyway, since she collects artifacts from Castle Whiterock.

Next, the group decided that they wanted to commission a 100' ladder to allow an easy way up or down the shaft Seépravir had dug (using Shape Earth) from the surface to the Clockwork Academy level.  A ladder was easy enough, but after more discussion they decided they really wanted an elevator with pulleys instead, and went looking for someone who could build one.  They got lucky on their roll to find an unusual hireling, and found Caswallon, a dwarf mining engineer.  He wanted $2000 to build an elevator, half up front, but Seépravir talked him down to $1500.  He said that he'd start building it, and then in a couple of weeks they could escort him to the castle so he could install it.

Elias borrowed enough money from the rest of the party to finally be able to afford the heavy dwarven plate armor of his dreams, and bought it from Alrux the armorer.  While the protection was nice, the real motivation was as a huge power item, enough (with a little help from Seépravir's Lend Energy) to cast Bless +2.  Elias promptly cast Bless +2 on the other four members of the party, though he charged them for it, since he needed to have his power item recharged after each casting.  So now the +1 to everything gang is the +2 to everything gang.

Zaber went looking for his nemesis Lord Flitwick, who was out of town, so the group finally decided to head to the castle.  They made it there unmolested, and headed down to the Clockwork Academy, which had one narrow chute that they hadn't explored yet.  Polly was able to squeeze in, and was smart enough (this time) to wait for Invisibility and Mage-Stealth before scouting ahead alone.  At the bottom of the diagonal chute was another hatch, and it opened into a large room with water on the floor.  As Polly observed, the water started moving around, and then lumps in the water headed for her.  That was enough to make her slam the hatch shut and climb back up the shaft.  As she told her friends when she got to the top, there were monsters down there and she didn't want to be selfish and kill them all herself.

Nobody else fit in the shaft (not even Zaber, who has decent Escape skill but rolled badly last time, probably because of all the beer he drinks), so Seépravir started casting Shape Earth to widen it.  It took quite a few spells, but eventually she widened the whole thing, and then some water started rolling up the shaft.  When it got close enough to attack Seépravir, Polly shot it with a couple of arrows, and Garreth parried its attack.  Seépravir was ready to close the passage with another spell, but before she had a chance, the water elemental was dead, so she aborted the effort.

The chute was kind of wet with dead water elemental, so Garreth and Zaber and Polly decided it was water slide time.  Elias held back a bit, and Seépravir decided that Levitation sounded safer.  Garreth rolled a critical success on his Acrobatics roll, so he slid to the bottom, kicked the hatch open, popped out, stood up, and moved deftly to the side.  The others merely succeeded on Acrobatics, so they made it to the bottom unharmed, but supine.

Once they saw Garreth, the five remaining water elementals charged across the room.  While they did that, Polly murdered one of them with arrows, and Garreth killed the first one that got into range with his katana.  Elias finally succumbed to peer pressure and went down the water slide, but he's not so acrobatic so he hit the bottom pretty hard.  Fortunately his new armor absorbed the impact.  Seépravir kept Levitating down at a nice safe pace, dodging Elias as he slid by.

Polly and Garreth finished off the last three water elementals fairly quickly, before the others really got into the fight.  The room was wet, with some big metal pillars and a lot of ruined mildewed clothes in the water.  Zaber started searching, and mostly found junk.  Polly started searching with her Magic-sensitive elf eyes, and found a magic bag.  She opened it up, and a wolverine popped out and bit her, then jumped back in the bag.  Zaber wanted to kill it, but Seépravir mentioned that it might be a useful weapon if they could figure it out, and Polly didn't want to hurt it because it was nature.  Nothing came back out of the bag, so they kept it, and Elias healed Polly's injury.

Seépravir cast Seek Magic and found three more magical things in the room: a gnome-sized cloak, a gnome-sized pair of gloves, and a gnome-sized cape.  They kept all of them, then headed back up the chute, with Garreth dragging Elias since he's not a very good climber.

At that point the group thought they had explored the entire Clockwork Academy level, so some discussion as to where to go next ensued.  Seépravir cast Seek Earth looking for various gems and precious metals, and found emerald and platinum to the southwest.  They went that way, back near the domain of the Ceiling Snakes, and cast it again to home in closer.  Elias wandered ahead a bit and got himself ambushed by a Ceiling Snake, but its first bite failed to penetrate his armor.  He smashed it with his flail, almost killing it, and then nearby Polly finished it off with an arrow.  Garreth asked the people with Survival to make him some snake jerky, but they ignored him.

Seépravir turned Zaber Invisible and he scouted the remainder of the twisty caverns.  He found a boulder used to make a secret door, probably a troglodyte bypass around the ceiling snakes.  He also found a passage sloping down to the south, probably going to the next level of the dungeon.  He then found a hole in the wall, right where Seépravir thought the treasure was.  A ceiling snake was there, and attacked Zaber, but he wasn't surprised and knifed it.  He rolled a 3 for a maximum critical hit, and got a one-shot kill despite his unimpressive damage roll.  He pulled the snake out of the hole and looked for the treasure, but didn't find any.  Seépravir cast Seek Earth again, and sensed that the treasure was inside the snake.  They gutted it and found a valuable platinum and emerald necklace, a treasure that would have been very difficult to find without magical help.

We were almost out of time, so the group decided to go back to town, after first discussing how to get the huge valuable wooden conference table out of the Clockwork Academy to the surface and back to town.

GM's Comments:

This week was spent mopping up two almost-cleared levels.  Only two fights this week, both of them pretty easy for this group.  The gnome laundry had a huge rewards-to-difficulty ratio, though the magic clothing is all gnome-sized, and so not directly useful.  (Unless someone decides to make a gnome PC!)

The PCs are developing long-term plans: to make more entrances to the dungeon, to extract huge and difficult treasure, to humiliate Lord Flitwick (who they think did them wrong over the matter of ownership of some sketches they hired him to make).

Next time, they'll probably be exploring a new level.

2018-10-14

Character Point Awards in GURPS and Dungeon Fantasy RPG

There are a lot of different ways to award character points.

The traditional way in GURPS was roleplaying-based: you get some amount per session based on the GM's desired rate of PC advancement, more if you roleplay well, fewer if you don't.  That encourages good roleplaying, but at the cost of the GM having to judge how well each player roleplayed, and then possibly annoying the players who got fewer points.

The GURPS Dungeon Fantasy rules instead give a system for achievement-based character points, similar to old versions of D&D and some video games.  Each PC gets this many for winning a fight based on the difficulty level, extras for finding a secret bonus area, etc.  It's more objective, which is nice.  But it's also telling the PCs what they should be doing to advance, which feels a bit railroady.

Other games have used other criteria.  Sometimes objective ones, like treasure recovered.  Others are subjective, for achieving milestones in the plot.

DF Whiterock is a zero-to-hero campaign, with lower than normal starting points for Dungeon Fantasy, so the goal is to give out a higher-than-average number of points per session, so the PCs eventually reach the heroic power level they'll need to defeat the difficult challenges at the bottom of the dungeon.  But not too many, or they'll get above the power level of the part of the dungeon they're in, and possibly get bored.

I pulled a number out of the air: 5.  In a normal four-hour session, each PC whose player showed up and participated for the entire session usually gets an average of 5 points.  If the player only made part of the session, they get fewer points.  (Note that points go with the player, not the PC.  One of my meta-game goals is to have players running their own characters.  So if someone else runs your character for you, your character doesn't get points for that.)

The other factor is bonus points for significant accomplishments.  So far, there have been 3 sessions where each PC earned 3 bonus points: the one where they rescued Lyssa and the other prisoners from the White Talon orc slavers, the one where they killed Kaernga (leader of the White Talon orcs), and the one where they killed Drugila (leader of the White Roc orcs).  By design, it's not very clear to the players what they have to do to earn such a bonus, or how many such opportunities are available.

We're 23 sessions in, so the most experienced PC (Seépravir) has earned 5 * 23 + 3 * 3 = 124 points.  Garreth and Zaber have missed just a couple of sessions each so are just a bit behind, and then Polly (a newer PC) is a bit behind them, and Elias (an even newer PC) is a bit behind Polly.  But not that far behind, because they were given more points to start, based on another formula that hasn't been made clear to the players, possibly because the GM wants to preserve some mystery, possibly because the GM is making it up on the fly.

I'm going participation points plus the occasional party-wide bonus due to a combination of trying to encourage team-centric behavior, and because it's easy for the GM.  This campaign is definitely a team game, with the players sharing their character sheets with each other rather than hiding things, so uneven point rewards would be obvious.  Any uneven point rewards given out for competitive reasons (like who killed the most monsters or found the most treasure) would encourage competitive behavior.  But it's a cooperative game, and we mostly have cooperative players, and I think that even rewards encourage that.  But we also need participation, and knowing you have to show up to earn advancement encourages showing up whenever possible.

The other thing I want to touch on is even versus uneven rewards.  D&D features character levels and "leveling up," where the PC stays at the same power level for a while then makes a sizable jump up in power.  And a lot of video games have copied this.  But, in my opinion, levels are inflexible and kind of cheesy, a remnant of early-1970s role-playing technology.  Once we had point-based game systems in the 1980s, we didn't need them anymore.  Any video game with a "level up" button makes me cringe a little: it's a video game, and the computer can easily track everything, so there's no need for such big discrete hops.  I'd rather trickle out a few points per game session and let the PCs constantly make small improvements, than withhold points for several sessions then give out a big pile of points.  The players in DF Whiterock are all involved enough to be planning ahead their future advancement anyway, so I think this has worked out pretty well.

2018-10-07

DF Whiterock Session 23: Iron Gnomes

Date:

2018-10-05

Weather:

Cool, party cloudy

Player Characters:

Elias (Wiggles), Wood Elf Cleric, 215 points
Garreth (Zuljita), Half-Orc Fighter, 259 points
Ibizaber (Demented Avenger), Human Thief, 247 points
Polly (Kalzazz), Wood Elf Archer, 233 points
Seépravir (Archon Shiva), High-Elf Wizard, 269 points

Significant NPCs:

5 Iron Gnome Lancers
2 Iron Gnome Marksmen
1 Animated Table


We started the session in a low-ceilinged lounge in the Clockwork Academy, full of ancient chairs and couches, right after Zaber opened a secret door behind some carvings of a clockwork gadget.  The room behind the secret door turned out to be a brightly lit rectangular vault, containing four Iron Gnome Lancers and a table.  The Iron Gnomes immediately started wheeling toward the PCs at fairly high speed, while extending their lances to 3-hex reach.  They were far enough away for a few seconds of action before they reached melee range.

Polly took advantage of the time it took for the lancers to close range by firing bodkin arrows at whichever of the lancers she had unobstructed line of sight to.  In the three seconds of closing time, she fired six bodkin arrows (Heroic Archers with Extra Attack are a bit nuts).  One missed, one was dodged, and four hit, doing enough damage to badly damage one of the lancers, enough to slow it to half Move and half Dodge.  Meanwhile, Elias moved forward, Zaber pushed a large flowerpot forward, Seépravir cast Great Haste on Garreth, and Garreth drew his katana and moved forward.

As the lancers reached melee range, Polly hit one with another bodkin, then double-speed Garreth ran into lancer melee range and did an All-Out Attack (Determined) with his first turn followed by a Rapid Strike with his second.  All three were Deceptive Attacks for -1 to defend.  And, somehow, the lancer dodged all three.  (With 3-hex reach, it used a Retreat for +3 to all the Dodges against Garreth, and was still able to attack without needing to move closer.)

All four Iron Gnomes were now in melee reach of both Elias and Garreth.  I rolled randomly to see which each targeted, and all four picked Garreth.  Uh-oh.  The first one rolled a 6, for a Critical Hit, making it obvious to observant players that they had Lance skill of 16 or better.  Garreth used his Luck to negate the crit, but the lancer still hit on both of the rerolls.  Garreth easily parried the hit.  The second lancer (the one that had been badly damaged by arrow fire) also tried to impale Garreth, with a Deceptive Attack for -2 to defend.  Garreth tried to parry, but the combined penalties for the low ceiling, the Deceptive Attack, and the second parry of the turn meant that he failed.  The lancer did 11 points of impaling damage to Garreth, which his Bless spell negated, but Garreth was no longer Blessed.  The third lancer tried to spear Garreth, who tried for Acrobatic Dodge, but failed his Acrobatics skill roll, giving -2 instead of +2 to his Dodge.  He failed to dodge, and took 15 points of impaling damage, a Major Wound even with Garreth's high HPHe made his knockdown roll.  The fourth lancer took a Deceptive Attack, Garreth failed to parry with the penalties, and it did another 13 points impaling.  This resulted in a death check, which Garreth passed, and another knockdown check, which Garreth rolled a 17 on, meaning he was prone, stunned, and disarmed.

Polly kept shooting, plugging two more bodkins into a previously unwounded lancer, damaging it enough to slow its movement.  Zaber kept moving the flowerpot forward, for some reason.  Seépravir announced that it was time to retreat.  Because he was stunned, Garreth had to Do Nothing, but made his HT roll to recover from stun, so was merely prone and disarmed.  Since he still had Great Haste on, he got a second turn, which he used to Ready a wineskin full of healing potions and roll one hex away from the fight.  Because he did something while at negative hit points, he had to roll a HT check to remain conscious, which he passed.

The first lancer decided to stab Garreth again, since he was still moving.  Garreth tried a retreating (by more rolling away) dodge, but failed, and took another 12 points impaling.  This was his second death check, this time at a penalty for even lower HP, and this time he failed by 2, a Mortal Wound.  Not quite dead, but unconscious and in danger of dying.  The other lancers attacked Elias, but he successfully blocked and parried and retreated.  The table in the back of the room, deciding its side was winning, decided to animate and move toward the battle.

Polly kept shooting, though unfortunately Elias was in the line of fire.  She rolled a 16 for her first arrow, which with the -4 for Elias in the line of fire missed the iron gnome, so had to roll 9 or less to hit Elias, and fortunately missed him too.  Then Polly got to roll 9 or less to hit the iron gnome behind the target, and was lucky enough to hit, but the iron gnome was lucky enough to roll a 4 on its dodge roll for a critical success, and did some robotic taunt dancing.  Polly's second arrow hit its intended target, one of the badly damaged lancers, and it failed to dodge (with its Dodge at half due to its wounds), and the cumulative damage was enough to knock it out of the fight.  (These lancers stopped at 0 HP, rather than rolling HT checks, though the players didn't know that yet.)  Zaber chose All-Out Defend (Double) and backed up.  Seépravir stopped maintaining some non-essential spells to improve her casting odds, then cast Levitate on mortally wounded Garreth.  Two lancers that could reach Elias tried to hit him, but he blocked and retreated and parried.  The third lancer tried moving through the hex where Zaber had left the flowerpot, failed its DX check to evade it, and stumbled.  (-2 to defenses on its next turn.)

Then Polly fired two cutting arrows at the lancer that had stumbled.  It failed to dodge the first one, took enough damage to slow it, failed to dodge the second one because of the penalties for stumbling and being slowed, and took enough damage to be knocked out.  Elias and Zaber defended and backed up, and Seépravir used Levitate to move Garreth away from the lancers, while stepping back herself.  The table in the back of the room moved forward some more but was not yet in melee range.  The two remaining lancers tried to hit Elias and Polly, but Elias blocked and the Move and Attack on Polly missed.

Polly fired two more cutting arrows at the lancer that attacked her, lining up her shots so that any misses might hit the other lancer behind it.  The first arrow hit its primary target, and the other arrow missed everything.  Elias All-Out Defended some more.  Both remaining lancers went for Elias.  He blocked the attack from the first one, but failed to parry or dodge the second, even with Luck.  The lancer rolled good damage, and Elias's Bless (from a scroll, because you can't cast Bless on yourself) saved him, causing him to do a crazy bendy acrobatic dodge that Elias would not normally be capable of, and being consumed in the process.

Next turn, Polly fired two arrows at the animated table.  One missed, and the other hit hard enough to badly damage and slow it.  Zaber and Elias kept defending, while Seépravir kept moving Garreth out of lance range, toward the door at the back of the lounge.  Both brave lancers kept attacking Elias, though no longer with the advantage of numbers.  He blocked the first lance, and the second lance missed.  The less-brave table decided to retreat back into the vault.  

Polly ignored the retreating table and focused on an unwounded iron gnome lancer, drilling it with two bodkins.  The -2 Dodge penalty for Committed Attack (which it had needed to double-step into range of Elias) meant it failed to dodge, and then it was slowed by damage, which caused it to fail to dodge the second arrow, which knocked it out.   The last lancer standing tried a Deceptive Attack on Elias, but he made his retreating dodge even with the penalties, and Polly finished it.  She then mercilessly hunted down and destroyed the retreating table, while the others started trying to save Garreth.

The wineskin full of 20 healing potions that Seépravir had been filling every week in town, and Garreth had been hauling around forever, finally came in handy.  They poured two potions into Garreth, and he double-healed because of 20+ HP.  Then Elias cast Stop Bleeding, which healed a few more HP and also stopped the "roll vs. HT every 30 minutes or die" effect of the Mortal Wound.  Seépravir cast Lend Energy on Elias, and then Elias cast Bless on Garreth to give him +1 to all his Healing and HT rolls.  They poured some more healing potions down his throat, until he eventually woke up at near-full HP.  He had to make a HT roll to see if the Mortal Wound cost him a point of HT permanently, but succeeded.  Elias used one of his remaining scrolls to restrore his own Bless, which had been knocked off during the fight.  So in the end it was a successful battle, at the cost of several easily-replaced healing potions and a rare Bless scroll.  The iron gnomes had some gold trim, which was quickly looted.  Garreth wanted to take an entire broken iron gnome back to town, but they were hundreds of pounds, too heavy to easily manage.

With the mechanical foes all broken and Garreth mostly fixed, the group moved forward into the vault to see what the iron gnomes had been guarding.  Seépravir cast Seek Magic to simplify the search, and surprisingly it found some magic on a chair in the lounge.  After fighting an animated pushcart and an animated table, there was some worry the chair might be aggressive, but it turned out to be a normal chair with a magic scroll stuck under its cushion.  The scroll was written in Gnome, which nobody could read, so they saved it for town.

Moving forward into the vault, there were two huge scrolls on the walls, behind glass.  The writing on them appeared to be unreadable gibberish.  Zaber tried to figure it out, while Seépravir yelled at him to stop reading things that might be traps.  Zaber eventually stopped reading, pulled out his very fine knife, and attempted to cut the glass cleanly.  He failed, broke the glass instead, and took the scrolls.

When Zaber looked up, he noticed a secret door on the back wall.  The party stood back and got ready for trouble, but when Zaber opened the door, the small alcove behind it contained only a gnome-shaped pedestal (Seépravir recognized the gnome from her research as Ergus Silverheel, founder and first headmaster of the Clockwork Academy), holding a huge and well-preserved book, with some spiky runes on the cover that Seépravir recognized as Draconic.  Once again Zaber wanted to flip through the book, and once again Seépravir yelled at him to save that for town.  Zaber made his self-control roll against Curious and reluctantly agreed.

With the book and scrolls in a wheelbarrow, it was time to explore the rest of the level.  The group decided to cast Invisibility on Zaber and let him scout ahead.  There were 7 iron doors flanking the long hallway that had led to the vault, and he systematically checked all of them for traps, listened at them, and then opened them.  Behind the doors were some long-abandoned offices, full of rotten furniture, rotten books, rotten plants in old flowerpots, and the tiny skeleton of some kind of pet.  A conference room contained a huge and very nice wooden table, that looked like it might be worth a lot of money if it could somehow be removed and brought to town.  Otherwise, nothing good.

Zaber then went near the entrance of the Clockwork Academy and turned south down an unexplored passage.  It led to a large balcony with three more Iron Gnomes, a hatch on the far wall, and a couple of stairways down.  Trusting Invisibilty and his Stealth, Zaber snuck past the guards and down the stairs, to a hallway with five doors facing south.  Once again Zaber searched each of them for traps, listened at it, then opened it.  Once again, he found a bunch of old abandoned rooms full of ruined furniture, nothing good.

Zaber snuck past the iron gnomes again, and went back to the rest of the party.  They decided to destroy the iron gnomes.  The group huddled around the corner from where they knew their adversaries were, Zaber bringing another flowerpot since the previous one had helped, and then Polly popped around and started shooting.  This time, her first two shots were good enough to disable one of the iron gnomes.  Elias tried shooting one with his hand crossbow, but missed.  One of the remaining iron gnomes fired a dart at Polly and missed, while the other extended a lance and charged.  Seépravir cast Great Haste on Garreth.  Invisible Zaber hid on one of the staircases, preparing to ambush the lancer.

Polly fired a couple of arrows at the dart-firing iron gnome, wounding it but not severely.  The lancer reached Garreth and tried to impale him, but failed its Move and Attack roll.  Garreth triple attacked it with an All-Out Attack followed by two Rapid Strikes, and this time the lancer didn't dodge and was chopped to bits.  The dart gnome missed again, and then Polly shot it with a couple more arrows and disabled it.  The second fight against iron gnomes had been a lot easier than the first one.  The party quickly looted some gold trim and darts, then Zaber wandered over to the hatch on the far wall.

Like the previous hatches, this one led to a very narrow chute, though this one was at an angle rather than vertical.  Zaber tried to squeeze in, but didn't fit.  Time was running short, so the group decided to go back to town, and try to deal with this chute next week.

GM's Comments:

Garreth almost died, despite high defenses and Luck and Bless, as a result of being quadruple-teamed by four Iron Gnome lancers, plus some bad dice.  The Mortal Wound rule saved him, as he missed his second death check by 2 points.  One point higher and he'd be dead.

With Garreth out of the fight, Polly did literally all of the damage in the first battle, while Elias defended and Seépravir Levitated Garreth's unconscious body and Zaber pushed a flowerpot into a strategic location then got out of the way.

The big scrolls and the giant tome on the gnome pedestal looked interesting, but fear of traps meant the group didn't actually examine them in any detail while still in the dungeon.

The second group of Iron Gnomes was a lot easier than the first, because Polly knocked one out on the first turn of combat, and Garreth knocked another one out as soon as it got in melee range, and the one with darts never actually managed to hit anything.  (Range penalties mean that hitting things at long range is hard.  Unless you're Polly.)

We spent the whole session on two fights plus a bit of solo exploration, but it feels like the Clockwork Academy is mostly explored except for that one skinny chute down, so we'll see if they finish this level off next time.

2018-10-02

DF Whiterock Session 22: Digging a Hole

Date:

2018-09-28

Weather:

Mild, party cloudy

Player Characters:

Elias (Wiggles), Wood Elf Cleric, 209 points
Garreth (Zuljita), Half-Orc Fighter, 254 points
Ibizaber (Demented Avenger), Human Thief, 242 points
Polly (Kalzazz), Wood Elf Archer, 228 points
Seépravir (Archon Shiva), High-Elf Wizard, 264 points

Significant NPCs:

Lord Granger Flitwick, Human Noble
Quintus, Human Alchemist
Alrux, Dwarf Armorer
3 Shocker Lizards


The PCs spent a week in town, training and drinking and shopping and looking for information.  Zaber spied on Lord Flitwick some more, and found that he was back in town.  Zaber and Garreth both failed to hear any interesting new rumors.

Seépravir researched the Clockwork Academy and found that it was a gnomish institution of learning about mechanical things, founded by Ergus Silverheel about 600 years ago, that it produced golems including combat golems, and that it was believed destroyed by orcs and dragons and cloud giants. 

Garreth took some dragon hide to Alrux the armorer, to see if he wanted to buy them or could make armor out of them.  Alrux was impressed and low-fived Garreth for killing a baby dragon, but explained that he'd never actually made dragon hide armor before, so it would be a risk.  Garreth didn't make a final decision and said he had to talk it over with his friends.

Quintus the alchemist wasn't very interested in dragon scales, but bought a dragon gizzard, raising his offer when he remembered how rich Elias was.

Polly gave some hard carrot juice to Ixnay the shoulder dragon, who liked it and then went back to sleep.

After running out of fun things to do in town, the party hiked to Castle Whiterock.  Once again they dodged any random encounters on the way to the castle, cast a few spells, then headed down a few levels to the Clockwork Academy.  After some brief discussion, they decided to eradicate the Shocker Lizards that had almost killed Polly.  Unfortunately, the vertical shaft leading down to the lizards was still incredibly narrow, and nobody except Polly fit in it.  (Zaber, who actually has Escape skill, tried but failed.)  There was some discussion of using the Grease spell to squeeze someone down it, which sounded like a bad idea.  Fortunately, Seépravir has the Shape Earth spell, so the topography of the dungeon is somewhat negotiable.  She started widening the shaft to the point that one person could easily fit.  Then she cast Levitate and floated down as she kept casting Shape Earth, to avoid range penalties.

When she was done digging, she flew back up to the top.  Zaber, who happened to be Invisible, went down first.  Then Garreth.  Zaber opened the door into the storeroom containing shocker lizards.  They didn't see him, but they saw Garreth, so a fight started.  With Elias, Polly, and Seépravir still at the top of the shaft.  Polly doesn't like being left out of a fight, so she decided to jump.  Fortunately she has Acrobatics, and made her roll, subtracting 5 yards of falling damage.  Unfortunately, the shaft was 7 yards deep, so she still made a rough landing.  Fortunately, she landed on Garreth so he took some of the damage.  And both were kind of prone.  (The shaft was too narrow to go fully prone, but I figured it was close enough.)

Nobody was surprised, and all three lizards ran past invisible Zaber and tried to zap Garreth and Polly.  The first one almost hit Polly pretty hard (she failed to evade with the posture penalty) until the Bless spell on her averted it and was used up.  Garreth made his DX roll to evade and his armor avoided the small amount of remaining damage.  The second lizard missed.  The third lizard again failed to hurt Garreth through his armor, but did more shock damage to Polly.  She was slowed by her wounds, and needed to roll each turn to remain conscious.

Seépravir decided to use her Levitation to take two turns to reach the bottom of the shaft, one second falling at 5 yards/second and then one second making a controlled landing at the moderate 3 yards/second that Levitate allows.  Elias, lacking any means of flight or even skilled Climbing, stayed at the top and yelled encouragement.

Heroic Archers can shoot with no penalties for posture, so Polly decided not to waste time changing positions, and that it was time to start shooting lizards.  But the shock penalty for the combination of falling and electrical damage on the previous turn took her Fast-Draw(Arrow) below the level where her No Nuisance Rolls perk applied, and so she actually had to roll her Fast-Draw, and she rolled a 15 and dropped an arrow.  Oops.  She then took a one-hex Step (described as "flopping like a fish") while prone to get out of the way.

Garreth finished standing up, and then took a Rapid Strike double katana chop at the nearest lizard, with some Deceptive Attack added for fun.  The lizard failed its first Dodge, was injured seriously enough to have its move and dodge halved, missed its second Dodge as a result, and died.  Shocker Lizards are glass cannons -- nice electrical attacks but not a lot of staying power.

In response, the two surviving Shocker Lizards started their combo interpretive dance to make a big multi-hex ball of lightning attack.  It was big enough to hit Zaber, Garreth, and Polly.  It hurt Zaber badly, Garreth a little, and Polly (already badly injured) badly.  Polly made her death check, happy that she had put points into HT and Fit.

Seépravir was still 2 yards off the floor, which was too high to see the lizards through the door.  So she cast Smoke to ruin everyone's vision.  Invisible Zaber was in the Smoke area, and had to close his eyes and hold his breath to avoid negative effects.  The lizards were also surrounded by Smoke, and (unknown to the party) ran away to get out of it.  (I took their tokens off the map since nobody could see them.  I guess I could have used Roll20's line of sight features instead to make the Smoke opaque.)

Polly managed to stay conscious, fast-drew an arrow, but failed (with the penalty for shock) to automatically quick-ready her bow, and spent a whole second drawing it, like a farmer.  Zaber kept his eyes shut and chose All-Out Defend (Dodge).  Fortunately for him, the lizards were repositioning themselves outside of the scary Smoke, rather than shocking people.  Seépravir dismissed her Smoke to get a quick look at where the lizards were, spotted one of them, then quickly re-cast Smoke in a different place.  Garreth had been waiting for a lizard to come in katana range, but none did, so he didn't do anything.

Polly took advantage of the quick glance at one lizard's position to loose a couple of arrows at it.  (With the shock penalty gone, she was back to Fast-Draw 16+ and Bow 16+ so her No Nuisance Rolls perk was working again and she only had to roll to hit with her arrows.)  I ruled that since the Smoke had just disappeared for a second and given her a clear look, she knew where the target was, but since new Smoke was blocking her line of sight, she had a -4 to hit it.  With that penalty, only one of her two shots hit.  Of course the lack of line of sight works both ways, and I had to decide whether to give the lizard a chance to Dodge.  I gave it a hearing roll, which it failed, so no Dodge, and it took a pretty solid hit from an impaling arrow.

Garreth decided to charge forward, not knowing that Invisible Zaber was in his path.  Zaber Dodged the accidental friendly Slam, and ran up to where he saw the remaining lizard, hiding behind some big shelves.  The lizard stepped forward to zap Garreth, and rolled a 17.  Critical failure, lost balance, -2 to defenses.  The other lizard, which Polly had just shot, passed out.

Seépravir moved forward, Polly (still prone) flopped forward a bit to try to get a shot at the remaining lizard, Zaber hid behind a table, and Garreth decided to chop the off-balance lizard in half, twice.  The combination of the -2 off-balance penalty and -2 for Deceptive Attack were enough to cause the lizard to fail its first Dodge, and it was injured badly but not killed.  Then the second strike came in, with the lizard's Dodge lowered more by its wounds, and it died.

With the fight over, Seépravir Levitated up to the top of the shaft, cast Levitate on Elias, and lowered both of them back down.  The lizards' lair was a storeroom, with lots of shelves and also a few hatches on the walls.  With Polly badly injured and Zaber somewhat injured, there were some Stop Bleeding spells and then some Major Healing spells and then some Lend Energy from Seépravir to help Elias recover from casting all those spells.  Polly recovered some arrows and then noticed a big bug running across the floor.  She didn't want to hurt it because of her reverence for Nature.  And then Seépravir started cutting up lizards for potentially valuable electrical glands (these PCs don't waste any part of their enemies that might be worth cash), while Zaber started searching the shelves.

On the shelves, Zaber found a crowbar and some flint and steel.  Then another bug skittered across the floor and the PCs had an overreaction contest, with Seépravir casting Death Vision on it while Garreth threw a knife at it.  Polly complained about being mean to wildlife, while Seépravir put the bug in a vial along with lizard bits.

Behind a hatch to the east was a small tunnel, which soon ended in collapse.  Zaber kept searching shelves, and found a very high quality lock.  And then a tube with glass on both ends, which the PCs looked through for a few minutes, watching things get bigger and smaller.  Polly decided to search too, and found a key, which fit the lock.  Zaber opened a hatch to the north, and found a vertical shaft totally full of rubble.  There were two other rubble-filled hatches to the west, which seemed to match rubble-filled hatches they'd seen from above, but the one to the north appeared new and interesting, so it was time for Dungeon Civil Engineering, Phase Two.

We then went through a long slow process of Seépravir casting Shape Earth to widen the shaft and clear out some rubble, then Levitating up, and repeating.  A lot of times.  The fourth or fifth time I rolled for unstable tunnel collapse, I rolled a 17, and a bunch of rubble fell on Seépravir.  But she had a Bless spell up, so all this did was knock her Bless off and prevent any actual smooshing.  She had Elias re-cast Bless and resumed digging up.  She eventually made it all the way to the surface, about 100 feet up, and the party had a new entrance to the dungeon.  (Unfortunately they didn't have a 100' ladder or even 100' of rope, but they made plans to acquire such things.)  Seépravir tried to camouflage the top of the hole, then went back down to her rather bored companions, who had finished searching the room and were waiting to resume exploring.

Seépravir cast Seek Magic and saw a vision of a door, up and southwest.  So everyone climbed or Levitated back up to the main Clockwork Academy level,  until they were all in front of a closed door near the front entrance.  Zaber searched for traps, didn't find any, listened, didn't hear anything, and opened the door.  BOOMExplosive Fireball trap.  Zaber made his DX roll for half damage, but it was a big Fireball, and half was plenty to knock his Bless off.   Polly and Seépravir also took a bit of fire damage, but they were far enough back that it wasn't much.

Elias remembered to drop the Bless on Bojack (who wasn't in the castle, having been called to some ceremony at the temple of Danethar), then recast Bless on Zaber.  Behind the trapped door was a long, narrow, low hallway, with 7 doors on the sides and end.  Seépravir recast Seek Magic and found magic on the door at the end of the hallway.  Zaber checked it for traps and was pretty sure there was some kind of magic trap on it.  Elias cast Resist Fire on him, just in case it was another Fireball, and then Zaber decided to pick the lock but not open the door, instead letting Seépravir Apportate it open from a safe distance.  He made his Lockpicking roll and backed away.

Seépravir magicked it open, revealing a hemispherical room with formerly nice but decayed furniture.  The far wall had some carvings of some crazy clockwork gadget, and Zaber (with the combo of Alertness and See Secrets raising his senses to ridiculous levels) immediately spotted a secret door behind it.  He touched it to open it, and some magic trap tried to kill him, but he made his HT roll and didn't die.  The secret door swung open...

...And we were out of time so I stopped things there rather than describing what was behind the door.  We'll find out next week.

GM's Comments:

Only one fight this week, against the shocker lizards that almost killed Polly last week.  It was a long fight because of elevation differences, and narrow shafts that needed widening, and Smoke blocking line of sight, and Polly being too injured to murder enemies at her usual velocity.  But the PCs won handily, though with a couple of bad scares, Polly needing to make a death check and Zaber being knocked within a couple of HP of needing to roll consciousness checks.

The players spent some time playing with the lock and spyglass and bugs they found, proof that any weird treasure is fun.  Seépravir spent a lot of time digging a new entrance chimney, which means that the Clockwork Academy is now eligible for visits from Santa.

The MVP of the session was Elias's Bless collection.  Saved Polly, Seépravir, and Zaber once each.  That spell is so broken, especially if there's ample time to cast it again after it does its duty, as there was this time.

The hallway of trapped doors was a different kind of challenge, as there haven't been a lot of effective traps in Castle Whiterock so far.  The 9d Explosive Fireball was nasty, and then the resist-or-die trap was even nastier, but the combo of Luck and Bless means that there wasn't really much danger.  Defeating this party means hitting them with multiple lethal threats faster than they can replenish their supernatural cheat codes.

Making Automatic Rolls for PCs Between Sessions

Player characters in GURPS Dungeon Fantasy games often have things to do in town between sessions.  Some of these things are interesting and...