Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Dragon hunting part 2

By David Revoy / Blender Foundation - Own work, CC BY 3.0,
"Look at this dragon. No previous job experience. No wizardry, no dragon fear... by Nyarlahotep's teats, it doesn't even spit acid, just fire. Fire is like, day one basic."
"So? It's the only dragon that applied for the job."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that no serious, self-respecting great wyrm is willing to risk its hide and hoard on your experiment, Kovath."
"That's rubbish. And this is a rubbish dragon."
"Sure, but the rubbish dragon is hired anyway."
I've done some basic testing with 2 parties now and I'm increasingly convinced that CER isn't broken on dragons, instead, my party didn't come prepared for the dungeon. What's more, I've come to a few conclusions about DFRPG dragons.
  1. If the dragon is a boss, consider the dragon as statted in Monsters a racial template.  Give them some neat tricks, without things like terror, spells or some other tools (some speculation in my group about giving a dragon martial artist abilities looked pretty cool), it's just not scary enough. 
  2. Parries are painful. When we gamed this out, the dragon was in a rough spot because swinging at the party just meant the damage kept piling on.  This even makes flyby attacks less viable since the dragon's swipes open it up to damage.  Seriously consider taking full advantage of the box on Monsters p.39 and call your whole dragon a weapon.
  3. When you know what's coming, resist fire or cold spells make a difference, but the breath weapons are totally dodgeable.  Acid is far more dangerous without appropriate resistances and is tough to dodge. Poison won't do a lot of damage, but is very consistent in at least doing some damage, in a world where 2 turns of poison damage could drop you into reduced dodge territory, that is a big deal. 
  4. Their CER isn't wildly out of whack provided you bring a party that is properly equipped to deal with a variety of threats.  If my large party hadn't entirely chosen to focus on hitting soft spots, a single large dragon would have been a tough but far from unbeatable challenge, the 5 person party my dragon hunters test group fielded could probably have handled 2, or as many as 3 if I'd had a dungeon large enough. Next time the generator rolls up a 3 dragon encounter, the party had better be prepared.
  5. Dragon skill isn't all that high, so, they lack tools to deal with solid active defenses.  Extra skill to allow for some deceptive attacks might help.  I'd also consider statting up a wind buffet type attack for knock back.  If you can knock over a delver or 2 with one such wind buffet and land a solid claw hit while they are down, you might make the party panic a little bit and add some real drama to the fight.
  6. An optimized party for cracking tough nuts like dragons might well need to see a dragon with injury reduction.  That would bump up it's CER as well (10 points or so), making one alone a more solid challenge.
  7. That $5k in treasure I mentioned that assumed a boss fight *is* small, but I think it's also appropriate to the difficulty of the boss as it stands now. If we pile on some more tools in it's toolbox, CER increases, but, almost certainly not enough to be in line with the vast vaults we see in fiction. I'm not sure how to balance this over the long haul.  Dragons almost certainly need to be rarer in our generator and kick out better loot.  When we get to the point where putting bosses at the back of a dungeon becomes technically possible (it's on our list of goal features... one day), I'd be open to changing generated treasure to as much as 5 times that, maybe more since I could count on a dungeon to wear down party resources.  I also figure a mage dragon could have some sword golems in his treasure vault to keep an eye on things while it hunts for food, adding other critters to a dragon encounter would adjust the math as well. All of that said, there is such a thing as too much treasure, and I'm not sure where that line goes for DFRPG yet.  I suspect I'll find out as we test these dungeons more.
I'm excitedly looking forward to the day (a ways off yet) that we can look at adding templates and spell lists to monsters the dungeon spits out.  My liches and dragons are begging for spell lists.  A medium dragon (or even better, a large) with Karate, unarmed master, Kiai, push and throwing art could probably rock a party's world.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

First time into the Breach

"Zarlazz, what are they doing?"
"Wandering around the hallway. Look, the human just walked into the wall."
"What is it, blind?"
"No, it walked INTO THE WALL. It seems stuck. Are you sure the system is getting walls right?"
"Listen, Zarlazz, I'm getting just a little tired of you denigrating the pro-- oh. Yes. It blocks vision but only blocks movement one way. That's... an incorrect setting. Shut UP I'll FIX IT."

I'm separating session logs from the recap.  The log for this session can be found here.
Things didn't run super fast this session, we had one good fight and got a feel for the characters the party brought.

We brought with us (check back for links to characters once I get them up):
  1. Bowgre Stretazuma the Half-Ogre scout played by Douglas Cole from Gaming Ballistic
  2. Fiona Firedrake the Human Knight played by Kalzazz
  3. Gharza Brokentooth the Half-Orc played by Kevin
  4. Stonemaul Ironbeard the Dwarf Cleric played by Starslayer
  5. Teetonka the Half-Ogre Thief Played by Bruno
  6. Vondur Stouthammer the Dwarf Swashbuckler played by Colarmel
We started with some discussion of marching order, lighting and so on.  The cave was lit with glowing crystals embedded in the wall throughout providing a -4 vision penalty (this was randomly determined).  This light level provided full vision to many of the non-humans in the group, but our token human had some trouble.  The Wizard provided a continual light spell at daylight level to help her out.  Once we got going, we had a player get stuck in a wall behind a vision blocking layer.  Ah, technical difficulties!

We also spent some time learning DFRPG rules as we went.  Every player we brought was a seasoned GURPS player (albiet all with different groups).  What none of us really realized before we started this, how many house rules we used and how many other rules we just don't use in our respective games.  Kevin did a lot of cross checking rules for us mid game (turns out he's a rock star at getting that done, although it makes him uncomfortable to do all the rules lawyering we are asking him to do).  I don't normally recommend this in play, but this project is intentionally trying to use *all* the rules and get it all right.

On that note, we also missed the fact that dropping your crossbow after firing is totally covered by DFRPG rules.  Crossbow as a wooden object has DR 2 (Exploits p.102) and a drop from human waist height is about a yard (1d damage). We rolled it after the fact and Fiona's crossbow got by unscathed.  This is one rule I probably would continue to ignore in normal play, but it isn't a big deal once you've internalized it.

The party ended up sneaking up on the first encounter (16 Dinomen).  We gave the party the benefit of both Ambush and Backstabbing, which it turns out isn't kosher.  If you want to backstab, you need to have half the party conspicuous, if you want an ambush you don't get to place everyone in clear sight-lines of the enemy.

That ambush was a big deal, it took the Dinomen (a lowly IQ 7 and no combat reflexes) forever to recover from the opening stun.  It was a very fast bloodbath.  Most of the PC's did enough damage to weak fleshy bits to inflict major wounds and knockdown.  The reptiles didn't fare well.  The enemy never even got to attack the party before getting mowed down.  We called the fight because we were at the end of time with 3 foes standing, only one of whom would be able to act on the next round.

The loot (so far as the party can tell) is as follows:
  • A bundle of furs
  • An inscribed stone 
  • Some fancy seeming sandals 
  • 1 half-gold, 1 quarter gold, 1 eighth gold 79 copper ($429)
Characters gained one point for winning a worthy fight (Exploits p.92)

My big regrets are that my Maptool framework needs to run more smoothly for hordes and that the vision blocking seems to keep causing at least one of my players trouble.   I'll be cleaning it up for the next session.

Positives: the concept worked really well, we got a chance to get out and try a randomly generated dungeon and it worked. My players had fun and the encounter that was statted as worthy was only trivialized by excessive use of ambush and backstab together, I think, we'll see going forward.

The Secret Prison of Kas the Bloody Part 1

I'm just posting whole chat logs here and discussion of what happened here.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Dragon Hunting

"Look, Zarlazz, our first customers."
"A human, two dwarves, and three... half-ogres? Half-orcs?"
"Hard to tell, isn't it."
"The dragon's gonna be upset."
"Kovath, Have you ever tasted half... ogre, I'm pretty sure it's ogre..."
"Oh. Good point. Well, a disappointed dragon is hardly the worst possible result of this experiment."

One of the interesting hiccups I ran into with my dungeon generator was when it wanted to populate a room with 3 large dragons to create a "boss" encounter for 6 starting DFRPG characters.

I started doing math on it and discovered pretty quickly that the party we had would die pretty horribly to just one of these dragons.  DR:9 is a show stopper if your Knight goes tanky, your wizard goes controller, your swashbuckler specializes in eye stabbing and you brought a scout instead of a barbarian.  At first, I was convinced this was a bug in CER (and it may still well be one, I'm doing testing on that with my group) but that's beyond the scope of this post.

My group has been sitting down and discussing how a starting party could kill a large dragon with careful planning and a made to suit party.  Looks pretty possible if you focus on big damage numbers from something like a maul and go for the skull, or a great axe to the neck.  Seems like you only *need* one solid damage dealer, some good buffs and a sacrificial blocker/parryer  to make it viable.

What would you do to try to bring down a dragon?

Related: how much treasure do you think such a beastie should have?  Current CER math kicks out $5,000 total which seems very small.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Beta Time!

"See, Zarlazz? We can easily manage a half-dozen dungeons at once like this--"
"No more sitting in the middle of just one labyrinth, trying to murder four humans, a half-elf, and a dwarf--"
"You just push the buttons here and -- what?"
"How do you expect to keep the Demon From Between The Stars from eating all your Bugbears?"

We've gotten quite a bit done on our Dungeon Generator and I'm prepared to share it with you.  It's far from complete, (just check the issues tab on GitHub to see all the things we still intend to do) but it creates a dungeon filled with monsters now.  I'd love to get a little feedback on what it does do. If you see any issues, please let us know.

  • Go to either the Stable (we know the features we've implemented work and have been tested to a reasonable degree) or the Development (this one could break any time we do a commit with new code for testing) page.
  • Click the big green "Clone or Download" button and then click download zip
  • Extract the zip somewhere
  • Open the index.html file
  • Start playing with the generator
Let us know what you think.  If you know Javascript and want to pitch in, we wouldn't mind the help.