How to Reflect Blasters With Your Lightsaber

Despite running a Star Wars inspired game, I haven’t yet had a player or NPC use their lightsaber to reflect blaster bolts back at attackers. A player finally asked for this ability, so I went to write it up… and then noticed I already did that ages ago, but not before I was almost finished with my new writeup. And the old one was better in most regards as well! So here’s how I’d do it:

Reflect Blasters
Hard

Prerequisites: Force Sword, Precognitive Parry.
Default: Force Sword Parry-4; cannot exceed Force Sword Parry.

This technique allows you to reflect blaster bolts with your lightsaber at the targets of your choosing. On a successful parry using this technique, roll against Force Sword to reflect the parried bolts at anyone within your field of vision, applying normal ranged combat modifiers. This roll is at an additional penalty equal to the penalty of this technique, if not bought off. Your rate of fire is equal to the number of shots parried, damage and recoil are equal to those of the parried attack, bulk is -2, accuracy is 0, and the range is equal to original range of the parried attack minus the range the bolts already traveled. If a weapon inflicts a penalty to be parried with lightsabers, apply the same penalty to your attack. Target defends normally.

You may do this a number of times per turn equal to your number of attacks; each attack performed with Reflect Blasters “uses up” an attack from your next turn, but you may perform a Dual-Weapon Attack or Rapid Strike to only use up a single attack. You may not choose any maneuver on your next turn which would prevent you from attacking. Aside from the above options and Extra Attack in general, the following specialized form of Extra Attack is available to increase the number of times you can reflect blasters per turn:

Extra Attack (Accessibility, only to reflect blasters, -20%; Single Skill, Force Sword, -20%) [15].


In previous campaigns I used to allow such “attack reflection” to be used for free, not counting as your own attacks. I’ve grown to think that such usage is free lunch (an attack is an attack is an attack) so I’ve decided to try it this way. The added complexity doesn’t seem a problem, but it hasn’t been playtested yet. If it turns out too complex, I’ll likely require levels of the specialized Extra Attack to be able to do it at all.

A tweak that could be made, depending on the game, is to have targets of reflected blaster bolts not be able to defend because they didn’t expect the attack, or defend at a penalty. That would certainly match the source material, but in my game force users are everywhere and everyone knows that if you shoot a guy with a lighsaber, you’re gonna get those bolts reflected right back at you.

Gun Fu: Cover Power-Ups

There was an interesting discussion this week over on Mailanka’s Discord about gunslingers in Psi-Wars, resulting in a couple articles including one on gunslinger survivability in such games. One of the defense layers available to gunmen is cover, and thinking about using it in cinematic games inspired me to come up with the following tools of the trade.

The Power-Ups

Cover Mastery [5]

While in partial cover, your opponents are at -3 to shoot your partially exposed body parts instead of the usual -2. They are at no penalty to attack the fully exposed parts required for you to shoot, which are generally any arms and hands required to operate the weapon, plus your neck and head. You may also attain a better position by crouching or expending your step. This gives your attackers -4 to hit partially exposed parts, but you are at -2 to shoot back as well unless you brace your weapon against the cover and take an aimed attack . You also need to fully expose only your head and any hands required to operate the weapon.

When hidden behind total cover, you never get hit by overpenetrating shots. This stops working as soon as you expose yourself, even partially.

Finally, attackers are at -2 to shoot you if you’re adjacent to an ally and at least 1 yard further than the ally from your attacker. This penalty is not cumulative with the -4 penalty an attacker gets to shoot you if your ally is in the way. You also never get hit by stray shots if you are in the line of fire behind the intended target.

Statistics:

Barricade Tactics (TacShooting) [1], Cover Shooting [2], Live Cover [1], Flimsy Cover (GunFu) [1].

Covered Defense [12/level]

Each level of this advantage gives a +1 bonus to your Dodge score while you’re in cover. This extends to melee attacks as well! Most campaigns should limit this to 3 levels.

Statistics:

Enhanced Dodge (Accessibility, only while in cover, -20%) [12/level].

Eye for Cover [5]

Once per game session, you are entitled to a fortuitous piece of cover within the distance of a single Move maneuver that would otherwise not be there. The GM can refuse this if there should plausibly be no cover in the area (for example in a specifically prepared “killbox” you entered).

Statistics:

Serendipity (Aspected, only for finding cover, -70%).

Hunker Down [15]

While in cover, you may retreat without moving from your hex to dodge melee attacks from a single attacker, and you may dodge and drop against ranged attacks of a single attacker without actually dropping to the ground. If a dodge and drop into an adjacent hex would reduce damage to you from an explosion or get you out of an area effect attack, you get this bonus without dropping to the ground or moving from your hex. In addition, you never suffer from the effects of bad footing while in cover.

Statistics:

Enhanced Dodge 3 (Accessibility, only while in cover, -20%; Counts as a retreat, -50%) [14], Sure-Footed (Any kind of terrain while in cover) [1].

Seek Cover [2/level]

Each level of this advantage gives a +1 bonus to your Move score on any turn when you’re either entering or leaving cover. Most campaigns should limit this to 3 levels.

Statistics:

Increased Move (Accessibility, only on a turn entering or leaving cover, -60%) [2/level].

Bits and Pieces

Some other perks and techniques could be very useful to gunmen exploiting cover to its max:

  • Battle Drills (TacShooting) – Useful for halving the penalty for shooting through friendly occupied hexes. If you also have Cover Mastery (or just Live Cover), the net result penalty is reduced by an additional 2 points.
  • Bend The Bullet (GunFu) – Allows you to ignore the penalty for shooting at targets behind cover, perfectly fitting with the theme of knowing all of its ins and outs.  
  • Cool Under Fire (GunFu, TacShooting) – Removes the -2 penalty to pop-up attacks but is included in Gunslinger.
  • Entrench – See below.
  • Ground Fighting (Martial Arts) – Shooting skills don’t suffer a penalty for attacking when lying on the ground, but many cover opportunities require taking such position and this technique could be used to offset the -3 penalty to defend in those cases. To compensate, buy it as an average technique, and base it either on a shooting skill or Acrobatics.
  • Standard Operating Procedure (Back to the Wall) (GunFu, TacShooting)
  • Standard Operating Procedure (Move Under cover) (TacShooting)

New Technique

Cover Shooting, Average

Prerequisite: any shooting skill
Default: prerequisite skill; cannot exceed prerequisite skill+2.

Offsets the penalty for shooting without bracing and aiming from medium or heavy cover (see Tactical Shooting p. 28).

New Perks

Entrench

You gain the following benefits while in cover:

  • +3 to Will rolls against losing your aim when injured
  • you don’t suffer from shock penalties on aimed shots
  • when suffering knockback, you don’t get knocked back at all if you pass the DX roll to remain standing

Live Cover

Attackers are at -2 to shoot you if you’re adjacent to an ally and at least 1 yard further from your attacker than the ally. This penalty is not cumulative with the -4 penalty an attacker gets to shoot you if your ally is in the way. You also never get hit by stray shots if you are in the line of fire behind the intended target.

Conclusion

These features could be incorporated into several different gunfighting styles. I can imagine both a longer-ranged “sniping” style where the gunman takes a covered position and doesn’t leave it except to retreat, and a shorter-ranged one where the practitioner rapidly moves from cover to cover.

Eye for Cover could seem at a too deep discount since aspected Serendipity is generally published as -20% and double-aspected (which this would fit) as -40%. Yet 9 points seems too expensive to me because cover is generally plentiful in most environments, especially for cinematic shootists who are able to eke it out where normal men couldn’t, so it seemed more appropriate to price it the same as a Gizmo.

 

Play Report: Mob/Horde/Swarm Combat

Yesterday I ran a game of my Alternate Star Wars campaign where the party was traversing a spaceport infested with rakghouls (fast, nasty, infectious space-zombies). I wanted to throw a lot of them at my players so I looked around at various “horde” rule offerings. They started in GURPS Horror and were expanded upon in GURPS Zombies, but over at gurpsshooting.blogspot.com there’s an interesting article on Tactical Swarms, where the author took the materials from Horror and Zombies and adapted them for his own needs in modern gunfighting combat. I liked it a lot and used some of it in my game.

At first, I threw four swarms of six rakghouls each at the party, so what would be a total of 24 individual combatants otherwise. Inspired by tactical swarms, I increased the swarms’ effective skill depending on the number of constituent units, but instead of a flat +1 per unit after the first, I used the SSRT. My initial feeling was to read the number of rakghouls in a pack as linear measurement and use the corresponding SM bonus, but seeing 2 individuals would’t get any bonus I increased the bonus from the table by 1. I also decided to read in-between values opposite as to how the SSRT usually works, using the lower instead of the higher breakpoint. With that, a full pack of 6 rakghouls or one with 5 got +3 to skill, which dwindled down to +2 at 3-4 and +1 at 2. I liked those numbers.

Also inspired by tactical swarms, I rolled vs HT for the rakghouls if a major wound was indicated, “killing off” a unit in the swarm on failure. I did the same without a roll if they suffered a reeling or worse injury. The primary reason for automatic elimination at a reeling injury was simplification – I didn’t want to bother with parts of the swarm getting slower than the rest, even if the rakghouls themselves were tough enough to continue fighting in such a state. I may reconsider this in the future, eliminating units in such, thematically speaking “resilient” swarms (maybe indicated by having High Pain Threshold) automatically only on a full-HP or worse wound. As for the reeling condition in such cases, I would either ignore it entirely for the sake of simplicity even though it would give the swarms an advantage, or maybe reduce Basic Move of the swarm by an eyeballed value for each reeling constituent, down to a minimum of 1/3. Reduction by 1 in 6-unit swarms seems fine, but mobs of 3 or even 2 units could get slower. I think I’d be fine with ignoring it, because swarms generally consist of relatively weak opponents anyway.

Now, both the tactical swarm and Horror/Zombies rules also track total swarm HP and “dissipate” it once it reaches a certain threshold, but I use Conditional Injury so that was one less statistic to keep track of. I could imagine running it like that even in games that otherwise don’t use it, just paying attention to individual major, reeling and full-HP injuries.

When it came time for my swarms to join the melee, the Horror/Zombie rules for making a single rapid-fire like attack per swarm with recoil 1 and RoF equal to the total number of attacks the swarm’s constituents would otherwise have worked quite well. I went with the victims defending as against separate attacks and not against a single rapid fire attack with multiple landed shots, because my initial impulse was “swarms are abstracted, player characters aren’t”. I learned after the fact that this is how Horror/Zombies does it as well, though I could still see it working the other way without causing problems. 

Having swarms of 6 units proved very pleasing because 6 opponents can encircle and attack a single victim at reach 1 anyway. I did experiment a bit when it came to grappling however, because Basic indicates that at most 3 combatants can effectively grapple a single target. So I decided that the first 3 attacks that landed were grapples and the rest were strikes; this worked quite well. I use Fantastic Dungeon Grappling so I could repeat this even after the initial grapple was established, whereas it would likely have to be more complicated with the default grappling rules.

At a later point during the game, I attacked the party with a single 6-unit security droid swarm plus an individual much tougher droid. Combining all the security droids’ attacks into just one with a very high RoF worked out very well. I used the rapid fire skill bonus based on half the SSRT as (I believe) proposed by Douglas Cole, which threw a small wrench in my gears – I calculated the skill bonus due to swarm size according to the full SSRT bonus, but the rapid fire bonus equal to half that. This took a bit more cognitive effort than I’d like so I’ll be considering alternatives. If I went with the full SSRT bonus a squad of 6 shooters with rapid fire weapons could easily get +8 or more; I’m not really sure if that would be too much or not, so I’ll need to playtest it. Another alternative would be to take the greater of the swarm size bonus and a rapid fire bonus like this instead of adding them up.

And then… one of my players threw an ion grenade in the middle of the swarm. Anticipating situations such as this, I played around with swarm formations, or rather “packing densities”. A 6-unit swarm could occupy what’s usually called a 2-hex radius in GURPS, so a single empty hex and all of the hexes surrounding it. In case of smart adversaries they’ll likely want to spread out a bit to minimize area effect and explosive damage. So that’s how the droids were positioned, with 1 empty hex between each of them. I figured the average distance from the center of the grenade was 3 yards, applied the appropriate bonus to the resistance roll (effect similar to warbler/strobe from Ultra-Tech, but disables droids), and then looked up the Statistically Speaking table on GURPS Zombies page 113 to see what fraction of the swarm would resist. And lo, all but 2 droids in the swarm dropped in electric spasms! I think that having to open the PDF and find the table took me the same time as rolling for each droid would have, so I’ll be able to save some time here by  putting that table in a convenient spot to look it up. I definitively recommend it for use in scenarios like these.

Getting back to packing densities and the area occupied by swarms, I’ve had success in changing those during swarm movement in situations where they had to squeeze through tight corridors or between obstacles. MapTool makes it very practical with four different predefined token sizes. And if you force a swarm to assume a tighter formation to get through a choke point, you’ll have a fine opportunity for more effective area attacks. I was also reducing the size of swarm tokens as their constituents were getting eliminated, which was very fun for my players. So that’s definitively something that’s interesting to play with for both tactical and illustrative purposes.

I haven’t tried swarms containing more than 6 units, but I think I’d tweak those slightly. Instead of making a single rapid fire attack, they could make multiple depending on their size, to spread the love among player characters. I could even see doing this for 4+ unit swarms if they intend to grapple; one attack would be performed by the 3 units grappling the target, and another by the rest striking it.

That’s it for now, I’m looking forward to further experimenting with this in my upcoming games. The rules presented in Horror, Zombies and Tactical Swarms are very good, especially if combined with Conditional Injury and Fantastic Dungeon Grappling. And facing players with screaming hordes of enemies was immensely fun.

GURPS Kickstarter Challenge Review Part 4

This is the fourth and final part of my GURPS 2020 Kickstarter Challenge review. The article series includes:

  • Part 1
    • Action 6: Tricked-Out Rides
    • Action 7: Mercenaries
    • Boardroom and Curia: Tomorrow Rides
  • Part 2
    • Dungeon Fantasy 21: Megadungeons
    • Dungeon Fantasy Adventure 3: Deep Night and the Star
  • Part 3
    • Horror: Beyond the Pale
    • Hot Spots: The Incense Trail
    • Monster Hunters Encounters 1
    • Reign of Steel: Read the Sky
  • Part 4 (you’re here!)
    • Steampunk Setting: The Broken Clockwork World
    • Template Toolkit 3: Starship Crew
    • How to Be a GURPS GM: Ritual Path Magic

Steampunk Setting: The Broken Clockwork World

The Broken Clockwork World is a small worldbook about the eponymous TL(5+2)^ steampunk world that recently literally broke apart, devastating its civilizations and revealing its underlying clockwork mechanisms. Transdimensional gates started appearing soon after the calamity, leading to a TL8 world much like our own. In that “unbroken” world the secret isn’t out yet, but both government organizations, conspiracy theorists and random people have already traveled to the other side and returned. That is also the central premise – inhabitants of the unbroken world exploring the fantastical clockwork one.

The broken world is is described in broad strokes, just enough to set the stage – its history, technology and culture are all covered, as well as the Breaking and the situation thereafter. The unbroken world didn’t need much explanation since it’s basically our own, so attention was primarily paid to how governments and other parties interact with the broken one.

The supplement mostly just gives a brief overview of various steampunk elements present in the setting but references GURPS Steampunk for details, although there is a section on several endemic clockwork automatons. It concludes with a section on running adventures in the setting, suggesting character traits, archetypes and activities.

Of all the supplements in the Kickstarter challenge, I’d say this one suffers the most from lack of available wordcount. There is simply not enough material present to run a game without investing significant effort into further developing the setting. It can certainly ignite the imagination of readers, but you’ll need to build your own setting on top of the foundations.

Template Toolkit 3: Starship Crew

The most laser-focused of the batch, Starship Crew delivers a collection of character templates covering all the typical tasks required for operating a starship. They are 150 points apiece, in the familiar format from Dungeon Fantasy, Action, Monster Hunters and After The End. Each comes with a “legendary” lens increasing its core competencies for more high-powered games and a “multi-role” lens for applying to other templates when a single character should cover multiple areas of competence. The supplement concludes with a chapter on typical crew compositions and sizes, giving a nod toward popular tropes in spacefaring fiction.

The templates are very well thought out and while they’re oriented towards a campaign where running a starship is the primary concern, I’d recommend the supplement to anyone running a campaign where player characters are expected to operate a ship. Short, sweet and to the point.

How to Be a GURPS GM: Ritual Path Magic

RPM is one of the systems in GURPS that I like very much but have abandoned due to various reasons. This supplement didn’t bring me back into the fold, but I appreciate what it’s doing and I’d definitively recommend it to anyone using RPM.

It opens up with advice on how to adjudicate various effects, such as the often asked question if something should be a lesser or greater effect, when to add the damage modifier, when to use altered traits, how to treat conjuring or modifying weapons, leeching spells, margin-based effects, etc. Special attention is paid to some of the most often abused or game breaking situations, such as suggesting limiting the number of active buff spells, introducing familiarity penalties for spells to rein in the Swiss army knife effect, or making monster summoning and mind control more difficult as well as better balanced between each other. I was delighted that a lot of advice in this section is flat out invoking Rule 0: if something breaks the game world or campaign, it can just not work, or even better, the GM should talk with the players and explain that it simply isn’t fun.

Two one-page chapters conclude the supplement. The first is “RPM Ultra-Lite”, basically a cheat sheet listing the energy costs of most commonly used spells, assuming some parameters such as a 10-minute duration or 100-yard range. If I were to use RPM again, I’d definitively make heavy use of it. And finally, there are the writeups for half a dozen spells which were used as examples in the previous chapters.

GURPS Kickstarter Challenge Review Part 3

This is the third part of my GURPS 2020 Kickstarter Challenge review. The article series includes:

  • Part 1
    • Action 6: Tricked-Out Rides
    • Action 7: Mercenaries
    • Boardroom and Curia: Tomorrow Rides
  • Part 2
    • Dungeon Fantasy 21: Megadungeons
    • Dungeon Fantasy Adventure 3: Deep Night and the Star
  • Part 3 (you’re here!)
    • Horror: Beyond the Pale
    • Hot Spots: The Incense Trail
    • Monster Hunters Encounters 1
    • Reign of Steel: Read the Sky
  • Part 4
    • Steampunk Setting: The Broken Clockwork World
    • Template Toolkit 3: Starship Crew
    • How to Be a GURPS GM: Ritual Path Magic

Horror: Beyond the Pale

Another adventure, this one is intended for modern-day horror campaigns where players are investigators of the occult. Framed as a murder mystery, it can serve both experienced investigators and (with just a little bit of work from the GM, if at all) as “initiation” for those still mundane. The plot is interesting, contains some fun gruesome scenes, and presentation is top-notch (I don’t recall having to jump between sections of the adventure, or anything being unclear) except for a single small detail.

The antagonists are written up as a racial template instead as a full stat block. This was apparently inherited from GURPS Horror, but I’d much rather have full stats for any relevant critters in a published adventure than having to figure them out myself.

Otherwise, the only thing I can really lament is that it is rather short. I could imagine the adventure lasting for just one session with a team of players experienced in this kind of thing. Allowing for a bigger word count would have flat-out improved it.

That being said, I could see this used in many other contexts aside from the one it’s presented it. A Monster Hunters adaptation would be trivial, the GM would just need to beef up the antagonists a bit. Taking it down to TL5 would require very little effort, and not much more for even lower TLs; it could make for a fully functional and very fun low-tech mystery. I think even adapting it for higher TLs and setting it in space wouldn’t be too much effort, it’s right up the Doom or Dead Space alley.

TL;DR: sweet little investigative adventure you can use in any setting.

Hot Spots: The Incense Trail

GURPS used to have a reputation for well researched historical supplements back in its heyday, and this supplement is a continuation of that proud lineage. It gives an overview of the Arabian Peninsula in antique times focused on the eponymous trade route. It covers geography, history, economy and culture of the land before giving a short gazetteer of the most well known settlements. It concludes with giving advice for setting-appropriate characters and adventure ideas.

Since this is a historical worldbook its use is rather limited, but aside for its intended context I would also recommend it if you’re looking to represent a believable Arabian-themed land in a fantasy game. I don’t have any complaints about the supplement, but also can’t sing any praises because it’s really just a brief, decently compiled overview of antique Arabia without any extraordinary elements to wet my appetite.

Monster Hunters Encounters 1

This supplement contains two “encounters” for Monster Hunters campaigns: the first is about a bordello ran by vampires, the second about a hidden village of cannibal witches and lycanthropes in the woods. They can be straight up dropped in as “monster of the week” episodes into existing campaigns, or with some additional effort spun up into more encompassing adventures.  They are presented in a clear and concise fashion following the structure of monster hunting / investigation rules from Monster Hunters 2 with a lot of interesting and useful details. I love them.

The only complaint I can field, aside from “I want more!”, is that the second encounter features spellcasters (one of which has “dozens of prepared charms”) and explains what kinds of spells they could use against the players, but doesn’t write them up. I imagine it would take quite a bit of effort to come up with those spells, so this is yet another case where an extra page would have added significant value.

Similar to Beyond the Pale, I can see this being used in a wide variety of settings. The adversaries could be toned down for much lower point totals and the settings scaled all the way down to antiquity, or even adapted for use in space-bound campaigns. I’m personally considering using this for a Dungeon Fantasy oneshot. Can definitively recommend!

Reign of Steel: Read the Sky

As someone with only slight familiarity with Reign of Steel I must say that initially this adventure confused me, it wasn’t clear at all for whom the PCs worked for. Are they human survivors / rebels, or working for the local robot government? I kinda think it’s the former, but can’t confirm as I don’t have access to the 3e Reign of Steel book, and the 4e Will to Live doesn’t address it.

Otherwise, this is a nice adventure written on a “heroic but realistic” 200-point baseline with notes on how to adjust specific elements for running it with Action. The PCs are special operators sent to investigate a small town fallen out of communication, finding out that it’s been having problems with pirates. They need to get rid of them without stirring up too much of a scuffle as that would result in the robot overlords deciding that the town needs to be purged.

I was a bit disappointed that the adventure doesn’t really have much to do with Reign of Steel other than being set in the setting, as the involvement of robots is minimal. It’s just about avoiding their general attention from afar, and maybe getting to fight a single malfunctioning unit. On the flipside, this makes it very portable to other settings. It could be used with very little adaptation in most After the End games, and just with a bit more effort in any kind of TL5+ (even into Ultra-Tech levels) setting where checking up on a frontier settlement gone dark makes sense. It could even be reskinned into a Low-Tech adventure.

GURPS Kickstarter Challenge Review Part 2

This is the second part of my GURPS 2020 Kickstarter Challenge review. The article series includes:

  • Part 1
    • Action 6: Tricked-Out Rides
    • Action 7: Mercenaries
    • Boardroom and Curia: Tomorrow Rides
  • Part 2 (you’re here!)
    • Dungeon Fantasy 21: Megadungeons
    • Dungeon Fantasy Adventure 3: Deep Night and the Star
  • Part 3
    • Horror: Beyond the Pale
    • Hot Spots: The Incense Trail
    • Monster Hunters Encounters 1
    • Reign of Steel: Read the Sky
  • Part 4
    • Steampunk Setting: The Broken Clockwork World
    • Template Toolkit 3: Starship Crew
    • How to Be a GURPS GM: Ritual Path Magic

Dungen Fantasy 21: Megadungeons

Similarly to Action 7: Mercenaries, this supplement is a genre book on running megadungeons in your Dungeon Fantasy game. It describes what a megadungeon is, how it differs from a “normal” dungeon and how it can be used as the central element of a Dungeon Fantasy campaign. Topics include placement (where it is in relation to town and what consequences that has), how to map a megadungeon, how to stock it (with monsters, traps and treasure), different playstyles, considerations on spells which could short-circuit a megadungeon campaign, and an experience point award scheme based on loot found.

A lot of the material can be used in contexts other than megadungeons. Placement and stocking is relevant for all kinds of dungeon, while the section on magic and the experience reward scheme could be useful in any kind of Dungeon Fantasy campagin.

Even though a lot of what this supplement covers could already be known by experienced Dungeon Fantasy GMs, I would definitively recommend it to anyone running a DF game. It offers useful insights applicable to DF in general. My only complaint is that I’d like for a genre book on such a seminal part of Dungeon Fantasy to be longer than 10 pages. It’s not that anything is acutely missing, but more material would be very nice.

Dungeon Fantasy Adventure 3: Deep Night and the Star

Without going into too many spoilers, this adventure is a very neat concept if you like your Elder Things. Visit an exotic locale, kill some Elder Things, and get home in time for supper. It’s a fun and interesting romp I can heartily recommend…

… unless you have a druid in your party. They eat a -10 penalty to all spellcasting rolls for the whole duration of the adventure. I have nothing against low or no mana/sanctity/nature but it has to be used sparingly. I’d argue this would be too much even for wizards who routinely shoot for skill level 20 with their spells, but for druids where that mostly isn’t the case it’s simply no fun. It makes perfect sense given the setting and flavor of the adventure, so it really isn’t bad adventure design, it’s more of a “this adventure isn’t appropriate for you if you have X in your party”.

A couple further issues:

  • There’s no loot given out in the adventure. None. While this once again kinda fits the setting, I don’t really think “saving the world is its own reward” is how most people play DF. Aside from some junk, there are not even opportunities to find loot in the environment or among corpses of slain foes, something which would be very appropriate in this case.
  • Ok, the above statement isn’t strictly true. There is a single item potentially worth a massive pile of money, but there’s a good chance players won’t be able to retrieve it. Even if they do, there’s no discussion about its worth.
  • There is a hex map given for one of three very similar points of interest, and all three locations are keyed to it with somewhat different inhabitants. But to avoid all three locations looking the same, the GM will need to at least sketch out the layout of the remaining two locations himself.

None of this is a dealbreaker or even a significant problem, but they all have something in common. Please don’t make me do homework if I buy a published adventure! I realize that page count is limited, but this PDF could have really used an extra page or two to fill in these gaps. It would have made for a much better product that way.

GURPS Kickstarter Challenge Review Part 1

During the coming days I’ll be writing short reviews of the dozen new GURPS supplements released as part of the recent Kickstarter Challenge by SJG. The article series includes:

  • Part 1 (you’re here!)
    • Action 6: Tricked-Out Rides
    • Action 7: Mercenaries
    • Boardroom and Curia: Tomorrow Rides
  • Part 2
    • Dungeon Fantasy 21: Megadungeons
    • Dungeon Fantasy Adventure 3: Deep Night and the Star
  • Part 3
    • Horror: Beyond the Pale
    • Hot Spots: The Incense Trail
    • Monster Hunters Encounters 1
    • Reign of Steel: Read the Sky
  • Part 4
    • Steampunk Setting: The Broken Clockwork World
    • Template Toolkit 3: Starship Crew
    • How to Be a GURPS GM: Ritual Path Magic

Action 6: Tricked-Out Rides

I don’t think a 10-page supplement could be more chock full of goodness than this. If you are running any kind of modern game where you’d want to have a pimped out ride, look no further. Get this!

It starts by giving stats for a dozen categories of cars from subcompacts to big vans. But where it really shines is in the various CF-based modifiers you can apply to those cars to make them perform better, as well as in a catalog of other upgrades, gadgets and gear you buy for a fixed price. There’s no mention of motorcycles, but the two bikes from are enough of a baseline to which all of the mods which make sense can be applied.

It’s no VDS or even a Spaceships-style design system, but it covers 90% of use cases for customizing vehicles. With a bit of effort, it could even be extended into the Ultra-Tech levels, and downgrading it to TL6  is mostly a matter of removing available options.

Action 7: Mercenaries

I’d describe this one as a small genre book focusing on a specific flavor of Action. It gives various advice on how to run mercenary-themed military campaigns: creating appropriate characters, getting them employed and paid, equipping and moving them around… It describes the mercenary life as well as inner workings of mercenary companies.

There’s an interesting, rather abstract small system for resolving small-unit combat on a scale between individual and mass combat, cheekily called BATTLE. It has a lot of potential, but I can’t help and think that some parts of it could have been presented a bit better, it feel as if something has been cut from it due to word count. It could easily use a half or maybe even a full page extra to make it more solid.

And finally, there is a bunch of short opportunities and challenges ready to be sprung on the PCs, as well as a section on wrapping up missions and setting up new ones.

I definitively recommend this one for military-themed Action campaigns, even if you’re not running mercs but conventional military personnel instead. It even has some material (such as BATTLE) that can be used in other kinds of games.

Boardroom and Curia: Tomorrow Rides

Tomorrow Rides is an organization hiding behind a car service chain, renting vehicles to adventurers. The catch? You don’t often get exactly what you asked for, and sometimes you get something really impractical. On the flipside, you could get a prototype vehicle or something completely weird, and unless you get one of the most advanced vehicles in the org’s repertoire, you’re not expected to get it back in one piece. The price? None whatsoever, you must just report on how the vehicle behaved during your time with it. The more outrageous the purpose you need it for, the greater chance of you getting a better and more special vehicle.

This is a very sweet little supplement whose primary purpose is to provide a flavorful, thematically appropriate rent-a-car outlet for games featuring at least some kind of action. The company itself is described in enough detail to be usable as a major element of a campaign if so desired, with adventure hooks and even conspiracies possibly hiding behind it. It’s presented for the modern day, but it would require very little effort to make it work at any TL. Rent-a-horse? Why not. Rent-a-starship? Sure.

GURPS Alternate Star Wars session 15

Summary

  • The guardian droid opened the battle by disabling Morr and Shen with a strobe grenade, but met an embarrassing end after it crippled its own leg through a critically failed defense and then critically failed a resistance roll not to get blinded by Joshua.
  • Investigating the tomb of Duke Borregar, Shen, Morr and Beast got separated from the others and trapped within. Nerve gas released by the trap critically injured Shen and corroded Morr’s and Beast’s armor seals, after which they got electrified by the floor. Shen managed to blow a hole in the door to escape just in time.
  • After recuperating, the party discovered a highly advanced and secure locking mechanism at the back of the tomb with a peculiar keyhole. They opted to search the tombs for the key before Shen attempted to bypass it.
  • Searching the whole area took about 10 hours, but in the tomb of Duke Vongyr the party found a signet ring that fitted the shape of the keyhole.
  • On their way back the party checked a tomb they skipped, and Beast got affected by some kind of sonic trap which caused him to go berserk and attack his companions. Luckily, Joshua was able to keep him at bay by using Force Push and Tariq by crippling his foot until he came to his senses.
  • The session took about twelve hours in-game.

Date: 2020-05-20

Player Characters (420 points):
789-4 (aka Beast), cyborg lasat telekinetic grappler
Hae Shen, kel dor tech-commando (NPC’d)
Joshua Wolfe, human Sorcerer of Tund
Morr Charasis, thisspiasian alchemical bioengineer/cyberneticist
Tariq Ordo, human mandalorian
Tarnem, chiss force duelist

NPCs:
Professor Flynn, human hired archaeologist

CP awarded: 2

The session started with a large guardian droid in the visage of a knight engaging the party. It fired a strobe grenade which stunned and blinded Shen and Morr, and then released a swarm of micromissiles at everyone except for Tariq, who was behind it. Beast telekinetically deflected the missiles headed for himself, Morr and Shen, Tarnem dodged, while Joshua failed at his dodge and drop but his force armor absorbed the blast. Beast and Tarnem moved to engage the droid in melee, Joshua refreshed his force armor and started getting up, and Tariq started locking his own missile onto the droid. The droid popped a smoke grenade between itself and Tariq, proceeded to spray everybody in front  with its assault cannon, and joined the melee with its sword and shield. It dodged a missile fired by Tariq after he got out of the smoke and severely injured Shen with the cannon. Tarnem jumped on top of Beast and somersaulted over the droid, attacking it from behind with rapid strikes. The droid critically failed one of its parries and crippled its own leg, and before it got to act it critically failed a resistance roll against Joshua’s attempt to blind it with the Force. The party had no trouble dealing with it then, and Tarnem could barely be persuaded into not hacking it up into pieces so there was something left to salvage.

Shen’s wounds, while severe, were not critical, and after some first aid she was able to continue. The party went to investigate the highly ornamented tomb to the north, and as Morr, Beast and Shen entered it, its blast door closed shut and separated them from the rest of the group. A toxic gas started rapidly filling the room, critically injuring Shen. She managed to stay conscious and frenetically proceeded to set up a breaching charge on the door. As she was doing that, the floor became electrified, but luckily didn’t make her injuries any worse and failed to significantly injure Beast or Morr. The gas, however, destroyed their armors’ seals. Tarnem managed to discern a weak point in the door and stuck his lightsaber into it, but then received a radio transmission from Shen to get back. She blew a hole in the door and Tariq reeled her in with his zipline just as she passed out, in time to prevent her from taking more damage from the electrified floor. Morr was not so lucky and got critically injured by the electricity, passing out as well, but Beast carried her outside. Joshua blocked the way by conjuring an atmosphere dome with the Force to prevent the gas from spreading, and it dissipated entirely after a couple minutes. He then put Shen and Morr into a healing trance after applying first aid, which cured their injuries completely.

After resting for about an hour Shen went carefully back in, managed to find the traps’ sensors and disarmed them. The party examined the tomb, which turned out to belong to a Duke Borregar, who according to the writings deciphered by Professor Flynn was credited for bringing the House out of its chaotic early years into its golden age. Morr instructed Beast to search it, and he found a locking mechanism on a large square pillar, covered in reliefs depicting the Duke’s exploits and extending out of the back wall. Taking a look at the mechanism, Shen determined it was highly advanced, very secure, and that she’d maybe be able to bypass it if given a lot of time. It had a peculiarly-shaped socket for a probable key, so the party decided to search the tomb for it before Shen attempted a bypass.

The search took many hours as the party decided to once again go through all of the areas they already visited and search them in greater detail, because the key was small and they would have likely missed the first time when they didn’t know what to look for. After not finding it, they proceeded to the previously unexplored corridors, and found another cemetery chamber. Two of the tombs connected to it were unremarkable, but in one of them, belonging to a Duke Vongyr, they found what they were looking for. The Duke’s statue included a ring which was not part of it, and the ring’s signet matched the shape of the locking mechanism’s socket perfectly.

On their way back they investigated another tomb, the last one remaining, for the sake of completeness. This turned out to be a bad decision, as some kind of a sonic trap put Beast into a berserk rage, attacking his companions. Luckily, Joshua managed to free Tariq and Tarnem from Beast’s grip by Force pushing him away, giving Tariq enough time to cripple Beast’s leg with his blaster. This, and further pushing away with the Force was enough to keep Beast at bay until he snapped out of it. Joshua put him in a healing trance to restore his leg and the group rested for a while.

GURPS Alternate Star Wars session 14

Summary

  • The party investigated the next “private” tomb, belonging to a Duke Zallow. It turned out the statues of the Duke and his guards were droids which activated when the group tried to remove his sword.
  • Even after a couple brain hits the droids could not critically injure Beast, and they were soon defeated.
  • The party looted Duke Zallow’s sword after resting.
  • The final tomb around the cemetery, belonging to a Dutchess Mivayne was explored, but nothing of immediate interest was found in it.
  • The group explored a corridor leading north from the cemetery hall, which itself was a smaller cemetery for the house’s retainers, leading to another large cemetery hall to the north-east.
  • One of the doors from this cemetery led to the tomb of a Dutchess Lyr Bo, where the party looted the Dutchess’ power fist without any trouble.
  • Approaching another door from the cemetery, apparently the resting place of the most highly esteemed noble encountered so far, caused a large droid to rise from the floor behind the party and attack them.
  • The whole session took about two hours of in-game time

Date: 2020-05-13

Player Characters (419 points):
789-4 (aka Beast), cyborg lasat telekinetic grappler
Hae Shen, kel dor tech-commando
Joshua Wolfe, human Sorcerer of Tund
Morr Charasis, thisspiasian alchemical bioengineer/cyberneticist
Tariq Ordo, human mandalorian
Tarnem, chiss force duelist

NPCs:
Professor Flynn, human hired archaeologist

CP awarded: 1

After Beast got his armor corroded last time and the party was convinced there were no hidden treasures left to find, they decided to check out the other “private” tombs around the cemetery. The entry into one directly opposite to Dutchess Crozyn’s looked the same, except without traps. Shen hacked the locking mechanism, and the party entered through the door into what looked like a depiction of a throneroom. There was a lifelike statue of an older, bearded man in highly ornate heavy armor leaning on a bastard sword standing in front of the throne, surrounded by similarly lifelike statues of many armored guards along the walls. Zooming in with their visors on the inscriptions above the throne, the party learned that the bearded man was Duke Zallow, another head of the House. Examining the room, Joshua noticed that the Duke’s sword was slightly imbued with the Force and not part of the statue, so Beast tried to remove it. However, the statue came to life and brandished the sword instead. It also turned on a force shield bracelet, along with two guard statues besides it who readied their flails. Half a dozen statues along the walls readied their pike/blaster rifle combination weapons as well.

The battle was engaged. Beast tanked while Tariq ate away at the guards’ armor with his flamethrower from in front of the tomb, Shen stuck to a corner and fired her blaster, and Morr and Tarnem sliced the guards in half. The highlight was Beast getting a nasty feint + deceptive attack combo into his corroded armor from the Duke, but it did not injure him significantly. After all-out attacking, one of the guards with flails and the Duke hit him in the skull, but that merely caused him to reel. And shortly after that, all of the guardians were defeated, turning out to have been droids. After resting and tending to their wounds for about an hour, the group took the Duke’s sword (further examination revealed it was a balanced cortosis weave dueling ornate (+2) superfine vibro bastard sword giving its wielder +1 to Leadership and Strategy) and continued on.

One of the tombs along the cemetery was caved in, so they went to the only remaining one. It depicted a throne room similar to that of Duke Zallow, but the occupants were different. A statue of a woman wearing a luxurious gown was sitting on the throne, and many statues of what appeared to be nobles and other courtiers were spread out across the room, concentrated in front of the throne. The inscription above the throne revealed that this was the tomb of Dutchess Mivayne, who ruled in a time of stability and economic prosperity. The tomb depicted her holding court.

Having found nothing interesting, the party left the Dutchess and opened the door leading to the north of the cemetery. Beyond was a wide corridor with no illumination and many graves along its sides. They were much less decorated than the ones in the cemetery, and a brief examination revealed they belonged to retainers of the House, mostly knights and high ranking officials. It turned eastwards, ending with another door. Beyond, there was another cemetery hall very similar to the previous one, except it was larger and had three other doors, one in the middle of each wall. The graves inside were more ornate, revealing upon inspection that they belonged to the highest echelons of the house.

Deciding to check the southern door first, the party discovered that a corridor beyond it branched in two, one side being caved in and the other leading to another private tomb. It too represented a throneroom, with a woman clad in exquisite silvery armor sitting on the throne, surrounded by a couple guards and apparently holding audience with several nobles. According to the inscriptions above the throne, she was Dutchess Lyr Bo, who in her time defended the House’s lands against a great onslaught and held firm. Inspection revealed that one of the Dutchess’ gauntlets was larger than the other and actually a real gauntlet and not a part of the statue, so the party removed it. It turned out to be a cortosis alloy power fist, having all the benefits of a superfine vibro weapon, granting the wearer 4 levels of Striking ST for purposes of punching with it and having a shock generator. The statue didn’t come to life when it was removed.

Returning to the cemetery hall, the party examined the northern door with their zoomed-in visors. It was decorated with inscriptions indicating that a noble more esteemed than any encountered so far was entombed behind it. Approaching it, they heard the sound of machinery behind them, and turned around just in time to witness a large droid rising up from the floor, causing a holographic disturbance in it as it arose. It blurted out an archaic but comprehensible “Intruders! Elimitate!” in a heavily robotic voice, and we ended the session with the cliffhanger.

GURPS Alternate Star Wars session 13

Summary

  • The party defeated the charric-equipped drones with Joshua suffering a major wound, but that didn’t prevent him from burning a path through the room with his Force abilities
  • Investigating the statues in the center of the “park” revealed they depicted high-ranking members of an unknown Great House from after the fall of Xim the Despot’s empire
  • A switch hidden among the statues disabled the grabby vines
  • Beyond the stone passage leading west from the “park” the party discovered a chamber serving as a cemetery, depicting early nighttime and containing many luxurious graves
  • Investigating the cemetery revealed the name of the Great House: Zuur
  • Shen disabled a trap in one of the corridors leading to individual tombs around the cemetery
  • The tomb represented the war room of Dutchess Crozyn, a ruler of the House
  • Beast looted the Dutchess’ heavy, exquisite charric pistol but got his armor corroded by a triggered trap
  • The whole session took about half an hour of in-game time

Date: 2020-05-06

Player Characters (418 points):
789-4 (aka Beast), cyborg lasat telekinetic grappler
Hae Shen, kel dor tech-commando
Joshua Wolfe, human Sorcerer of Tund
Morr Charasis, thisspiasian alchemical bioengineer/cyberneticist
Tariq Ordo, human mandalorian

NPCs:
Professor Flynn, human hired archaeologist

CP awarded: 1

We opened up after concluding the previous session in the middle of a fight against six flying sentry drones assisted by grabby vines in a large chamber decorated with synthetic plant life to resemble a verdant park.

Having gotten out of the treeline along the chamber’s walls with her lightfoil in hand, Shen spotted the vegetation ending where one of the two corridors opened up on the western “side” of the room. She beelined for the stone corridor, and once out of the vines’ reach, started taking aimed shots at the drones. Having gotten back on top of the entry platform via his autograpnel, Tariq started aiming at the drones as well. Joshua succeeded on improvising a ball lightning spell and started aiming with it, Morr continued chopping up vines around her and Beast attempted swinging toward a drone with his grapnel once more.

Shen landed the first hit on one of the drones. Smoke started pluming where her blaster hit, and the drone plummeted down to the ground. Upon impact, it exploded in a blast similar to that of a thermal detonator. Tariq was a bit less lucky in that he got hit by the drones and knocked down by the force of their charric guns, but avoided any of their stunning effects. In the end, Shen took down most drones with Tariq coming close behind.

Joshua got attacked by two drones before they were taken down, and had to waste his aim with ball lightning to defend. One of the shots hit him and was absorbed by his force armor, but knocked him down to the ground. There he was grabbed by a vine which started cutting into him, causing severe injury. Having previously hardcore improvised a spell, he was left without an active one and couldn’t switch to any because of not being able to concentrate while grappled. His cries for help were answered by Morr, who was able to make it to him and hack up the surrounding vines before it was too late.

Meanwhile, Beast swung towards a drone and missed it, but grabbed it during the reverse swing. After establishing some more control he ripped its gun out which caused the drone to explode. Beast managed to put some distance between the blast and glided down to the floor with his wings.

After receiving first aid, Joshua burned away the synthetic plantlife in a path from the entry platform to the cluster of statues in the center, as well as from there to the western passage where Shen was waiting. The group gathered around the statues to investigate them. Shen found a hidden switch which deactivated the grabby vines. This convinced Professor Flynn to join the group from the safety of the entrance tunnel. The statues themselves represented high ranking members of a Great House from the time after the collapse of Xim the Despot’s empire but the party couldn’t identify it because its heraldry didn’t match any of the Houses surviving to this day.  There was a plaque in front of the statues written in an early version of Galactic Basic so everyone could make out a couple words, but the Professor deciphered it fully as “From chaos we have created order, and brought prosperity to our people”. Having found nothing else of interest here, the group decided to check out the western stone corridor.

It wasn’t long, and ended in a security door. It wasn’t as thick as the trapped one leading into the entry chamber, so Beast cut a section out of it using his trophy lightsaber. Beyond there was another hall, somewhat smaller than the entry chamber. It too had an illuminating surface as its ceiling, this one depicting an early night sky. The room itself was a cemetery, containing numerous graves of various construction; stone, metal and synthetic materials. All of the graves were luxurious, with large, intricate headstones, statues and other decorations. Along the walls and between the graves synthetic trees and other plants were tastefully arranged, completing the ambient in stark contrast with the planet’s parched surface.

The party investigated the graves and found that they belonged to members of the Great House of various ranks, mostly major nobility but also some of minor nobility and gentry. The Professor was amazed by this find, and from the epitaphs and other inscriptions he was able to discern the name of the House: Zuur. Nobody in the group ever heard of it. There were five corridors (aside the one they entered through) leading out of the cemetery, and Joshua noticed something in one of them while exploring the area with a See Secrets spell active. The corridor seemed to be the entrance of a tomb belonging to a noble of very high rank, and on one of its walls there was a hidden panel. Shen carefully opened it, and found visual and chemical sensors behind it. She also found some small holes in the walls, and deduced that the sensors trigger a trap that shoots something at whoever passes through the corridor and matches certain criteria. She disabled the trap by disconnecting the sensors.

There was a keypad beside the door to the tomb; Shen cracked the locking mechanism it was connected to and opened the door. There was a single room beyond, a bit larger than 10 by 10 yards. It represented a war room. There was a large holotable in the center surrounded by lifelike statues of military officers. Various video screens, mock furniture and banners were along the walls and there were a couple statues of armed and armored guards as well. One of the officers was depicted much more vibrantly than the others, and her uniform also bore more ornate decorations. Inscriptions on a memorial wall indicated that it represented Dutchess Crozyn, ruler of the House in her time, known as the “Scourge of Ronnel”. Searching through the tomb, the party noticed that the Dutchess’ heavy, exquisitely made charric pistol was not actually a part of the statue but was instead a real weapon. Beast grabbed it, and after a few moments several party members noticed beeping and rolling sounds. Beast was not among them, and four hand-sized metallic balls rolled out from underneath the furniture and jumped at him, exploding and covering him in a corrosive chemical. A couple seconds thereafter, the same thing happened again, and Beast once more failed to notice them. Morr was able to stop one of the balls with her sword, but the rest of them found their mark. Beast was not injured, but his armor was noticeably corroded – DR reduced by 20. That’s where we stopped.