Friday, December 22, 2017

Skeleton Army

The opening setup

"Really, Zarlazz? Skeletons?""What's wrong with skeletons?""A bit low-rent, aren't they? Couldn't you come up with something that hasn't been done to death?""What, you'd prefer we give the adventurers a more meaty challenge?""That pun was beneath you, Zarlazz.""Puns are beneath us all, Kovath."

Secret Prison of Kas the Bloody Part 4

This is a chatlog, the recap writup is featured here.

Secret Prison of Kas the Bloody Part 3

This is a chatlog, the recap writup is featured here

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Token Tuesday: Reptillian humanoids Pack 1

Today on Token Tuesday, Emily Smirle has served up for you some reptilian humanoids.  They are all released to you under Creative Commons.  Below is a preview of just one such humanoid, if you follow the link here you can get a zip file filled with lizard/dino men in a variety of colors and weapon configurations.

Creative Commons LicenseReptilian Humanoid Tokens by Emily Smirle is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Token Tuesday: Puddings

I'm announcing a new feature here at Dungeons on Automatic: Token Tuesday with art by Emily Smirle.  Every Tuesday I'll serve up something new from her, focused first on the monsters in the DFRPG Monsters book.  After that, we'll see.  Today she has served up for you some puddings in a variety of colors.  They are all released to you under Creative Commons.  Below is a preview of just one such pudding, if you follow the link here you can get a zip file filled with puddings in a variety of colors.

Creative Commons LicensePudding Tokens by Emily Smirle is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Wandering in circles

"This tunnel - it doesn't go anywhere."
"Well, so?"
"I mean, we're paying for these tunnels by the yard. Why is there a completely empty hallway with three entrances to the same room and -- forty-eight, forty-nine -- yes, fifty -- FIFTY yards of pointless twists and turns?"
"That happens sometimes."
"And that's somehow okay?"
"Honestly, the amount of time and effort we save on planning is worth five thousand yards of hallway." 
Here we are walking in a looong circle.
This session (Chat log here) featured no combat just a great deal of trap finding.  And some laughing at the time wasted in the dungeon.  Traps triggered once, and were evaded and disarmed once. I wasn't super thrilled with how the session went just in terms of all the rolls exploring empty halls but the loot was okay.

First, they handled the loot from the fight with the dinomen last session.  Then they moved on and uncovered a secret door using See Secrets, then they uncovered a secret door that led to a hallway that led to ... 2 doors back to the room with the secret door.  The party managed to choose the one door that was trapped to open.  Teetonka triggered the trap but yanked his hand back in time to avoid the poisoned needle. (side note, I need to write up some more door traps, there aren't many in the traps book).  The party continued south to discover a trapped room (liquid ice sprayers in the ceiling).  Vondur got impatient (Impulsive swashbuckler) and decided to leap over the trap. He failed his acrobatics roll and had to burn a luck to escape an icy doom.  Teetonka started to describe how he'd disarm the trap but I cut him short so we could move on.  This is not ideal behavior on my part, players are encouraged by RAW to disarm traps in ways other than just "I roll traps" but I was in a hurry.  I went ahead and rewarded with CP as if he had spent the time and effort explaining how it would be disarmed (Exploits p.92).  Search checks were made and some hidden loot was found in the room (I hid it in a panel on the randomly generated balcony).  The haul wasn't bad:
  • 11 eigth-gold, 21 silver, 174 copper ($2144)
  • 2 gem like objects (probably tourmaline? Teetonka put these in her boot) 
  • fine metallic shield with jeweled inlay  and edging of feathers (magical, effect not known).  
  • Potion of Agility (Identified by Gharza sipping it. as a Half- Orc, she can make HT based alchemy pretty well)
They then spent some time considering how to get the Liquid Ice out of the ceiling, before giving up and returning to exploration.  The next room they entered was a boss level encounter: 21 Skeletons.

I've only done it twice, but I'm already getting pretty tired of these huge hordes of monsters.  The party opened the door, saw the skeletons and shut it again.  Stonemaul decided to pray to his god for help in smiting the undead menace.  I went ahead and let him roll based on Exploits p. 90.  The effective skill of 6 seemed unlikely to work out, but he did indeed roll that 6.  After some discussion of possible results, I decided to just throw a Turn Zombie spell loose on the tightly packed skeleton phalanx.  It helped out, all the skeletons started the fight down 4 HP and 4 of them spent the fight running from Stonemaul instead of pitching in.  At that point we called it a night and planned to pick up an a week or so.
This looms for next week
Thoughts: I need to make tokens for trapped doors so I can click to either spring or disarm the traps so things can move faster in this regard.

Secret Prison of Kas the Bloody Part 2

This is a chatlog, the recap writup is featured here

Monday, December 4, 2017

Free Dragon Tokens Pack 1 Courtesy of Emily Smirle

Just wanted to take a moment to release some fantastic token art by the talented Emily Smirle.  She whipped these up for me when we ran into some issues with our dragon hunting playtest.  They are all released to you under Creative Commons.  Below is a preview of just one such dragon, if you follow the link here you can get a zip file filled with dragons in a variety of sizes and colors.

Creative Commons LicenseDragon Tokens by Emily Smirle is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Too much loot?

By Nicolas Uvena-Stefanovich Licensed under Creative Commons

"Wait, what are you doing?"
"If you don't put loot in the dungeon, Kovath, then the adventurers won't come to be killed."
"Right, but you can't put that there."
"Why not?"
"Because if you put it there, one of the gnolls is going to pick it up and use it."
"And that's... bad?"
"I don't have time to go into gnoll tribal politics right now but trust me, a puissant, flaming, very fine broadsword of penetration will NOT be good for our population numbers."
"Fine. Fifty random coins, then, whatever."
"Don't pout, Zarlazz. It's a nice sword. We can give it to one of the wights."
Last week, I had a post about hunting dragons in which I said:

"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."
To which the esteemed Peter V. Dell'Orto of the DungeonFantastic blog commented in response to me, saying:

"I'm really curious to see you expand on this. With such a limited supply of purchasable magic items, treasure seems like it'll pretty much be better mundane weapons, better mundane armor (and armor is highly pricey), potions, and healing. Even with pre-DFRPG pricing, which was lower, I had to dramatically increase the treasure in my dungeons just to keep pace. So I'm wondering where you see this line being, and when treasure becomes too much."
After he said that it got me thinking, and I reached out to my players (I've got 7 who've hit a dungeon with me so far).  We determined pretty quickly that it would take multiple millions of $ to zero out most delver's wishlist forever, even assuming all those items could be found on a shelf in the shop.  It's quite likely that (contrary to my previous statements) there is no sane tipping point after which delvers have too much stuff. 

What does that shopping list look like?
In theory, you could have a Torc of Exemplary Humanity (as one of my players called it) with +5 ST, HT, DX, IQ and Per for $1,025,000.  That's a cool million.  That doesn't include a weapon, so let's assume a swashbuckler: the balanced, very fine, orichalcum, silver coated, ornate edged rapier ends up costing $64,000 without enchantments. If we add accuracy, defending, ghost weapon, loyal weapon, penetrating weapon, icy weapon and puissance at their max levels we end up with another $817,000 and we aren't even done.  For armor, the aformentioned swashbuckler would probably like what I presently consider to be the world's best adventuring armor combo.  First, a fine spidersilk ornate lightened suit of cloth for a total of $18700, 2 DR and only 6.75 lb. Second, a spiked, ornate, dwarven, orichalcum, fine suit of epic plate (only 23.76 pounds and an incredible 10 DR) for $648,000, but why stop there, lets take it to the next level and lighten that ($10k, down to 11.88 lb) and add max levels of Deflect ($400k) and Fortify ($160k) to land us at  $1.218 million.  There's no adventuring gear in this list, but I've already cleared $3 million assuming you pay sticker price and don't suffer any markups for having to custom order something so insane or pay a mad enchanting markup for speed.

So, why was I convinced such a thing as too much money existed?  In a completely different game (in GURPS using the Monster Hunter supplements set in the present day) I gave players ridiculous bounties for completed missions.  If magic items aren't available to soak up money, it turns out you can buy everything you care to carry pretty easily.  My players got to the point of buying a decommissioned missile silo and several wheeled, floating and flying vehicles "just in case", after which they continued to find silly things to spend it on, but none of it was meaningful.  My players found it fun, but all it added to play was a sense of crazy wish fulfillment shopping spree.  I could no longer motivate my players with greed (which was fine in that game since they all had other reasons to do what they did) or use money as an obstacle for them.  In the end, I don't regret giving them their shopping spree, but wish I'd taken longer to get there in the campaign.  I was somewhat worried I'd be facing the same issue with DFRPG, but I'm increasingly convinced it's not a real problem and I nod to the wisdom of Peter in this matter.  If anything, I'm convinced that the rate at which loot gets handed out needs to keep going up as there is a gap between the price point on good mundane gear and incredible magical items that's pretty large.

What about your games? What's the most money you've seen thrown around? Did it cause problems?

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 Github 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.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Refining the concept

"So, Zarlazz, what have you got the bugbear compression rate down to?"

"I can't seem to get it below 1.2 cubic feet."

"HA, I've got mine down to 1 cubic foot per bugbear. The trick is to take out all the blood first, store it separately."

"But where do you keep it?"

"Vampire feeding bay. Mix it in with 1/3 human blood and the coffindwellers don't know the difference."
 Refining the concept:

We're still a little ways away from go time on the encounter generator (it was putting very silly numbers of bugbear in rooms they don't fit in for a while there), but I've gotten to chat with my players a bit and we're going to run this with a nod to the old West Marches style of campaign.  This means we'll do the following:

  • Play whenever at least 2 and at most 5 players get together and schedule for a predetermined amount of time.  When we get to the end of the night, players will have to make the call on if they want to call it there and return to town with whatever they've accomplished or if they want to continue the session another (scheduled) time.
  • Allow players to have a stable of characters who earn points and cash independently of their players.  A player who decided to leave a character in the dungeon with a group can't bring him to another dungeon until the previous one is complete.
  • If we ever get the generator capable of doing themes, I'll allow players to announce the type of dungeon they'd like to go to.  So you may see more specialized adventuring parties, like a crew of Half-Orcs who love to delve in swamps (due to poison resistance).
  • Players should be able to bring whatever rules compliant character they want.  For now, we won't be working with "custom professions" as seen on DFRPG: Adventurers 14. I may be persuaded to change that some time in the future.
What do you think? Do you anticipate any real problems with this setup? Is this something you would want to play in?

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

So it begins

"Look, Kovath, you can't just do this sort of thing at random. There's an art to it. Nobody is going to die in a dungeon that's just put together by random chance."

"I'm telling you, Zarlazz, procedural generation is the future. We'll be able to murder adventurers in job lots. Just as soon as I figure out how to fit three dozen crocodile-riding trolls into the kitchen..."

Dungeon on Automatic (DoA) is my new blog dedicated to trying out 2 new things and a few old things.  The first is the new Dungeon Fantasy Role Playing Game released by Steve Jackson Games.  I intend to keep to the rules as written in said books as closely as possible while also integrating the second thing I intend to try out:  A GURPSified version of this. We (Emily Smirle and myself) are still in the alpha stages, but work is progressing on the encounter generator.  Once the encounter generator makes results that more sense, We'll be running randomly generated dungeons to hopefully demonstrate a few things:

  • That Christopher R. Rice's Combat Effectiveness Rating (CER) system works as intended for this kind of project and to vet it as an authoritative way to balance combat encounters in GURPS.
  • The DFRPG rules as written.  We'll be running DFRPG rules as close to rules as written as humanly possible.  This should provide great examples of how to run encounters in the system.  If you notice we did something in a way that doesn't exactly line up with DFRPG, flag it in the comments please so we can point it out for other readers!
  • That our map generator (with encounters by myself and Emily and treasure generously provided by Brian Thomas) can create interesting (if a bit zany) places for players to visit and loot to gather.

I intend to share battle maps from our sessions, and ask for my players to give me impressions on things that went well or poorly, and work with Emily to adjust the machine (who's doing all my prep for me) to make for better adventures.  So come along on this journey with us and lets see what weird maps and groups of monsters we can face together!