Some thoughts on session #8, plus missed details

by mshrm

When the swarm of rats engulfed Gabby, I had her roll a Fright Check. It came out successful, which is why it didn’t make much of an appearance in the narrative. I don’t usually call for many Fright Checks in the DF game, figuring that anybody who’s ready to crawl into a dungeon, knowing it’s full of hostile monsters and traps, probably possesses a certain cold-bloodedness that most folks lack. They might be frightened by the same stuff as normal folks, but it’s not going to stop them in their tracks unless it’s supernatural. As far as telling the tale after the fact, sure, Conan’s “blood ran cold” when he heard the howl of the wolves behind him… but he doesn’t panic, he doesn’t pause, Conan just keeps doing what Conan needs to do.

But in this case, I made an exception. Exhausted, trapped, crawling through a damp sewer pipe with a house afire behind you and nothing but darkness in front of you, while a horde of rats crawl over you, biting as you go?  Nah, that’s worth at least an unmodified check. Even Conan might go pale at a prospect like that.

* * *

I clearly need to get a better handle on the contents of GURPS Magic, starting with what’s in Jed’s spellbook. As a group, we’re not all that familiar with the standard magic system. Back in the Old Weird West game that borrowed heavily from Deadlands, we had one huckster, but huckster magic isn’t really compatible with the standard stuff.

I wouldn’t want to go so far as to look up each spell at the time it’s cast, for fear of slowing things down too much, but I think it may come to that. Maybe the first time or two that we see a spell?  I think we’ve finally internalized the important details of Jed’s favorite missile, Concussion. It only took a couple of repetitions.

* * *

One important detail that I just plain forgot to include in the synopsis:  While the party was on the Great Bridge, when they switched from “exhausted resting” to “healing mode”, Jed realized that Kadabra had been unconscious for a surprisingly long time, and gave him a poke with his baton. Turned out, somewhere along the way, Kadabra had managed to sneak off and replace himself with an illusion.  It probably happened between the exit from the tunnel and the move over to the bridge.

Another forgotten bit:  From the top of the cliff, the climbers could get a good, clear look at the tower on the other side of the river. This is the same tower that Gabby spotted when she went climbing along the side of the Great Bridge. It’s hidden behind the mountainside when looking from the road atop the bridge. Needles pointed it out, connecting it to the rumors they have heard in the past of a dwarven watchtower containing a source of magical power. I wouldn’t be surprised if they went to take a closer look at it, after crossing a couple of other items off their to-do list.

* * *

Speaking of, I need to nag the guys s’more about those to-do lists. 😉  It’s a happy thing for me, hearing the guys talking over their next mission, because they have competing goals. Not just “the pilot wants to run, the gunner wants to fight” goals, but wider, more realistic goals:  “We need to follow up on that rumor. We should hit those guys before they get a chance to reinforce. We need to explore over here and build up a nest egg to equip so we can survive over there long enough to open the door into that place….”  That’s getting into planning, that is.

It’s quite a shift from last year’s “I wonder how the GM is going to get us out of this one”. I rather like it.  🙂

So, I’ve been asking them, every so often, about where they’re headed, what they want to do, where their interests lie. I think we’re finally entering the stage of the game where there are enough loose ends, there’s no one clear, obvious next step. This is where you get your competing priorities.

* * *

Another thing that’s happening for this game, that I’m not so much used to from previous:  folks are spending their experience. Oh, yeah, they would spend points in the past, some. Once the piles got so high, they started to become embarrassing. I was tight with points in the Space Cowboys game:  my rule of thumb was one, one single stinking measly point, per session. Even so (or perhaps for that reason), folks piled up unspent points.

For DF, I’m more-or-less following the suggestions from GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 3: The Next Level, just ignoring the parts that don’t apply to megadungeon-style play.  (I don’t know if the dungeon has an honest claim to the “mega-” prefix or not, but it’s clearly big enough that they’re not going to clear it before it re-populates. Truth be told, they’ve only touched the equivalent of two sheets of graph paper, so far. I’ve got individual levels mapped out that are bigger than that…)  I’m also being consciously liberal with experience, even while ruthlessly enforcing the requirements. (There was debate, at one point, about the merits of keeping the magic crossbow rather than turning it in to The Church as a quest object. They decided they’d rather have the experience for fulfilling Rho’s quest.)  The end result is, I’m throwing around experience by the handful, from the feel of it.

Yet, there’s been more interest in using those points than I’ve ever seen before. Just before session #7, Needles made a big investment in himself. At the beginning of session #8, there were two people saving up for big purchases:  Gabby wants to pick up Enhanced Time Sense and go completely “Neo” on everybody, and TKotBO was saving up to finish multi-classing into Knight. At the end, Alric announced his intention to multi-class into Swashbuckler (and pick up that nasty Weapon Master damage bonus — I think his master plan is to do enough damage with a great axe as to be able to split an atom) and TKotBO was able to pay off the last of his lens.

For the first time ever, I had someone update their GCA character sheet with what they wanted to buy before I got around to entering the points to pay for it.

* * *

It’s funny. Sometimes, my group will meta-game all over the place.  (They use their powers for good, mostly.  I don’t mean the meta-gaming that has a PC move away from a successful feint or check for a trap because they talked to somebody who played a character who was killed by that trap… I mean the kind that doesn’t push for “screen time” in town, after hearing that “town” is meant to be more like the main menu on Diablo than any actual human settlement, the kind that doesn’t lead to one PC avoiding the other PCs just because they’re a bunch of weirdos.)

And then other times, they’ll beat themselves bloody trying to avoid meta-gaming themselves into a reward that I’m actively trying to press on them.

The halfling — his name is Doughal in my notes, and even though he never got a chance to mention it in actual conversation, I’m going to claim that he did, because it’s getting old to talk about “the halfling” like he’s some sort of unique creature — Doughal, then, was fated to tell the party about the opportunity to pursue the granting of wishes. He was all set and ready, literally offering them directions if they would let him go. For that matter, they didn’t even have to actually let him go, just say that they were going to in a convincing manner. (Well, OK, TKotBO would probably get snippy about breaking promises if they actually tried to go back on the deal, but that would be after the fact.)

Then they decided to try to scare the directions out of him, rather than just saying “Sure, we’ll let ya go. Draw a map and cough up your wallet. And Alric thinks those pants would look good on Dobby, so off with ’em.”

What happened behind the screen, so to speak, was that the intimidation attempt worked. Doughal became convinced that diplomacy wasn’t going to work, so he tried his pickpocket attempt. When TKotBO rapped him across the skull with a gauntlet-wearing hand, he started thinking he was in deep trouble, even if he did offer valuable information. When Gabby turned invisible, he realized he wasn’t going to be getting his ring back, and that this might be his last chance to cut his losses and flee.

Still, at least the party knows something is out there. There’s a casino, and big winners can get a wish granted. That’s a target to quest for, even without a map. And there was a general murmur of approval at the idea of a granted wish, so I’m sure it’ll come up again…

* * *

Then, there’s Strang’s quest. They kinda blew it, in that they’re coming away empty-handed.  They did gather some valuable recon, in that they confirmed Strang’s suspicion that the Flame Lords held a couple of pieces of interesting orichalcum. The plan is to report their findings, with Jed putting a good spin on the news, and TKotBO issuing a personal apology for the failure of his men.

We’ll see how Strang takes it. These guys have recovered more pieces of his puzzle, faster, than any other scruffy group of adventurers, but that was one expensive amulet that they gave away.

* * *

Another win for advanced prep. Going in, I could not have predicted anything that happened after the first ten minutes. With all the maps and notes I’ve put together, it wasn’t bad at all, reacting to unexpected PC actions. And now, I get a chance to do some re-stocking!