Don't Forget Your Boots

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

Tag: artifacts

More Granularity: Why we don’t resolve foot-races on the hex map

Still thinking about weird things that come up due to the way GURPS carves up an analog world into a world of discrete steps ruled by a 3d6 bell curve.

Movement in general seems to summon up a lot of oddities. In the real world, one runner might be just slightly faster than another. Take the world records for the 100m dash. The men’s times cover a span of about half a second, and the women’s times have a span of close to 0.6 seconds; both spans of time too small for the GURPS rules to work with. Say we’ve got two runners, Avery and Blake. Both are world-class, so they’ve both got Move 10.

The character sheets do, anyway. The “real world” people the character sheets are approximating have “Move scores” more like 9.875 and 10.033, which vary from day to day and moment to moment, depending on blood sugar levels and mental state and a thousand other variables that are way too small to worry about for a game.

We want to run a foot race between Avery and Blake. If we tried to handle it like combat, turn-by-turn on a hex map, odd things start to crop up immediately. Let’s say Avery gets the first action, and shoots 10 hexes ahead of the Blake. Right there, we’ve got Avery and Blake in a situation on the hex map that would never happen, even for an instant, in the real event being modeled. In a real Olympic 100m dash, if you ever see 30 feet of distance between two runners, it’s not going to be right off the starting line. More likely, Avery and Blake would be within arm’s reach of each other through the entire race.


Zeno’s combat turn is 1 sec, 0.5 sec, 0.25 sec…

Next, Blake gets a turn and catches up. Then Avery and Blake take turns, leap-frogging down the track, alternating between 10 hexes of separation and none at all. At the finish line, Avery gets the first action of the turn, breaks the tape, and wins.

Luckily, the Rules As Written already have us covered. We shouldn’t be trying to run a race like a combat.  GURPS Basic Set: Characters, page 218:  “When racing someone of equal Move on foot, roll a Quick Contest of Running skill to determine the winner.”  That line is in there to avoid this weird, jerky race.

… which is only weird and jerky if you envision Avery and Blake both taking a full second of actions on their turns, while the other stands watching, frozen in time. GURPS turns overlap. Everything happens at once.

* * *

Something else to keep in mind:  If you think these kinds of artifacts are a deal-breaker, you should remember that GURPS’ one-yard-and-one-second scale is a lot more fine-grained than most game systems.

I (dimly) recall a game from back in middle school. I think we were using Star Frontiers. That system’s game turn was 6 seconds long. Thus, all else being equal, a character in that system would cover six times the distance of the equivalent GURPS character in the space of a single turn.

The setup was, the good guys blew the bad guys’ cover, leading to a running gun fight in an area much like a mall. At this late date, I couldn’t say for certain if I was playing or running the game. Nor can I say if it was the good guys or the bad guys who decided to cut and run, nor even if it was all of that side or only one of them.

What I do recall is, one side withdrew at a full run. In a single action, the counter traveled a twisted path, going through more than a few doors, passing through several forks in the road. Then, it was time for the other side to move. The other side’s counter followed the same twisty, turny path, and wound up right on the heels of the pursued. That’s where the disagreement started.

“No way! We broke line of sight, there’s no way X could know to take all those turns! What are they, psychic?”

In the real world, when one person is chasing another in that kind of situation, the feedback and corrections are constant. Neither side was fast enough to outpace the other, so the pursuers would have been right there, taking turns right behind the runner. It was only that springy lead given by taking the first action that gave the illusion of distance.

In GURPS, going back-and-forth one second at a time, rather than every 6 seconds, we still get that phantom lead, but it’s only 1/6th as large. In that star-port mall, that would have meant only having a single door or turn between the two counters at any particular time. We still get artifacts, but they’re smaller.


The Map After Session #5




Here’s the PC’s map, after session #5. This isn’t everywhere they’ve been. Notably, this map doesn’t show the Great Bridge nor anything on the far side of it. They weren’t mapping during the battle on the bridge, and they couldn’t map the orc’s lair while carousing.


The main entrance is at the bottom of the image. The two circles, more-or-less halfway across the image horizontally, are the giant stone heads. The other two circles, with the fuzzy outlines, are the chimneys up from the kitchen areas. Gabby climbed up the one on the right.

The angled areas with the dashed lines flanking the entrance are the two archer’s nests. The odd little rectangle with a circle in the lower right is the manhole discovered by TKotBO during the party’s first approach to the dungeon.

The odd-shaped area at the upper right is the natural cavern where the more curious party members ran into the men made of fire. Above it is the stairway and hall that leads to the Great Bridge. Ghorbash’s goblins made their lair in the rooms across the hall.

More pics from the Space Cowboys game


Dug up some more pictures of the Cabra.

Here, we see an early morning on a frozen moon, as seen from the back corner of the control deck. The seat on the right is for the pilot, while the seat on the left is for the navigator. If you look close, you’ll see a couple of holographic controls. Also, notice that both chairs are set up to slide from side to side, as the task demands.


The reception area, the fanciest room in the ship, kept spotless and unused unless entertaining customers. Osolo, who was in charge of cleaning, would lock the doors and make everyone go the long way around, rather than put wear on the only carpet on board.

The clear table-top was made of man-made diamond, while the tables and chairs in the background were made of bamboo. Between them, the table and chairs were more expensive than the table. Advanced materials science and widespread colonization of space caused things like miraculous metals and huge diamonds cheap and wide-spread, while living things, like trees, were rare and expensive.

You can really see the curve of the living quarter units, here. The ship had a ring of these units around the outside of the hull’s curve. They had flexible passages between them, and were set up to be able to rotate over ninety degrees. They would take one position, with “down” towards the landing gear, when on a planet or under thrust from the rockets. When switching over to spin gravity, they would rotate into the second position, where “down” points outward from the ship’s center, away from the axis of rotation. In the first position, one would walk from room to room, around the ship, on a level, circular path. In the second, one would walk to and from the same rooms, but one would walk uphill the entire way, before arriving back at one’s starting point. There were two decks within each unit, with stairs between.

The switch between normal gravity and spin gravity is also the reason for the ladder in the middle of the room and the door on the ceiling. Despite there being two doors visible, no more than one would work at a time. As shown, one would walk out the door on the wall and find oneself in an airlock. Under spin, to get to the airlock, one would have to climb the ladder and open the door in the ceiling.


Finally, here’s the image that I claimed would be the “freeze-frame” shot using for the credits montage, on the TV show that was the game. It’s meant to be more of an “in-flight” shot, with all the running lights going and the solar panels out.


You can tell the ship isn’t in transit, because the plasma sail isn’t deployed. If it were, there would be a set of four cables, at right angles, centering on the plasma sail array on top of the ship, where you see the red “caution” light. The cables were about the diameter of a person’s arm and miles and miles long, made of some advanced super-conducting metal weave. The entire sail, at maximum thrust, was something like sixty miles across, so to the naked eye, it just looked like a cross of cables vanishing into the distance. You couldn’t even see the curve of the loops: really, those four cables were the overlapping bits of four huge flat circles, tangent only at that one central spot.

The external engineer would handle letting out these massive lengths of cable when raising the sails. One of his duties was to hang color-coded lights on the sail cables, for visibility and navigation. For the benefits of other ships, the upper hemisphere (the direction of travel) would be one color, while the lower would be another. For the benefit of the engineer, other variations in the lights – blink rate, color variation, and so forth – could be used for navigation within the web of the sails.

When under sail, the ship would sit in the center of this net of invisible cables, surrounded by its own constellations of lights. The plasma of the sail would be visible from the aurora. When under spin, the entire arrangement would seem to revolve around the ship, like the sun rising and setting, about once every minute. From the external engineer’s crew station, it would be an impressive sight.


Who Looted The “Fine Turnip”? And is it magical?

Inspired by a post over at Dungeon Fantastic, I got to wondering how my players record their loot.

I’m the kind of guy who tries to fill the dungeon with “interesting” treasure, rather than just piles of coins. Sometimes, I feel like it’s a little wasted, since I expect the players will end up classifying everything as either “stuff to keep”, “quest coupons”, or “pawnable”. There’s some value in that extra level of detail beyond what the players care about, as camouflage for clues and so forth, but in the end, that gorgeous piece of treasure is going to turn into a pouch full of coins, which will itself turn into a barrel of beer and some enchanted ironmongery for the knight. At any rate, I know my players would be happier if the treasure came pre-sorted into bundles of magic items and stacks of coin.

So, I wondered: what have they been writing down, when I describe the loot?

Luckily, I can check. My group elected one player (Rho/Kadabra/Mississippi Jim’s) as the keeper of the list of shared treasure. (They also elected him chief mapper, and thus far, he’s been handling the selling of loot back in town. Really, they decided that he was going to be the guy with the pencil and the calculator.)  He keeps his party notes in a particular notebook, which goes in the party folder, which gets stored on my shelf in between games.

What I found in the notebook surprised me.  At first, I thought I wasn’t going to find what I was looking for.  All I found was scratch paper and rough maps. Finally, I discovered a couple of lists, folded up in the back of the notebook.

The answer to the immediate question is, yes, my players write down “comb 1500 silver”, just as Mr. Dell’Orto observes. Drat, they’re not taking notes on all my boxed text. Oh, well, that’s pretty much what I expected. So long as they’ve got enough notes to let me track down which item they’re actually talking about, they’re OK. If they find one harp on a given trip, they just need to know “the harp”; if they find two, they need to be able to tell me if they’re selling “the one with the carvings” or “the one glowing with obvious magical power”. If that gets noted as “harp” and “glowing harp”, great.

But then I took a closer look.

It seems that someone found a “fine turnip”, right around the time of the fight with Ghorbash. I’m not sure who put points into Connoisseur (Root Vegetables), but they estimated its value at $10 million.

I bet Gabby made off with it.


Goblins’ Map from Session #3

Session003-Map01Here’s the map that the captive goblins scratched into the muck of the kitchen floor.  Rho copied it onto parchment before leaving on his ill-fated trip to the “Brij Stairz”. The odd symbol in the middle is the goblins’ best effort at drawing a hole that isn’t there. The square with the ‘X’ is the room that the late Ghorbash claimed for his lair. TKotBO sensed supernatural beings beyond the door marked “Monsterz”, and nobody seemed terribly interested in the “Ratz”.





Player’s Map From Session #2



The new and improved version of the players’ map, from the entrance at the bottom of the image all the way up to the room where they’re resting, in the upper right. The hexagons containing “H” are the giant stone heads. If I’m deciphering the notations correctly, they read: “Slow/Traps”, for the demolished area where the goblins set up the kill zone for their ambush; “Trolls”, for the area where they defeated the two trolls; and, finally, “Poo Drop”, for the opening that the watch-goblins were using to empty their chamber pots.

I find it educational, the things that end up on their maps. And not just the labels, either.

For one thing, I see a dramatic improvement in scale for anyplace where they have a major battle, no doubt thanks to the battle mat. For instance, the entrance and the zig-zag hall to the right of the central head are both disturbingly close to what I see on my map. On the other hand, the shaded area in the middle is the result of a correction from a successful Cartography roll; I had somehow failed to communicate that there was a large hall leading out of the entrance chamber, rather than just an extension of the chamber itself.




I scanned the players’ maps from the first session, with permission. Here’s what they managed to record. Since nobody in the party actually has the Cartography skill, however, I cannot speak as to the accuracy of the map… but I will admit that I’m astonished at how close some parts resemble my master map.

Some parts.

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