Don't Forget Your Boots

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

Tag: player-generated

Featuring a cast of ones…

It has been a while, hasn’t it? My original plan was to put a bunch of work into the upcoming post-apocalyptic campaign, but… y’ever heard the one about making plans? So, yeah, none of that work happened. Instead, we had all manner of domestic upheaval — some good, some bad, but all survived and more-or-less settled now — plus a chunk of overtime at work plus the loss of a player to a work-related schedule change. It has been a time.

But, we soldier on.

This past weekend, we got most of the players together for character creation for the post-apoc extravaganza. The player that we’re losing is also the one who has the stomach for keeping detailed records, so I fear that the campaign may not be as nitty-gritty resource-driven as expected. It’s possible that this is a blessing in disguise. We managed to get character concepts and nearly all the character creation finished.

Here’s our starting cast for the end of the world as they know it:

Bob T. Builder

Quite possibly a placeholder name, though I get the impression that the first name, “Bob”, is solid.

Bob is something of an everyman. He’s a general contractor with a lot of talent and experience with the building trades. He’s a skilled carpenter and mason, and if you need a door unlocked with a sledge hammer, he’s your man. He seems to have gone back to school and picked up a degree in electrical engineering, as well.

Bob lacks obvious troublesome disadvantages. He’s a “salt of the earth” kind of guy: honest, trustworthy, handy, and hard-working. He’s also got some points left to spend, so he may be picking up some further capabilities.

Cyprys Hil

Another likely alias, though in this case, it could just be because the guy doesn’t give out his real name. Cy is a likable young hipster with a guitar and a pack full of squandered potential. He’s a nice guy who makes friends easily. He’s a talented folk singer — well, teller of stories while strumming the guitar, which is almost the same thing as being a folk singer.

The problem is, he’s so lazy that he can’t properly apply his considerable talents. Furthermore, on the rare occasions when he does get a bit ahead, he always ends up giving it away to friends in need. All he has is his cheap guitar and a sleeping bag.

Farrah Fawcett-Adler (No relation)

Farrah is a fitness instructor. Some have said, I’m sure, that she’s the Fitness Instructor From Hell. She is aggressively fit. She knows her way all around a gym. Since that includes the boxing rings and the self-defense courses, I think Farrah might be the best-equipped character thus far in a fist-fight. Looks like she’s filling the “ninja” role, to the extent that it can be filled at this level.

Aside from her wide-ranging and useful skill set, however, Farrah’s got some issues. She’s a compulsive calorie counter, in a way that’s great for maintaining one’s weight in a 21st-century civilization, but quite possibly fatal in a world of limited food resources. She’s also impatient and abrasive to those around her. Finally — and worst of all, in the opinion of the rest of the group — she’s got a drinking problem.

Hanna Marlow

Hanna is a skilled auto mechanic who rides a bicycle to work. Clearly a Portland native.

She’s a friendly dreamer who’s maybe a little over-trusting, but with a core of level-headed horse sense to keep her from disaster. In a word, she’s nice. Hanna is kind to both people and furry woodland creatures in need. She’s cheerful to a fault.

Aside from her top-notch mechanical skills, Hanna appears to have spent some time up on the mountain. She’s in good physical condition, and skilled in climbing and mountain survival techniques.

When the world ends, Hanna’s going to have one of the more effective sets of equipment. She’s kitted out for the commute, so she’s on her bike, with a full canteen, pockets fulls of energy bars, multi-tool in case of mechanical trouble, and a tire iron for personal protection. (I imagine her describing it as protection from cougar attack, though. She doesn’t seem the type to expect the worst from people.)

H. Oxford Killingsworth III

A self-described “1%-er” from West Linn. He’s a businessman and lawyer; as I recall, his current job title goes something like Assistant Executive Assistant to the Director. He’s a natural aristocrat, for both better and worse.

On the one hand, Oxford is intelligent, well-educated, forceful of personality, and knowledgeable about the better things in life. On the other hand, enjoying those finer things has given him a bit of a spare tire, and left him a snob with more luck than grit.

* * *

They’re an interesting bunch. Looking at the group as a whole, there are some things I notice…

As expected, they’re not a fightin’ bunch. They’ve got a barehanded scrapper, a couple of folks who can swing an improvised weapon, and somebody who can tell which end of the gun to point towards the bad guys. They’ve also got a couple of folks whose go-to maneuver in a real combat will be Do Nothing (Wet Self). Nobody tried to talk me into allowing Combat Reflexes, but not everybody is a Reluctant Killer, either.

Only two characters invested any points in Driving, neither heavily. I wonder if they’re maybe expecting the zombie* apocalypse to clog the roads.

Out of the entire group, only one character has any skill in the day-to-day, cookin’ and cleanin’ stuff that keeps folks alive before the zombies* show up. I see one character with any kind of medical training. It’s entirely possible that these guys might evade the zombies*, establish a safe zone, and then die of food poisoning.

That said… They’re a lucky bunch, really: more than one purchased Luck. There are a couple of other “meta-gamey” advantages in play, as well, which could make a big difference. They’ve got scroungers, an organizer, a “face”, and a wide range of practical skills.

If they live long enough to get their feet under themselves, I can see the seeds of an effective band of survivors.

* I promise, no zombies! Zombies for example purposes only! No Zombo!


Dire Chicken

I could have sworn I did this once before, but now I can’t seem to find my notes. So, here, possibly again, by request:  The Dire Chicken.

Dire Chicken

Dire Animal

ST: 18

HP: 18

Speed: 5

DX: 10

Will: 8

Move: 5

IQ: 3

Per: 9

HT: 10

FP: 10

SM: +1

Dodge: 8

Parry: 8

DR: 0

  • Peck (11): 2d-2 pi+ at Reach C, 1.

  • Scratch (11): 1d+1 cut at Reach C, 1.


Bestial; Cannot Speak; Enhanced Move 1 (Ground Move 10); Feathers; Hidebound; Lifting ST +4; No Fine Manipulators; Peripheral Vision; Sharp Beak; Sharp Claws


Brawling-11; Survival (Jungle)-10.

Roosters add the Penetrating Voice Perk.


TKotBO might be picking up some divine allies soon. (They’re on the list of possibilities, anyway. I think we’re up to over 100 points in stuff on the wish list.) If so, one of the first is going to be a divine steed… in the form of a dire riding chicken. With healing powers, from what I understand. The gonzo, she be a-comin’. 😉

I’m not seeing the dire chicken as native to the Tembladera mountains, so much as the interior jungles. More than likely, somewhere out there, there’s a bunch of Stone Age cannibal elves riding dire chickens armed with swords made from obsidian flakes embedded in wooden clubs.



Player-Requested Quest Objects

It’s a sad economic truth that most magic weapons are swords. Dwarves might enchant axes, elves might enchant bows, but they’re both going to also be enchanting swords… and so will humans, goblinoids, and anybody else enchanting weapons. Swords are the prestige weapons. They get all the attention.

You can see this in the 1st edition Dungeon Master’s Guide. Magic swords have their own table, all to themselves. They go up to +5, and having golly-gee-whiz! powers beyond that, like “vorpal”, “wounding”, and “holy avenger”. They also get a special section on making them intelligent and self-willed.

On the next page from the swords’ table, there’s the chart for all the other weapons. Axes go to +3. Spears can be +1, +2, +3, or cursed. The only magical flail is +1, that’s it and that’s all. There’s only one sling, but it’s a +2, at least. Well, kind of — it’s +2 except it’s considered only +1 for determining what monsters’ immunities it pierces.

Clearly, the big magic goes into swords.  (And wizard’s staves, but they aren’t really magical weapons, usually. Not in this context.)

This is inconvenient, if your character doesn’t use a sword. Back when I ran 3rd Edition, the party’s big damage dealer favored the scythe. I pointed out that there was absolutely no chance of ever seeing an enchanted scythe, anywhere. Ever. Ever ever ever. Who would ever enchant such a thing? In hindsight, I suppose I could have dropped in a brotherhood of farmer-ninja or some such… but the point remains. An enchanted scythe is weird enough to require some back story. (That, and I’m pretty sure the point of choosing such a weird weapon is to have it be weird. If every third guy is carrying a scythe, you don’t have a distinctive PC, you’ve got an offbeat world.)

Since I’ve got nothing against wish-fulfillment, I’ve decided to go meta-game to solve the issue. Here’s what I’m a-gonna do:

Any player can give me a “wish list” item, or items. Give me ideas, or write-ups, I’ll take anything. If they look kosher, and especially if they look neat and interesting (as opposed to boringly powerful, or powerfully boring), I’ll use them while stocking the dungeon. (I might tinker a bit, as well.) In return, your PC will get a free rumor, saying that an item of that description can be found somewhere in the dungeon. That’ll be enough clue to start researching and working towards finding the item. Even if you don’t go digging, for whatever reason, it’ll still be out there to be recovered by chance.

… and if the original seeker dies on the way, it’ll still be out there to be found… for the object of irony, if nothing else.  I think everybody’s forgotten how Rho was going to chase down the crossbow lost by the previous priest of Anubis. Someday, somebody’s going to get into “clear the level” mode, stumble across it, and have a moment of silence over the first PC to fall.

(Come to think of it, the dungeon’s likely developing a bad reputation among the followers of Anubis.)

Weird items still require explanation, but at least I’ve got a co-conspirator to share in the guilt. Plus, since the requester has to put forth some effort to chase down rumors and so forth, there’s no additional weight of improbability added;  the unlikely bit is that the thing exists at all, not that the one guy who might use it is also the guy who recovered it from the dungeon. It’s the object of a quest, not a fortuitous drop.

This is essentially how TKotBO got his special shield, the Rol-X. His player came to me with a very specific request, just as Strang needed something to trade for the “fine turnip”, the first piece of orichalcum recovered from the dungeon.

I figure, fair’s fair.  If you’ve got a request, players, lay it on me.

The Shield Of Rol-X

If anybody’s interested, here’s the scoop on the shield that TKotBO has on his wish list.  It’s a fine, balanced, mirrored, ornate (+3), medium shield, enchanted with Lighten (-25%). Its surface, while mirrored, shifts in tint to show the state of the sky above it, so that one can generally deduce the time of day from the sun, even while underground. It gives +1 to effective Shield skill. It can be used to reflect vision-based attacks. Finally, it’s fancy enough to give a +3 reaction bonus to buyers, impressionable young would-be squires, and, apparently, TKotBO himself. It weighs in at 8.45 lbs, with a retail cost of $1900.


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.


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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