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Old 11-18-2016, 08:58 AM   #1
JMason
 
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Default What I'd like to see for DF

I've been GMing GURPS for 20+ years... but in that time the VAST majority of games that featured frequent combat have been "human centric" I think that is because GURPS is based on human norms, and it is easy for me to stat up a bunch of random thugs on the fly rather than crazy monsters. My games also tended to be on the lower end of the power scale.

That said, I've been running (off and on) Dungeon Fantasy games for a few years now. But I still struggle with combat encounters.

It isn't a lack of monsters. DF Monsters 1-3 and the excellent GUPRS Repository, have provided a ton of good enemies... but actually using them effectively is a whole other issue.

The monster books have some note on some strategies for those monsters, but even that advice seems limited. Most monsters can't go up against a diverse group of adventurers. One the of PCs is bound to have some way to take out the enemy quickly, even if there is a large group of that enemy.

I think what I would like to see is a book or article that covers building diverse encounters. Mixing and matching enemies and figuring out how they can be fun and challanging to various group types. What character types are they "strong" or "weak" against. How to prevent the mage from just nuking them everytime, etc.

Anyone else feel this way?
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Old 11-18-2016, 09:16 AM   #2
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Default Re: What I'd like to see for DF

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Originally Posted by JMason View Post
It isn't a lack of monsters. DF Monsters 1-3 and the excellent GURPS Repository, have provided a ton of good enemies... but actually using them effectively is a whole other issue.
To my mind, there do need to be more published monsters, but they need to be an example of a kind of monster that leads to GMs taking that monster and building other monsters off it. I even wrote up a list over many years and made a blog entry about it.

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Originally Posted by JMason View Post
I think what I would like to see is a book or article that covers building diverse encounters. Mixing and matching enemies and figuring out how they can be fun and challenging to various group types. What character types are they "strong" or "weak" against. How to prevent the mage from just nuking them every time, etc.
My other pet idea is Fiendish Foes, which is kind of like this. Basically, it's the 21 NPC statblocks at the back of the current D&D Monster Manual; Pathfinder has something like this too. They're quick foes for games, and you can slap lenses on them to vary them fast. Each one would also have the minimal equipment it needs listed. For example, just flipping open the D&D SRD and scrolling to the appropriate spot, I get to the "Thug" template. You would slap the orc racial template to get an Orc Thug. Want him tougher? There might be another lens, like Demonic Orc Thug, or just bumping up a few skills and ST. Like any such product, the discussion of how to use these foes would have at least lip service in here. Personally, I like the presentation of the monsters in the Dungeon Fantasy Monsters PDFs that suggest tactics above and beyond rudimentary smack and damage.
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Old 11-18-2016, 10:27 AM   #3
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Default Re: What I'd like to see for DF

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Originally Posted by JMason View Post
It isn't a lack of monsters. DF Monsters 1-3 and the excellent GUPRS Repository, have provided a ton of good enemies... but actually using them effectively is a whole other issue.

The monster books have some note on some strategies for those monsters, but even that advice seems limited. Most monsters can't go up against a diverse group of adventurers. One the of PCs is bound to have some way to take out the enemy quickly, even if there is a large group of that enemy.

I think what I would like to see is a book or article that covers building diverse encounters. Mixing and matching enemies and figuring out how they can be fun and challanging to various group types. What character types are they "strong" or "weak" against. How to prevent the mage from just nuking them everytime, etc.

Anyone else feel this way?
Not to sound patronizing, but why not just mix and match yourself? If the PC's are a diverse party...throw a diverse party of monsters at them.

Just off the top of my head: Use a mix of Draug and Corpse Golems to challenge the melee focused PCs (the Corpse Golem being there to stop anti-undead Cleric tricks). They would guarding the Litch (and his minion sorcerer apprentices) who would be blasting magic over them (Make a counterspell dedicated sorcerer to provide a challenge for any wizard in your group). Then slide some Demons from Between the Stars to flank any Acrobatic/Ranged guys.

For added difficulty change the room they are in: Litch and Friends would be on a raised cliffside 1dx10 yards above the cave floor entrance the PCs are entering from. While Draug and Co would rush them from the sides in a fun pincer maneuver. Give it a splash of mechanical traps (Giant Rolling Rock (tm), Sluice Gate of Watery Death (tm), or the good old Boiling Oil Dump (tm)) or magical traps (Force Dome Cage, Teleport to Ceiling Trap, etc.) and you have an encounter that should challenge any group of adventurers.

By creating a diverse challenge it removes the possibility of One Trick Ponies winning the day with the one I Win button they carry around with them.
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Last edited by A Ladder; 11-18-2016 at 10:31 AM.
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Old 11-18-2016, 10:38 AM   #4
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Default Re: What I'd like to see for DF

Quote:
Originally Posted by JMason View Post
I think what I would like to see is a book or article that covers building diverse encounters. Mixing and matching enemies and figuring out how they can be fun and challanging to various group types. What character types are they "strong" or "weak" against. How to prevent the mage from just nuking them everytime, etc.
"It's a Threat!" in Pyramid #3/77: Combat is basically a Challenge Rating system for GURPS (well half of one anyway, it doesn't really provide a baseline for PCs the way that ACL does).
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Old 11-18-2016, 11:37 AM   #5
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Default Re: What I'd like to see for DF

Hmm, well I have a different background, having played TFT & GURPS for decades but not having tried DF yet, though I did buy into the kickstarter.

I play fantasy a lot, but not DF, and do not usually have party groups that can handle everything easily. I tend to keep the power levels and magic toys (and healing magic) low/rare/consumable enough to keep things interesting. And it seems like if I had intentionally chosen to play a game where the PCs get all sorts of toys, then I should let them use them, and provide a world where there will be things that will be interesting for them to take on if/when they aspire to a challenge. I feel like that's more of a GM management thing than a "we need specific monsters who can challenge uber-parties with lots of magic toys" thing, although if that's the usual DF level of play, perhaps you are right that there should be some monsters designed to be challenging against very-capable high-magic PC parties... that's the way of that style of gaming in other systems, certainly, but it's also part of why I don't choose to play those systems or settings - because it's something I don't know how to manage as a GM, because I like logic enough that it seems like such monsters and violent opponents with such high weird powers in a world would lead to overly complex power dynamics I can't wrap my head around, and that would tend to TPK low-level adventurers left and right.

I looked over your article though mostly I thought hmm I already have versions of most of those from older sources (Fantasy Folk, Bestiary, Dominions...).

But I really like the idea you mentioned here that it would be cool and GURPSy to suggest a monster-generating toolkit type of thing, suggesting that GMs make their own types of weird and wild monsters that can be as challenging as needed, rather than relying on using a published (and thus OOC learnable by players) list of canonical monsters.

Also, what I would really want from DF would be GURPS Tactical rules for weird monsters. That is, examples and guidelines for creating tactical rules for monsters. How many hexes is it, what's the shape of those hexes, where are the front/side/rear hexes, which hexes can the attacks strike into or not, which hexes contain certain body part targets, what happens as you remove limbs and wings or other organs from various types of monsters, how do they move on the map, can they change shape and body posture and what does that do in GURPS game terms, what are their barding size modifiers, their senses, skills, behavior, tactics, and what might you be able to craft from their body parts, etc. i.e. I want GURPS grit, because I can already just take some non-GURPS sourcebook and GM-decide how to handle stuff myself, but it's work and I'd like good suggestions about the details and so on.

And I'd like art that can be used for flat counters for the monsters. For multi-hex monsters, I want top-down art for counters, like the GURPS horse counters from 1e products, or TFT dragon counters.
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Old 11-18-2016, 11:55 AM   #6
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Default Re: What I'd like to see for DF

I'm always up for more GURPS products, but if that doesn't happen, another thing you can throw into combat is innocent bystanders. That SHOULD prevent nuking by a spell caster, and might make for some interesting tactics by the bad guys taking hostages, or using people as cover.

Another thing (like someone else suggested) is to make the enemy smaller in number, but greater in intelligence. Have them use better tactics, and some group sized crowd control spells on the PCs to weaken them without killing them.
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Old 11-18-2016, 12:00 PM   #7
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Default Re: What I'd like to see for DF

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Originally Posted by JMason View Post
It isn't a lack of monsters. DF Monsters 1-3 and the excellent GUPRS Repository, have provided a ton of good enemies... but actually using them effectively is a whole other issue.
The best way to cure that is experience. Run groups of mixed foes.

Identify a given foes weakness and group it with creatures that don't suffer that weakness.

Read OSR style gaming blogs, like Peter Dell'Orto's. They'll often feature fights with mixed unit foes.
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Old 11-18-2016, 12:20 PM   #8
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Default Re: What I'd like to see for DF

I do many of the thing that folks here have suggested. But frankly, it a log of *gosh darn* work! Along with making maps, stocking loot, setting traps, stating inanimate object (doors, chests), etc, etc...

My "beer and pretzels" DF game take by FAR more prep than just about any other sort of game I've run over the past few decades.

So... I want a cheat sheet! I want a quicker way to figure out what to throw at my party... that won't just be a walk in the park, or just outright slaughter them.

And while formula systems like "It's a Threat" might help... I'd like to see something dig a bit deeper. What does it mean to combine a PC with very high damage, one with very high defense, one with mind control powers, etc. And the biggest question... how do you have a variety of encounters that can challenge that group w/o them all feeling the same?
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Old 11-18-2016, 01:39 PM   #9
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Default Re: What I'd like to see for DF

A cheat sheet would be nice I guess... but the number of combinations of things that are possible is pretty huge. It would be a Herculean task to make that cheat sheet I think.

One more thing I might be able to sway you with: Fudge stuff.

The biggest time saver I have is that I'm familiar with the rules very well, and I can usually make fair judgments on the fly. I don't prep nearly as much as I could. I put together a general idea of what I want, and if it works out oddly during the session I just alter it. The players don't ever have to know. As long as the story doesn't get too weird, and everyone is still having fun, it works.

The PC team just nuked the hoard of monsters they saw in front of them? Well... maybe they should have stopped and watched a little longer to give themselves time to notice that it was just one campfire's worth of monsters... and there are three other camps with monsters that just heard the nuking.

Just add stuff off the cuff, and fudge things to avoid horridly unfair things. Like if three times the number of foes attacking is too much, just fudge things. Maybe the damage the party is doing eventually makes the remaining ones flee, or help arrives, or whatever.

Fudging things works. :)
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Old 11-18-2016, 02:52 PM   #10
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Default Re: What I'd like to see for DF

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And I'd like art that can be used for flat counters for the monsters. For multi-hex monsters, I want top-down art for counters, like the GURPS horse counters from 1e products, or TFT dragon counters.
Well, Cardboard Heroes. I'm a little disappointed that the monsters from DFM3 aren't in the Kickstarter boxed set because I want counters for them.
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