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Old 12-30-2016, 10:59 AM   #1
Icelander's Avatar
Join Date: Mar 2006
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Default Making a blowpipe-wielding small character useful

I'm looking for ways to boost the dungeon delving and room clearing effectiveness of a blowpipe. I'm okay with alchemical or gadgeteering solutions, but if they violate physical laws, they've got to be explicitly magical (as alchemy is in my campaign).

I'm using 'A Killing Breath' from Pyramid #33 for greater detail on blowpipes.

Some things I'm wondering:

Are darts more expensive and less terminally effective than spikes (pi- vs. imp) because they are designed as poison-delivery mechanisms more than killing tools?

Is there any difference in how many doses of poison you can deliver with a Short Spike or a Short Dart from a blowpipe?

Should there be?

Or is there a modifier to resisting poisons based on delivery system, i.e. a weapon coated with poison is less effective than a syringe filled with the poison?

Using hollow darts, it should be possible to deliver alchemical substances. What would be fair effects for the miniscule amounts that could fit in a 0.05 lb. dart for various alchemical substances like:

Alchemist's Fire?
Whatever bright flashing materiel that is used for the Nagateppo, Flash?*
Some gimmicky explosive substance with a very loud crack?
Other things the forumites can imagine would be cool and useful?

Some background: In a Dungeon Fantasy (-esque) game I've just started with a new** group of players, one of the PCs is a SM -3 forest gnome with ST 5. He's primarily a bard and spellcaster, but he's also armed with a blowpipe.***

Using a full-sized Blowpipe or anything more than 3' long is out, as the character is 2' tall and weighs in at a hefty 18 lbs. The ST 5 kind of precludes any effective use of muscle-powered weapons, at least against aware opponents of SM -1 or higher, especially if they are warlike humanoids wearing armour or fierce monsters with natural DR. The blowpipe does damage independent of ST, but it's a very low damage.

Even from surprise, the character just doesn't have the capability to take out anything bigger than a kobold with his blowpipe. He's just starting out his career, so he didn't begin with a quick-acting paralysation poison or anything like that, but had a cheap poison that did 1d FP with an onset of 3d seconds. I'm aware that he can get a better poison now and I'd like suggestions of a cost-effective poison**** that will boost his contribution to fights that happen on a second-by-second timeframe, at ranges from 0-20 yds, heavily concentrated in the 0-5 yds range.

The character has Dungeon Artificer 2 and a Talent called Poisoner 4, so he's very good at Armoury (Missile Weapons - Optional Speciality Blowpipes and Ammunition), Engineer (Gadgets) and Poisons. He also has Alchemy -17 and Chemistry -15.

Any suggestions on how he could be more effective with his blowpipe are welcomed.

*I imagine that he'd try to target the face with that, for maximum effectiveness.
**Actually 'old', as one of them is one of my earlier players, during the halycon years of almost two decades past, and with the others, I've played one campaign some ten years ago.
***His flute is a combination weapon, also comprising a (Disguised) Small Blowpipe with Mouthpiece from Pyramid #33 'A Killing Breath'.
****It can be a fantasy one, as long as it is balanced against the ones in the Dungeon Fantasy line.
Za uspiekh nashevo beznadiozhnovo diela!

Last edited by Icelander; 12-30-2016 at 11:03 AM.
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Old 12-30-2016, 11:41 AM   #2
Join Date: Dec 2006
Default Re: Making a blowpipe-wielding small character useful

Just need one of these guys as a pet (or given the need for slaughter on a df game a dozen)

My understanding is that the poison is so effective that it is more a matter of how much can you get from the frog rather than how much can you get on the dart.
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Old 12-30-2016, 12:48 PM   #3
Join Date: May 2013
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Default Re: Making a blowpipe-wielding small character useful

You either need some exotic real-world poisons, really good alchemical poison, or, enchant that thing. Either that, or, get him to buy into the Mystic Knight Lens and get an Imbued Soul. That'll give him a boost to damage.
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Old 12-30-2016, 12:56 PM   #4
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Default Re: Making a blowpipe-wielding small character useful

For pure damage on a failed HT roll, I suggest the following numbers:

damage        HT Roll    Cost
2              0        20
1d             0        60
2d            -1        160
3d            -2        300
4d            -3        480
5d            -4        700
6d            -5        960
this is a roughly square increase in power. I used the following equations:

Damage: (dice*4+ damage adds)*(10 + 5*dice)
HT penalty: -(dice)

This was extrapolated from the two poisons given in DF1.

Its hard to extrapolate much more. I'd particularly like to get a decent cost for if you have a low HT roll on nasty poison or if you have damage even on a successful HT roll.

I think its balanced to move "anyway damage" off of the total damage: so you could have a poison that does 3d on failure and 1d on success and costs the same as a 4d poison.

When making the HT roll independent of the dice of damage, I think changing the equations to (dice*4 +damage adds)*(10 +2.5*dice+2.5*HT penalty) might be a good start.

Of course, the best poisons are probably ones that incapacitate, not ones that do damage. Thinking about those.

I think giving a -2 penalty to alchemy rolls is fair for making digestible elixirs into poisons.
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Old 12-30-2016, 01:59 PM   #5
Join Date: Feb 2005
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Default Re: Making a blowpipe-wielding small character useful

Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
I'm looking for ways to boost the dungeon delving and room clearing effectiveness of a blowpipe.
It's easy. Just replace the human lungs behind the blowpipe with a large compressed air tank. The fundamental limit behind blowpipes, which forces them to be inferior weapons, is that they're powered by a single contraction of human lung muscles. They have something of a compactness advantage over bows and crossbows, but there's really nothing you can do with a blowpipe that can't be done with a dart slingshot.
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Old 12-30-2016, 02:30 PM   #6
Join Date: Jun 2013
Default Re: Making a blowpipe-wielding small character useful

Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
Maybe a single point of corr with a 1d second delay. Placed instead in a fragile glass bulb or similar, it might allow you to aim at the forehead (~-7 to hit) and cripple one eye with the acid that runs down the face (an attack at -9 hits the forehead right between the eyes and can cripple both). This wouldn't cause any real injury, however, and crippling probably can't exceed Lasting (for Temporary, the blinding only lasts 1d minutes).

Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
Alchemist's Fire?
Probably justifies making the dart's attack Incendiary (+1 burn damage)

Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
Whatever bright flashing materiel that is used for the Nagateppo, Flash?*
A dart to the face is going to put the flash a matter of inches from the eyes, but we'll just say 0.5 yards to make the math easy. If you take something that blinds at 10 yards, having it blind at 0.5 yards requires 0.002x the intensity of light (based on Illumination Levels from Powers: Enhanced Senses), and thus if I'm not mistaken 0.002x the weight. As the dart is a bit more than 1/10th the weight of the nageteppo, that should be doable. In fact, I'd probably extend it out to 1 yard (1/100th weight), which can blind multiple close foes at once if done right. 2 yards (1/20th weight) is probably pushing it, however, as then nearly half the weight of the dart is the flashing payload.

Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
Some gimmicky explosive substance with a very loud crack?
Ah, ye olde thunderstone. If you already have stats in mind, you can apply the same methodology to that as I did to the flash nageteppo above. For example, the DnD thunderstone causes deafness (on a failed Fortitude save - HT roll in GURPS) to targets within 10 feet. As DnD uses 5-foot squares instead of 1-yard hexes, we'll say in GURPS that device deafens foes within 2 yards, so a 1/100th weight (assuming it weighs the same as a flash nageteppo - I think DnD's thunderstone weighed 1 lb, but I suspect if they had the equivalent of the flash nageteppo it probably weighed the same) version probably deafens within 0.2 yards (roughly 7 inches), which is enough to deafen a foe you manage to hit in the head with the thing.
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Old 12-30-2016, 03:15 PM   #7
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Default Re: Making a blowpipe-wielding small character useful

Originally Posted by Anthony View Post
It's easy. Just replace the human lungs behind the blowpipe with a large compressed air tank.
How about a pneumatic reaction created by concentrated chemical combustion? Oh wait, we already did that.
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Old 12-30-2016, 03:57 PM   #8
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Default Re: Making a blowpipe-wielding small character useful

Targeted Attack (Blowpipe/Eyes) is potentially valuable. What sort of spells does the character do?
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Old 12-30-2016, 04:18 PM   #9
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Default Re: Making a blowpipe-wielding small character useful

Having spent quite a lot of time on blowpipes for my (terrible) knockoff steampunk batman I've actually found some ways to make them useful. And this is in a TL5+1 world where most people are using guns.

It mainly comes down to whether this is the primary form of attack for the character, and whether you're willing to really spend the points. A melee weapon specialist is probably going to buy techniques and targeted attacks, Mr. Blowpipe should be doing the same.

If the PC is using a Tiny Blowgun with a mouthpiece then he's basically got to choose between Wide mouthed or Very Narrow Mouthed. It could be left at default but there's not really a good reason too.

The blowgun is going to do one of two things. Either it's going to be used to target unarmoured vital areas (Vitals, eyes, etc) to actually get something resembling decent damage in which case they want it to be Wide mouthed to do 1d-3imp damage for an average damage of 1.5. More likely though it's going to be used to deliver poisons and other alchemical stuff to any unarmoured location the PC can target. In which case it needs to be Very Narrow Mouthed. Damage is 1d-6imp (or pi I guess) but it doesn't really matter since it's range we need. Besides, with the limit being a Tiny Blowgun there's not really a combination you can use to get past even a couple DR. The wide mouthed blowgun averages 1.5 damage but DR2 stops all damage on 5 out of 6 rolls.

Very Narrow Mouthed going for unarmored locations with poison is the best bet. I'm sure that there are clever projectiles to use (Wide mouthed could actually manage a decent explosive projectile, you get roughly 1d+2 out of Serpentine Powder assuming it's 20% explosive filler) and there's all sorts of DF stuff to use, but you also need a general use projectile if this is the primary weapon. Cyanide is probably the best choice for this, and should be the benchmark to measure all other possible projectiles against. It costs 2$ per dose and does 4d tox damage immediately with no resistance roll. Assuming it's available to the PC (or they could make it) they could just use that 90% of the time and be fine. The main difficulty then becomes hitting an unarmored location on the target. Several targeted attacks or just a high skill are probably a good idea here.

Assuming things work out the PC ends up doing the equivalent of 2d damage per round. This does assume optimal conditions, fast-draw cuts reloading down to 1 turn, they hit, etc, but a per-round damage of 2d is fairly good and not terribly unbalanced when compared to a well designed bow user or melee weapon specialist.

It's also damn near undetectable, someone in the adjacent hex is at -6 to hear the shot assuming they don't have the blowgun skill themselves.

A blowpipe mount is also a good idea (DF12:15) it allows you to ready and fire the blowpipe in the same turn. You can only have one on at a time but it makes a good backup. Blowpipes are cheap and if the PC doesn't have time to reload the one they're holding they can always fall back on the one on the mount. It could also be used to get rid of a Fast-Draw on the first turn of combat if the weapon isn't already ready. Though it's probably a better idea to keep it in reserve.

Actually, looking back it's not even a terrible idea to try a Fast-Draw every round. Sure, a Fast-Draw on the reload cuts it down to 1 second but you could just as easily Fast-Draw a new blowgun. Rather than it being 2 rounds on a fail and 1 on a success it's 1 round on a fail and none on a success. That boosts damage to 4d per turn. Fast-Draw even allows you to draw something with each hand. Correct me if I'm wrong but I believe that this is two separate rolls, one at the normal off-hand penalty. If the character is Ambidextrous (Which is probably a good idea) they've basically got two attempts each time they need a new blowgun, and they could succeed on both rolls giving them a ready blow gun for both of the following turns.

Add the Weak Materials modifier and now each blowgun only costs 2$, which is less than the combined cost of poison and a short spike (2.05$). One blowgun in each hand, one on the mount, and a bunch in some DF equivalent to a wrist pouch or LBV and they can have ready shots for the first 3 turns, with the rest available at a Fast-Draw.

Regarding any bonuses depending on delivery methods, by RAW there are no modifiers beyond how the poison in question handles contact/digestive/follow-up etc. For something delivered by a blowgun you're looking at follow-up, so if it says there's no penalty then there's no penalty.
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Old 12-30-2016, 04:34 PM   #10
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Default Re: Making a blowpipe-wielding small character useful

A few options:

Imbuements can turn any ranged weapon deadly.

DF has many creatures with crazy and/or deadly venom. A magical and/or alchemical process to refine these venoms from fallen foes to be delivered by blowgun could produce a small amount of very valuable ammo. Also, some dangerous quests.

Darts as a spell delivery system could be quite a toolbox. Perhaps create a line of non-magic darts created as vessels for spells. Each can hold a single spell worth a given amount of energy which is always triggered on impact. Early 1-3 point versions of shocking touch or fireball would be nice. Later, explosive lightning, thunderclap, entomb, major illusion, or whatever you can get somebody to cast... It could be the kind of thing that grows with the character. As a side note, they don't have to be detrimental; hitting the fighter with a major healing or invisibility from cover may be a real boon if used cleverly.

Magic resistance darts. Stick a couple of MR +2 darts in the enemy wizard and he'll be spending a few rounds digging them out before he wants to try casting again. You probably don't even have to penetrate, just tangle the dart in his clothing.
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blowpipe, dungeon fantasy, poisons, small

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