Thursday, February 28, 2013

Irina Took , Bounder of Southfarthing


Birthday: May 23rd

The early years ( age 0 to 12 , TA 2091 - 3003)

Irina was born a Took through and through. She grew up in Tookbourough in the Eastfarthing amid the Shire's most eccentric clan. Irina was the daughter of a leatherworker and part time sherriff. Her mother, who was a Proudfoot by birth, was the daughter of one of the postmasters in Michel Delving. Irina traveled quite a bit in her early years with her father as he hiked the White and the Red Downs in the Southfarthing. She also inherited from her father a fondness for making up songs, which made her a local celebrity at an early age. By the end of her childhood, her widowed father had moved to Hardbottle, in the heartland of the South Farthing where she and her father were widely acknowledged to be of the queer kind of folks.

Personal Traits: Reputation (Songstress, Shire, +1) [1], voice [10] ,  
Hobbit : ST -5, DX +1, HT +2 [-10], fond of food and drink [-1], Hard to kill 4 [8], overweight [-1], SM -2, Will +2 [10], silence 4[10], talent (Green thumb) [5]

Skills : Area Knowledge (Shire) [6], writing [2], leatherworking [2], Hiking [4], Observation [3], Naturalist [2], Survival (woodlands) [2], Weather Sense [2], singing [4]

The Bounder years ( age 12 to 22, TA 3003 - 3013 ) 

In her teenage years, Irina soon became an independent traveler. She scoured the South Farthing, running messages and occasionally the mail. She quickly learned about the wild life in the Shire, and faced the occasional undesired beasts. Her father made sure that she was trained in archery, in hope that she could fend off any trouble if cornered. She became a local expert in natural lore. Her advice to farmers on controlling pests helped to straighten her name (She is a Took, after all). She became de facto a shire bounder, or border patrol, as she busied from pastures to villages, helping people for a pot pie or a sack full of pipe weed. She also became relatively famous for entertaining villages with old and original songs. 

Skills: Stealth [4], bow [4], Naturalist [4], Performance [2], singing [4], Hiking [4], Survival (woodland) [4], Area Knowledge (The Shire) [12]

The Dark years ( age 22 to 27, TA 3013 - 3018 )

As the war of the ring drew near, the occurrence of strangers, beasts, blights and elves crossing into the shire began to increase. The bounders of the Shire formed a more organized body: with a structure and a systematic way to coordinate patrols to cover all borders at most time. Irina was an important component of the bounder system. She could travel everywhere without rousing suspicion (she was, after all, a agricultural consultant and performer). She, however, specialized in the wild borders of the South Farthing. Irina also made contact with rangers and exchanged information with them. She learned a lot from them about the North and its dangers. Most valuable is the secret of Herb lore, which gave her the ability to make a variety of simple herbal brews.

Skills : Herb Lore [2], Naturalist [2], Stealth [2], bow [4], hiking [2], Survival (woodland) [2], Area Knowledge (The North) [4]

The scouring of the Shire ( age 27 to 30, TA 3018 - 3021)

When Lotho Sackville-Bagins began his land grab, a wave of discontent started to spread and a lot of the hobbits turned to the bounders for help. Irina became at the same time a defender of the old ways, and a suspect in the eyes of the new Mayor of the Shire. Irina had to vanish from the public eye and blend into the wilderness. She was helped by a large number of friends, and spent most of her time in Buckland and along the Brandywine river at the southern edge of the Shire. Due to the herb lore learnt from the rangers, she could prepare a number of tinctures with antiseptic and analgesic properties. She soon started to act as a traveling nurse: going wherever ailing hobbits needed them. Under Saruman, and with the arrivals of Uruks and goblins, she acquired much experience in field medicine. She was part of the underground resistance, which remained powerless until the Meriadoc and Pippin came back to the Shire.

She was part of the battle of Bywater as a nurse: she did not shoot a single arrow in anger during the entire battle.

Skills: First-aid [8], Herb Lore [2], hiking[1], Survival (woodlands) [2], observation [3], bow [1], Stealth [4]

After the war of the ring (age 30 to 45, FA 0 - 15)

As the fourth age dawned, King Elessar banned all men from entering the Shire, and extended the Shire to include Buckland and Westmarch. Irina settled down and married Herman Longbottom. They acquired a small plot of land near Sarnford. There they began growing their own crop of pipe-weed with in hope to establish a regular trade with the humans rebuilding Tharbad. 

Irina's dedication to farming was, however, short lived. The southern edge of the Shire, the banks of the Brandywine, began to teem with beasts and intruders. Irina took upon herself to patrol the riverbank from Sarnford to the Southern marshes. She made a number of business contact with Tharbad and Bree in the last few years, and worked at fending off the various and still lingering blights left behind by agents of Angmar.  

Skills :Merchant [2], observation [2], bow [3], Area Knowledge (The North) [4], farming [2], First-aid [2], 

GM Notes : Irina is joining as an excellent markswoman, but must used a severely underpowered bow due to her low strenght. A clever use of her bow, stealth, local knowledge, and healing skills will make her a valuable addition to the company.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Experience granted for Session 3

The twelve days or so of traveling has given you 2 points to put in any of the following skills:
  • Survival (plains)
  • Soldier (camp life, cooking, etc)
  • Weather Sense
  • Area Knowledge (Dunland)

014 - The sword under the river fortress

Oct 14th, FA 15

Kasper, Galdor and Finbert entered the Alehouse and stretched their feet. The two Gondorian knights have been displeased with the company's leadership from the beginning, and wanted no part in the chit-chat with the commander of the city. In fact, Galdor's interest in the Palantir is really only in hope that the glamour of bringing home a national treasure would earn him enough reputation so he would not have to train as a man of law anymore. Kasper, in turn, was drawn to become Galdor's squire mainly to escape the drab routine of a Gondorian beacon posting in Anorien. Neither had much interest in getting all excited over a crystal ball, nor be told what to do by a gentile career watchmen. Finbert was in the Alehouse for a more direct reason, there has to be food in a place like this, and life owed him a meal or two since that they set out for Annuminas. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

013 - An audience with the Commander of Tharbad

Oct 14th, FA 15

The company finally reached Tharbad in the waning lights of mid-October afternoon. The air was heavy, but the freezing rain had seceded for the time being. Tharbad, once a mighty city, appeared like a walled enclave build on the bank of the Gwathlo river. From their point of view, only an imposing wall with matching fortifications could be seen. There were no suburban farming, no traffic in and out of the city. Maybe a dozen of workers laboring on the fortification itself. The road met the wall at a drawbridge that was yet to be functional, and a large barbacane structure with its porticullis left up. A small group of watchmen met the company as they arrived. 

012 - Sleet, drunken haze over Dun Lannach

Fan of action RPGs may not like this kind of encounter, but I do. The setup was again an old school tavern deal, in the middle of a xenophobic hinterlands. The characters were tired, some under the effect of exhaustion I, and without a good catch, this could have turned bad.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

011 - Encounter with the Red Company

Oct 8th, FA 15

The crossing of Dunland went by so far without incidents. Araliniel saw in the signs that the company passed by a ruined fortress that was hauted by a wraith. However, the company pretty much agreed that although this was useful information, that they had no intention to stir the hornet's nest. 

The temperature cooled down gradually, until it got close to the freezing point. Very few contacts were made with Dunlendings during the travel, and the few contact made were surprisingly civil. Around lunchtime, on the fifth day of crossing, the silhouette of a caravan drew over the next hill. About 20 horsemen, some heavily armored in mail and plates and some lighter equipped, were escorting a train of about 12 carts. This was the Red Company.

The Red Company, or Red Hand, is a company of mercenary mandated by the King of Gondor to ensure the safe passage of Gondorian through Dunland as per the parameters of the recent peace treaty. The Captain of the red company broke from the caravan and approached the dining travelers. The Captain, a half Northmen and half Dunlending man, inquires as to why the company would undertake such a dangerous crossing without their protection. "We simply didn't need you.", replied Arnadil in his signature honest tone. This seemed to annoy the mercenary captain. 

Finbert suddently took over the interview with the Captain while Arnadil and Galdor began to bicker about Arnadil's diplomatic skills. Finbert got from the captain that the town of Dun Lannach was two days' ride ahead, and that the road was in pretty good shape. The captain warned Finbert of one or two small tribes of wildmen that will probably take advantage of them an requires a toll to be paid.  

010 - Meet the Yocals

On the bank of the Isen River

October 4th, FA 15

Most of the company was arrayed in the eat-in tent to have breakfast. Araliniel was one of the last to get in. She scraped the bottom of the pot and sat at the end of the table. "I've had a powerful vision in a dream last night", she said. Galdor turned his sight away, uninterested. Finbert prompted for more information.

"I have seen a sword, under a few inches of dirt. It was in the cellar of a tower, in a ruined fort. Built somewhere on a wide river." She proceeded to describe the fort in as much details as she could. It became clear to Finbert that he had seen this fort in the ruined city of Tharbad. Further descriptions seemed to corroborate with descriptions of Tharbad that many other company member had ran into in their research. The company, satisfied that their path was leading directly into Tharbad, made a note to drop by the fort and check the tower out. "Did you say a Gondolin sword?", asked Galdor.

The company broke camp, which attracted the attention of the other craftsmen camping near the ford. They were most intrigued that the company was not going to wait for the Red Company to escort them through Dunland, but Arnadil failed to sway anyone to join them in the possibly dangerous crossing.

The company lined up by the ford, bid the Rohirim guards goodbye and entered the Isen. Arnadil, Halin and Galdor were on their horses, leading the cart which was driven by Kasper. Finbert and Araliniel were sitting on the cart's bench, beside Kasper. Quickly their attempt to cross the river was detected by a watch of Dunlendings. One of them left and came back with about a dozen other wildmen. They menacingly arrayed, arms in hand, across the road as it crept out of the ford.  The company was resolute that the wildmen would be swayed by a strong show of resolve, and simply plowed ahead. The wildmen, used to deal with cowed tradesmen got taken aback and let the leading horsemen go through by opening their ranks. However, the rank closed by by the time that the cart was pulling out of the water. Some grabbed the horses' harnesses, some inserted the butt of their spears through the spokes of the cart's wheels.

The leading riders realized that the assertive stance's success did not extend to the lumbering baggage. The largest and greasiest wildmen declared in a broken Westron: "Us no sign treaty. This is my home. You pay 12 small silver coins." Sir Galdor, in disbelief, smiled and declared that he would pay the toll and get on their way.

"No, we're not paying. We are the representative of the King of Gondor, and we are on the road, we are not paying any fare.", declared Arnadil in his best mission leader voice.

A lithany of confusion then erupted around the cart as most company members began to argue against Arnadil with varying conviction. Arnadil's opinion essentially was that the Dunlendings were in no right to charge a toll at the gates of their land, and that some 20 wildmen could be dissipated by a small contingent of  cavalery. The problem mainly is that there is no such cavalry, and that any delay would set the company back further into winter. The wildmen could not understand the argument, but were satisfied by the donation of the silver by Galdor and simply walked away. The agument was cut short when Arnadil fell like he was about to faint. He had to get off his mount and catch his breath. After about one minutes, the fog in his mind lifted up and all was back to normal.

Arnadil and Galdor prolonged the heated argument well into the riding day, and relented only by lunchtime.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

009 - The Palantir that fell out of the sky

October 4th, FA 15

The air was brisk and dry over the gap of Rohan. The company, mounted and ready to set out was waiting for Araliniel to read the signs, find some kind of oracle that could be of use in the journey. All around, the rolling land of Rohan and Dunland could be seen. In the distance, all melted into a steel gray haze with the sky. An eagle was flying low over the land. It was making a broad circle over the company. Araliniel took it as a sign, in a near trance, she picked a pebble from the ground. The pebble slipped upward from her fingers and flew right up to the Eagle. This is when Sir Galdor realized that this was not a low flying Eagle, but rather a high flying giant eagle. The pebble flew so fast and so high that all but Galdor could keep it in focus. It hit the eagle. With a jerk, the eagle let something fall back to the ground. No one could see but Galdor, who picked up a glimmer of a spark as the spherical object started to plummet to the ground. Araliniel called out in her loudest voice to catch the Palantir at all cost.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Giant Eagles

Giant Eagles are nice... when they come to help. However, they were created for another purpose: to kill  two legged critters that are destroying Iluvatar's great work.


ST 18; DX 12; IQ 8; HT 25
HP 18, FP 20, Will 10; Per 12; Speed 4, Dodge 8; SM +5; 
Traits : Acute Vision 5; Flight (wing; Air move 12); No fine manipulator, sharp beak (1d pi+), sharp claws (1d pi+), Westron (accented, spoken)
Skill: brawling-16 

GMing notes

The Giant Eagle are created in this campaign world as part of one of Araliniel's dream and will not behave as allies, and not particularly rationally. They can fly very high in the sky and spot minute details on the ground. When attacking, they attempt a grapple with their claw and lift the victim off the ground. They then climb and drop their victim from a height of 30 yd, at a speed of 24, this causing a collision at a speed of 50, for HP 4d6 of crushing damage. Such charge must takes at least 1d6 + 2 seconds to setup (including turning, aligning diving). Eagles will use their beaks only when cornered, or to deal with a struggling "cargo"  (they will simply drop prematurely if they fail a Will check, or get hurt).

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

GURPS as an economic model?

I've been wondering for a while about whether GURPS could be used as an economic engine for a world simulation. This took me to what I think is the edge of some of the mechanics in the game. But yet again, I don't own all GURPS 4e books and I'm probably wrong. The issue is at the edge of GURPS because the system wasn't designed to do that. Yet again, I think that it touched on some core mechanics in GURPS related to experience and character advancement.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Guidelines on awarding experience

Since this is my first real campaign in GURPS, I need to get a handle on handing character points. I don't want GURPS to turn into AD&D where the progression is sometime so fast that the players can keep up with the leveling up, but I want to reward good gameplay. In fact, I plan to reward in large part not so much on the exercise of skills, but on the effect of the use of a skill/traits on the narrative. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Experience granted for session 1 and 2

  • Arnadil
    • Research 2 pts. (Work done in MinasTirith, Edoras, you will thank yourself for this later)
    • Ride 1 pt. 
    • Diplomacy 1 pt.
    • Free : 3 pts ( Good roleplay, consequential to the campaign )
  • Sir Galdor
    • Broadsword 1 pt.
    • Bow 1 pt.
    • Free : 4 pt. (strong personality)
  • Kasper
    • Two-handed sword 1 pt. [That double crippling attack was a personal best!]
    • Esoteric medicine 1pt. [Wow, first practical use of the skill in your whole life!]
    • Free : 2 pt.  
  • Halin
    • Two-handed Axe 1 pt. 
    • Ride (horse) 3 pts [massive dose of experience in the last month or so...]
    • Free : 2 pt [ alcohol/food-based roleplay ] 
  • Finbert
    • Blowpipe 2 pts. [ critical use of it in battle ]
    • Carousing : 1 pt. [ you are a hobbit, and act like one ]
    • Free : 3 pts  [ Good job thinking of the stable, roleplay ]
  • Araliniel
    • Free : 4 pts. [ If only drinking was a skill ]

GURPS roleplaying : character points

The GM just gave you some points to play with. Here are your options. Please note that this is how we're handling experience in this campaign, and is not strictly speaking following the rules as witten. Some points are given with no strings attached. Play them as you like. Most points are given specifically to go somewhere: a skill or a technique. These have to be allocated as indicated, or alternatively toward an increase in the controlling attribute. For example, Bow is a DX-based skill. If 2 points are granted for bow, they can be allocated to either Bow itself, DX or a technique related to Bow (more on this later).

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Tactical Example : Out of the Inn

This scenario is similar, but more simple, than the engagement that took place in encounter 5 of the Palantir Commission Campaign. Some of the PC are omitted, and Sir Galdor doesn't have access to his bow (which he didn't use anyway). The charge was a cake-walk in large part because Finbert shot the crossbowmen in the face with a poison dart, causing searing pain to him for the whole engagement. I'm also removing the tresle table that Halin the dwarf used as an oversized large shield, or an undersize Pope-mobile. Arnadil is also removed to even out the odds in this battle.

Oh yes, the characters are stick figures. Please use your imagination: coming up with shiny, finely texture and rigged models would detract from what I want to do: learning about GURPS tactics.

Thanks goes to all commenting on this post, the comments are valuable: help me to learn the system and hopefully may help other get excited about GURPS tatical engagements.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Session 2 - Ale, hounds and the Firien wood

This session has one tactical combat, our first one ever using GURPS, and many social roleplaying encounters. This post is a subset of the timeline page. 

008 - The fords over the Isen

There shall be no separate stories for the stop-over at Glittering Halls. Lord Gimli welcomed the company and his dear friend Halin. Much role playing happened as the characters tried to established whether good quality wine could be found in a dwarven mountainehome. Arnadil also attempted to snatch magic weapons from Gimli: which didn't worked. 

The company has reached the Isen River.

October 3rd FA 15 - The Edge of civilization

After a stop in the Glittering halls over the holiday of Yaviere, the company resumed their journey to the fords of the Isen. To their left, the peaks of the white mountains while to their left they could see the spire of Orthanc and the extreme south-end of the misty mountains. The journey happened without incident, although at a slower pace since they now had a covered cart that was to limit their overland speed. They were also escorted by four Rohirims who much enjoyed the opportunities to see the inside of the Glittering caves.

The arrived on the banks of the Isen on the third day of October. The temperature was cool and dry. A wind is blowing from the East. What was once a wild area has changed substantially. Since King Elessar has pledged to rebuild Tharbad, more overland traffic is coming through Rohan. The crossing of the Dunland is complicated by the tumultuous history between the Rohirims and the Dunlendings. King Lessar brokered a peace agreement with the Chieftains of the south, but this peace is very fragile. According to the treaty, the Chieftains agree to leave all travellers unmolested for as long as they remain on the road that runs from the fords to the town of Tharbad. It is not unheard, however, that some tribes have collected tolls for the passage of caravans through their lands. This toll is not legal according to the treaty, but there is not a lot that can be done without starting a war with the wildmen.

Because of the tenuous situation through Dunland, a company of mercenaries called the "The red hand" is operating in the area. They are offering an armed escort to the tradesmen willing to travel to Tharbad, and back to Rohan. Much of the transport of goods is done by the sea lane up the Gwathlo river, however. The company is large enough that it deters the wildmen from approaching travelers. The trip to Tharbad is a 100 leagues journey, or some 25 days of slow slug with carts. The company leaves the fords of the Isen approximatively every 50 days.

Because the departure to Tharbad is rare, the Rohan side of the fords has transformed into a small village of temporary dwellers and opportunistic merchants. There is also a small contingent of soldiers of Gondor (Rohirim are not allowed there as part of the treaty). It is thought that there will be another departure overland in something like 20 days or so, and this should be the last for the year.

Across the fords, a small tribe of wildmen has setup camp across the road. They claim that they do not belong to any of the signatory clans and thus are in their right to demand a toll. These wildmen have been deterring travelers from entering Dunland without an escort since the last spring. The rumour in the village is that they may be paid by "The red hand" to convince travelers to pay for their services.

The company considered the options: winter is coming, they have food for about 30 days and they should be making haste if they want to get to Annuminas within a reasonable timeline. They plan to cross the Isen on their own on the following day, talk (or sneer) their way through the wildmen opposite from them, and make for Tharbad on their own.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

007 - In the Halls of Edoras

Arrival at Edoras

September 26th : Arrival in Edoras

As the month of Ivanneth (September) was drawing to an end, the company arrived in Edoras. The loss of horses in Firien was a serious setback to the progress of the expedition. Many in the company started to express concerned that heading into the North at this time of year was getting tricky. 

The news that the nephew of Meriadoc Brandibuck was in Edoras spread like wild fire. The King announced that a feast was to be held on that night, and that the company was to be seated as guest at the head table. Arnadil explained in the most possibly vague terms that the company was on a Royal Errand taking them to the ruins of Annuminas. The Queen, remembering fondly the young page Galdor insisted that the company accepts a gift. The gift was a large covered cart pulled by two horses a containing pavilion tents, cooking equipment, cots, a table and stools, and plenty of warm furs to keep them warm in the coming weeks of travel beyond the frontier. The King offered each company member a Rohan horse, exceptionally bred light war horses, and suitable winter clothes for each member. The service of a camp hand was proposed, but the company turned her down. "We can take care of our own camp", declared Arnadil. 

On the following day, Arnadil spent a few hours in the Library of Edoras in search for information about the North, Annuminas in particular. He found many fragments, jotted down a lot of information that he think will be useful to scour the millenia-old ruined city and filed the notes into his travel bag (successful research check). Kasper also spent time in the library, but was quiet about the object of his research.

The company was on the road again, with a four horseman escort ordered to take them to the Fords over the Isen. Before the company left Rohan, and the civilized world behind, Halin insisted in having one more stop at the Glittering Halls.

Next Encounter.

006 - The worst crime is the slaying of a (my) horse.

Sept 11th: An unexpected delay

During the stable fire, not only a stable boy perished, but also about half of the King's horses that were used by the company. Sir Galdor and Kasper's personal palfreys died of smoke inhalation and severed burns. Also, the two smaller poneys used by Finbert and Halin died as well. 

It was decided that Sir Galdor, his squire Kasper and Arnadil as expedition leader would ride to Edoras and request more of the King's horses to resume the company's expedition. The alternative being that they ride back to Minas Tirith, which was 10 days away rather than 5. 

It was also agreed that the surviving ruffians, named Erwin and native of Minas Tirith, would be cared for until the local Sheriff could bring him to justice. Erwin woke up from his coma, both legs crippled, to be told that he was to be executed for his violent crime once Sir Galdor was to come back to the Inn of Grays.

Sept 16th : A brief audience with King Eomer

Nobody expected to meet with the King when they arrived in Edoras, but it must have been a slow day. They first reported to the gates of Edoras and were taken to the castle. Arnadil produced the Royal Edict supporting the mission, reported the tragedy in the Firien wood and requested three more horses for the continuation of the Royal Errand.  Edoras had been a home to Galdor for nearly 7 years, when, as a page of Dol Amroth, he had served in the retinue of Queen Lothiriel after her marriage to King Eomer in TA 3021. Galdor knew the castle very well, including the captain of the guard. Furthermore, Arnadil pointed out that the company also included a relative of Meriadoc Brandibuck. The captain of the guard seemed to be particularly angered by the slaying of horses. He also was surprised by the pedigree of the company members. He excused himself briefly and came back with the King.

It was agreed  that King Eomer was to release three of King Elessar's horses so the company can be reunited. He approved of the punishment exacted on on the bandits, although he pointed out that the crime had been committed within Gondor, although some 50 meters from Rohan's border or so. He bid the company farewell and made them promise to come back to Edoras for a feast.  

A hex grid in Google Sketchup format

Here is a hexagon grid that can be used as a virtual battle area for GURPS, or any other game. The characters are sad, sad placeholders for now.

The grid available for download is twice as large as this. 

The file can be downloaded from here. Feel free to use as you wish. However, if you bring improvements, it would be great to let me know and show your cool swag!

Some people wondered how I made the hexagon in Sketchup. The answer is the hard way: I used the built-in compass to create 120 degree angles, made a flat box pointy and then rescaled it so all edges were the same size. The size of each hex is approximatively 3 feet. 

I'm working on a Blender 3D file which will be more flexible, although a bit harder to use than Sketchup. I think that Blender 3D will be less tedious and faster to handle in the long run. Coming soon!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

005 - Crimes and Punishments

I smell burnt toasts...

In the early lights of morning, various members of the company woke up to the acrid smell of smoke and the yelps of distress on the ground floor. The first to arrive on the ground level was Finbert, who ran into the landlady and a wounded stable boy. The young man had a bolt deep into the flesh of his thigh. Shortly after, Arnadil, Galdor and Halin arrived on the ground floor. All three had slipped into their hauberks and grabbed their swords. The landlady told the warriors that a marksman was shooting anyone trying to save the horses from the burning stable. There was no windows to observe the front of the Inn, Finbert climbed back to his room to spot the marksmen.  

There was three men, some 25 yards from the Inn. One of them, the goblet thrower, was bracing a crossbow. There was another ruffian with a sword, and a third one with a club. Halin and Galdor climbed back to their rooms to don the rest of their armors. Galdor bursted into Kasper's room to wake him up. Finbert located the crossbowmen and began aiming for the marksman. Meanwhile, Arnadil slipped by the back of the Inn to exit the building from the back.

Once geared up, Halin, Galdor and Kasper came back into the Tavern. In one hand, Halin grabbed one tresle table and held it like a giant shield (that ST14 has got to pay off at some point). The set was staged.

Going tactical with a tresle table

Kasper kicked open the door so that Halin the elderly hammerdwarf could burst out, table first, running more or less blind. Behind 2" of solid wood,  no bolts would be able to overpenetrate through and hurt Halin (GM Note 1). At the same time, Arnadil began to sprint for the ruffians from the side of the Inn, and Finbert shot a poisoned dart to the crossbowman. The dart hits him in the face, cancelling the crossbowman's aim and throwing off the weapon's bracing from a fence post. The two other ruffians fanned out to get a line of sight beyond the charging table (GM Note 2).  The charge was to be made over about 25 yards, a long way to go when one follow a dwarf that is in medium encumbrance (move 3). Arnadil began to cough and wheeze before he was even arrived to the ruffians (GM Note 3).  Arnadil, shield in front, heard a bold zip by and demanded in vain that the ruffians let down their weapons. Galdor broke from the behind-the-table stack and headed for the ruffian with a club while Halin kept on charging towards the ruffian with a sword. There was a few inconsequential exchanges of blows. Some we inconsequential only because of the players' Hauberks (close calls).

The charge with the table was dodged by the sword-ruffian and Halin overshot the target. Luckily Arnadil was behind and managed to distract the ruffian from striking the dwarf in the back. Halin dropped the table and gripped his hammer with both hands. At the same time, Kasper finally got to the crossbowman and struck him in the leg with his longsword, throwing him on the ground in pain. The marksman was already in a large amount of pain due to the Finbert's "oily sting" poison, and had not been able to shoot again. His crossbow lay on the ground, out of reach while a deep wound in his leg was throbbing.

Arnadil finally abandoned all defenses and struck the sword-ruffian, causing one major wound in each leg and sending the ruffian into a pain-induced coma. Meawhile, Galdor struck the last standing ruffian on his weapon's hand. With his club flung to the ground and both friends neutralized, the last ruffians took off for the nearby woods. Galdor attempted a quick shot at the fleeing ruffian, but the arrow missed and the criminal vanished into the undergrowth.    

Debates on the legality of slaying peasants

While the battle was raging, Finbert had turned his attention to the burning stable. It seemed to be burning from the inside, and the front door was on fire. He found a window opening and jumped inside. The building was filled with smoke. He lost his foot and fell backward, burning his hand on some ambers. By the time that he was back on his feet, Kasper and Galdor were kicking the front door open. Of all horses in the stable, only three could be saved. Kasper's and Galdor's personal horses perished in the fire.  A slain stable boy was also found and pulled out of the building.

Seething with rage, Galdor burst out of the stable and head straight for the once-marksman. He was the goblet ruffian from last night. Bleeding profusely, he was laying on the ground beside his smashed crossbow.  Galdor, accused the ruffian of the murder of the stable boy, and most of all of his horse and took upon himself to execute the ruffian on the spot (GM Note 4). Galdor was also ready to finish off the sword-ruffian, who was laying unconscious on the ground. Arnadil, dissaproving of the such swift justice picked up the unconscious ruffian and took him inside the Inn. While on the table, he applied a tourniquet while Kasper coldly cauterized the other wound with a piece of burning amber. The bleeding was then under control. It was agreed that the ruffian was a murderer, and should be punished for his violent crime with Death. However, Arnadil opposed the execution of a wounded man in the coma. This is when events turned weird.

Kasper went back to his bedroom and came back with a handful of flat and dark stones. He arranged them at seemingly precise positions on the ruffian's body and began something like an esoteric ritual. After a few minutes, Kasper admitted defeat: the ruffian will not come out of the coma as fast as he hoped. The rest of the company scratched their heads and pretended that they had not seen anything unusual. The ruffian was to be taken care of until he came back to his sense, then he'd be beheaded.

And all let out a sigh.

Next encounter.

GM Note 1: GURPS claims that 2" or wood has DR 2. The same as a skullbone or some tough leather. I think that this is probably off and this value should be DR4 (most single sword blow just can't cleave 2" of wood). Anyhow, even if we let the bolt go through 2" of oak, the bolt would get solidly wedged maybe after a few inches of overpenetration.

GM Note 2: I really should have gotten the ruffians to take off: thye were no match for the party and they knew it. Their vengeance was exacted: the barn was on fire and many of the horse were either dead or about to. They did not and here are the reasons (some good, some not): 1) they still believed that the  crossbox would be an effective stand-off threat, 2) they were a bit surprised by the charging table coming out of the Inn, and 3) I wanted the player to try the combat system.

GM Note 3 : We were using Action points, and the rule for Anrnadil is that every time that he expands a FP, he has to roll against HT or state to cough (affliction). Using tactical rules for running 30 yds, keeping track of AP was a bit slow and I should have just abstracted part of the charge, roll to tactics and set the scene closer to when the action started to matter.

GM Note 4 : Much debate erupted around the gaming table here. Galdor argued that, according to the code, in absence of the local lord, he was allowed to exact justice for this violent crime and carry on the punishment right away. Many thought that it should be left to the local sheriff. In the end, Galdor just did it: don't get between a Dol Amroth knight and his mount.

004 - Son, let me tell you about swordmanship

It was a dark and ... hum, it was a dark night.

Sir Galdor did not get the apology that he wanted, although he tried. His three hounds, Storm, Ice and Fire swarmed around the ruffians, but they steadily walked away. Left on his own, and realizing that his goofy hounds were not going to attack, Galdor attempted to exact an apology one last time. He grabbed his bow, and nocked an arrow. By then, the ruffians were merging in the shadows of a starlit night. He could have gone after them, but this was becoming a dangerous business. Even a knight of Dol Amroth knows how to draw the line when the time comes.

A new man of valor in the company

About one hour after the interlude with the ruffians was concluded, the company was making merry in the Inns of Gray. The stew was almost not bland, but the country wine was working out OK. The door opened in the late hour to revel the silhouette of a portly young man of good birth. He was geared for war: with a longsword and a bow across the shoulder. He scanned the room and headed directly for the company's table. 

"My name is Kasper Murkeshan, squire of Anorien. May I join you at this table?"

Sir Galdor immediately inquired on the squire's birth and was satisfied with the answers.  It turns out that Kasper was the son of the knight of Eilenach who has hosted the company a few days ago. Kasper was seeking the mentorship of Sir Galdor, and become his squire. Galdor observed that, at age 21, he was barely more experienced than his 19 year old squire. Beside, Kasper was an extremely sharp individual, even if a little bit awkward socially. Galdor, however, took pride in his slightly superior swordmanship, and his too-photogenic Numenorean gray eyes as a proof of seniority. They spent the rest of the evening bantering, trying to find flavor in the stew, and finally crashed on their beds. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

An abstract fatigue model for travelers


In the Palantir Commission campaign, there will be a lot of travelling, some of which will be into the wild. The Palantir commission is a gritty campaign: where everything will try to wear the characters down, not just swords and Owl bear claws. It is, in fact, an important aspect in some part of the campaign. The original MERP module had a bit of a nutty way to model that (calculators and lots of floating point tables to look at). I want to create a realistic model which isn't going to slow the game down, but will encourage the players to be thoughtful about their travels. Carrying a tent and a bedroll in one's backpack isn't going to be enough!

Exhaustion and the downward spiral.

This posts proposes ways to deal with the effect of long term exhaustion and exposure to the elements using the GURPS illness mechanics.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Validating GURPS's ranged model : a GM on the range.

I often wondered what is my skill level in archery. I've been shooting for two years and have seen striking improvements between what the club beginners can do and how I shoot today. Let's crunch the numbers and figure out what is my skill level, and whether this is consistent with GURPS mechanics. I want to specify that I didn't try to make it fit as well as it did: I just threw in values that seemed reasonable from a GM's perspective. This post was inspired by a recent post by +Douglas Cole that can be found here. i once tried the same exercise with AD&D, and it didn't made a lot of sense.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Kasper Murkeshan, squire of Anorien


Please note that the biographical content pertaining to the "Treatise on the Mind" is not going to be posted here while the campaign is ongoing.

Birthday: 2 April

Early Childhood (age 0 - 7, TA 3018 to FA 3)

Kasper Murkeshan was born in the family of a knight of Anorien. Anorien is an area without much of a population base. Sir Murkeshan is a knight with the title of Keeper of Eilenach. The family's pride is in the keeping and protection of this important component of the defenses of Gondor. Kasper was born only a few weeks before the siege of Minas Tirith. His father did not attend the battle as he was responsible for the beacon. However, many of the other knights of Anorien did not come back from the battle of Pelenor field. As a result, Kasper's father remained to this day one of the few knight still alive. Kasper received the typical education of Gondorian nobility. It became clear early on that Kasper was exceptionally gifted in academic matters. It was suggested that Kasper should attend the best schools, but the family was not financially capable to do that at the time.

Skills: Westron, native speaker [0], Sindarin, elven-tongue, native reader, accented speaker [5], bow [3], Falconry [1], Animal handling (dogs) [2], wrestling [3], riding, horse [1], Poetry [2], History, Eriador [4], Area knowledge, Gondor[4], Thaumatology [1] 

Traits: Exceptional IQ, Eidetic memory, stubborn, language talent

The page years (age 7 - 14, TA 3 to 10 )

At the ripe old age of 7, Kasper was sent to Minas Tirith to serve as a page for Sir Arnon Maisk, Captain of the Watch of Minas Tirith. During his tenure there, Kasper is trained mainly as an armorer and leatherworker. This angers him as he longs for more stimulating assignments. He walks away from this step of his life with profound bitterness, and some skills that he hope will never be needed again.

This being said, Kasper's life changed completely in FA 8 when, at age 12, he acquired from a desperately broke soldier an old book bound with red leather. He paid 20 celebins for it, and he wasn't sure why at first for it was written in a strange dialect similar to Sindarin (elf tongue). The book had been "collected" by the soldier during a campaign in South Gondor against the retreating Haradrim forces. It paused a serious challenge to understand as it contained a number of unknown characters, and kept on defining words such that the later section required the earlier section to be deciphered first. Kasper became absolutely fascinated by this mysterious and ancient treatise and developed a lot of skills in linguistics and other skills (player's private information). When Kasper turned 14, he decided to return to Anorien and serve as squire to his own father, becoming a watchmen of Eilenach himself. 

Skills: Armorer, Armor [4], leatherworking [4], bow [4], Area Knowledge, Minas Tirith [4], riding, horses [4], Animal handling, horses [4], gambling [1], soldier [1], heraldry [2], two-handed sword [2]

Traits:  Shyness, overweight

The squire years (age 14 - 19, TA 10 to 15)

The life of a watchmen suited Kasper very well: he essentially was expected to be sitting quietly for days on end. This left plenty of free time to pursue is new obsession: deciphering the "Treatise on the Mind". Kasper's father noticed a change in his son's interests and behavior. Sir Murkeshan also got interested in understanding what the Treatise was about, and tried to take it from Kasper. This situation initiated a number of terrible and long lasting fights between father and son. Kasper understood that the peaceful time in Eilenach were just about over when he learned that a strange company of Royal representatives had stayed at the family manor the previous night. One of the company member was a dashing knight of Dol Amroth, who reportedly had no squire at his service. Kasper was granted the permission by his father to leave Eilenach and seek Sir Galdor of Dol Amroth to complete his training as a squire. Something was going on with this company that intrigued him, and he felt the impulse to seek the company of strangers who will not pry into his academic interests.

Skills: bow[2],

Tactical Tips : Fighting like a man, or a woman.

For this article we'll pretend that Bob is ambushed by an highwayman (Burt). Bob has a mail shirt (DR 4/2 over torso only), a small shield (shield-14) and a broadsword (Broadsword-13) and otherwise wear heavy duty clothes (DR 1 to legs, arms, pelvis). The Highwayman wear padded clothes with hood (DR 1) and is wielding a spear (Spear-12) and has a dagger in his belt (Knife-10). For simplicity, lets assume that they are 10 yards apart in the open, in daytime, on smooth terrain, weapons ready, and both aware of each other.  

Friday, February 1, 2013

Tactical Tips : What to do with your next second

Fighting in GURPS is done in turn of 1 second. Yes, you heard that right, 1 second. You have to think fast or else the GM may just compel you to "Do Nothing" until you figure out what to do. During each turn, a player has a number of tactical actions to choose from. There is dozens of options: you don't need to use or even know them all, but at least, it is good to know that they exist and develop your own fighting style from a subset of them. A great digest of ALL options can be found here. In this tip, I focus on the basics.

Basic Actions that your must know about

In principle, you can go by with only these: Move, Attack, "Do Nothing" and Ready.

  • Move : Move your figurine by a number of hexes equal of less than your base move. If anyone attack you, you may defend whichever way that you please.
  • Attack : This is the run of the mill combat action (think D&D). With it, you get to pick a target and try to hit as hard as you can. You will still be able to parry, block or dodge normally. The most that you can move is a single hex (usually), which you can use before or after attacking.
  • Do Nothing : No offense nor movement, nothing at all. You may defense using active defenses and take free actions such as talking, crying, and picking your nose. Will often be imposed rather than selected.
  • Ready : Get something in or out of a sheath, change your grip on a weapon, picking something in reach of your hand (dropping is a free action). More technically, a ready action is required to change the reach of a weapon (if applicable, more on Reach later). Reloading a weapon may require one or more ready actions.
  • Change Posture : Stand-up, crouching, sit-down, kneel, crawl, lying-down or prone. You cannot change from lying-down/prone to standing up in one action. Also, crouching is a free action.
  • Misc actions: 
    • Concentrate : Focus  on some mental task. 
    • Wait : Waiting means that you chose to defer your action to a later point in the turn following some kind of trigger. Typically, waiting is used to attack an opponent in the middle of its movement.

Taking this to the next level

There is a lot going on here, but lets just consider the salient points. You can check the details in the linked document above.
  • Move and Attack : Go on for up to a full movement and attack (or vice-versa). The Attack will be done with a stiff penalty, and you can't parry and attack with the same hand. But you can slam, and generally take a chance to spoil an opponent's defense for an allies to exploit later.
  • All-out Defense : You waive your chance to attack and commit all efforts to defense. It comes in two flavors: two active defense per attack, or an enhanced dodge allowing 1/2 move as withdrawal (which is likely to break contact with your opponent).
  • All-out Attack : There are many flavors of the full attack, but the general idea is that you waive any active defense so that you can strike better/harder/from afar/twice/with a feint. This is the thing to do when offense is a better defense, or you know for sure that no one will be trying to hit you for the rest of the turn.
  • Feints, beats and ruses : These three variants aims to penalize the opponent's next active defense roll by using your weapon's skill (feints), ST (beats) or IQ (ruse). There is more to it that this one liner, but these maneuvers are useful to defeat opponents with very high active defenses.
  • Aiming/Evaluate:  When you aim a ranged weapon, you gain its accuracy rating as a bonus when you shoot. If you aim for 2 turns, your add +1, and another +1 for 3+ turns aiming. As you can see, taking your time pays off when shooting. Bracing a crossbow to a wall, table or the ground gives you another +1. You now know who to give the "Moe Green treatment" to your foes. Evaluate is the melee combat equivalent of aiming: you pause and look for the best angle and timing: You get +1 per turn examining up to a bonus of +3. 

Beyond these, there is a lot more to consider. However, I'd be tempted to say that the full range of actions are there for you to develop a personal style.