Saturday, October 4, 2014

Heroic actions in GURPS mass combat

What's less fun (and consistent) with the rules as written

In the rules as written, the odds of a character influencing the odds of a battle are set to a flat 5 (on 3d6). The modifiers are:
  1. +risk level
  2. +1 if one relevant skill is 15+
  3. +1 if the character is a force commander
  4. +1 if part of a fanatic or impetuous element
  5. -1 if part of a support/logistic unit and in presence of fanatics/impetuous friendlies.
This is less fun because there is no sense of scale: same odds for a D-day invasion or for a 10 vs 10 men battle. This is odd, and left people around the table feeling a bit cold about the mass combat rules. 

The crux of the problem for us is that I often encourage people to color key checks with one "supporting check": some action that will positively influence the outcome and may be performed by someone else (or not). The fix below aims to replace the heroic action check for the more commonly used supporting check mechanism.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

K38 - A beard in Hell

Dude, where is my butler?

Bain toured the HQ once more in East Gate hall and started to wonder about Thordar. He hadn't seen the dwarf in over a day. He asked around: no one seemed to know where he was, as usual. Bain had a hunch that something could be wrong, and ordered his sub-commanders to find his butler.

A dwarf from the Mithril reported to the viceroy 30 minutes later. According to him, Thordar may have been caught on the wrong side of the cave in. Bain demanded explanations as to why no one informed him of this. The dwarf replied that he just assumed that someone else had reported.

Both accesses to the Marzabuul stairs were now collapsed. The only way to bypass the cave-ins involved a daredeath hike on the cliff walls of the chasm. The viceroy tasked the rangers to find a path there and ordered his son Gror to descend into the 4th deep and scout the North-South highway that was just discovered.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

K37 - Stress testing Thordar the fearless fencing dwarf.

The 31st session of Reclaiming Khazad-dum took a turn for the interesting when it became a single combat pitching one dwarf PC against temporarily PC'd orcs. Thordar has an interesting concept, embodied by his daredevil advantage and a selection of cinematic combat technique, machismo, reverse grip antics and overconfidence. Thordar shredded through two large panthers using single strikes to the vitals in the past, greatly simplifying an otherwise difficult encounter.  I wanted to stress test the PC while he ended up isolated and hurt. NPC orcs were given to other players to ensure that the brittle orcs got their very best shot in this fight. 

The background

Thordar was a bit too enthusiastic as a rear guard on the day that the dwarves collapsed the two approaches used by the orcs to assault Erebor's positions. Consequently, he got cut off from the main body, alone in the dark. His only known option was to follow a breakneck footpath on the wall of the unending well up to a small footbridge across. Scouts reported it, but never investigated the location. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

K36 - Cave-ins and squeezes

We are back to our main campaign after an eventful side quest where the Kraken died. The PCs are now free to move forward in any direction that they choose. This session was short as we played a metagame just before to set the stage. 

The initial situation ( a recap )

The viceroy's retinue returned from a venture in the 4th level with the Bride in tow. Deema, the bride, is prophetically bound to marry Durin's heir and produce the next and last incarnation of the mythical King. All dwarves seeing the bride are falling inexorably in love with the woman. The romantic tension is a bit much for everyone. She was farmed out of sight in the "Hatchet Dwelling", a small compound near the East Gate which was inhabited by farmers in the glory days of the old city. 

It was discovered during the delve that a great curse, probably the soul of the Balrog, had invested the bodies of the dwarven ancestors. The lot was now standing in the Hall of Trees, blocking the way forward along Durin's way with more than a thousand aggressive animated corpses. More worrisome is the fact that upon their second death, a shard of the curse is release and makes its way back to the bowels of Khazad-dum. 

Lastly, the curse is driving the dwarves mad. Their Will degrade over time until they turn into a rabble of incoherent, mad warriors that are virtually impossible to command. This is not helping that one orc nation called the "Hunters" is pushing them back from forward positions on the 2nd and 4th level. 

Getting caught on the wrong side of a cave-in (Bain, Thordar)

As first order of business, Bain sends scouts to identify the most effective chokepoint to block the hunters from attacking. They begin caving-in operations along the main road, the aqueduct underneath and a side passage from the Hatchet dwelling. The rear guard action is done by a small group of volunteers from the Silver-Attack. Thordar is also part of the rear guard as he can't pass on an occasion to be reckless. 

In the last moment before the final which is to seal the access to the hunters, Thordar gets carried aways on a pursuit and gets separated from the rear guard. By the time that he realizes that he is alone on the other side, he can hear the last warning of the imminent cave-in. Then comes a huge grinding noise and the underground road fills with dust. He is caught, alone, on the wrong side of the collapsed tunnel. Thordar quickly thinks and remembers a known footbridge discovered by scouts last week. That would be his only chance to escape before the hunters fill the base of Marzabul's stairs.  

Without looking back, Thordar slips west into the darkness in search of a way back to the East Gate. 

Bain had a great idea here and it worked quite well. To their knowledge, there are no alternate ways to reach their position from the stair from where the Hunters lauch raids. Thordar was involved in an abstracted MASS combat. He selected +2 for risks and lucked out. This is why he ended up separated from the main body and onto an adventure of his own.

Down they go: looking for a way to the underdeep (Khazek, Lathmelen)

Khazek was reunited with his rangers when they came back from across the Misty Mountains. The news from there were good and the danger of the watcher had not materialized. Khazek was looking for a way to get to the underdeep, get rid of the curse somehow and marry the bride. A logical first step was to descend through the known passage's to Halin's mine and try to break west from there. He considered taking a Lot (47 battle-guards, Axedwarves and crossbowmen), but decided to travel light with only his rockwalkers. 

The descent took about an hour until they got to a crossroad where all access had been caved-in by Halin some 15 years ago. The only way out was a gold mine to the south. The rangers started to look for alternatives. They found an aqueduct underneath the westward road that didn't get properly caved in. Or at least, Lathmelen's elf magic detected the weakness in the mess. They managed to get a squeeze opened that was large enough for broad-chested dwarves. They all crawled through and headed west. 

Just how big is Khazad-dum?

They spent about 6 hours traveling a well kept east-west road. They encountered multiple crossroads but kept on moving forward until they arrived to a major highway. There, they detected recent orc tracks, as well as cart tracks and fragment of the strangest of gold ore. Lathmelen positively identified it as gold ore, but there was something odd about the metal. She pocketed a few rocks and the ranger returned to the East gate to report on the finding. 

Upon their return, it was decided that a sizeable force would have to support the operation on the 4th deep. Elements of the Mithril and Bronze were ready to go while the Silver-Attack was paralyzed by an epidemic of dysentery. 

Meanwhile, in a folder full of parchemins nearby (Bain)

Bain decided to do a little HR work to place the best leader in the best positions. Particularly, in logistic posts where the long-term success of the venture resides.  While the rangers were deep underground and Thordar was lost and no one knew about it, Bain poured over rosters to identify candidates. Using his cunning, he met with sub-commanders to weed out the least competent and promote the best suited for a long underground offense in a terrifying environment (Leadership support check passed).  He identified the key roles, particularly in logistical positions, and matches the two lists (Admin check, supported by leadership).

As a consequence, a bunch of points will be awarded to decrease the dependence of sub-units to more convenient levels. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

K35 - A character sheet for a campaign

In this post, I present some ideas on sandboxing that I tried in my Reclaiming Khazad-dum campaign and report on how it went. 

The Gist

I made a character sheet for the campaign and I gave campaign points for the players to shape the campaign to their liking. 

The motivations

There are a few:
  1. It feels like personal awards are not always appropriate as most PCs are well into the 300 points range, yet I want to give awards for good play.
  2. I want the players to approach the Reclaiming part as a complex problem with lots of fire to put out, and complete freedom to decide how to go about it.
  3. I enjoy having dice tell me which way things are going to go.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

K34 - and thus died the Kraken

This session is the conclusion of a side adventure with alternate characters that pitched the Kraken against Gandalf, Quickbeam, Elphir, Beorn and Gwaihir the Eagle-Lord. 

The setup

Time 0 for session 3
It all resumed with the Eagle-Lord lying face up under a yard worth of water, grappled by the Kraken. The Kraken had been lured in really shallow water after the lake was partially drained and Gandalf lured it from the depth using a blue sphere of light. The blow from the diving Eagle was harsh, but the Kraken was still a serious threat.

Quickbeam was then carrying Elphir of Dol Amroth on his shoulder while Gandalf was slinging anemic fireballs to the beast. 

Felling the beast

If you laugh at the GM's artwork, you won't be invited anymore.
While Quickbeam and Elphir were wading to the Kraken, Gandalf propelled Beorn (in bear form) halfway to the beast.  Gandalf then offered a reprieve to the Eagle-Lord by casting a spell to push away water around both creatures' head. This beached the Kraken which was embroiled with the Eagle. By then, Beorn caused much damage with its claws and disabled a basal tentacle. Quickbeam put Elphir on the ground so the knight let out a power-blow that tore a large gash in the beast's side. Beyond the gash, a void full of stars was sucking in air. Elphir was struck by horror at this sight and failed to prevent tipping over into the emptiness. 

By his side, Quickbeam tore an even bigger hole in the Kraken's side while Beorn knocked one of the large eye off its socket. The beast had absorbed by then well over 100 HP of damage to its head and became unresponsive. 

Quickbeam used a tentacle as a rope to climb down into the oblivion while Beorn simply jumped straight in to follow the listless Elphir. When Gandalf arrived, all that he could see was Quickbeam hanging over a bottomless void. His intuition told him to Jump!, and so he did. Quickbeam let go and all fell into a maelstrom.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Social Academy: Reward structure for social-based GURPS campaigns

This post is part of a the GURPS Social Academy in support of my new campaigns The Empress of India and Tsukumogami.

The earlier posts are the following:
  1. The Reaction Roll
  2. The Unassisted Influence Check 
  3. PCs as targets of Influence Checks
  4. A non-fantasy model for religions
  5. Mitigating the reaction Roll
  6. Reward structure in social-oriented campaigns.


On a small enough scale, advancement isn't the same as inflation

I think that we tend to think of character advancement as a fundamental component of a RPG. I'd like to suspend this assumption for a moment, and hopefully for a lot longer. One of the many gems that I found in FATE is the principle that characters change without necessarily becoming more super. A good player will foresee the trouble ahead and shift skills in the Pyramid, or add/remove stunts such that the character can face better the challenges ahead. A bad player will miss the boat and deal with the mismatch.

Of course, some campaigns need characters to inflate, and that's cool. I just can't imagine a context where Fast-Talk-22 is exciting.  Ok, everyone gets to put their pants down for a moment every time that the character snaps his/her fingers, which can be funny.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Evaluate(Opening) - Results from playtesting

This post is in part a repost of an earlier blog entry introducing the concept. I repost the key bits here for convenience, and add to this my observations after playtesting. 

You will find more on Evaluate on +Douglas Cole 's Melee Academy 301 - Evaluate.

The Serendipity Engine

Screen Shot of the alpha version on May 21st 2013


Simulate how combats are made of serendipitous opening that perceptive and skilled fighter take advantage of. One can fight according to a plan, or be nimble and go with the flow. This option provides the "flow". It is based on a web-based app, requiring nothing but a browser.


A skill contest between the Per-based melee combat skill of the attacker against the DX-based melee combat skill of the defender. In case of a success by the attacker, the attacker spot a combat opening with a benefit that is a function of the margin of success. If the margin is negative, but the Per-based skill check was successful, the bonus is applied to the next active defense.

To generate interesting openings, the random "table" is implemented as a web application. This has the potential to generate over a few hundreds different combinations of opening and conditions, and this number of permutations blows up into the thousands if we take into account the range of possible attack bonuses and defense penalties.


The phasing player may call an Evaluate(combat opening) as a melee combat move. The skill contest is resolved by the app, determine the success and generate an opening. In case of failure, the phasing player my be compelled to take a Do nothing action. In other cases, the phasing player is free to take advantage of the opening by converting the evaluate into a new action and immediately resolving it to exploit the opening, or take instead a Do Nothing or All-out defense action. The gamble here is that if the opening isn't desirable, the turn will be spent looking  for an opening and deciding not to take it.

  1. Declare an Evaluate (combat Opening)
  2. Per-skill vs DX-skill (handled by app)
  3. Pick Either of:
    1. Immediately convert to attack to exploit opening.
    2. Do Nothing

A critical fail on the Per-based skill check is narrated to the player like a critical success, but is converted instead into a bonus for the opponent as a bonus to any form of counter attacks.


This is not a new idea, if you want a low-tech table instead, try Sean Punch's post of SJG's forum, or +Douglas Cole 's post on Gaming Ballistic. Here follows some questions that I was looking for in playtesting this combat option:

Are players using the the Evaluate (opening)?

In my Face-to-Face game, yes. At first for novelty but then again because I think that my players enjoyed the unpredictability that it brought. As a disclosure, I tend to limit combat to a few very important once which tend to revolve themselves fairly quickly: the first strike often sets the tone for the rest of the combat.

When presented with an opening, are the players deciding to exploit the opening?

Usually yes. If the random opening generator suggested something that didn't make sense, there is a button to generate another opening without re-rolling the skill contest. 
  1. If not,
    1. Sometime, ending in the kneeled position isn't outweigh by the bonus conferred by the opening (especially for contest won by a small margin). 
  2. If so,
    1. I think that my players like how it sends the combat into unforeseen directions. It comes down to a gamble: waste a turn looking or get something more substantial than a plain Evaluate
In summary, I like this option and we find it fun. Rolling against this option gives an edge for perceptive characters and bring laughters all around.  I can't recall a single instance of a player getting a smile out of using the base Evaluate maneuver (let alone the whole table). It works really only against an anthropomorphic foe.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

K33 - An unlikely patch of green

This session is part of a mini-side adventure for the campaign "Reclaiming Khazad-dum". We transport ourselves in the 12th year of the fourth age, some 2-3 years before the start of the campaign itself. The PCs are here a collection of high-powered, A-list Tolkien characters. The outcome of this side quest will determine what Army Group West will run into. 

The Characters

Each players was given complete creative license and 500 cps to create high-profile characters from the Middle-Earth lore. +Paul Stefko decided to play Elphir of Dol Amroth, the heir of Dol Amroth and a damn great Numenorean knight. Paul has posted some design notes on his blog.  +Jason Woollard  create his version of Bregalad (Quickbeam) the hasty Ent. +Arne Jamtgaard traded Bain the Viceroy for Gandalf the White. He modeled Gandalf's magic using effect shaping syntactic magic using the verb and noun variant. Finally, +Alex J. has crafted Beorn. In the next session, +Alex Safatli will be joining the fray with Gwaihir, the Eagle-Lord.

That, friends and fellow gamers, is a 2500 cp worth of protagonists, soon to swell to 3000 cps. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

GURPS Social Academy: Reaction rolls with irresistible PCs.

This post is part of a the GURPS Social Academy in support of my new campaign The Empress of India.

The later posts are the following:
  1. The Reaction Roll
  2. The Unassisted Influence Check 
  3. PCs as targets of Influence Checks
  4. A non-fantasy model for religions
  5. Mitigating the reaction Roll

This post is the outcome of extensive playing with reaction rolls in a Social-Engineering centered campaign. I discuss here things that came up in play.

It naturally follows that... a campaign based on social interactions that the PC are going to grow very good at manipulating everyone. In a way, this is fine: they spend the points and the natural reward is to be able to pull off crazy stunts. Otherwise, someone else would be the main character to that story. 

There is a situation where I feel less certain that kickass-charming PCs are always awesome. This is the case of the reaction roll, which is a non-skill based, non-opposed 3d6. 

In actual play, you'll get Reiko walking into a room and meet a man. She is pretty, has high birth and some charisma thrown into the mix. All in all, she gets a +6 to reaction. On average, she will get a very good reaction. Is this a problem? 

Everyone giggles every time so, not really at first glance. However, being like by everyone will cramp the GM's style after a while so here I propose a few ways to mitigate that:

  1. Make the outcome a mystery -- You tell the PC whether it is positive or not and force them to use their social skills to figure out what is really going on. You'd be surprised how a critical fail lead to funny situations (The hard part is keeping a straight face). Sometimes, awkwardness will affect the reaction as well in the process. Get the PCs to be detailed on how they approach the NPC and select the skill that match the description rather than the best skills to read others
  2. Immediate reactions are capped --  Anything better than good at first glance makes little sense. If the reaction gets higher to very good or excellent, grant +1 or +2 to the next influence check instead. 
  3. Don't be afraid to make it hard on the PCs -- If a NPC has a good reason to be pissed, give a stiff negative penalty and cap the lower bound on reaction levels. For example, Reiko may have +6, but the average Joe in the same situation would be bad (5). This implies a -5 narrative penalty which could be capped at bad because going too low immediately doesn't make sense in this situation. The final reaction roll is modified by +1, which means an expected neutral reaction. A more extreme case: The NPC has a -12 to reaction for a final modifier of -6 but with a minimum cap to poor. This means that only a bit of luck will give something better than poor, but without Reiko's charms and other attributes, it would be nearly impossible to do better than this. The overflow translates into a penalty for a future Influence check as described in point 2. 
  4. Olden school GMs would argue against using dice to decide the outcome... where is the sport in that as a GM? It isn't because that I GM that I don't want to play as well. Main event in my campaign have been decided by a die roll, live: I call this fun to deal with.


I think that we should never penalize a PC for being good: this means that the difficulty of a situation shouldn't scale with skills/attributes levels. Great social characters should breeze through simple situations and it is probably better to simply not bother with the dice. Scaling up like it is done in video games, and pretty much disregards character advancement. 

I think that these three strategies will be at the top of my list from now on to make sure that failure a source of fun happens while respecting the PCs' awesomeness. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

K32 - Insanity and Hatchets

The royal party has freed a mysterious bride from a sarcophagus and pulled her our of her own crypt despite the protest of kleptomaniac wraiths and a hungry hungry black pudding. 

Bain's dream sequence

Bain fell asleep with his body straddling a narrow hallway. They found a safe haven in a side crypt that wasn't defiled like every others that they had run into so far. As Bain drifted to sleep, an aura built around the viceroy. He slipped out of body in the glow if the Eye of Irmo hanging around his neck.  On the other side, he could make out the shapes of his companions. He headed for the Bride, and zoomed into her inner sanctum as he was sucked into a slow vortex. 

He found himself attending a wedding. A large hall, the bride was standing there but there was no groom. She was walking to a sarcophagus. Bain probed the dream, wondering what he could find. He heard the name of the bride uttered: Denma. Bain was wondering whether he could find out whether Denma liked Khazek. His answer came from behind a curtain where Khazek, as a groom, moved forward with a smug smile on his face, and the head of the Balrog in his hand (a tiny version). Bain wondered whether the bride knew about the Balrog. A drop of black shadow dripped from the Balrog's head. The shadow crept along the floor, passing between legs in the crowd and slithering at a dazzling pace until it reached a deep well. Bain felt himself falling and woke up suddenly. 

The conspirators

Khazek was half asleep when he heard the muttering coming from Helg. Helg was on guard duty. He slipped towards the sleeping body of Lathmelen. The elf was, awkwardly enough, wearing on the dowery dress of the bride. By the time Khazek smashed Helg's knee with Oin's staff, Helg had the time to lodge his hatchet between Lathmelen's shoulderblades. 

A lot of dwarves into a small area
Gror was also on guard duty. He ran over his father to wake him up and rammed his forehead into Helg's shoulder. Helg rolled sideways and turned just on time for Gror to smash again through the bridge of his nose. Lathmelen utters an elven word and Helg dropped his hatchet then dropped to the ground. 

In Gror's wake, Nalik followed with his axe over his head. he was responding to the call by Helg to do away with the elf. Bain tripped him. Nalik fell over the bridge and grappled her body. Bain kicked him hard enough to make him snap from his compromising position. 

Rogi moved into the fray, responding to the renewed calls to eliminate the elf. By then, Gror was in a scuffle with Nordan who was trying to save Helg from further harm. Bain let out a loud yell which paralyzed everyone where they stood.

The dwarves of the battleguard were driven nearly mad by the curse by then. Some had convinced themselves that their predicament was the fault of Lathmelen the elf. Many blamed their commanders for associating with her. Thordar, drew a line with his smallsword in the air, Lathmelen said something obnoxious inadvertantly, but in the end Bain explained in no subtle terms that the elf was a mean to an end and was to be used to complete their mission. This seemed to appease the dwarves, but left Lathmelen perplexed. They set out for the known exit of the 4th level before more insanity would set in. 

And thus concludes another Chapter of "Reclaiming Khazad-dum"

The dwarves returned to the towers and made their way back to the Rising hall on the second level. The dwarves of the Bronze Attack had repelled the hunters once without too much trouble. They covered the bride with Thordar's cloak to avoid her curse to ensnare yet more dwarves.  They settled in the dwelling of the Hatchet farmers. 

Gesdrek conjectured that the Balrog's repose must be the seat of the curse. They decided to delve deep into the underdeep to find what is there and deal with it. The little folks won't do: the curse is too powerful. However, the most heroic elements were eager to get going. 

Let's return to Arda's hell: the bowels of middle-earth opened up by those who delved too deep.

Friday, May 30, 2014

K31 - Dear Diary...

This session continues on the dungeon delve involving all PCs deep into the 4th level. They left to find out more about the curse of the Balrog. They found it. The following is the narrative as recounted by the mysterious bride that just got rescued.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

K30 - The Love Polygon

The bride of the unborn reincarnation of Durin had to be put away into a hidden chamber of Khazad-dum until the day of her wedding would come. The viceroy saw her in a dream, and so the Royal party left the Tomb of Arvin in a quest to find that pretty needle in a wraith-infested heystack. What they found was a giant black pudding guarding the sarcophagus of the bride where she lay, at the threshold of bonified death. 

Both Khazek and Thordar saw in her eyes what they interpreted as the promise of true and everlasting love. 

The black pudding is playing with its food

But hey, the job wasn't done. Khazek pulled the bride from the sarcophagus. She was frail, pale and shivering. Her knuckles raw from beating from within the stone receptacle. Khazek pulled her gently and huddled her, careful not to smear her with the acid burning through his heavy chain. He gently kissed her, she was gasping for air. Was this passion? Thordar, boiling with rage lunged forward and punched Khazek in a mad hope to make him drop the bride into his hands. Khazek avoided the blow and misinterpreted it as an overenthusiastic offer to help carrying her to safety.

Lathmelen stumbled while jumping over the pudding, she fell feet first into the caustic mud. Her boots were now smouldering with a brown smoke, but her adarcer shin protector remained unaffected. A foot slipped out, but the second foot stayed stuck. The wraith that was wrestling her for the sword wandered off as she became invisible to it once that she let the sword go. A second attempt to free herself sent her face first to the ground with one foot still mired into the muck. The black pudding rolled over her body and began burning at her clothes and hair.

Friday, May 2, 2014

K29 - The dwarf bride

In the previous episode, Interview with a tombstone, the intrepid royal party has made their way to the crypt level of the old city. Bain, in a dream, can hear the plight of a young female trapped in a sarcophagus. The dream is true alright, as he is wearing the Eye of Irmo, which lets him travels around during his sleeping hours. 

The party is made of 13 dwarves: Bain, viceroy of Khazad-dum (PC ); Thordar, right-hand of the viceroy and daredevil-fencer-rogue (PC); Khazek, irreverent ranger-extraordinaire (PC); Lathmelen, Niece of the Elf-Queen of Greenwood (PC); Gror, son of Bain and frontline commander; Gesdrek, Maiar loremaster; and 7 dwarves from a Battle-guard of the Bronze Attack (Nalik, Rogi, Helg, Kelvar, Volkvak, Rakmir, Nordan). 

Delving silent, delving deep

Gror "butterfinger" faces off with the pudding while a wraith
prances around with Khazek's elven blade.
The night was long for the dwarves as they bunked deep into Arvin's crypt. There was whimpers, and Volkvak certainly lost sleep and looked terrible when the delvers woke up.

Bain explained to the other how to get to the Bride's crypt. The party ate a bit and set out along a major artery to the West. Khazek demonstrated an almost prescient sense of direction and lead the dwarves soon into a side passage in order to keep as close as possible to the description provided by Bain. Lathmelen stayed close behind, as ever impressed by the "young prince".

They wove deeper to the the far reaches of Khazad-dum. Khazek had a close encounter with a wraith and swing wildly into the dark. The wraiths had started to accumulate on their tails, both repulsed and attracted by the dwarves' torch light. The wraiths were particularly interested in Khazek's Ghost Blade and Lathmelen's glowing sword. It occurred to Bain that, after seeing Khazek nearly trip and struck down by a wraith (a pissed one), that if their guide was to go, they would be prisoners of an impossible labyrinth.

Bain's pulse quickened, he started to stumble. He was acutely aware that the minds of his dwarves had started to fade because of the Balrog's curse. He became agitated, jumping around to dodge the real and the imaginary wraiths of his ancestors. Khazek picked up on this and became agitated as well. The other dwarves grew concerned, but did their best to sooth the torment of their friends.

Lathmelen kept a steady eye and found a hidden passage which concealed entrance had been damaged in the past. They wondered about the architectural patterns, but none of the party member could identify details. They proceeded inward to eventually enter a large hall.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

K28 - Interview with a tombstone

We left our intrepid heroes all panting after a dash up a 80 yds high ladder while taking fire from above. By the time that we hit the pause button, many goblins were freshly slained, and Thordar's blood was making a mess on the floor.

The toe-hold on the fourth level

After severing the left foot of a fleeing goblin archer, Gror roared down a flight of stairs. He was preceded by said archer, tumbling down said stairs to land by the feet of two goblins taking on a retreat.

Lathmelen ran to Thordar and dispensed as much of her healing magic as she could muster, leaving her out of breath and barely capable of running. The gash in Thordar's leg sealed, he nodded and ran after the pursuing dwarves. Lathmelen, on the edge of losing consciousness, reached for her bow and followed. She met with Gesdrek, Loremaster, and a group of 7 battle-guard dwarves arriving late to the party.

Khazek took to his feet to follow the other archers leaving through the second passage. One of them demonstrated that these goblins were well capable to walk and walls and ceilings as they fled down another set of stairs.

Gror charged with utmost vigor down into a larger hall where about 10 goblins were scurrying through an open door. The door shut, leaving a small number of them on the wrong side. The beleaguered goblins turned back to fight and slowed the progress of Gror, Bain and Thordar towards the door. Thordar got a four-limb grapple by a goblin which placed him in an awkward positions as the other goblins were dealt with.  The Viceroy pinned one of the demoralized goblin against the door with his shield as Khazek and the other cleaned up what was left. 

Journey to the Arvin's crypt

The goblin pinned against the door was named Mik, or at least this is what Bain heard through the whimpers and decided to stick with it. Once that Mik figured out that he was NOT to be killed, his hopes rose and he became very eager to please the dwarves. There appeared to be very little love lost between Mik and whoever shut him up on the wrong side of the gate.

Gror ordered that two more battle-guards be hauled up to the 4th level while Lathmelen and Thordar tried to recover from their wound/shock/exhaustion. Mik kept on bleating nonsense, but a little usable information could be parsed from him. The hunters were regularly raiding the Snagaii kingdom for food. The King of Snagaiis was located on the level below. The dwarves also learned that goblins were terrified of the crypts to the north since the "great rousal" of the dead dwarves a few years ago. Finally, Mik revealed a hard to find passage to get around the stockades protecting them from the hunters and leading into the crypts.

Once the warriors from the Bronze attack arrived (The Silver-Attack was relieved as they started to go loopy on Gror), they ordered 14 of them to keep the hall while 7 would follow the royal party into the crypts. 

Interview with a tombstone

Gesdrek explained that Arvin's tomb should be about 2 hours' travel due North from their position. Mik walked them through a few side passages to get around the blockades and the party ventured deep into the Crypt level of Khazad-dum. The place was noticeably more luxurious than the first and second levels. As they proceeded deeper into the complex, they encountered little evidence of recent passage. The artwork on the walls became more intricate, the place darker and colder.

Poorly defined shapes seemed to be wandering aimlessly through walls, ignoring the advancing party. By early evening, the dwarves had made it to the far corner of the crypts where Arvin was buried. Arvin was once Durin's butler; a very influential dwarf of his day. His tomb was unusually ornate. They entered the crypt and proceeded through a hall covered in engraved and inlaid scenes. In the far end, a phosphorescent glow could be seen coming from a well in the ground. To their left, there was a chapel, to the right, more crypts of what would have been family or close servants.

Gesdrek prompted all to assist him with the ritual. The dwarves chanted while the battle-guard escort keep watch at the crypt's entrance. Mik refused to go in his own way and told the dwarves that he prefered to stay with them until they'd return to the gates of the Snagaii Kingdom. Something spooked him out of the adjoining crypts and he spend the next few hours tormented by the warriors in the central hallway.

The chanting lasted 4 hours until Gesdrek began a silent interview with the opened sarcophagus. He conversed with moans for about 10 minutes; the room fell silent. Gesdrek explained that the Sarcophagus had been defiled by canine-looking creatures which came to free Arvin's body from its final repose. Arvin, however, was now trapped in the crypt as a wraith. He couldn't really see nor hear the living and therefore was not a threat to the others. Gesdrek also got from the tomb that a dark shadow had crawled into the corpse, suggesting that the spirit of the Balrog indeed was the power that moved the ancestors. "I fear that smashing through them may be freeing the Balrog from its current predicament.", concluded the loremaster. They made a mental note to stop slaying ancestors from then on.

Because it was now rather late, and that they were quite tired from the last day. They decided to sleep in the crypt before setting back to the 4th level's entry point in the morning.

Arvin's crypt

The dreamwalker

When Bain fell asleep, he felt his soul split from his body almost right away. Strangely, he felt safe and secure as he realize that his soul was floating in a sea of dwarf wraiths lingering in the area. The eye of Irmo, the jewel given to him by Queen Ngaii, was glowing faintly around his neck. He wandered around, he could see the dreams of his companions, but walked away towards the chapel where the wraith of an imposing dwarf was praying at the altar. The dwarf didn't respond to Bain's calls. However, a cry in the distance caught the Viceroy's ear. 

Bain proceeded west through walls in the search of this call for help. He approached another crypt, ten times more majestic and ornate as Arvin's. At its centre, there was a sarcophagus what didn't get defiled by the infernals. In it, the most beautiful dwarf female was lying and stirring uncomfortably. 

Bain approached the sarcophagus. He could hear the moans, and other sounds that he couldn't fathom. He peered into the stone altar, held the Eye of Irmo in his hands and tried to pry into the beautiful woman's dream. Unfortunately, he got winded and started to lose control as his soul got aspirated back to his body. 

Bain stirred for a long time before falling asleep again. 

In the morning, Bain told of his journey. Gesdrek told him that he probably had encountered the bride of Durin which, upon realizing that Durin wouldn't incarnate during her lifetime, had the dwarves of Khazad-dum put her in stasis until the right day would come. Gesdrek didn't know any more than this about this legend, but felt confident that this bride must have been the long lost maternal side of the line of Durin.  More importantly, the bride appeared to be still unspoiled by the infernals. 

The decided to seek a path to the West to find the Bride's repose before returning back to their lines. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

K27 - Stairway to Heaven

In the previous session, the viceroy's retinue cleared the Rising Hall which had been reported haunted by the scouts. It was, and infested by black panthers which looked like they were feasting on a regular diet of small orcs. 

Orc on a Hook (play-by-post)

Lathmelen, Khazek and Bain are contemplating the chasm below. They can hear the growls of the ancestors some 150 ft below, out of sight. The chasm here is not as wide. Lathmelen established that the vines spanning across the chasm are strong enough to hold one individual at the time.

Khazek, as usual, is the first one to cross. He is followed by Lathmelen. Bain remains behind, surrounded by the axedwarves while Thordar is catching his breath outside.

On the other side. Khazek looks on the ground for signs. He sees that the panthers are commonly passing by and heading West into the hall. He finds evidence of blood, as if wounded bodies are dragged by the animals. Some of these tracks are recent.

While Khazek is looking for clues, Lathmelen advance into the hall and finds a rustic barricade. The barricade seems to be designed to be protecting from threat from their side of the barrier. She inspects the stockade and finds a squeeze near the top. Khazek can trace the paws of the panthers all the way to this squeeze.

“This is where the panther are coming and going.”, the ranger whispers.

There appears to be be no other ways other than forward. The place is deadly quiet, but the two companions can hear a lone snore beyond the barricade. The smell of orcs is also competing with the musk of the giant cats.

Khazek 20140309 - Khazek studies the barricade, trying to get an idea of how long it’s been there. He keeps an eye out for any dangerous looking areas or traps as well. He then carefully and quietly begins to climb up toward the narrow opening, trying to get a look at what lies beyond.

Bain 20140309 - Bain looks at his axedwarves.  “Well?  Don’t just stand there, get moving!”  He grabs the last Dwarf in the line.  “Go back and tell Gror we went on a scouting mission.  Then come back here with another lot and secure this area.”  After the axedwarves finish crossing, Bain will follow.

Lathmelen 20140309 - Lathmelen approaches the barrier and attempts to cast Find Weakness (M116) on it. This is in order to investigate the material and determine if there is a way to create an opening without disturbing it excessively and causing too much sound. She spends two seconds to cast the spell, performs the appropriate ritual most likely involving hand movement, and rolls a 7 which is a success. She will report to the others, enigmatic as usual, the results of her investigation.

The reinforcements

Bain sends out an axedwarf to contact with the Silver to the North. He estimates that if everyone rushes, a lot could be here as soon as in about 20 minutes. Bain can barely make up what is going on across the chasm other than something glittery has snaked up the barricade from the ground to the ceiling...

The barricade

Time T - Khazek approaches the barricade and notices that this is used as a passage for the felines. He looks very carefully amongst the coarse woodwork and sees no treachery. Bain is showing signs of impatience somewhere in the rear. Lathmelen utters are few words in old Sindarin and light a sequence of boards and stakes with the faint glow of a glittering light.  Lathmelen feels a little weak from drawing so much upon the valar in the recent past.

“This is the weak spot in the structure”, she whispers. Khazek plans his climb to the squeeze of the barricade against the upper right corner of the hallway. He identifies a path to climb up. Unfortunately, the shoddy structure gives way and Khazek causes the structure to creak as his footing shifts by a few inches.

The squeaky voice of a goblin comes from over the barricade. It is both raspy, and high-pitched as if he had inhaled helium the moment before.

“Come over! Demon, feast on this orc’s flesh.”, the voices calls out. Khazek can hear the difficult breathing of a lone orc over the edge. There are no audible footsteps, maybe the rattle of something wooden dragged on the ground.

Khazek 20140310 - Khazek stops short when he hears the voice call out. He does not reply just yet, but looks back questioningly at Lathmelen. He pauses for but a moment until curiosity overtakes him and he continues forward, trying to get a look at what is going on up ahead. “But I’ve just recently eaten, thanks though. They call me Rock Walker, and who might you be?”

Lathmelen 20140310 - Lathmelen readies her blade and attempts to find a spot nearby that could serve as a hiding spot and from which she could strike at someone coming out from the barricade. Moving there, if one is found, she then looks to Khazek to gauge his reaction, raising her eyebrow at him and mouthing, “Demon?”

Bain 20140309 - Bain slaps his forehead at Khazek’s impudent reply.  “No!  Demon was the voice’s pet, probably one of the panthers” he thinks, but holds his tongue. That stone had fallen, time to see the nature of the avalanche.

Khazek gains footing to peer through the squeeze. The weak flicker of his torch suggest the shape of a lying orc of a small size.  His left leg appears to be impaled by a large barbed hook that is chained to the ground. He lies on the ground, breathing laboriously, staring up to the ceiling. Beyond, the hallway expands into a hall which the weak torchlight can’t light all the way through. The room is cluttered, but quiet, and cool.

Khazek can squeeze through and slide to the other side. It implies an awkward moment, but poses no real challenge. The area still looks to rustic and simply laid out to be dangerous. Lathmelen is a yard behind, unable to see inside the hall.

“These tricksters talks.”, the goblin whispers in a gargle. “Do your bidding, make it quick, Ghost walker!”, he yelps. The sound echoes back from the far end of the hall. The only noise to be heard is the crackling of the torch and the goblin’s plight.

Khazek can’t help but to slip through and belly slide a few feet before getting on his feet. The goblin still lies there, his eyes appear to have been gouged out. He is waiting for something really bad to happen to him, teeth clenched.

Khazek passes the squeeze and make his way on the other side. The goblin is a sad sight to see. His wounds are not recent: he must have been lying there for a few days. The goblin is conscious, but not particularly aware of its surroundings.  As Lathmelen crawls in, he run his sight along the hall’s wall to scan for danger. There is a door at the far end of the hall, maybe 20 yards away. There are also a set of spiral stairs on the left and right walls.

Khazek 20140311 - Khazek tries not to make a sound. He continues to scan the area looking for signs of danger or escape. Very slowly, Khazek moves very slowly to make room for Lathmelen, keeping his weapon at the ready.

Lathmelen 20140311 - Lathmelen, as amused but frightened as she is of the scenario, moves to action and follows Khazek through the barricade, spending two turns to crawl through. She tries to hold her sword while crawling through, but with sheath it if this proves to be difficult. Speaking carefully, once she acquires her bearings on the other side of the barrier, she asks the goblin “The demons in this place are countless. But I am not quite sure we are those who you should be frightened of. Maybe you are willing to accept our help?” Her eyes immediately go to Khazek in question, hoping he understands her reason for her abysmal attempt at diplomacy. They might learn something from this one.

The goblin seems to hear Lathmelen but doesn’t respond. His grin has faded, his fists are no longer clenched. It is unclear whether he even understood the elf but certainly isn’t inclined to start a chat with the unseen visitor. As far as you can tell, he may not even be aware of Khazek’s presence.

“Me no talky”, he squeaks with half a voice.

Lathmelen 20140312a - Lathmelen shakes her head at Khazek and dismisses the idea of questioning the goblin. She quickly walks over further into the room, to where the left stairs are, and glimpses around the corner, investigating where it leads.

Khazek and Lathmelen look around the hall. There has been a lot of fighting in this place a long time ago: there are broken arrows, the remains of a warg, a panther. The hall was once a gathering place and probably part of the Rising Hall. The tracks on the ground suggest that goblins come in numbers, maybe 10, regularly and drag a goblin to the meat hook. There is little evidence of traffic up and down the stairs.

The door at the far end is shut. The goblin on the hook is moaning quietly.

Lathmelen 20140312b - Lathmelen looks to Khazek for direction, “There is a stairway up and down, but they look hardly travelled. This is a rather dragging scenario. What do you suggest, prince?”. She looks at him amusedly.

Khazek 20140312 - “Well, if the Goblins can move in through here freely, then we need to figure something out, find out where they’re going, figure out what this is,” indicating the hooked Goblin. Khazek moves toward the Goblin slowly, taking his canteen out from his pack. “You, Goblin, you want water? Why are you here? What did you do?”

The goblin is at first ignoring the offer and avert his eyes, as if he still had his eyes that is. The offer for water is too much for him and he opens his mouth. Khazek let a thin strand of water dribble down to its mouth.

“You give me water. You speak different. Here I am, an offering to keep the peace with the demon across the chasm. I bet you are not a demon.”, he turns his face towards Khazek. “I broke my arm, that’s why I’m now as good as meat. Maybe us Snagaiis are only good for this in the end...”

The hall and the boiler room.

The thousand-year old boiler (live play from here on)

Khazek and Lathmelen shake their shoulders and summon the Viceroy to come forward. Bain steps over the chasm and squeeze over the stockade. Khazek explaines the situation and leaves Bain the task of interrogating the delirious goblin. 

While Bain is talking sweet with the goblin, Khazek and Lathmelen inspect the door leading to the city and find it locked. They rig some pieces of wood to secure it from opening from the other side. They decided to look at the spiral staircase to the right. 

They find the stair unused for many long years. It leads to a large and warm room some 20yds high above. The room if filled with refuse and a large boiler powered by a magma pipe. The construction is dwarven, and miraculously still functional. 

Lathmelen returns to the lower level while Khazek inspects the rubbish. The temptation is too strong, and he engages the mechanism. This sends water into the boiler and starts to push steam into a pipe heading towards the cliff. 

Downstairs, Thordar has joined the Viceroy. He explained to him that he spotted a subtle plume of smoke on the 4th level, suggesting that the end of the ladders up the cliff are guarded. Bain, in turn exasperated, begs Thordar to make the goblin talk. Thordar, now a pro at it, uses the tip of his smallsword to prod into the goblin's eye socket. The goblin breaks down and begin to cry. 

The goblin explains that he is a tribute sent to feed the demons from the outside. He points at the locked gate and confide that the Snagaii kingdom lies beyond. The dwarves, disgusted by the sight of a grown goblin crying all over the floor, puts its miserable life to an end. 

Bain turns to the gate: "A Kingdom of Snagaiis, hey."

Five little dwarves climbing up a ladder

Thordar lead the others to the terrace outside the Rising room. They were met by Gror, announcing that he had decided to rotate out the dwarves from the Silver-Attack with fresh troop from Bronze.  "They are hard to keep in check, Father, the curse... I guess.", he explains to Bain.

Once outside, they marvel at the sight of Dimrill Dale down below. Lathmelen uses her elven sight to inspect up above. She sees that the two ladders are climbing to trap doors underneath the terrace on the 4th level.  She spots the plume of smoke, and more seriously the wavy air around the steel ladders as if they were very hot. Khazek figures out that the boiler was probably connected to the ladder system as he had seen such mechanism in Erebor. He quietly returns to the boiler room and turns off the mechanism. 

They decide to climb up the 80 yds by daylight after the ladder cools down. About halfway to the terrace, arrows begins to fly down to the climbers. Thordar is shot on the hand and brush off the pain while the crew accelerate their ascent. As they get closer to the trapdoor, the volume of arrow fire increases. Many arrows would have caused mortal wound had the dwarves not be protected by sturdy dwarven armors. 

The dwarves sprint up the ladder to enter firm ground, as falling off 400ft down to the foot of the cliff isn't an attractive prospect.  

The Eastern eyes of level four

Thordar is the first dwarf to enter the towers. He dodges a few arrows and skewers an archer. Khazek enters next and dispatch another archer with his stick. Lathmelen comes next and attempts to create an illusory panther, but fails to summon the dreadful sight. While Gror slips in and chase a fleeing archer, Thordar lunges recklessly into the goblins, dispatch another with his smallsword and ends with a goblin's arrow deeply embedded into his thigh (Funny bone critical). Khazek fell the goblin's NCO in a dramatic knife throwing one-shot death. This opens the way for Thordar to roll back toward his friends while Lathmelen meets him to deliver some elven healing. 

Thordar is reeling and in terrible pain, Lathmelen is on the brink of collapse. The goblin archers recoiled away but are not defeated. Bain climbs up into the tower to catch sight of his son severing the foot of a fleeing goblin. 

Are things going well or not? Well, they are at least on the fourth level. If they can make it passed the Snagaiis, Gesdrek should be able to lead them to the crypts to interrogate them about the rise of the ancestors. 

Final scene as seen by Bain.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

GURPS Social Academy: A non-fantasy model for religions

This post is the fourth in the series GURPS Social Academy exploring the use in practice of ideas from GURPS Social Engineering (with some personal twists). These articles relate to my new campaign The Empress of India. This article is not expanding on ideas from Social Engineering but instead contains an original way to represent religions in a way that is realistic and respectful to theists, atheists and agnostic players (I hope).

The later posts are the following:
  1. The Reaction Roll
  2. The Unassisted Influence Check 
  3. PCs as targets of Influence Checks
  4. A non-fantasy model for religions
  5. Mitigating the reaction Roll
  6. Reward structure in social-oriented campaigns.


Religions are defining factors for theists, yet they are a matter of personal experience. In other words, a two friends of different religions can can find solace and resolve while being equally sincere in their Faith. The experience is real and tangible at the personal level. Faith provides strength of the mind when the worshipper believes to be in grace, and a weakness of mind when it believes to be impure or a sinner.

Theism and Atheism

Theism [5] is an advantage whereby the Will of a character is increased by 1 when the character believes to be pure or in good grace. The counter to this perk is that the belief of being impure or with unforgiven sins incurs a penalty of -1 on Will. 

Theists must either select the religious [-5] or devout [-10] code of conduct that defines the rites and behaviours prescribed in order to be pure/in good grace.  Devouts must abide by a much more severe code of conduct, but in return are subject to a +2 or -2 modifier on their Will.

Atheism [5] is an advantage that is not bound to any code of conduct. Because atheists have an equal conviction that there are no supernatural interventions over the world, their presence undermines and disturbs the conviction of theists. This abnegating effect takes place only if the atheist is known to be this way: there is no magic or invisible aura around an atheist. As a result, they benefit of a bonus of +1 on Will-based check to resist influence checks made by theists. Additionally, the presence of atheists incurs a -1 penalty to prayers if they are involved in anyway in the request for divine intervention. However, known atheists suffer -1 reaction penalty with theists. 

Agnostic characters are neither theist nor atheist. They may believe in something, it just doesn't have an in-game effect. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

GURPS Social Academy: PCs as targets of Influence Checks

This post is the third in the series GURPS Social Academy exploring the use in practice of ideas from GURPS Social Engineering (with some personal twists). These articles relate to my new campaign The Empress of India

The later posts are the following:
  1. The Reaction Roll
  2. The Unassisted Influence Check 
  3. PCs as targets of Influence Checks
  4. A non-fantasy model for religions
  5. Mitigating the reaction Roll
  6. Reward structure in social-oriented campaigns.

Principle: You are not your character

It is important to keep in mind that player skills and knowledge are distinct from these of the characters. GURPS players already know that since a curious character will sometime have to do the wrong thing if he/she fails to resist vs Will. In the Palantir Commission campaign, the characters never found out that the squire could cast spells and simply assumed that the Valars were on their side. The players, however, had great fun with this plot twist. 

This article is about PCs being the target of Influence Checks. You got to be OK with the separation of player/character knowledge for it to work, but it is fun to play out. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

GURPS Social Academy: The unassisted influence check

This post is part of a the GURPS Social Academy in support of my new campaign The Empress of India. This article follows from the last article on Reaction rolls.

I use liberally the concept of aspect that I have taken from FATE. There is a lot of RPG wisdom in FATE, but the resolution philosophy of GURPS wins the cake for me.

The later posts are the following:
  1. The Reaction Roll
  2. The Unassisted Influence Check 
  3. PCs as targets of Influence Checks
  4. A non-fantasy model for religions
  5. Mitigating the reaction Roll
  6. Reward structure in social-oriented campaigns.

GMing with Influence Checks

The influence check is about using a skill or an attribute to influence the narrative by manipulating others. An influence check is unique: its outcome shall be final for the duration of a scene.

It is important to let a failed roll determine the outcome as negative. Re-rolling, in a sense, is taking away the rewards to building a character to be good at something.

Influence checks should be made when both success and failure makes for an interesting story. If this isn't the case, then there is no need to roll: just say so.

Monday, March 17, 2014

GURPS Social Academy: The Reaction roll

This post is part of a the GURPS Social Academy in support of my new campaign The Empress of India.

The later posts are the following:
  1. The Reaction Roll
  2. The Unassisted Influence Check 
  3. PCs as targets of Influence Checks
  4. A non-fantasy model for religions
  5. Mitigating the reaction Roll
  6. Reward structure in social-oriented campaigns.

I consider the reaction roll as a way to turn GMing into playing: you got to be prepared for sharp turns and true tests of robustness of the storyline.

GMing with reaction rolls

The reaction roll determines the attitude of a NPC or a group of NPC towards one or more PCs. It is automatic, done in secret by the GM if the reaction is not already scripted by the narrative. Many of the social modifiers apply to this check. Disadvantages may also be relevant and resisted. The timing of a reaction roll depend on how much time is needed to determine an attitude.

Altering reaction levels

The narrative may alter the reaction level. A player may deliberately alter reaction by performing influence checks. A success should improve the level by 1 category, even of the MoS if the contest isn’t sufficient to do so.

Effect of positive reaction levels

Some levels act as automatic influence checks. Favours scan be granted within specified limits for good and better reactions. NPC with good and better reactions can be purchased as contact, allies and patrons. Neutral NPCs can be purchased with the “minimal intervention” modifier.

Effect of negative reaction levels

These NPCs act as enemies. The commitment of a NPC to the downfall of a PC depends on the story and the level. The GM may allow to purchase an enemy if the NPC may have a lasting effect on the campaign.

Why using reactions

Reaction rolls add a lot of unpredictability for the GM as it may send a story in a wide range of direction. Sometimes, this may be a bad idea, sometime it is just a fun way to play with fire. Most importantly, reaction rolls allow PCs to influence a story by using good role play and their hard-earned social traits. If they spend points for it… They should be able to have fun with them.

Playing with Reaction rolls (examples)

Nathan walks into a bar

Nathan, a military man, walks into a bar which main clientele are Mughal Army officers. Since his Savoir-Faire(military) is 12 or more, he gets + 1 other officers. He doesn’t really outrank anyone (Lt vs Lt on average), but his lord status (3) is one higher than the average (+ 1). However, both English and Mughals are chauvinistic. Nathan fails to resist his (rolls 16) while the clientele does (rolls 5). Chauvinism causes -1 overall because Nathan can’t quite hide his contempt (dirty glass, improper behaviours, etc.). Nathan also has an irritating catch-phrase “Oh, I remember Peshawar…”, he pass his Will check and avoid factoring in this annoying quirk. Finally, one can argue that since Nathan is fat and unfit, he comes across as a poor image of an army man (-1).

The reaction roll is 11 + 0 = 11. The clientele is neutral to Nathan. Good thing that he has a military background or else he would have had a poor reaction (9).

Special case where Nathan has Savoir-Faire(military)-10

Let’s assume a case similar to the example above, but where Nathan doesn’t have 12 in his Savoir-Faire. In this case, Nathan should check against Savoir-Faire(military) in order to make the bonus apply. For flavour, it is possible that a penalty be imposed on the skill if the GM rules that the decorum in the Mughal army is different enough than in the English army. Say, Savoire-Faire(military)-10.

Gene confronts protestors

Gene decides to meet with the protestors outside the embassy. The protestors are chanting against the presence of English on Delhi, and specifically against her presence. The GM sets the reaction to very poor. They want her out, but are not fired up to the point that they would commit reckless acts such as commit crimes just because they don’t like her.

After the session, and because Gene hasn’t appeased them, the GM “awards” the protestors as an enemy group (base: – 10, frequency: 9 or less, watchers) [-2cp]. These may just come back to be annoying later on.

In this case, a reaction roll is likely to throw the story off if the protestors turns out to be friendly. It makes more sense to set a reaction and let Gene performs an Influence check to tune the reaction.