Daily Houserule tweets: September 2022

From February 1, 2022 to January 31, 2023, I posted an entry a day to the @gamesdiner Twitter account, using the hashtags #TRPG, #GURPS, and #DailyHouserule. The concept: Make tweets out of a bunch of minor GURPS houserule items, GM/player advice tidbits, and other tips & tricks, to have a bit of fun engaging with other gamers and get the #GURPS tag out there more. (See the initial announcement here.)

The year is up! I’m now posting those tweets to this site, a month per page. Links to all 12 months are below.

Do forgive the overly abbreviated and janky writing. These were tweets, so the text is full of shortcuts to fit the format. For better or worse, I’m leaving the content mostly untouched.


Entries by month:

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Entries No. 213 to 242

213

2022-09-01: Veterinarian is a crazy skill in that it covers multiple medical skills (Diagnosis, Physician, etc.) for a huge range of vastly differing species – all for the cost of one skill!

I’m not saying this is a problem, though.

Take it as an example of how GURPS seems to (sometimes) vary skill cost for in-game importance – not through changes to skills’ costs but through definition of their breadth.

Animal med skills get discounted (via mashing into one skill) because they’re of low game importance.

(There may even be an implicit assumption that vet techniques don’t need to be at the same level as doctor techniques, because, well, speciesism. I don’t know.)

You could divide Veterinarian into constituent med skills, or at least into Veterinarian (Animal Type). I haven’t done so, though.

214

2022-09-02: DF/DFRPG: Lion-folk are beefier cousins of cat-folk.

Stats: As cat-folk, but remove ST and DX mods; remove Catfall.

Add Penetrating Voice [1], Temperature Tolerance 1 (Heat) [1], and Tough Skin 1 [3].

Racial Cost: 25 points

That cat-folk template cries out for more variants, based on tigers, cheetahs, leopards…

We also need a halfling-like, SM -2 “housecat-folk” variant. (Call ’em kitlings?)

And probably mysterious, long-lost sub-race tribes falling between the two sizes. (The missing lynx…)

See more about lion-folk, and a lion-folk barbarian PC, at link.

215

2022-09-03: In the vein of Weapon Bond and Equipment Bond, allow a perk that confers a +1 on rolls to work with a favored pet or mount (typically Animal Handling and Riding rolls). Call it… Creature Bond? IDK.

(Or is this already a rule somewhere?)

This isn’t a mystic bond like a witch’s tie to a familiar; it’s the outcome of long time spent with your pet, mount, or other creature companion, learning its moods and ways inside and out.

A mount who knows its rider well could also take Creature Bond, aiding its Mount rolls.

216

2022-09-04: An old hack for reactions of animals, etc.:

Set two stats, Fight and Flight. Roll vs each in an encounter.

  • One succeeds: Animal picks that reaction.
  • Both fail: Animal is unconcerned with PCs.
  • Both succeed: Animal is conflicted, watchful.

An aggressive boar might have Fight 12, Flight 8; a nervous herbivore, Fight 8, Flight 14. A placid leviathan that doesn’t need to concern itself with much could have both scores low.

Change up the numbers for circumstances:

  • Boost Flight for a vulnerable Dire Crab that’s just molted
  • Crank up Fight for a normally-peaceful beast that’s protecting its young or in rutting season

Etc.

Thank you for your patience during Animal Week, seven days of entries at least loosely related to animals.

(There have been others, like my perpetual and petulant “Grr, big horses are SM +2, not +1” rant in Entry No. 48.)

217

2022-09-05: Perfect Balance grants +1 to Acrobatics, Climbing, and Piloting.

It seems fair to extend that to Dancing and Light Walk too.

(And to Skating, Combat Art, etc. for occasional artistic tests of balance like spins and tricky stand-on-one-leg forms.)

Action 4: Specialists grants characters with Perfect Balance another free benefit: the Sure-Footed perk (no penalties to attack or defense for bad footing) in any terrain.

Extend that generosity to all your GURPS/DFRPG games, and you’ll make a lot of thief and acrobat PCs happy. (See much on rethinking Perfect Balance here.)

218

2022-09-06: Flexibility and Double Jointed grant big bonuses (+3 and +5, respectively) to Climbing and Escape.

How about small bonuses (+1 and +2, respectively) to Acrobatics and Dancing too?

(Any other skills that should benefit from great flexibility?)

219

2022-09-07: I appreciate that 4e dropped 3e’s problematic and unneeded Katana skill. But the weapon itself is almost underpowered now, with a stab far weaker than that of dedicated thrusters like the longsword.

Fix: Add +1 to thr damage for 2-handed use.

The idea applies equally to the short katana (Low-Tech).

A two-handed swing already enjoys +1 dam, so the same +1 for a two-handed thrust feels perfectly fair, while still leaving specialized stabbers like the longsword a point ahead in two-handed thrust damage. Go ahead and give your katana wielders this small boost.

220

2022-09-08: Low-Tech/DFRPG’s naginata seems underpowered vs the dueling glaive: it’s nearly identical, but with poorer reach and higher cost.

Simplest fix: Drop the naginata stats. Let the dueling glaive stand in for the naginata or any similar 2-hex bladed polearm.

(True, the naginata offers a special welcome to users of Two-Handed Sword skill. But that does nothing for the full-time user of Polearm skill, who wonders why the inferior naginata is on offer.)

221

2022-09-09: Roll vs Weather Sense to detect weather-like phenomena out of line with actual weather.

Examples:

  • A temperature drop or fog is unnatural
  • Air pressure feels odd (elemental nearby?)
  • Animals are acting oddly for the weather (roll vs Naturalist and Weather Sense to notice)

In the end, Detect Magic-type spells and abilities remain the key to identifying, say, a druid-brewed storm or monster-related chill.

But Weather Sense should allow a little hint that something in the air is off kilter. (Also, I like seeing outdoor skills gain more indoor uses.)

222

2022-09-10: Following up on yesterday, here are ideas for mundane uses for Weather Sense:

  • Predict changes in wind direction (important for PCs hiding from or tracking creatures with keen noses)
  • Impress superstitious ogres, etc. with “I will bring rain by the morrow!”
  • Predict the next cloudless night, when the cultists will conduct their foul ritual…
  • Cut outdoor travel time (get DF 2, DF 16, or DFRPG for rules)
  • Complement foraging and fishing rolls (“Nor’easter coming. The goblinfish’ll be biting near shore.”)
  • Complement Survival, Navigation, Shiphandling, Hiking, Riding, and other rolls representing long-term travel and outdoor activities

Also: If your fantasy game eschews the Astronomy skill, let Weather Sense pick up the basics: know the phase of the moon, predict sunrise precisely, discern that The Stars are Aligned, etc.

(Those aren’t exactly Awesome Abilities, but PCs always find use for stuff…)

223

2022-09-11: Just a vague idea, but:

How about an underground, dwarven-ish version of Weather Sense: Stone Sense?

Detect subtle changes in slope or in cave wall moisture or strain; roughly discern depth; sense signs of approaching flood, earthquake, or other underworld disaster (see Underground Adventures)…

In short, this is an ability to “read the stone”, useful for all troglodyte types.

Default it from Prospecting to detect rock-related things, from Weather Sense to detect subterranean air-related phenomena.

(Of course, you could just let Prospecting stand in for all of that in DFRPG.)

224

2022-09-12: Similar to yesterday:

How about a watery version of Weather Sense: Sea Sense?

This lets sea elves and the like “read the water” to detect changes in pressure, quality, current, or temperature; estimate depth; predict tides, freak waves, and other phenomena…

With Sea Sense, Weather Sense, and Stone Sense as “read elemental conditions” skills, all that remains would be “Flame Sense”. Which would let you… hm, predict the course of fires, sense unusual fire-related phenomena…

OK, that’d be useful on the Plane of Fire, maybe; not much use on ours. (Thought it’d be a nice oddball skill for a scout with a nose for “reading” forest fire outbreaks and movements.)

225

2022-09-13: There’s lots of love out there for “old-school” fantasy. Well, here’s a (semi-)vintage rules kit + a dungeoneering sourcebook made for it, both costing you nothing:

GURPS LITE 3e from SJG + Caverns & Creatures by Timothy Groves

Made for GURPS LITE 3e, Caverns & Creatures has dungeoneering professions, races, skill packages, equipment, spells, treasures, lots of monsters, and more.

Sort of the experience of GURPS 4e + the Dungeon Fantasy line, or the DFRPG boxed set, but lighter. (And free.)

If you already play those fantasy games, you may still find good bits to borrow from C&C, like simple treasure tables, college-specific spell critical failure tables, and unique magic goods.

Downloads:

Caverns & Creatures: link

GURPS LITE 3e: link

226

2022-09-14: “Only dwarves mine with respect.”

I call that Code of Honor (Dwarven Miner) [-5]:

Aid fellow miners. Respect safety preparation and mining claims. Leave 10% of finds untouched to honor earth spirits. (When Greed prevents that, you can instead beautify the site with a shrine, art, etc.)

That last bit gives the GM reason to stock abandoned dwarven mines with shrines, sculptures, and unspoiled bits of ore or gems, all awaiting exploitation by PCs. (Though at the risk of angering both earth spirits and honor-bound dwarven miners?)

227

2022-09-15: Dwarven mystic? Use:

  • Code of Honor (Dwarven Miner) [-5]
  • Disciplines of Faith (Ritualism) [-5]
  • Sense of Duty (Places of importance to earth spirits) [-5]
  • Higher Purpose (Protect places of importance to earth spirits) [5]
  • Hidden Lore (Nature Spirits or Elementals)

Some combination of those will yield stumpy-legged boulder-huggers who gather at subterranean Stonehenges to beat iron drums and sing Khûmbaya.

(Note: Code of Honor (Dwarven Miner) [-5] is from yesterday’s entry.)

228

2022-09-16: DF: Alchemist’s fire deals lots of damage to foes who don’t stop, drop, and roll. But would a flame-engulfed victim have the calm and the smarts to do so? Would a low-IQ beast even understand the concept?

Idea: Roll against the lower of Will (±4 for High/Low Pain Threshold) and IQ every turn. Success = you can drop and roll.

Like many things, this is better saved for monsters and mooks, not PCs (who should be free to keep their wits and do whatever it takes to douse flames).

Then again – speaking from some experience – it’s also fun to just assume flaming monsters/mooks fail to drop and roll, and instead run around setting things on fire…

229

2022-09-17: DF/DFRPG: The $135 paut potion restores 4 FP lost to magic use.

My alchemical additions:

  • Dwarf Draft: Restores 1d* FP (but not FP lost to magic use) $135
  • Dwarf Draft Gold: Restores 1d* FP (from any loss) $180

*Or 4 FP for simplicity

All available for special order now, under the Scarlet Galdurnaut™ brand.

(Compare with Orcish Energy Brew in DF 8: Treasure Tables p. 36: Dwarf Draft is 3x the cost, but restores 2x the FP and doesn’t nauseate.)

See related discussion here: link

230

2022-09-18: Complementary skill rolls are fun, but extra rolls slow play.

Players must always declare a comp roll in advance. But to save time, don’t roll it unless its outcome could matter – i.e., the master success roll’s MoS turned up +1, 0, -1, or -2.

Restated: If the master roll is simple succeed/fail and its outcome is decisive enough that the comp roll couldn’t change it, there’s no point in a comp roll. Skip it.

(But: if the master roll’s margin of success/failure matters, then a comp roll is always meaningful.)

231

2022-09-19: Some form-shifting spells include an allowance of clothing and gear. Where reasonable, allow additional weight increments (gear, not passengers!) for +1 energy.

Example: Body of Shadow allows 6 lbs. of gear. Spend +1 energy per additional 6 lbs.

232

2022-09-20: There’s a Disguise skill – several, really.

  • Disguise is “Disguise People to Look Like Other People”.
  • Disguise (Animals) is “Disguise People to Look (and Act) Like Animals”.
  • Camouflage is “Disguise People and Things to Look Like Other Things (Especially Shrubbery)”.

Which suggests a use in fantasy: Similar to using Disguise (Animal) to fool a herd of dire buffalo, use Camouflage to sneak by thickets of man-eater plants. (GM willing; not guaranteed vs all plants…)

233

2022-09-21: The Silence advantage is expensive compared to just buying up Stealth.

Idea: As long as the PC stays in place, use Silence’s higher bonus to perform any action quietly (if reasonably possible): draw a weapon, pick a lock, search a bag, etc.

I get that Silence’s doubled “when motionless” bonus is valuable. But it comes up rarely. And Silence only works vs hearing; plain old Stealth hides you from both hearing and vision.

IMO, Silence is a poor buy compared to Stealth. I’d like to see Silence repriced, or beefed up.

Hence the idea: Apply Silence’s higher bonus to perform any action silently, not just breathe quietly, as long as the “no Move” restriction is followed.

(Or maybe that’s already the intended working of Silence? Correct me if I’m house-ruling what’s already the rule…)

234

2022-09-22: The Mimicry skill has three specialties:

  • Animal Sounds
  • Bird Calls
  • Speech

How about two more specialties:

  • Musical Instruments (including beatboxing)
  • Objects (creaky door, footsteps, machinery, foghorn, alarm…)

Mimicry (Musical Instruments) and Mimicry (Objects) might cross-default at -4, but not to other specialties.

Unless the PCs are comic entertainers, they’ll surely find these the least vital skills on the list. (Then again, players come up with uses for the darnedest things…)

235

2022-09-23: Fall is in the air!

If you know distance (yd), time (sec), or speed (yd/sec) in a fall, the Size and Speed/Range Table’s Size column and Linear Measurement column, plus simple equations, let you eyeball the others. An abbreviated example:

Fall of 50 yd = Distance +8 (from the Table).

Equations:

  • Time = Distance/2 – 3
  • Speed = Distance/2 + 3

Results using the Table:

  • Time = 8/2 – 3 = +1 = 3 sec
  • Speed = 8/2 + 3 = +7 = 30 yd/sec

It’s described here: link

Neither exciting nor vital, but it’s an example of the tricks you can do with a log table like the Size and Speed/Range Table.

Tangent: As noted in Entry No. 4, GURPS’ falling damage is (arguably) unrealistically low. Not that that’s necessarily bad! See: link

236

2022-09-24: An Acrobatics roll lets a character subtract 5 yds from effective falling distance and reduce damage.

I also allow Acrobatics, DX, or Jumping to stick this safe(r) landing. (Yes, Jumping makes sense; half of every jump is falling!)

With Catfall, that roll to subtract 5 yards is automatic, but there’s then a DX roll to further halve damage.

Again, any of Acrobatics, DX, or Jumping makes sense to me for this Catfall roll. (Maybe even Body Sense, though I’m not sure about that one…)

(I suppose a detailed treatment of Catfall could also require a roll for the initial “subtract 5 yards”, with a big bonus for a long fall so it’s effectively automatic, but no bonus for a short fall due to little time for correcting position. I haven’t played with this, though.)

237

2022-09-25: Speaking of Body Sense (yesterday): In Entry No. 70, I called out Body Sense as a cool idea but also a seldom-used one-trick pony, and suggested making it Easy.

That helps, though it still feels expensive after the first 2 points or so.

Consider making Body Sense a perk: +1/lvl to DX or IQ rolls to resist disorientation after teleporting, etc.

As a bit of compensation for that greatly reduced cost, let the result “you fall down, physically stunned” happen on any failure of 5+, not only on a critical failure.

238

2022-09-26: For Acrobatics, DX, or other rolls to lessen falling damage:

Consider a +3 bonus if the fall is intentional – mentally ready, shoulder roll all planned out, etc. – instead of a surprise tumble off a ledge.

(Compare: Swimming gets +3 for entering water intentionally. Same idea.)

This applies to the roll to subtract 5 yards from effective falling damage, and Catfall’s roll to halve damage.

Extra detail for sudden, “surprise” falls: Give the Acrobatics, DX, etc. roll to lessen falling damage ±2 for Combat Reflexes/Paralysis. (This is in place of the above +3 for an intentional fall.)

239

2022-09-27: Some GMs ask whether pouncing creatures should risk damage from the pounce’s fall/collision.

Yes, probably. But to keep things simple, ignore it.

Better yet: Assume Catfall negates risk for reasonable pounces, and give that trait to natural pouncers.

Restated: Catfall, or a required roll without Catfall, negates danger if a pounce is a fall of 5 yards or less. (Pounces from higher up may remain dangerous.)

If a pouncer does have to roll to avoid falling damage, consider yesterday’s idea of a +3 bonus for an intentional, planned fall (which would be the case for most pounces).

240

2022-09-28: A flying tackle or pounce earns the attacker +4 TH, beyond what a normal slam or attack gets. Why? I don’t rightly know.

Maybe I’m missing something, but I assume it’s for AOA (Determined), meaning no defense during or right after the attack.

“No defense” isn’t in the rules (that I see), but given the nature of a flying tackle/pounce, it seems sensible.

If a pounce is from up high, “Attacking from Above” would also apply: -2 TH (but +4 for AOA, so net +2); target suffers -2 AD; pouncer gets no defense (because of AOA). That all seems reasonable to me.

241

2022-09-29: For today’s entry, I had planned to cleverly suggest a Breakfall technique for any skills used to reduce damage from falls – until confirming now that GURPS Martial Arts already has that. So today’s tip is “Go buy Martial Arts.” : )

MA also includes damaging judo throws. Breakfall mitigates these and can even let the subject land in a crouch, not eating dirt.

Another point of note: MA’s Breakfall lets Judo and Wrestling work as well as Acrobatics in reducing damage from a throw or a fall off a ledge.

I’ll add that if you also let Jumping break falls (per this week’s earlier entries), it too would be eligible for the Breakfall technique.

And let’s add Sumo Wrestling as a skill supporting the technique. Those big boys spend lots of time getting thrown into the dirt.

Thank you for dropping by during Fall Week, seven days of posts on a topic of some gravity.

(For one more related item on realistic damage from falls, see Entry No. 4, or just head to this blog post: link)

242

2022-09-30: No need to get fancy with GMing locks and traps, but should you want to:

Before a DX-based Traps/Lockpicking roll to spring a trap/lock, roll vs IQ-based skill to assess the workings. Failure means -5 to the DX-based skill roll.

(Difficulty mods may differ for the initial IQ roll and the subsequent DX roll; GM call.)

The idea is to use an IQ-based roll to grok the mechanism, then a DX-based roll to deal with it. It’s inspired by the -5 penalty on treating disorders without a Diagnosis or Poisons roll to first understand the malady.

Naturally, an added IQ-based check makes life tougher for thieves. Then again, fantasy thieves typically combine good DX and IQ. This rule helps ensure that thieves, and not DX-only fighters or IQ-only wizards, are the best equipped to deal with locks.

Use this roll only for new encountered locks. If all dungeon doors use the same lock type, one successful picking would eliminate the IQ roll for remaining doors.


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Header image: Posting tweets the old way.

Source: “Georg Liebe – Der Soldat” 1899
Woodcut from Prüss, Strassburg (1488) Montevilla

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