Daily Houserule tweets: October 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:

20220203040506070809101112202301List of all pages


Entries No. 243 to 273

243

2022-10-01: Immovable Stance has an all-or-nothing effect: you take full knockback or none at all.

For varied effect, don’t apply “-1 per yd of potential KB”. Instead, reduce KB by yards equal to margin of success (min 1 yd reduction for MoS 0).

The mechanics are similar and there’s no difference in difficulty, but the outcome will be a varying amount of knockback resistance. (Including, of course, zero knockback on a good roll.)

244

2022-10-02: DF/DFRPG: The little-used Tell Position spell is no replacement for Mapmaker, but it can measure the position of every wall, tree, hill, etc. in sight.

Let skill 15+ (no cost to cast!) add an automatic +1 to Cartography for accurate mapping.

I’m avoiding a complementary skill approach here, because repeatedly rolling vs the spell to map rooms is a bore.

Let’s just say that Tell Position at a nice, fatigue-free level of 15+ functions as a no-hassle aid to mapmaking.

(Bonus: the spell’s available to druids, too.)

245

2022-10-03: DFRPG doesn’t include GURPS’ options for Extra Effort in Combat. (Lack of space?)

They’re a great fit for the game, though. Choose from the trio on B357, or from the expanded offerings on Action 2: Exploits p37 or Martial Arts p131.

To help fuel these feats, Heroic Reserve (Energy Reserve (Heroic)) [3/level] is another good carry-over from GURPS. This energy reserve is perfect for any of the warrior types (though I wouldn’t restrict it from any of the professions).

246

2022-10-04: Crushing attacks may cause knockback; cutting attacks may do so if they don’t penetrate DR.

All reasonable.

But I see no reason why impaling/piercing impacts, too, shouldn’t cause KB when failing to defeat DR (subject to GM call, natch).

Restated: When that giant’s spear slams super-thick armor but fails to impale, sure, go ahead and let it cause KB.

(Then again, if you want to get movie-style cinematic, go ahead and let cutting, impaling, and piercing attacks cause KB even when they do penetrate armor!)

247

2022-10-05: A weapon parry vs an attacking limb, bite, slam, etc. allows a “free” chance to injure the attacking part.

That’s fine, but this opportunistic attack shouldn’t be as strong as a real attack. Halve damage for such parry-based “attacks”.

This common (?) house rule may be welcome in a dungeon game, where monsters typically attack skilled, armed PCs with claws and teeth. Such actions should be risky for the monster, sure, but PCs should have to launch actual attacks if they really want to lop off parts!

PCs also appreciate this rule when they need to make risky unarmed attacks against sword-wielding foes.

248

2022-10-06: GURPS’ Artificer, Outdoorsman, & Smooth Operator Talents appear in GURPS LITE at full cost, but diminished by LITE’s pared-down skill list.

Turn these into new Talents for any game:

  • Mechanically Inclined [5]
  • Survivalist [5]
  • Smooth Talker [10]

Just a name change, yes, but it prevents the existence of dual conflicting versions of the Artificer, Outdoorsman, & Smooth Operator Talents.

The newly renamed LITE versions gain proper costs for their coverage – and serve as three new, low-cost Talents for any GURPS game.

249

2022-10-07: Using GURPS LITE? A few simple borrowings from the full game can add spice.

#1: LITE gives Karate its damage bonus, but forgets Brawling’s bonus. Toss it in and make the brawlers happy.

250

2022-10-08: Using GURPS LITE? A few simple borrowings from the full game can add spice.

#2: LITE mentions “many types of Survival” skill, but doesn’t give any specifics. Bringing in the specific types from full GURPS is simple enough.

251

2022-10-09: Using GURPS LITE? A few simple borrowings from the full game can add spice.

#3: LITE wisely keeps its advantages list short. But if you’re willing to add just 2 more, Claws & DR are simple, and useful for animals, monsters, & non-human races.

252

2022-10-10: Using GURPS LITE? A few simple borrowings from the full game can add spice.

#4: If adding just one more skill to LITE, I’d recommend Professional skill. It’s a simple addition that brings Wildcard-like versatility to many characters.

253

2022-10-11: Using GURPS LITE? A few simple borrowings from the full game can add spice.

#5: Hit locations are overall too fiddly for a LITE game. But allowing skull & vitals hits, or even just vitals, is simple—and lets PCs put high combat skill to use.

Without the hit location of vitals, some thrust impaling weapons are hopelessly inferior to swung weapons.

Bringing just this one hit location into the game makes knives, rapiers, etc. meaningful, and brings “where to strike?” decision-making to combat.

254

2022-10-12: Using GURPS LITE? A few simple borrowings from the full game can add spice.

#6: Tons of combat rules are best left out of LITE. But 2 simple rules—multiple parries/blocks & Deceptive Attack—fix play balance issues that can vex LITE combatants.

255

2022-10-13: Using GURPS LITE? A few simple borrowings from the full game can add spice.

#7: LITE includes encumbrance, and offers fencing skills and Karate, but neglects the encumbrance penalty on these skills. Re-introducing it is fair (and simple).

256

2022-10-14: Using GURPS LITE? A few simple borrowings from the full game can add spice.

#8: LITE neglects the defense bonus for retreat, a big difference from GURPS. Reintroduce it, w/ “unhampered footwork and space (GM call)” as a requisite condition.

LITE uses unmapped combat, so the rule equates to assumed retreats at all times—except when the GM revokes it for stun, bad footing, being grappled, kneeling/sitting, or any GM-decreed lack of room to maneuver.

It’s fair & simple, and spices up karate & fencing combat.

And I think that’s it for all these LITE-related suggestions! See these and more in “Books we want: An updated GURPS LITE“: link

257

2022-10-15: GURPS offers axes and maces built for hurling, but there’s no throwing pick.

Is a throwing pick a cinematic, unrealistic weapon? Maybe so – which makes it right at home in fantasy.

Sort-of extrapolating from the DFRPG weapon table (CFs won’t work neatly here):

Take a hatchet, small axe, or axe. Add $25 to make it a pick, another $10 to make the pick throwable.

(As usual: Picks may get stuck, but more easily target gaps in armor.)

Throwing is arguably a smart way to use picks. That messy business of picks getting stuck in foes doesn’t matter when you’re throwing the things around!

258

2022-10-16: Continuing from yesterday: Want even more weapons of dubious usefulness?

There are several batons, clubs, and similar shortish sticks in the game, but few long sticks. How about long wooden swords, etc. for training or for low-cash combat?

For knives/swords, you can borrow the wooden weapon rule from MA p234: Dam is cr; cost is 5-10%; other stats unchanged.

Suggested tweaks:

1) Use the 10% cost if basic hits are unchanged (per MA). Or use the 5% cost with this option: Reduce thr dam by 1 (for wooden “point”).

2) MA appears to assume crafted, sparring-quality weaponry. Crude versions (from scrounged sticks, etc.) should also have Cheap (-0.6 CF) and/or Poor Balance (-0.6 CF). (Cheap and Poor Balance combine to minimum CF -0.8, per Low-Tech p59.)

3) The cost savings for all-wooden axes, polearms, etc. should be much less—they’re largely wood to begin with. Suggestion: Use 60% cost if the weapon has an impaling point that retains basic hits (per MA). Use 50% cost if it has no point or if its point’s dam is reduced by 1.

259

2022-10-17: A fiddly little thing:

Per the rules, cutting attacks can cause knockback when they fail to penetrate armor.

That’s fine. But damage bonuses from Fine/Very Fine weapon quality shouldn’t figure into basic hits for knockback calculation.

(This same goes for knockback from impaling and piercing blows stopped by armor, if you use my suggestion in Entry No. 246.)

Should you ignore this minor nitpick, though, I won’t tell. : )

260

2022-10-18: Explosion damage drops off fast with distance. (The dam from, say, a 3d fireball explosion is minor at a mere 1 yd distance, negligible at 2 yds.)

That’s fine. But for more effect, double explosion dam for cinematic knockback purposes.

With this, a 3d explosion will likely cause a couple yards of KB if in the character’s hex, maybe a yard of KB if in an adjacent hex. Still pretty modest from a cinematic point of view, but the more KB the merrier, I say. (A relic of playing HERO Champions, maybe.)

261

2022-10-19: DF/DFRPG: Doomchildren! I love the psycho Chucky vibe & the explosion thing.

But “one solid hit will kill them” is true only if “solid” means 16+ dam. In fact, Berserk means they’re unlikely to die & blow up until lots more damage.

For a big change, have ’em explode on dam of HP or more (i.e., a single injury of 8+ dam), and watch packed hordes go off like popcorn.

Frag dam is the key. Every doom-comrade within 5 yards gets hit for 1d6 cut; any ‘child rolling a 6 (=9 dam) goes boom on the spot.

Use chain reactions strategically—and with caution.

(And feel free to experiment w/ the boom trigger. Use “major wound” instead, and a mere 5 dam hit = boom. That’s a roll of 4, 5, or 6 on the frag dam roll! Might be overdoing things…)

A related thread: link

262

2022-10-20: DF/DFRPG: Tips for massed doomchildren:

  1. Keep initial hordes small & spaced, to get a feel for encounters.
  2. Freely tweak the condition that causes explosion, to get a pleasing level of booms & chain reactions (see yesterday’s entry).
  3. Simplify:
    • Assume any hit that explodes a ‘child doesn’t knock it back (it blows up first)
    • Assume Berserk is automatic once combat is entered. (That saves on rolling defenses.)
    • Don’t bother w/ KO. Berserk ‘children fight until blowed up.
  4. Most important: Keep the booms & chain reactions loose & frantic. (Even ignore accumulated HP loss if you like; any injury simply does or doesn’t cause explosion.)

Use fast-paced GM fiat to blow up a ton of ‘children whenever it’d be awesome. (There are always more, right?)

263

2022-10-21: DF/DFRPG: Following up on last 2 entries:

For quick play, here’s a hack for effects of doomchild explosions on surrounding ‘children.

Assumption: A ‘child blows up on a big wound as suggested earlier, e.g., major wound (5 dam) or HP (8 dam).

Effects of a Doom-plosion on Doom-Colleagues, Based on Distance:

  • Same hex: Boom. (“Take me with ya, Bob!”)
  • 1-hex distance: 1d6 ex dam* and (unless the ‘child explodes) 1 yd KB
  • 2-hex: 1d2 ex*; no KB
  • 3-hex: 1 pt ex*
  • 4-5-hex: 0 ex*
  • 6+-hex: Safe!

*Plus 1d cut from fragging

264

2022-10-22: DF/DFRPG: Several final thoughts on gaming doomchildren:

1) Let Hidden Lore reveal some trick that kills doomchildren without exploding. Attacks to the eye? Ice spells/powers that freeze the little buggers? Any better ideas?

2) Besides Berserk (and, well, being evil), no listed trait demands instant murder rage. The scariest demon kids just want to play “games” (add Sadism?). Like hide and shriek.

It’s “fun” til the PCs do anything that’d trigger a toddler tantrum. Then it’s all berserk murder.

3) Let an injured ‘child jitter & smoke & hiss like a bomb about to blow. It’s a fun visual (& gives PCs a little warning if a first encounter).

4) There should be something valuable delvers can extract from an immobilized ‘child. Roll vs DX-based Surgery (failure = boom).

5) A berserk ‘child might readily & gleefully stab itself as a glorious way to take out victims. (Disarming removes this danger, as Berserk means it reverts to punching/biting, not rearmament.)

6) “Won’t PCs find ways to use immobilized ‘children as cheap bombs?” I hope so!

7) If a PC is hit by multiple chain-reaction explosions from the same direction, figure knockback from the explosions’ combined damage. (If this launches the PC into short-range flight, everyone at the table wins.)

265

2022-10-23: DF/DFRPG: Dragons have remarkably low ST.

They’re plenty tough & scary, sure, so I’m not saying it’s a problem…

But still: A SM+3 elephant has ST 45, while a SM+3 dragon has a puny ST 25—the same ST as a draft horse (which GURPS calls SM+1)!

If this matters to you, boost dragons’ ST (or just add Load ST so there’s no mucking w/ dam) to grant SM+3, +4, & +5 dragons effective ST scores of at least, oh, 35, 60, & 80, respectively.

(I notice the giant ape, ice wyrm, & slugbeast looking this way with great interest.)

266

2022-10-24: DF Monsters 5 pp18-19 has rolls to generate # of arms/legs for demons w/ lots of either.

Tweaks if you like:

  1. Let die “explode”: On a 6, boost the count by 5 & add another d6.
  2. If final # is odd, roll d6: 1-3 = “round up” to even pair.

Use for arms & legs alike, for demons w/ too many of either or both.

To clarify: There’s nothing wrong w/ the simple rolls in the book! These tweaks merely:

  1. Let the roll generate even crazier numbers.
  2. Steer limb number toward even pairs, so odd numbers become… odder.

Oh, if you don’t have it, go add DF 5: Demons to your collection. It’s a useful & fun read, and your purchase is a vote for more tomes detailing monster types.

(Such books are great sources of monster tidbits to reward Hidden Lore, Psychology, & Physiology rolls.)

267

2022-10-25: DF/DFRPG: I’ve earlier lamented the way “mundane” monsters aren’t addressed by Hidden Lore, Physiology, and Psychology skills.

Not a big problem, and I don’t suggest, say, Physiology (Mundane) (too broad!). But some versions seem warranted:

Specifically: Creatures with varied and rich backgrounds like lycanthropes or dragons (incl. related slorn, wyverns, etc.) arguably deserve versions of the three skills.

Psychology (Monstrous humanoids), covering orc-kin, trolls, ogres, etc., also makes sense to me.

These might cross-default to Naturalist, etc., meaning the stand-alone skills aren’t essential for adventurers.

But even then: Specialized skills to better define true experts on dragons? Sure! Bring it on. (Followed by a dragon-slayer professional template, please.)

268

2022-10-26: DF/DFRPG: Three skills—Hidden Lore, Psychology, Physiology—is lots of points just to say “I know this monster well”.

Idea: Simplify w/ an Expert skill (“Fae Lore”, etc.) covering all 3 only for delving purposes (intimidation, weaknesses, etc.).

Let me note: I like these 3 skills in the game, and the ability for a PC to focus on one or another.

But following GURPS’ lead, Psychology (to pick one) is a skill extending to clinical diagnosis and treatment of disorders, stuff far outside delvers’ usage. Hence the idea.

Naturally, the setting is free to redefine Psychology/Physiology as narrow “just the combat stuff” skills, instead of GURPS‘ broad academic skills. But even then, the high cost per skill means almost no one buys high levels.

A 3-in-1 “Expert skill” approach encourages purchase and simplifies PCs, if you want to pare down skills.

269

2022-10-27: DF/DFRPG: Per yesterday, Psychology and Physiology skills are expensive. Make sure PCs get good benefit from them. In addition to printed uses:

  • Let both skills complement rolls to identify monsters (as behavior & anatomy provide clues).

Also:

Psychology:

  • Use as a complementary skill in searches for hidden lairs, loot, etc.
  • Use as a complement to Interrogation/Intimidation/Exorcism, Tactics/Strategy, or Observation/Shadowing vs creature. (Ex: Predicting a monster’s approach route aids Tactics roll to set an ambush.)

Physiology:

  • Know what poison to use. (GM tip: It’s fun to vary effects by monster: “Dinomen are immune to Poison X, but resist Y at -4”)
  • Roughly gauge HP status (e.g., key thresholds of 1/3 HP, 0 HP, -1xHP, etc.)
  • Reduce the Pressure Points penalty vs monsters (Entry No. 191)

Most importantly: Listen carefully to players’ ideas as they scheme to gain advantage from these skills. Be generous in accommodating those ideas, even if the benefits you grant are modest.

270

2022-10-28: DF/DFRPG: Psychology, Physiology, & Hidden Lore are the “Big 3” skills for monster info. But:

Player: “I don’t have those. Can’t Occultism give me a little monster info?”

My take as GM: Sure, it yields info—but too much lore, not too little!

That is: Yes, Occultism can act as a cheap stand-in for the Big 3, but it serves up lots of generalities from a ton of legends & beliefs. Too much info!

When PCs rely on Occultism for monster lore, dump out a heap of info & let them figure out what (if any) bits are true.

Restated once more:

Occultism focuses on the people side of monsters: people’s beliefs & stories.

The Big 3 focus on the monsters themselves, narrowing down vast lore to what’s true, with added detail unknown to Occultism’s tales & superstitions.

271

2022-10-29: Give some dumb, programmed, or hidebound monsters preset combat behaviors that PCs can learn & exploit.

Ex:

  • Monster will flee upon losing half its HP
  • Monster will return intimidation w/ intimidation w/out attacking (until it’s attacked)
  • Monster’s attacks are predictably determined by what happened on its previous turn: AOA (Determined) if it failed its TH roll (or more cautious Telegraphic Attack if it’s also injured); Deceptive Attack if foe successfully defended; AOD if it took a major wound; etc.

Of course, the GM can change the actions whenever it makes sense (that’s what GMs are for). But some degree of programmed response can be fun for players to figure out.

(Note that Berserk also creates programmed behavior, if particularly simple and messy behavior.)

272

2022-10-30: DF/DFRPG: I wouldn’t let rules lawyers back vampires and werewolves into corners w/ garlic and wolfsbane, smugly counting on Dread to reduce foes to harmless Do Nothing status. Let a monster cornered by Dread lash out with Wild Swings at half dam.

Or something along those lines—some desperate actions to keep PCs on their toes.

These are vampires and werewolves, baddies that no one should take for granted. Garlic and wolfsbane hit them hard, sure, but let’s leave these apex monsters a touch of self-respect.

Reach still matters, though! Keep out of reach of those wild swings, and the cornered beast is as good as helpless. (But if that again turns a vamp into the subject of player jokes… surprise ’em. Let the monster make a Will roll and pay 1 FP to make a crazed Step + Wild Swing.)

273

2022-10-31: Legend says a lantern carved from a pumpkin reveals invisible spirits when the boundary between worlds is thin.

Game effect: At GM-set times & places, spirits are fully visible within light radius; dimly visible (-3 TH) within another 2x radius.

A 2-lb (carved) jack-o-lantern holds a candle; 6-lb, a full lantern. Knot a handle from rope.

Legend also depicts heroes capturing flaming skull spirits in carved pumpkins! Wield a 6-lb+ squash (reach C, Min ST=wgt+3) 2-handed at DX-4 or Brawling -4; take -5 for the skull spirit’s SM. Cap it fast!

Other legends ascribe such abilities only to blessed carved squash. (Maybe a dash of holy water will do?)

Finally, legend (which really yaks a lot sometimes) hints that some malevolent spirits viciously target the wielders of such jack-o-lanterns. Be careful out there.

And that wraps up 13 straight entries related to demons, dragons, and other monsters (though there have been many others earlier).

May your treasure quests tonight yield more than hauls of candy corn (value $0; repels everything).


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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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