Wednesday, May 1, 2013

My character died, so I created a new one

I took a gamble and it didn't pay off, so now I have to try something else.

The Experiment

My character in Nate's online game, Brother Michel, was always something of an experiment. When our group got together and starting making characters, we have various innovative concepts but no wizard and only one Holy Warrior. I firmly believe that all delving bands need at least two people with healing capability and at least one wizard for utility spells (Shape Earth, Analyze Magic) and to kill diffuse enemies with area effect attacks. So the experiment was, can a single character do both roles well?

In practice, the answer was pretty much "no". Although wizards and clerics have a lot of synergy, having to buy Magery twice (once for Power Investiture and once straight) was crippling expensive. It wasn't cost-efficient to buy high levels of Cleric! or Wizard!, since more IQ raised both of them and all my spells. I couldn't really afford Energy Reserve for both power sources, and it wasn't obvious which one I should favor. Although I had a lot of utility, I burnt through paut potions like nobodies' business and still had to spend a lot of time resting.

(As an aside, I think I screwed up in the design. As a cleric, there's a temptation to be a decent second-line warrior, so I picked up a glaive and dumped a lot of points in it so I could get the Grip and Reach Mastery perks. I think I would have been much better off being a non-combatant with a staff, which would have freed up a lot of points. I almost never contributed anything to combat by direct damage).

The Gamble

All that said, I think Michel was a decent enough member of the group and was certainly capable of contributing, both in and out of combat. So while I would have preferred to have a dedicated wizard and a dedicated cleric, the combo of the two covered the bases. That wasn't the gamble.

The gamble was not upgrading my el-cheapo armor and hoping to find some magical full plate. I knew that we were playing a Pathfinder adventure, and I hoped we'd find some good armor at some point. I bought the best armor I could afford out of the gate, but since we were on fixed budgets and using the Low-Tech armor rules (with no cheap magic!), that meant a cheap Plate and Mail breastplate with a cheap light mail backside. Combined with my half-dwarven  tough skin, I had a reasonable DR5 from the front and DR3 against most attacks in the back. Don't get stabbed in the back, that was the plan.

Of course, we started fighting ninja. In the original adventure, I think the ninja would be dangerous but not too awful - they'd get a lot of sneak attacks for minor extra damage, but they wouldn't have insanely high hit chances. In GURPS, the ninja were murder, popping up behind our characters and making all-out attacks into our vitals. Michel had gone down from vital hits on two previous occasions, so I guess it was just a matter of time.

In this case, Michel got stabbed from behind. His weak armor failed to significantly absorb the damage, and he failed his first death check and was mortally wounded. While Brother Cadmus can heal injury, he's not a surgeon, so there was no one to fix the problem. (Kevin offered to have his character default Surgery off First Aid and use her shortsword as an improvised tool, but I declined.)

So now Brother Michel is dead. It's a little ironic, since I based him on Brother Anheuser, a half-dwarf wizard/cleric in Michael Walewski's D&D game way back in 1991, and Brother Anheuser is the only other character of mine that I can remember dying in play.

The Problem of Roles

So I need a new character for Nate's game. But the delving band still needs a utility wizard and a cleric. I noodled over this a bit last night, and came to some conclusions:

  • Demonologists and necromancers are in no way utility wizards, and I don't want to play one anyway.
  • Elementalists are just pared down wizards without the utility of Knowledge spells.
  • Shamans suck, and while my revised shamans are better, they still lack some of the useful Knowledge spells.
    • I should fix that.
  • There's no point in playing a wizard-cleric again.
  • Since I'm the main person paying attention to tactics in the group, I want to play someone with some legitimate tactical skill.

Someone suggested Mystic Knight, but Mystic Knights are blasters and warriors, not utility wizards. On the other hand, a lot of utility spells are cast out of combat, and Nate's houserules on magic make it somewhat viable to cast non-combat spells with low skill levels. I mulled this over a bit more, and decided that a Mystic Knight/Wizard would make a reasonable out-of-combat utility wizard, while still having a lot of front line combat ability, tactical leadership, and diffuse-foe blasting ability.

I played around with the idea and whipped up something. His current background is a bit vague, deliberately so. I'm going with the idea that the character was a Tianese bushi, serving the Amatatsu family in Minkai way back in the backstory of the adventure, decades ago. He was sent ahead when the Amatatsu family fled through Kalsgard, captured by ninja, and placed in suspended animation. His memories have faded over the decades, and now he really remembers very little of just about anything. This is a convenient dodge so that Nate doesn't have to spoil a bunch of the backstory that we'd otherwise learn through future adventures.

Here's the character write-up I sent to Nate, modulo some tweaks in the quirks I made this morning. I still need to clean up the equipment list a bit, and there may be some more tweaks based on some questions I have for Nate, but this is where I'm starting.

Shiba Ujimitsu, The Failed Student

310 points
ST 14 [40]; DX 14 [80]; IQ 11* [20]; HT 14 [40].
Damage 1d/2d; BL 39 lb; HP 14 [0]; Will 11 [0]; Per 11 [0]; FP 14 [0].
Basic Speed 7.00 [0]; Basic Move 7 [0]; Dodge 10.
5'6"; 160 lbs.

Social Background

TL: 3 [0]. Languages: Taldan (Accented/None) [0]; Tianese (Native) [0]; Trade Tongue (Broken/None) [0].


Destiny (Minor) [5]; Extra Arms 1 (Force Extension; Magic; Weapon Mount) [6]; Imbue 3 (Magical) [36]; Magery 0 [5]; Magery 3 [30].
Perks: Grip Mastery (Broadsword; _Free); Quick-Sheathe (Sword; _Free); Sacrificial Parry (Broadsword; _Free); Shield-Wall Training (_Free); Strongbow (_Free); Style Familiarity (Knightly Mounted Combat - Early Medieval; _Free); Style Familiarity (Kyujutsu; _Free). [7]


Chummy [-5]; Code of Honor (Xia) [-10]; Disciplines of Faith (Arcane Rituals) [-10]; Sense of Duty (Adventuring companions) [-5]; Sense of Duty (Current Client) [-2].
Quirks: Distinctive Feature: Eyes glow and emit glowing smoke when exciting; Distinctive Feature: His words appear as Tianese glyphs as he speaks; Social drinker; _Unused Quirk 4; _Unused Quirk 5. [-5]


Alchemy/TL3 (VH) IQ-2 [2]-9; Annihilating Weapon (Broadsword) (VH) DX [1]-14†; Armoury/TL3 (Body Armor) (A) IQ+2 [0]-13; Armoury/TL3 (Melee Weapons) (A) IQ+2 [0]-13; Blinding Defense (Shield) (VH) DX [1]-14†; Bow (A) DX+1 [4]-15; Boxing (A) DX+2 [0]-16; Broadsword (A) DX+2 [0]-16; Carousing (E) HT [1]-14; Climbing (A) DX-1 [1]-13; Fast-Draw (Arrow) (E) DX [1]-14; Fast-Draw (Sword) (E) DX [1]-14; Guided Weapon (Bow) (VH) DX [1]-14†; Intimidation (A) Will+2 [0]-13; Knight! (WC) DX+2 [48]-16; Leadership (A) IQ+2 [0]-13; Conic Blast (Bow) (VH) DX [1]-14†; Occultism (A) IQ-1 [1]-10; Penetrating Strike (Bow) (VH) DX [1]-14†; Penetrating Strike (Broadsword) (VH) DX [1]-14†; Project Blow (Broadsword) (VH) DX [1]-14†; Savoir-Faire (High Society) (E) IQ [1]-11; Shattershot (Bow) (VH) DX [1]-14†; Shield (Shield) (E) DX+2 [0]-16; Stealth (A) DX-1 [1]-13; Tactics (H) IQ+2 [0]-13; Telescoping Weapon (Broadsword) (VH) DX [1]-14†; Thaumatology (VH) IQ+1 [2]-12†; Vampiric Weapon (Broadsword) (VH) DX [1]-14†; Wrestling (A) DX+2 [0]-16.


Analyze Magic (H) IQ+1 [1]-12†; Apportation (H) IQ+1 [1]-12†; Continual Light (H) IQ+1 [1]-12†; Create Air (H) IQ+1 [1]-12†; Detect Magic (H) IQ+1 [1]-12†; Grease (H) IQ+1 [1]-12†; Haste (H) IQ+1 [1]-12†; Identify Spell (H) IQ+1 [1]-12†; Light (H) IQ+1 [1]-12†; Purify Air (H) IQ+1 [1]-12†; Shape Air (H) IQ+1 [1]-12†; Walk on Air (H) IQ+1 [1]-12†.


* Conditional -1 from 'Chummy' when alone.
† Includes +3 from 'Magery'.


1× Dai-Kyu (ST 16; $900; 4 lb);
1× Katana (Balanced; $3250; 5 lb);
1× Kite Shield (Balanced; Fine; $1680; 13.5 lb);
1× White Harness consisting of
  • 1× Light Plate Armor Components (Forearms, Feet, Hands, Shins, Back Thighs, Back Torso; Advanced; ~Fortify (All) (+1); ~Lighten (All) (x3/4); $3500; 10.05 lb);
  • 1× Medium Plate Armor Components (Shoulders, Upper Arms, Neck, Front Knees, Front Thighs, Front Torso; Advanced; ~Fortify (All) (+1); ~Lighten (All) (x3/4); $5150; 15 lb);
  • 1× Medium Plate Helm (Head; Advanced; ~Fortify (All) (+1); ~Lighten (All) (x3/4); $1650; 4.5 lb);
  • 2× Medium Plate Vitals Reinforcement (Front Vitals and Back Vitals; Advanced; ~Lighten (All) (x3/4); $700; 1.5 lb);
1× Potion Belt ($60; 1 lb).


None: Basic Lift 39 lb. Ground Move 7 yd; Water Move 1 yd. Dodge 10.
[Light]: Basic Lift 78 lb. Ground Move 5 yd; Water Move 1 yd. Dodge 9.


Parry: 11 (Knight!). Block: 11 (Shield (Shield)). Dodge: 9/10.
Armor: Eyes: DR 7; HP 2. Neck: DR 7. Skull: DR 9. Face: DR 7. Torso: DR 7 (13 vitals). Groin: DR 7. Arms: DR 7 (4 forearms); HP 8. Hands: DR 4; HP 5. Legs: DR 4 (7 front thighs); HP 8. Feet: DR 4; HP 5.

Weapons Attacks

Katana • 1H Swing (17): 2d+1 cut. Reach 1, 2 or 1H Thrust (17): 1d+1 imp. Reach 1.
Kite Shield • Bash (17): 1d cr. Reach 1 or Rush (17): slam+3 cr. Reach 1.
Dai-Kyu ST 16 (15): 1d+4 imp. Acc 3. Range 320 yd / 400 yd. RoF 1. Shots 1(2).

Comments on the Design

One problem in GURPS is that people with shields generally can't use bows, because it takes too long to drop a bow and ready a shield. Shiba here gets around that problem by having a magical third arm to hold his shield. Ideally, in a ranged combat, he'll snipe a bit (using Guided Weapon (Bow), Shattershot (Bow), Conic Attack (Bow)) while covering the Scout with his shield. He's also fairly effective at killing diffuse opponents, because Conic Attack (Bow) lets him make area effect impaling attacks. Diffuse opponents generally don't have much armor, and 1d+4 imp averages 15 injury. He can also throw in a Shattershot to add some shrapnel to the effect (arguably; I need a ruling from Nate).

As a melee fighter, he's limited by so-so skill for a front-line fighter, but Projected Penetrating strikes give him a nice opening attack (2d+1 (2) cu damage at up to 10 yards...) I also need a ruling from Nate as to whether I can treat Projected Strikes as a ranged attack for ranged imbuements, in which case I'll start cutting people up with Projected Conic Blasts from my sword.

The equipment is nothing too special, except for the use of Pectorals to give me DR13 for the vitals. Nate has OK'd doing this, though it's unclear if it's book legal. You can't normally layer non-flexible armor but I guess we could make it Heavy Mail at the loss of 1 DR if someone wanted to argue the point.

I made sure he had plenty of Destiny points - 1 general purpose and 4 from Knight!. No more backstabs, thank you very much, and it's not like they'd be all that effective.

Obvious improvements over time: more Magery, Energy Reserve, the Recover Energy spell, possibly a gizmo so he always has at least 1 Paut bottle/session, Combat Reflexes, more imbuements, more DX, more ST, possibly more Will and/or Perception. We'll see how it goes.

I'll certainly have experience when I get around to writing "The Effectiveness of Mystic Knights" in Dungeon Fantasy, though it's helpful to see how two or three different people play a character before writing one of those articles.


  1. I think the section on Duplex Plate would cover you as far as the extra armor over the vitals goes, and having a really thick section on the spine and over the center of the ribcage just makes sense in light of penetrating weapons, etc.

    I don't see Armor Mastery on your list of perks; it makes it a nice adder to throw on Lightened Ornate Padding for a fairly low-cost adder of +2 DR, and nixes the DX penalty you take from doing so. I'm glad you took Shield Wall training; maybe if there are THREE of us with Shield Wall, we might actually form one one day.

    HT 14 rocks. That's a good buy.

    1. I think the reference shouldn't be Duplex plate, but grand-guard (LT109) - it's an extra $100 for the connectors. I can live with that for a fair amount of ninja-be-gone.

      I'm already pretty deep in Perks. I could give up Strongbow, but I think a better plan is just to wait until the end of the adventure and add it to my "things to buy." And buy it as Armor Mastery (DF Powerups p29) for the +3 DR. Also, I'm out of money =/

      HT14 gives me Basic Speed 7 and an extra point of Fatigue. Even with a 24 point Power Item, I expect to be going through Paut and Fatigue like crazy, so that was pretty much necessary. I mean, a single Guided Shattershot Shockwave arrow costs 3FP just to do 1d+4 im ex + 2d cu shrapnel. That's pricey! (It'll also clear out ninjas, air elementals, and other assorted threats like no one's business. No more mucking around with Explosive Fireball for me!)

    2. I think my enchanted padding was only a few hundred bucks. Cadmus can spot you; in fact, he's under a Holy Pact to do just that. If he doesn't have a need for money, and a companion does, well, he'd buy you what you need.

      Cadmus doesn't make nearly enough use of FP in combat. Need to do more Heroic Charge and Mighty Blow, probably.

    3. Yeah, that's definitely a series of events that will occur AFTER we leave Ravenscraeg, at which point I expect to have more money. There's the stuff I'm going to have on hand for the first fight, and then the massive amount of upgrades I'm going to get with our loot from freaky-ogre-lady and our accumulated CP for this entire adventure. So no underpadding for now, but definitely an upgrade.

  2. I smell some L5R playing, based on the name ;)

    I see no Multishot! That imbuement is so damn good that you should take it straight away. Have you considered defensive imbuements? Nothing like doubling your DR against that attack you can not block... Also, Knight! is for, well, knights, and I know I should have defined what Mystic Knight! does... something to add to my to do list! Anyway, either one should open you to having Imbuements on it, as it's rules legal to have them on Knightly Weapons for example.

    Mystic Knights/Wizards are a natural combination, as are Wizards/Mystic Knights. Be careful though, as it may turn to be too efficient ;)

    1. Oh, and I know it does fit your samurai feel better, but IMHO, thrown axes are sick for Mystic Knights...

    2. Multishot is only so good for me. I'm not very skilled with a bow (skill 15, no Heroic Archer) and I wouldn't be skilled with Mulitshot (skill 14). So I'd have a 75% chance of adding +3 shots with the bow, and those shots would be unlikely to hit past ~7 yards. It's on the improvement plan, but I don't think I need it out of the gate.

      Similarly, I'm mostly steering clear of defensive imbuements for now. I think most of them aren't all that great, and at skill 14 and no Combat Reflexes, I'd only be pulling them off 50% of the time. I do have Blinding Shield to mess with enemy archers, but that may get dropped for more Scattershot shenigans. I love Scattershot.

      There's nothing that says samurai can't use throwing axes, but 2d+2 cu isn't that much better than 1d+4 cu I'd get from willowleaf arrows, and arrows can't be parried. Again, if I want to hurt someone at range, it's usually going to be a Guided Scattershot arrow.

      My real question right now is whether I should get Dancing Weapon (Two Handed Sword) and use that to get my sword out of my hand when I want to use the bow, or go with the current plan of Reverse Grip Quick-Sheathe. I have about a 50% chance of being able to put my sword away instantly and draw and nock an arrow, going up to 80% if I spend a Knight point to guarantee the Reverse Grip.

  3. So Nate published his house rules for Imbuements, and it's a mixed bag. I can do things like Project Blow (Knight!), which is good. But his house rules include a ban on Combination skills (so no Guided Scattershot Shockwave arrows) and this bit:

    "Instead of having you roll once for each imbuement skill you use on a single attack, we'll have you make one imbuement skill roll before the attack roll. Cap is your lowest imbuement skill used in the combo, -2 to the roll per skill being used in that attack after the first.

    Also, instead of having to take a -5 penalty to use an Imbuement skill for no FP cost, it simply costs you 1 FP less per 5 MoS. If you're using an attack with two skills and make it by 10, it's free, make it by 5, it costs 1 FP, etc."

    Until I can scrounge up another 20 points to get Magery 5, that's going to make combining 3+ imbuements too unlikely to bother trying.

  4. I wrote a damned comment and then it got et.

    Reprise: would you say that (assuming Staver gets ninja'd to the spleen one too many times) the gap in the party line-up would still be "ranged" or would a secondary (or primary) healer be a better choice? I'm suspecting his chances of getting fatally wounded have gone up significantly, with one less healer around to rescue him when shanked.

    1. My expectation that Shiba is going to be a primary melee guy with some ranged support. He's certainly going to be a worse, slower shot than Staver, at least at first, though as his Magery, DX, and skills go up he'll be able to pull of things like Guided Arcing bow shots to the vitals.

      If you're going Shaman and can afford it, a ranged Shaman with some secondary healing ability would be grand.