Sunday, March 22, 2015

Rational Damage Spells: Revising the Costs

When I first wrote Rationalizing Damage Spells in GURPS, I pretty much eyeballed the effects of the elements. My intention was for them to be balanced at around 10-12 CP/die of damage for the standard Ball spell, but I didn't sit down and crunch the numbers.

I had some free time this morning, so I finally went back and did the math. I was pleased with the results: most of the spells came in at 10-13 CP/die, or only needed slight adjustments to bring them into that range. The only element that was really out of line was Deprivation, which pays through the nose to ignore DR and inflict a starvation hazard. Given that it's already a low damage attack (-2/die) that doesn't play well with other attacks (does FP damage), I'm not too concerned that it's so expensive.

While I had GCA open, I added a couple new forms:
Hellfire (Demonology): +1 damage per die. Treat as a Burning Innate Attack with Affects Insubstantial, Armor Divisor 2, Underfoot, and Costs 1 HP. Ranged Attacks are Acc 1, Range 25/50.
Calamity (Death, Necromantic): -2 damage per die. Treat as an Impaling Innate Attack with Affects Insubstantial, Cosmic (Ignore DR), Unblockable, and Accessibility: Only Living or Once Living creatures. Ranged Attacks are Acc 1, Range 15/30.

Fundamentally, these are pretty similar to Fire and Blight, but they have enough differences to be worthwhile and expand the role of the Necromancer and Demonologist templates. Underfoot was introduced in DF 11: Power-Ups (p 24) and works much like Overhead, except the attack comes from beneath instead of above.

Here's the revised effects of the forms:
Lightning (Air): -1 damage per die. Treat as a Tight Beam Burning Innate Attack with Double Knockback, Arcing Surge, and Side Effect (Stun). Ranged Attacks are Acc 4, Range 50/100. Double knockback, in this case, lets it do knockback damage as though it were a crushing attack.
Thunder (Air, Sound): +3 damage per die. Treat as a Crushing Innate Attack with Armor Multiplier 2, Double Knockback, and Hearing Based Side Effect (Stun). Treat attacks against swarms or vaporous creatures as area effect attacks, even if the spell form is normally a single target spell. Ranged Attacks are Acc 3, Range 30/60.
Blight (Body): -1 damage per die. Treat as a Toxic Innate Attack with Cosmic (Ignores DR), Cosmic (Affects things with Immune to Metabolic Hazards), Accessibility (Only living or previously animals and humanoids; cannot target locations). Ranged Attacks are Acc 2, Range 25/50.  Deathtouch should affect zombies, but not stone golems or trees.
Deprivation (Body, Food): -2 damage per die. Treat as a Fatigue Innate Attack with Cosmic (Ignores DR), Hazard (Starvation or Thirst, chosen when the spell is learned), and Resistable (HT -4). Ranged Attacks are Acc 2, Range 50/100.
Enervation (Body): -1 damage per die. Treat as a Fatigue Innate Attack with Armor Divisor 2. Ranged Attacks are Acc 2, Range 50/100.
Stone (Earth): +2 damage per die. Treat as a Crushing Innate Attack with Double Knockback and a followup Crushing Innate Attack with No Wounding. Ranged Attacks are Acc 2, Range 25/50. Essentially, calculate knockback based on quadruple the rolled damage. 
Fire (Fire): +1 damage per die. Treat as a Burning Innate Attack with Incendiary and Armor Divisor 2. Ranged Attacks are Acc 2, Range 50/100.
Poison (Food): +3 damage per die. Treat as Toxic Innate Attack with Blood Agent, Cyclic (5x10 seconds), Resistable by HT-5. Ranged Attacks are Acc 2, Range 25/50.
Sun (Light): +1 damage per die. Treat as a Tight Beam Burning Innate Attack. Ranged Attacks are Acc 8, Range 100/200, and get +1 to hit. Sun attacks are laser beams, and should benefit from having a built-in laser sight.
Ruin (Making and Breaking): -1 damage per die. Treat as Toxic Innate Attack with Cosmic (Ignores DR), Cosmic (Affects things with Immune to Metabolic Hazards), Accessibility (Only never living inanimate objects; cannot target locations). Ranged Attacks are Acc 2, Range 25/50. Making and Breaking spells can't affect golems, zombies, or housecats, but they can destroy cars and furniture.
Force (Movement): +0 damage per die. Treat as a Cutting Innate Attack with Affects Insubstantial and Double Knockback. Ranged Attacks are Acc 3, Range 50/100.
Cessation (Necromantic): +3 damage per die. Treat as Toxic Innate Attack with Cosmic (Ignores DR), Cosmic (Affects things with Immune to Metabolic Hazards), Accessibility (Only zombies; cannot target locations). Targets that take damage have a 1 in 6 chance of being forced to flee out of sight of the caster for one day. Ranged Attacks are Acc 2, Range 25/50. 
Sound (Sound): +2 damage per die. Treat as a Crushing Innate Attack with Side Effect (Stun). Ranged Attacks are Acc 3, Range 25/50.
Acid (Water): +1 damage per die. Treat as a Corrosive Innate Attack. Ranged Attacks are Acc 1, Range 25/50.Frost (Water): +0 damage per die. Treat as a Burning Innate Attack with No Incendiary and Armor Divisor 5. Ranged Attacks are Acc 3, Range 50/100.
Ice Shards (Water): +2 damage per die. Treat as an Impaling Innate Attack with Armor Divisor (0.5). Ranged Attacks are Acc 3, Range 100/200.

Specific changes were:
Thunder's armor divisor improved from 1/5 to 1/2. Incidentally, this makes the spell much more useful against lightly armored foes.
Blight's and Ruin's damage modifier reduced from +0 per die to -1 per die.
Enervation's damage modifier reduced from +0 per die to -1 per die.
Stone was rewritten slightly so that the second attack was follow-up, not linked, and didn't have Double Knockback. The intent was to do knockback based on 4 times the damage rolled, not 6 times.
Poison's cyclic modifier was increased from 3 to 5. It's a slow but horribly effective element if it's used with a form that has an area effect.
Force's damage modifier was increased from -1 per to +0 per die.
Acid's damage modifier was increased from -1 per to +1 per die. This makes the spell much more useful for casters with low ability, dramatically increasing the chance of corroding DR.
Ice got renamed to Frost.
Ice Shards got added to the water college as a long-range, low penetration impaling attack.

Merging and Splitting GURPS PDFs

I knew that some of my friends had used software tools to split up and merge their GURPS PDFs. For instance, combining both of the PDFs for the core rules into one file, or merging the various Mystic Knight articles from Pyramid into one file. I hadn't done it because I thought it would be really hard, time-consuming, tedious, and/or require expensive tools.

As it turns out, there's an free, open-source tool with a decent GUI that lets you merge a half dozen PDFs in minutes. I'm going to write another blog post about it soon and go into more details, but it was really easy and it beats digging through a couple of different directories and files to look up all the rules for creating a Mystic Knight or a Dungeon Saint. I'm really excited about it.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Mecha Against the Giants Session 8

One thing I'd always intended to do with the Mecha Against the Giants game was to run a dungeon crawl. In keeping with the escapist and awesome tone of the game, it didn't have to be a particularly long or difficult dungeon crawl, but there was always going to be one. Last night, we got started on crawling that dungeon.

Mines and Methane

Shortly after the end of the last session, I wrote the players an email explaining the premise: thanks to a faulty sensor in the mechas' self-repair systems, they needed to acquire a lot of aluminum and titanium. The natives knew of an old dwarven vault that had ingots of both, but it was guarded by golems and in an abandoned mine. The mine had been overrun by cave horrors, which the D&D-savvy players recognized as troglodytes.

Except these troglodytes emitted a gas that wasn't just nauseatingly stinky, but also highly flammable. The natives couldn't clear the mine of the troglodytes, because carrying open flames into the caves tended to kill them, and they couldn't stand the stench of fighting the troglodytes in close quarters anyway.

Fortunately, the pilots had IR vision from their armored pilot suits, LED lights on their helmets that wouldn't ignite the methane, filter masks that would stop the stench, and lots of guns. Although they were a little worried about the golems (hypothesizing that they were some kind of robots), they figured they could take the rest of the mine with no problem. A couple of them picked up shields from the TL2 native stock, and they descended into the mine.

One of the quirks of Mecha Against the Giants is there isn't much magic in the world, but there is a little. To reinforce that point, I had the friendly oracle give some vague warnings: beware the floors and beware the dead. The pilots weren't too sure what to make of that at the time, but at least some of that advice turned out to be useful.

We started play with the pilots well into the mine and established their current weapon load-outs. Everyone had a rifle, a pistol, a superfine combat knife, and most people have at least one other melee weapon: the ultra tech utility axes or the duelist's antique daisho. Everyone but+Kevin Smyth's duelist started with their rifles ready, and I introduced them to the first set of troglodytes.

A combat between a half-dozen stone age primitives armed with flammable stink auras and a fire team of 23rd century infantry is pretty guaranteed to go poorly for the primitives, and this was no exception. The primitives were scented, people snuck around around until the primitves were spotted, and then violence occurred. Unfortunately for the pilots, the troglodytes had been wandering this section of the mine for a while, which meant the air had plenty of methane but not too much. And the muzzle blasts of the guns had a 1 in 6 chance of setting off the methane. Because I'm a nice guy, I let the players roll to see if the methane went off. Which it did, just about every time they fired their guns, enveloping them in clouds of flame.

Fortunately, their piloting suits were mostly fireproof, but unfortunately for them, mostly doesn't mean completely. Some high damage rolls and a couple of the pilots were lightly cooked, and every started dropping rifles for their backup melee weapons. Except for +Theodore Briggs gunslinger, who for some reason decided to pick up some smouldering javelins from the well roasted corpse of a troglodyte. Attempting to throw those javelins at the second wave of troglodytes were enormously successful, in the sense that they ignited the air again and wiped out the troglodytes. The pilots who got burnt again (I let +Uhuk of the Guard roll her own damage, and she used her Luck, and didn't roll less than 8 on 2d6-1 on 3 tries) were a bit less impressed by this tactic.

This entire sequence was hilariously funny to me, and I think everyone did enjoy it a lot. The change from the overconfident pilots, casually dispatching the primitive troglodytes, to the frustrated and annoyed pilots trying to convince +Nathan Joy's officer character to "not set anything else on fire, please!" was really great.

Choices, choices, choices

After dealing with the early troglodytes, the pilots moved deeper into the mine and found three branching corridors.

One corridor sloped steeply downward into a cavern with damp, water slick walls. They weren't sure what to make of that, but decided to avoid it

A second corridor led to a room filled with dewy cobwebs and massive spider webs, but noticeably absent of cave insects. Some rocks were thrown into the webs, and they could barely make out some scuttling movement on the ceiling. After some more discussion about the advisability of setting the webs on fire, everyone decided to go some place else.

The last corridor led to a deliberate pile of rocks constricting access to the passage. The pilots could squeeze past the rocks, but it would be slow and leave them exposed. While they were considering it, a pair of 7' tall green skinned man-like creatures (aka trolls) approached from the far side of the obstruction. There was a brief conversation, and the trolls offered to let them pass for a lot of gold. How much gold? Well, the trolls weren't going to set their prices until they knew exactly how much gold the pilots had available. +Nathan Joy wasn't playing that game, and the pilots walked away to evaluate their options.

Door #1

No one wanted to tangle with the giant spiders, so they got out their ultratech rope and tied off a belaying line for the downsloping cavern. +Kevin Smyth went first, with everyone else waiting until the established an all clear. As he got near the cavern floor, he noticed it was slightly wet and glass slick. Worried, he tossed a rock at it, and then the grey ooze's multiple pseudo-pods rose up and tried to grab him. He desperately retreated while the other pilots pulled him up, and the only casualties were a yard or so of rope. The ooze couldn't pull itself up the slope, though it tried.

There wasn't a lot of discussion about trying that again. The spiders were still a no go, so the pilots went back to the trolls.

Bullets versus sponges

Kevin went first again, trying to sneak past the rock pile. He got most of the way before the trolls noticed, and then squirmed the rest of the way out, drew his wakizashi in a reversed grip, and went into close combat with one of the trolls. The troll got a maximum damage critical hit of a bite early on, but even that wasn't enough to penetrate the ultra-tech armor, so this combat turned into a farce of the troll trying to grab at Kevin while Kevin slowly hacked it up. He was somewhat penalized by the troll's mouth-grapple, but his usual strategy of "chop off some limbs" seemed to work okay.

(It wasn't until later that I actually looked up the rules for Injury Tolerance: Independent Limbs, and discovered that Kevin would have been making his life much worse by doing this. Oh, well).

The other troll casually knocked over the rock pile and advanced on Nate and Ted. Several center of mass shots later, and that troll was... surprisingly hale and hearty, thanks to its lack of vitals. Ted then switched to our usual strategy for dealing with extremely nasty foes: shoot them in the eyes. He shot out an eye and expected the thing to fall over, but trolls don't have brains, either, so that wasn't a lot more effective. He didn't notice it, but the troll's eye regenerated almost immediately, so it wasn't very badly effected at all. However, trolls don't regenerate nearly fast enough to handle being shot by a dozen or more rifle bullets, and it eventually collapsed.

The pilots, having previously established that the methane concentration in this area was heavy enough that it would no longer randomly ignite (methane stoichiometry is weird and particular), tried to burn the bodies, but for some reason the troll didn't burn. So they chopped them into pieces sized for convenient carrying and lugged them over to the grey ooze tunnel, and then tossed them down.

This is when I finally looked up the rules on Independent Body Parts, and realized that the trolls' limbs should have been attacking. Still, it was late and the trolls had been fairly beaten, so we glossed over it with some Fright Checks for when the limbs animated and attacked.

We ended the session with the pilots victory over the trolls. They're still looking for the vault of industrial metals, and they suspect there's more troglodytes to overcome.

Prepping the Dungeon

This was an odd dungeon to prepare. I kept having to fight my usual DF instincts of "make the dungeon as challenging as possible" and stick with "let's be cool and awesome."

Troglodytes aren't exactly a favorite, nostalgic monster race for me, but they worked nicely as a "You must be this tall to ride" monster to explain why the natives hadn't cleared the mines. As I set them up, they're an extremely difficult foe for non-magical TL2 delvers to clear out of enclosed spaces: horrid nauseating stink, deadly methane fumes that deprive the delvers of light sources, and decent enough combat skills. For the ultra-tech pilots that ignore most of these problems, they weren't much of a problem, at least in small numbers. We'll see what happens when the pilots face dozens of them at a time.

After I'd set the troglodytes as the primary obstacle, I knew I wanted to include some iconic encounters to see how the ultratech pilots would handle them. I didn't want anything that would be clearly too hard, so no insubstantial ghosts or monsters that needed magic weapons to defeat. But oozes, giant spiders, and trolls are things that very much go back to the hobby's roots. And the trolls already had adequate stats thanks to +Peter V. Dell'Orto's work in DF Monsters. I was pretty happy with how they worked out, though a little sad that the grey ooze didn't get to corrode anyone's armor.

I was actually worried about the danger of the trolls, though it turned out to be a non-issue. They just weren't dangerous enough when they couldn't penetrate the pilot's armor. It might have gone the other way if the trolls had managed to get a solid grapple going and started bending the delvers into pretzels. Or if I'd remembered that the pilot's armor is flexible and Kevin should have been experiencing some blunt trauma from the troll bites.

What Next?

Sometime soon, we'll continue this dungeon crawling experience with hordes of troglodytes and the dwarven golems. It should be fun.

Now I'm also tempted to run this dungeon in a standard DF game. Poisonous, flammable air would be a nice challenge for experienced delvers, and it really does change tactics in a lot of ways. "Just burn it out" becomes less viable when you set the air around you on fire, though there are wizardly ways to get around that I suspect.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Destiny Points, Wildcards, and weapon skills in Dungeon Fantasy

In the DF games that I've been involved in, the one rules change that made wildcard skills vastly more appealing was the introduction of Destiny Points from MH: Champions. Now, instead of having a character that had a shorter skill list and slightly lower level of skill overall, you had a character with a shorter skill list, slightly lower skills, and the ability to turn 2-5 failed rolls per session into successes. It was basically getting free Luck as you bought up more levels of skill.

The best wildcards for use with Destiny Points were the ones with combat skills: Knight!, Martial Artist!, and Swashbuckler!, basically. Destiny Points felt more useful in combat, since they could save you from an lucky critical hit by an enemy or let you go big with a Deceptive Attack and still hit.

However, not all template wildcard skills have combat skills. And some templates don't have very good wildcard skills. So templates (Knight!) have good wildcard skills, but it wouldn't be unreasonable to make them a little better. So here are my suggestions for adding more combat skills to the DF template wildcard skills.

Barbarian!: Add Brawling, Forced Entry, Pole-arm, Sling, Spear, Throwing, Thrown Weapon, Two-Handed Axe/Mace, Two-Handed Flail, Two-Handed Sword, and Wrestling. This focuses the Barbarian as a two-handed weapon user, but it makes them distinct from knights and swashbucklers.

Bard!: Add Bow, Crossbow, Main-Gauche, Saber, Shortsword, and Smallsword.

Cleric!: Add Axe/Mace, Staff, and Shield (Shield).

Druid!: Add Axe/Mace, Staff, and Shield (Shield).

Knight!: Add Brawling, Bow, Boxing, Crossbow, Thrown Weapon, and Wrestling. Giving the knight some ranged weapon abilities doesn't really intrude into the Scout's niche, but does mean that the knight won't suck when having to fight at range. Similarly, reasonable skills in unarmed combat aren't as good as having good skill levels and Trained by a Master, but it does make the knight a reasonably well-rounded combatant.

Martial Artist!: Add Brawling, Boxing, Judo, Karate, Sumo Wrestling, and Wrestling. Martial Artists already have plenty of good armed options in the wildcard, and letting them be proficient in all forms of unarmed combat means they get to pay less for taking the suboptimal choice.

Scout!: Scout is fine, but I would use the common house-rule (at least in our games) that Scout destiny points can be used in combat for Acrobatics, Dodging, and archery.

Swashbuckler!: Add Crossbow and Thrown Weapon (Knife). Giving swashbucklers their crappy ranged options for free won't upset people who are actually good at ranged combat.

Thief!: Add Brawling, Bow, Crossbow, Fast-Draw (Knife), Garrote, Knife, Main-Gauche, Saber, Shortsword, Sling, Smallsword, Thrown Weapon (Knife), and Wrestling. Thief! is a good skill, for thieves, but giving thieves all their weapon skills for free can only make a less useful template a little bit better.

Wizard!: Add Shield (Buckler), Smallsword, and Staff. Wizard is one of the less useful wildcards already, and I doubt adding a few weapon choices would change that.

One other change that I've been toying with is adding Riding (anything) to every wildcard skill. The rules for mounted combat in GURPS strongly penalize highly skilled combatants who haven't spent a huge amount of time also practicing their riding skills. While this is 100% realistic, it isn't simple and I'd argue it isn't in the spirit of DF. If everyone rides as well as they fight, and fights as well as they do on horseback as they do on foot, then getting a bunch of cavalry steeds, winged horses, or hippogriffons as a quest reward is a good thing, instead of a booby prize like it normally is.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

College Ritual Book Magic: Grimoires, Prerequisites, and Thaumatology

Thursday is GURPS day! When I remember.

I've been thinking about College Ritual Book Magic recently. We're using it in my online group's Chaos Scar game, so it's getting playtested a bit.

One possible issue that has come up is that there's no value to getting a grimoire of a spell with a positive value more than its prerequisite count. I wrote it that way to discourage people from putting 1 CP in a bunch of difference colleges and then cherry-picking the best spells with expensive grimoires. Which is a good goal, but it also means that there's no value in finding the Archmage's grimoire of Fireball +6.

I'm throwing this out as a possible fix:
A CRB spellcaster can use a grimoire to give a bonus on casting a spell in a College that she has at least 1 CP in. If the sum of grimoire bonus and spell prerequisite penalty is more than 0, then casting that spell is somewhat difficult, and the spell costs additional energy equal to the net bonus.

If a CRB spellcaster uses a grimoire to provide an effective skill on a spell greater than her Thaumatology skill, then she doesn't fully understand the process involved. She can still cast the spell at higher skill, but any failure to cast the spell causes an immediate roll on the Catastrophe table at her current tally.

These two effects combine if the CRB spellcaster is subject to both of them.

I think these two rules get the feeling I want. It's possible to use high value grimoires to cast spells at high skill level, but it's energy intensive and possibly dangerous. On the other hand, a focused spellcaster with very high skill in a single college can cast some basic spells without a problem, even if they don't understand the underlying magical theory. Anyone who wants to cast spells with huge prerequisite counts needs both a powerful grimoire and a lot of skill in Thaumatology if they want to be safe and successful.

What I need to next is rationalize prerequisite counts, but that's a rant for another day.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Mecha Against the Giants Session 7

My online group's regular GM was absent again, so we finished up the fight at the giant wooden fort in Mecha Against the Giants.

The inevitable result

During the last session, the 30' giant warlord had grabbed +Nathan Joy's mecha's leg, in order to get Nate to stop kicking at him. That prompted a post on how Technical Grappling works when dealing with SM+2 and SM+4 warriors, and that post concluded with the observation that it was all for nothing, since the giant warlord was probably going to lose an arm when the next PC attacked.

Unsurprisingly, the giant warlord lost his arm when a 25mm APDS shell went through his elbow. He collapsed unconscious (third crippling hit) and let go of Nate. That danger adverted, the rest of the fight proceeded to go even more poorly for the giants.

Intimidation and Wild Fire

In the northeast room, +Kevin Smyth's pilot was dueling a 24' giant and a constant stream of weak and medium sized giant reinforcements. Unfortunately for the reinforcements, they could either drop their weapons and fail to grapple Kevin, or strike at him with weapons that couldn't reliably penetrate his armor. Either way, he parried any successful attacks, stabbed fools who crowded him too much, and generally caused mayhem.

Finally, the large giant got too close, and Kevin stepped into his flank and hamstrung both his legs. Kevin then activated his Follow-Up perk, succeeded the resulting Intimidation check, and got the group of 8-9 medium giants that were trying to engage him to critically fail their Will resistance roll. It was quite impressive. The giants fled, and Kevin had to stab a couple in the back when they didn't get out of his way fast enough.

In the main hall, Nate got involved in a running fight with a couple of giants, including one that eventually realized what a gun was. I generally let a giant realize that the mecha's cannons were killing people at range with a successful IQ test, and then the giant could attempt to dodge the gunfire. This one giant survived long enough to not only realize was gunfire was, but to cry out warnings to his fellow giants and give them a bonus on their IQ tests. He also successfully parried one of Nate's attempts to murder him with gunfire.

Eventually, Nate got exceedingly tired of this one giant, backed off a bit, and sprayed automatic fire at him and the two adjacent giants. Immediately after he made the attack rolls, we noticed that Kevin's mecha was quite clearly in the line of fire though shrouded by walls. Of course, 20mm APDS is quite capable of going through a small giant, a 12" wooden wall, and possibly penetrating the back or leg armor of a scout mecha. Everyone got quite a chuckle out of this, and Kevin took a couple more points of damage in a friendly fire incident.

+Theodore Briggs had been moving around the central hall through all of this, lining up shots and killing multiple giants with a single shot. He did a lot of dodging and retreating, and illustrated that if you're fighting enough people at once, it's not enough to rely on a decent Dodge score and a retreat. He was attacked by multiple foes from different directions, and was unscathed only because of a use of Luck, a well timed Retreat, and a critical success on an Acrobatics roll to set up an Acrobatic Dodge. He also took a direct hit from a weak giant's crossbow, but the 9d bolt shattered against his DR70 armor.

At the end of all this, he was south of Nate and facing north, with a couple of giants in between them. He lined up his shot, fired, and critically failed. Nate still had a Tactics reroll available, and there was a brief discussion if Nate should pass it "to that filthy incompetent enlisted ape" or save it for himself. The ape pointed out that the most likely result of a critical failure at that point was a 25mm APDS round penetrating the weak back armor of Nate's mecha, and Nate agreed to hand out the reroll. I was sad, but what can you do? Ted succeeded on the reroll and another two giants bit the dust.

It was approaching our usual cut-off time, and there were only a few giants left, so we just hand-waved the rest of the slaughter. Which was good, because it gave us enough time to deal with an attempt at some post battle intelligence gathering.

Failing First Aid

Nate proposed that they attempt First Aid to staunch the wounds of the giant warlord and interrogate him. As it turned out, no one had an effective skill at First Aid (Human) of more than 10, and between some unlucky rolling on their part and the physiology penalty, they never succeeded on a First Aid roll. The giant, not having a particularly high HT and badly wounded, didn't succeeded on many of his rolls to resist bleeding either, and suffered a mortal wound after about 8 minutes. The PCs failed to staunch his bleeding again, he failed to resist his next bleeding check, and he died a minute later.

The entire thing was a farce, and we laughed about it, but it wasn't the PCs' most shining moment. There was a brief question if that was reasonable, but to my mind, it was a replay of the (historical and well-attested) soldier in Black Hawk Down who died when the field medic failed to find the cut in his  femoral artery. If a well-trained medic can't necessarily find the wound on a human being, it's entirely possible that a couple of soldiers going off their first aid courses are not going to be able to do it for an enormous giant.

At any rate, the PCs found enough information to point them to the giants' big fortress in the mountain, which would normally be enough to set up on the next big set piece battle. But not in this case, because I have something else planned.

Dismounted Fighting

The PCs' mecha took enough damage that the self-repair systems are low on some essential and rare elements, and the only way to get those elements is to go into the dark, abandoned mine and clear out the horrible creatures that live within. That's right, we're going dungeon delving, only with TL9 body armor, hyperspectral vision, and automatic weapons. It should be a blast, at least until the PCs meet up with some of the nastier DF monsters. Mmmm, trolls.

I've got a couple more surprises that I'm waiting to spring, but they'll come out in due course.

Role Reversal

One thing that did come up in this session was the disparity in abilities between the giants and the mecha: the mecha look like weak giants in strange plate armor, but are faster, stronger, much more heavily armored, and much, much heavier (as many a giant attempting a slam has found out to its cost). The mecha also have guns that can easily shoot through 2-3 giants at a time. Basically, the PCs are beginning to get a little contemptuous of the giants.

So now I vaguely want to run a little scenario I'm thinking of as "the last stand of the 12th legion." The PCs would be 200-300 point centurions and junior officers of the Zosporbi 12th legion, armed with the finest TL2 equipment and commanding the most elite soldiers the Zosporbi military has. They'd be tasked with holding the advance of a handful of weak or medium giants while civilians evacuated. And they would all pretty much die without accomplishing anything.

Sadly, I don't think my players would enjoy that depressing and futile scenario. And honestly, I don't think I have time to run it, what with having a half dozen other sequences I know I want to run more. But I do think it would an interesting and illuminating change of pace.