Sunday, December 13, 2015

Review: Dungeon Fantasy 17 Guilds

Title Page
This week, a new Dungeon Fantasy supplement came out: Guilds. It is a systematic approach to infusing social traits and advantages into Dungeon Fantasy. It describes ways to create large organizations in a typical sword and sorcery Dungeon Fantasy setting, the impacts they might have on world building, how a player can hope to benefit by interacting with them. It also provides several useful executions of the rules to create several organizations 90% ready for drop-in to a campaign.


Probably the easiest way to get a grasp of what is in the document is to take a look at the table of contents, so that's what we are going to do. I hope it's OK to reproduce that here because I pulled it straight from the free preview PDF on the online store page
Chapter 1, the first third of the book describes the mechanics of Guilds. It uses a distillation of the rules in Pulling Rank that allow leveraging the nebulously described advantages of status and rank into more tangible benefits of "patrons", "contacts", and "allies". It reinstates a few disallowed social advantages that were recommended stricken in Dungeon Fantasy 1 and Dungeon Fantasy 2. It explains how to make assistance rolls based on position in a guild, and ways to judge particularly appropriate reception and response to requests for aid depending on position inside the guild.
Chapter 2 and the Appendix are very helpful guidelines for several ready to roll organizations with a lot of useful information for both GMs and players. It describes the typical background of a related organization, advice for plothooks and errands involving that organization, and lists of the types of requests that the organization can fulfill at varying proficiency. The Appendix is total fluff, but fun anyways, giving a kind of template for creating more interesting titles for each rank instead of "Rank 1 - 5 points" with useful information besides. Chapter 2 is filled with little pullouts and asides that explain how to remix certain organizations with slightly different bents, like how to change a typical church-ish structure into a Kung-Fu movie monastery. The entire chapter of examples is extremely generous and was for me a pretty enjoyable read.


So, looking through this supplement with my GM hat, there is 1 outstanding mechanical benefit and 1 outstanding fluff benefit to this document. Mechanically speaking, it can be hard to understand how useful rank and status should be. What is the fair yield of benefits for a certain expenditure of character points? What should I give a player that invests points in a level of status versus a cool new way to kill things?  This supplement answers those questions very well with discrete numbers and value detailed for each quantity of point investment. As for fluff, I like all the prompts given for what an organization wants. Very helpful suggestions as to how an organization interacts with the world, and why they might interact with an adventurer, and the kind of things they expect in return for all the favors they render.
For players, it is a little less useful, but that isn't to say it isn't useful at all. Looking at the example organizations can be great inspiration for character backstory or aspirations. Looking at the mechanical benefits of high status and rank can help them look forward to the benefits of achieving their aspirations, and it gives a new channel of measurable objective achievement besides acquired wealth and character points.
Any player that wants to have a character with control of a vast social network will benefit from reading Guilds, and having a GM that does the same.
Outside of Dungeon Fantasy, it is slightly oversimplified by itself, but it gives some great templating ideas that can be combined with Pulling Rank to be pretty useful in different genres or games with a more serious tone.
I'd call this a must buy for any GM that likes the idea of introducing status and career ladder options for a player in a dungeon fantasy world, and an interesting read for anyone else. I don't think this is a waste of money for anyone unless you only ever run campaigns were the players are stranded on a desert island, or are all alone in an infinite floor dungeon.

Favorite Pull-Out Quote

Unfortunately, none of the quotes were exceptionally funny, and that's usually the ones I go for. They even had a pull-out from History of The World Part 1, but nope, not even a milli-smirk from me. If I have to choose, I'm kinda torn between the Groucho Marx one, and the reference to The Peter Principle.

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