Friday, February 5, 2016

Review: GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Treasures 1: Glittering Prizes

Title Page
Yesterday I bought and reviewed the brand spanking new Dungeon Fantasy Treasures 2. Along with it, I bought its much longer predecessor volume, Glittering Prizes. Whereas Epic Treasures comes across more as a pseudo-sequel to 40 Artifacts, Glittering Prizes is more like an expansion of one of my favorite books, the treasure tables. This book has a lot of world building value, and what I like to think of as prompt generation: when you get stuck for an idea, it gives you a few details to play with to flesh out an entire story concept from there. Let's take a look at Glittering Prizes.


Table Of Contents
As always, my first step when looking at a review is to check out the table of contents to give an idea of what elements are described in a book. We have a one page Introduction with some instructions on how to get the best value from the book. Filthy Lucre  comprises the majority of the content of the book (Technically true if you don't count the first three pages or the index) and goes into some details about different currencies, denominations, precious metals, et cetera in regards to money. Details, Details and Implausible Materials both take a substantial chunk of the book and are mostly straight expansions of some of the background detail tables from Treasure Tables with a bit of mechanical value described. Interestingly, Advanced Social Studies a very small chapter is the dark-horse winner for me. It describes some new interesting ways to reuse tables and build up setting flavor by helping define lost cultures from the treasures they leave behind. Let's look into each section in more detail.


The introduction ties us into the mainline Dungeon Fantasy series by explaining how this book plays off of titles like the 40 Artifacts or Treasure Tables. It recommends that one should read Dungeon Fantasy 2 and 8 to get the full value out of it. I almost disagree with 2, however, that's probably moot as 2 is practically critical to running any Dungeon Fantasy game. Some of the information could be used outside of the Dungeon Fantasy genre, but it is definitely most well suited to that line.

Filthy Lucre

This chapter is basically the focus of the book with everything else being the supporting cast. The section starts with several example materials of which coinage may be composed, and some explanations of a few of the more obscure alloys. It gives a practical table explaining likely GURPS dollar values, weight, and shape for coins minted of the given values and purity if developing a reasonable in-game currency is something you dig. Part way through we see a bit of a discussion on dealing with coins that deteriorate through usage, and dealing with counterfeiting, and then we get an interesting aside on 4 magical artifacts on the theme of currency and coin. Throughout the section a few interesting novel usages of money not directly related to buying and selling are listed, a few were good enough to elicit a mental "that's good enough for me to mentally note" note. It goes into some of the interesting properties and difficulties of using fiat and paper money as well giving some advice on interesting ways to apply this for GMs. It ends with some other miscellaneous practical concerns of currency, a few supernatural money prompts, hooks, and mechanics, and ideas for some unorthodox currency systems. Overall, the section is very informative and has a lot of data on historical currencies and how to re-purpose those concepts in a fantasy campaign. As dry a concept as currency is to me, it was not that bad.

Details, Details

This section is mostly comprised of 4 tables- one actually being over two pages long- with a bit of a discussion on fasteners and some new optional rules in that vein. The tables are mostly flavor with a few entries having objective mechanical benefit, some entries having suggestive subjective benefit, and a large majority of the entries existing just to breathe life to the description of treasures and especially garments. As I said earlier, there is an interesting segue that splits the section in half where it is discussed how different fasteners might work in combat, and how a player might think to tactically utilize them inside of battle. There's a section explaining possible mechanics for chemically reducing animals and monsters for dye which was also a nice interesting extra. I enjoy large tables of minutiae like this when I get stuck in a creative rut so the chapter is very easy to use. It derives its greatest value when paired with Treasure Tables as some of the tables are big expansions of those that already exist. I like how this chapter, although mostly tables, still had some surprisingly enjoyable interesting historical trivia that made reading through it worth while.

Implausible Materials

Similar to the Details, Details chapter in that this section is mostly an expansion again for Treasure Tables unsurprisingly focused on unorthodox fantasy materials this time. Many of these have subtle mechanical effects to the items which they are applied, for example, giving a small boon against a certain target, or affecting reactions from certain populations, and each material entry is paired with a bite-sized description of the way these materials might look. It's exactly what it says on the tin, and an interesting way to spice up what might otherwise be a pretty pedestrian item without going overboard.

Advanced Social Studies

This is important. This is a thing that no one told me about, and I think it is the most important thing in the entire book. Even though it is barely a page and a half, it has some very useful guidance on world building and lore crafting. It re-purposes several of the flavor tables from earlier in the book and from Treasure Tables with a few guidelines for spinning up some culture frameworks, and then it provides three worked examples on top of that. Absolutely brilliant advice that I feel like could lend some cohesion to the campaign I am immediately running.


In a matter of total candidness, I did not expect to like this supplement, but that extends from the way I treat money in my campaigns. It was not an unpleasant read however, even if the main feature is mostly a wash for me in GURPS terms. It is then completely redeemed and then some by the last section. In my opinion, a book on the topic of designing fantasy cultures and history by itself would be a pretty good tool. In summary, if approaching this book as a supplement about coinage, it isn't that interesting to me; if approaching this book as a supplement on world building, it is immensely valuable to me.

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