Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Review: Dungeon Fantasy 2: Dungeons

Three angry guys,
one scared guy.
Dungeon Fantasy 2 is pretty old hat at this point, but it is also pretty fundamental for Dungeon Fantasy campaigns. Unlike Dungeon Fantasy 1 you *might* be able to play a game without referencing it. So, you are not exactly compelled by sheer necessity to buy it. However, I would say that above and beyond Dungeon Fantasy 1, Dungeon Fantasy 2: Dungeons provides guidance and help that remains useful throughout the lifecycle of a campaign, and when you get down to it, you really only create a character once in a campaign (though you might create many characters once) but you dungeon for an eternity. Let's dissect this book, which, long and short of it, I think is absolutely great.


Table of Contents. Look at that,
A perfect rectangle!
If Adventurers is the Characters of Dungeon Fantasy, then Dungeons is the Campaigns. In the introduction, it recommends having the Basic Set, but honestly does pretty well on its lonesome, though, I imagine if you like GURPS, you will have the Basic Set anyway. This just means you don't have to play the fun game of going back and forth with page references to make sense of this book, and that is a good thing.
The book is split into two short chapters, the first covers more objective rules for making a Dungeon Fantasy game work, giving some ideas on applications of skills and the like. The second is a 15 page mix of subjective advice, some data in the form of monster and trap catalogs, and even some hard rules. Although it sounds muddy from my description, the book is something to be digested as a whole and not in piecemeal, and it is short enough to do so. What I'm trying to say is that it is not as sloppy as it might seem just from how I say it. It reads very easily and finding information is not difficult either.


This chapter considers a bunch of useful components of a dungeon and how to stitch together those components with the mechanics of GURPS. It starts with rules on what characters can do in a safe space, like a town, before heading into a dungeon, with advice on making money and finding rumors of quests. Then we have a section on handling the traveling between two points of interest including rules for making it faster and surviving in the wilderness. These abbreviated rules are expanded somewhat in Dungeon Fantasy 16, but they are still worthwhile for a campaign where travel isn't the be all, end all of the game. The next section discusses what the party should consider when travelling through a dungeon, like how to look for hidden doors, and the implications of choosing a marching order. It gives situational advice for the kind of cool stunts that players are likely to want to pull off, and does an admirable job covering all the bases and more.
Overall, interestingly, I said this book is almost like Campaigns in scope and purpose, but this chapter is phenomenally useful for both players and GMs. It does a good job of explaining how to use some skills that might have borderline applicability otherwise, and should basically be straight up required reading for a player in a Dungeon Fantasy campaign, if not just for the inspiration it can provide.

Mastering Dungeons

This chapter on the other hand is solidly in the realm of pure GM advice, and focuses on ideas for making a dungeon interesting and engaging for players. For example, it has advice on different types of dungeons, and ways to distinguish them, or how to handle rumor collection when players scour a town for information about a dungeon. It has long lists of easily applied types of traps and special situations to set one hoary decrepit tomb apart from another hoary decrepit tomb. It also includes a collection of several very useful and unique monsters that aren't boring. In fact, it seems to especially lack the most mundane of bandits like "mean crossbowman" and "mean guy with a sword and shield" and "mean guy with a very big sword."
One especially favorite element of this chapter is the aside at the very end, Making Everybody Useful it gives some really good advice on how to give characters a chance to be cool without the dungeon being "Enter, do a fight, go down a hall, do a fight, go to the next room, fight a boss, done." It is very thoughtful with set pieces to give "support classes" a chance to shine, and going above and beyond, it even includes interesting ways to make your beefcake warriors like the Barbarian and Knight useful without necessarily going into a combat. I love this aside so much, and am disappointed when a similar section isn't included for the classes added in later supplements.

Final Thoughts and Conclusion

This is a rock solid book, and a good foundation for the Dungeon Fantasy series. In fact, thanks to the setting agnosticism of GURPS, it really is handy even outside of the Dungeon Fantasy niche. Simplified rules for many aspects of the game can be used to abstract the boring bits out of more "serious" games. I have in fact used it in such capacity for both a modern day swat type campaign, and for a Tech Level 4 age of sail game in both cases to simplify the downtime when no one had anything good to do with free time.
All in all, very recommended, and if you don't like Dungeon Fantasy, still slightly recommended.


  1. Your mean guys can be found in DF 15

    1. Very true! When I say it suspiciously lacks the most mundane of enemies, I say it as a compliment really. Any Tom, Dick, or Henrietta can stat out "Biped with two arms with varying degrees of combat efficacy -" That's one of the fifty main things that statting out a character can do - So I appreciate that when they included a bestiary, they went with a menagerie of interesting and unique threats instead!


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