Sunday, April 17, 2016

Review: Dungeon Fantasy 3: The Next Level

I usually talk about the laughing
tattoo man, but to completely
obliterate your expectations,
check out that dragon.
Dungeon Fantasy 3 is a bit like an expansion to the first two books, tending to be something a bit more player than GM oriented, but it does have advice for both sides. This book is something like a prototypical version of the Power-Ups book, but that doesn't mean it is completely superseded; in fact it is even more useful when combined with Dungeon Fantasy 11. This book is mostly for more advanced customization options for information introduced in the first two installments, and though optional, if you are like me and like the thought of having player races and dual classing, it is a must-have.


Table of Contents
The book is split into 5 chapters, 13 pages on 37 different races,  21 pages of mini-templates to create dual class versions from those in Dungeon Fantasy 1, two chapters combined on power-ups and statted out advantages totalling 5 pages, and this is capped with 2 pages of GM advice on how to simplify/enhance/change up character advancement. Besides that, you get a full color cover, an introduction, and an index. The introduction says that the concept of the book is to enable more sophisticated character development options than giving the players a chance to buy whatever they want with their points and money, both in play, and during creation, and it succeeds at this.
I think of four different elements when considering RPG supplements, you have rules, content, guidance, and fluff, and this book is extremely heavy on content with almost zero in the way of new rules, a tiny bit of fluff in describing races, and a tiny chapter on guidance, with smatterings here and there about effective combinations. With respect to this balance, I have no strong opinion. I know it isn't the GURPS way, and it isn't a criticism of this book per se, but having a bit more background on the races would be an entertaining read.

Nonhuman Races

Like the title says, this chapter is about racial templates and applying them to characters. I appreciate the advice at the beginning of the chapter that gives guidance on how to find space in the 250 point default templates for some of the templates that can be several tens of points, topping out with several 75 point races at the extreme.
Another thing I really like about the list of templates is that each contains an at-a-glance list of choice and marginal professions so it is easier to decide the race that goes with a template without having to do some complicated munchkin number crunching to find the best race and class calculations. For example, the High Elf template recommends pairing with the Bard, Druid, and Wizard templates, and recommends against pairing with the Barbarian, because the package of racial advantages and disadvantages either synergizes or anergizes with the respective professions. It is entirely subjective, but my two cents are that the race list is great, but they put in way too many elf sub-race templates; seven to be exact. So many other interesting things could have been there instead (maybe?) but instead there are 7 that are annoyingly similar. On the other hand, we could look at this as a case study in creating a multitude of templates with just small changes.
The races are all made interesting with the inclusion of race exclusive perks, quirks, and 0 point features, so many aren't just a package of advantages with a cutesy name, which is really important in my opinion. Overall, I find it a really interesting chapter, but for some reason, my players don't like using it unless they ask me to make a character for them.

Mixing Professions

This chapter is a huge list of 50 point templates to combine with those found in Dungeon Fantasy 1 to create a type of dual class. Like Nonhuman Races before it, this chapter starts off with build advice on how to afford a 50 point template on a 0 point budget, and includes the choice and marginal pairing lists, which I appreciate.
Two interesting aberrations from the theme of the chapter are the introduction of evil versions of the cleric and the holy warrior. I can't say that I like them, but that's just my hangup on having evil players. If you like playing evil or GMing games with evil players, they might come in useful. I've also been thinking of doing a switcheroo campaign with players playing monsters protecting temples from the "heroes" that come to desecrate holy places, so in that case, an "evil" cleric might make sense.


These are lists of things that players of certain classes might be allowed to buy with their points. Especially interesting are the special rule breaking power-ups like allowing certain classes to exceed typical attribute maximums. These small perks help to keep characters differentiated even at high power levels, and it is a bit inspiring when thinking of ways to make a template more than just a list of by-the-book advantages and disadvantages.

New Capabilities

Similar to the previous chapter, but also different! This one covers some new advantages, and a new power source, Psionics, which is later developed much further in Dungeon Fantasy 14. It also contains some evil abilities for the evil versions of the Cleric and Holy Warrior, and a few other advantages. The section is a bit short, and nothing is especially novel. For a better list of new advantages and abilities, Dungeon Fantasy 11 is a more appropriate source.


A really useful chapter especially for GMs looking to make the experience of growing a character's power a better thing. It has ideas on training costs, and bonus or penalty character points, and ways to maintain niche integrity. I use this chapter all the time, no matter what. I think that the training cost rules make a reasonable tradeoff for a game where I like my players getting cool powers without having to slow down the pace for the usual months and years of downtime to acquire some fabulously expensive advantage.

Final Thoughts

The book doesn't have any pull-quotes, and is also notable for being one of the few Dungeon Fantasy books with a full color cover, which I think stops with the fifth installment. I like those full color covers though, I wonder why they stopped? Didn't like the format? It should be cheaper now that they don't print, I'd think.
Definitely one of the better Dungeon Fantasy books that is pretty useful no matter what type of Dungeon Fantasy game you run... most specifically the very short and very last chapter.
I mentioned before my players don't like the races that much. Maybe they aren't compatible with the classes they want? Maybe they are too expensive? In any case, you could probably make a nice custom character if you used a 125 point template from henchmen, allowing you to afford a 75 point race, and then a bonus 50 points left over, to perhaps, devote towards strengthening the class towards a 250 point specialty without requiring weird point gymnastics to get the right set of advantages to fit into a small space.


  1. Niche Protection ( seems to be overlooked aspect of the design from my impression of your review. Given your posts on the Artificer, Scholar, etc.. defining Niches - their trade offs and general theme and strategy would be something you may like.

    1. Oh, I didn't mean to give an impression like that, there is even guidance to avoiding situations like that in The Next Level. In fact, I think it does a great job of setting up a framework so players have constraints in place that let them develop while maintaining that niche protection.

  2. My understanding is that these originally had the normal PDF 'white' covers. The current color covers were done when there was a limited print run of the first four supplements. So, if you want a color cover of DF5, you need to talk SJG into doing a physical version of it.

    (By the way, in the options for allowed profile choices in commenting, are there any options for enabling Gravatar? LJ is purely legacy for me, and Gravatar will link over to my current blog.)

    1. Thanks for your thoughts! I had an inkling along those lines. It was just a silly thought that now that they don't have to worry about the economy of printing things (unless they plan on getting back into it) they could potentially go wild with full color illustrations and covers. They could make the text white on black... though that'd be annoying for me to print!

      Also, I only see options for Google accounts, or OpenID, and don't think there is a way to use Gravatar. I've done a very precursory search, and couldn't find anything on it, except that Gravatar seems to work with a Google account, but not an OpenID account?

    2. Gravatar was an independent account system that would let you use their login with any blog/site that knew about Gravatar and link the name back to your site, and use your profile image.

      It still exists, but got bought up by WordPress, which is probably why there's no option for it. But if I sign in here with WordPress, it'd go to (And it doesn't work anyway, as I don't have an activated blog there.) If I sign in with Google, it goes there, not my blog. OpenID I have yet to figure out. Gravatar had the advantage of being simple, direct, and transparent. :P And it works on any (*not* the same thing as powered site.


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