Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Review: Dungeon Fantasy 7: Clerics

Cover Page
It's a "He doesn't have any good ideas, so he's padding out his blog with reviews" episode! This book, clerics. It sounds like it is about Clerics, right? It kinda is, but, it is also a little bit more than that. It has some guidance on writing backgrounds for settings as well as customizing Cleric characters to be more in tune with specific deities. The title is unfortunately deceptively small in scale and doesn't really do the content justice, so let's take a deeper look.


First off, this book has a lot of content, 34 pages split across three chapters, an intro, and an index. Chapter 1 is a 3 page chapter on building religions for your game and setting, chapter 2 is the vast majority of the book and consists of describing lenses for the Holy Warrior, Cleric, and the evil versions thereof, and ends with a 4 page chapter consisting of a catalog of special mundane and "treasure class" items.
Table of Contents
This supplement mostly needs access to Dungeon Fantasy 1 for the original templates, Dungeon Fantasy 3 if you want to dabble with the evil versions (slightly optional, but still a good book I recommend anyway,) and GURPS Magic owing to the spell varieties for each template. The Introduction recommends many more, but I think it can be appreciated with Dungeon Fantasy 1 and GURPS Magic alone.
This book is overwhelmingly content, with a huge amount of lenses, and some artifacts, guidance in chapter 1, along with some associated with each of the typical realms of fantasy deities for thoughts on fluffing them for your setting, very little in the way of new rules, and just a touch of fluff in the form of flavor text for items. Normally, I enjoy a book with new rules the most, but I am surprised by how much I enjoyed the content of this one.
The art is typical of a Dungeon Fantasy book, and matches the content well. Very unimportant note, but the pull quotes here are probably the best thus far, and become a pretty important bonus from hereon out.
Absolutely Required
Now let's take a deeper look at the content of this book.

Pantheons, Morality, and Cults

This chapter is a little hidden gem betrayed by the title. It is a very soft chapter with really good advice for building "just enough" of a fantasy religion or pantheon, without getting bogged down by unnecessary detail. It starts with a discussion on how to organize a pantheon, leading into how gods and morality interact, a handful of paragraphs on building a character from Cleric, Druid, and Holy Warrior templates using the evil lenses and half-superior being race templates in Dungeon Fantasy 3. This ends with a small bit of guidance on using the Divine Servitors from Dungeon Fantasy 5.
The chapter is a very interesting collection of thoughts that are for the most part mechanically agnostic, so they can apply to other types of GURPS games, or even other systems potentially. I think it's the best surprise in the book.

Gods and Devotees

Probably required unless
you want to use Divine Favor
and recalculate all the spells,
or you only play Holy Warrior.
This is the main meat of the book. Each divine realm gives real mythological examples of gods in that realm, and guidance on whether it is typically an evil, good, or neutral god, similar to other RPGs that have an alignment system. They all also include lenses for usually one of the Cleric or Druid, and the Holy Warrior, a custom spell list, and suggestions of extra powers for Holy Might, or Divine power modifiers.
There are 15 realms that are given the entire royal treatment, and then 5 given in the appendix-like final section, Other Divine Realms.
This is an absolutely massive amount of content, and the guidance for each realm is awesome. Even if you really don't care about the lenses for a follower of a god of a specific realm, the first three sections of each are fun reads. If I had to nitpick, I'd go back to a concern I had with Dungeon Fantasy 1 that the spell lists are pretty difficult to read as they are, and the space economy seems to be kinda an unnecessary trade-off in a digital format. Maybe a tabular format with some meta-data (without giving away the secret sauce of course) and especially page references in GURPS Magic for people browsing both.

Sacred Artifacts

This chapter is a bit of a lot of things. We have some pretty mundane things that anyone can buy mixed with some things that are on a higher level, like those found in 40 Artifacts. The organization of the chapter is done well with the high level one-of-a-kind things relegated to one section and the mundane in another. The chapter has some nice fluff for the items that are introduced as well.  I have no especial concerns with this chapter except for those brought up in my 40 Artifacts review for the top tier items.

Other Thoughts and Closing

This book is a pleasant surprise. It does what it accomplishes, and then it goes above and beyond that in a really good way. I would definitely not call this a must-have book, but it could be a good resource for a game that takes place in a setting where religion and divinity takes center stage in the plot. When I say that, I don't begrudge the great content of the book, I only mean that it's a great resource in a setting that supports it, and not very helpful in a setting that doesn't. It's great if you like the idea of more variety in your casters or if you are looking for some advice on adding religion. Overall, good, but potentially superfluous, but with a lot of surprisingly useful bits betrayed by the overly narrow title.

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