Saturday, April 30, 2016

Review: Dungeon Fantasy 8 Treasure Tables

The badger is using the
harness incorrectly. Silly
badger, that usage will not
properly distribute weight and
mitigate muscle fatigue.
This, I think was one of the missing fundamentals from Dungeon Fantasy 1 and 2, though, thinking about it, it doesn't exactly fit the content of either perfectly, so it makes sense that it is its own volume. As humble as the subtitle is, this book is not just a phenomenal table of prizes, it also includes useful smatterings of rules and flavor here and there, and although it is not a "fun read" all the way through, being that it is mostly a catalog (unless you are the kinda person who likes looking at vintage JCPenny catalogs for the articles and not the pictures,) it is a nigh irreplaceable tool. Let's take a closer look.


This book has 56 pages of content, a 1 page introduction, and a 2 page index. Breaking that down even further, chapter 1 is a 4 page guide on using the book and suggestions for making awards appropriate. The next three chapters, a combined 32 pages, are catalogs of items, split up into chapters on Mundane Items, Dungeoneering Gear, and Miracles and Wonders. Enchantments is 8 pages of supernatural powers that can be associated with items, both good and bad, and the final chapter, Embellishments, goes into fancy bits of flavor that can have a mechanical benefit for the system. And yes, you read that right, the overwhelming majority is a table, and subtable of treasures and items spanning 32 pages.
This book extensively relies on GURPS Magic, especially for enchantments, GURPS Martial Arts for a small section on weapons, and a bunch of references to Dungeon Fantasy 1 and 6 in particular, but smatterings of references to all previous volumes as well. There are workarounds for some missing books, but I'd say that Dungeon Fantasy 1 and Magic are pretty foundational to proper use (Though, they are basically cornerstones to Dungeon Fantasy in its entirety anyway) and GURPS Martial Arts (Which I like anyway) and Dungeon Fantasy 6 (Which this book goes some ways to improve) are also useful, meaning, the only ones I can really put in the maybe pile are Dungeon Fantasy 4 and 7.
The book has standard faire black and white illustrations, and decent pull quotes. In terms of what is inside, the book is far and away mostly content, some rules, decent fluff, and some guidance; a mix that lands it in the category of books that I like the most.
In a meta sense, I have two issues with the book.
  1. The book has some neat rules for customizing items, but they are kinda scattered throughout the volume. It's hard for me to say exactly how I would have preferred it, but an index with all item, weapon, and armor customization options introduced would have been lovely
  2. This is a really small thing, but I feel like this book could have awesomely benefited from tons of color illustrations. Probably would have driven the cost way up for all the art licensing or commissioning, but hey, it's not printed, so color costs you (almost?) nothing.
Overall, a great book, let's go look at the rest in detail.

Awarding Treasure

This is a fun soft chapter with guidance and justifications for how to give out treasure, as well as something of an instructions manual for using the tables. It explains why a gradual power curve can be rewarding, and I agree with that. An issue I draw though is that there is a lot of what and why in this chapter, but not a lot of how. There are some numbers on how much money should be fairly rewarded in a session, but these numbers aren't particularly universal I feel. I do like that it points out that this book is good not just for random treasure generation, but also as an expansion shopping catalog for Dungeon Fantasy 1, as it does contain extra rules, and new items and equipment that players might enjoy buying.
The chapter ends with a super table that links to all other tables for the GM who truly wants to randomly generate absolutely anything. I like using it in my currently not-very-serious campaign. Sometimes players find something that is absolutely unworthy of mention, or something extraordinarily awesome, but those little ups and downs I think make things more interesting. There is guidance for a more controlled approach for generating items though, on the other hand, if you don't like the idea of a player randomly finding an infinity+1 "stinky" long knife in your typical introductory "the basement has rats, exterminate" quest.

Mundane Items

These items are mostly, as it says on the tin, mundane items, and as opposed to the next chapter, many items aren't immediately useful to adventurers who don't live a mundane life. However, treasure is treasure, and mundane things can be nice and lend a certain reality to things. Just because your characters eat giant rat on a spit with their hands, doesn't mean that no one has nice flat or silverware. And that being said, not everything is useless. There's containers, scientific instruments, mapping tools, etc.
And all things have a monetary value. Wild monsters may not carry wallets full of GURPS Bucks, but they might inhabit abandoned cabins with valuable fixtures. That being said, a lot of these mundane items are given interesting mechanical benefits (those for spices I found especially amusing) and the jewelry section codifies immense wealth for small sums of weight. I especially like the callout with a formula on p.13 for looting bodies for naturally occurring loot.
I enjoy the special attention to detail and how this answers many questions like, "No treasure? How much can we get for the chairs?"

Dungeoneering Gear

This chapter, as opposed to the previous, mostly consists of items and equipment with nigh immediate adventuring applications. The chapter introduces a lot of low impact special items that one might be able to add to some stores in some campaigns, but the book warns against making everything available to anyone with enough money. Especially useful are the extra quality options for armor and weapons in this chapter. I have no especial outstanding criticism or praise for this chapter, but found it overall a useful catalog.

Miracles and Wonders

These are especially exotic items that make those from the previous chapter look mundane. Many of the potions are recycled, and it does include most of the items from 40 Artifacts, but a great deal of the items are unique and new. All new items include a fairly interesting and flavorful description, and many have effects that are unique enough to be difficult to impossible to replicate with a straight "Powers to items" crafting system. Great content, but not a lot of new rules.


Magical enhancements! Enhancements, enchantments. They look similar. As a matter of fact, this chapter, I find a little boring because a lot of this is straight copied from GURPS Magic. I also think it is a grievous mistake that page numbers aren't included to look up the enchantments quickly. That said, there are a handful of new enchantments here and there, especially for weapons and armor.
The supernatural origins table means that not every item with special powers has to be magic, which is a neat extra, and gives some flavorful oomph in distinguishing items from each other, but it almost feels out of place.
The curses section is actually a lot more interesting than the enchantment section in my opinion. They feel pretty novel and distinguished, though some of the effects seems overwhelmingly awful... but if they weren't awful, they wouldn't be good curses, would they?


This chapter is an interesting catalog of mostly aesthetic embellishments, but that doesn't mean useless. Several books include mechanics for having bonuses to reaction rolls for dressing one's best or having flashy equipment, and sometimes, it's just cool to have a sword that makes anime zinging sounds as it cuts through the air. All of the embellishments are described well, and mostly feel unique, save for a few like, "Embroidery, Minimal," "Embroidery, Extensive," but still mostly unique. I'd like a few more negative cost factor embellishments, especially purely aesthetic ones, but maybe the designers felt that would be gamed a bit hard?
The especially pure flavor Social Studies section at the end is also an enjoyable read. It's nice sometimes to be able to customize something with a legend without any tangible mechanical benefits or drawbacks. These interesting item histories can also be used as plot hooks if a player with suitable background skills would be interested in researching the treasure further.

Other Thoughts and Closing

I like the book, and if I seem harsh when criticising the few flaws here and there, it's not because the book is awful, but rather, I think the writers and editors probably want that feedback, and I think people who haven't read these books before probably appreciate a totally candid review because there is no especially good way to look into these books beforehand except by a review. Therefore, I think it's important to say very clearly what the book does well, but also what it could do better.
I use this book all the time though, and enjoy the random outcomes and what they spur forward. Delved deep into a dangerous temple, risking life and limb... and you found a "cheap inlaid silver comb?" Walloped some nerds and got a doll with an enchantment that can blot out the sun? Grasp at straws loudly now on why they were carrying something like that in the first place! If the game didn't surprise me from time to time, I don't think I'd enjoy it as much.

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