Friday, August 5, 2016

Review: Pyramid #3/36 Dungeon Fantasy

Buy it Here.
I like Dungeon Fantasy a lot and it is the line I most often discuss here on this blog. Today, I was scrolling through my PDFs, starting with the oldest I have, and this is the earliest for which I have all the pieces to give a fair review: Pyramid #3/36 from October 2011. Those pieces being GURPS Powers: Divine Favor, GURPS Gun-Fu, GURPS MagicGURPS Power-Ups 1: Imbuements, Pyramid #3/4, 13, 19 and probably at a minimum, Dungeon Fantasy 1-3. Let's take a look at each of the articles one by one to dissect the value objectively, followed by my subjective opinions.

The Demolisher

This article by Sean Punch speaks to a template for a character that is an expert at both bombs and guns. The article doesn't de[end on much besides the rudimentary Dungeon Fantasy books, 1-3. A rough grizzled dwarf grenadier. The article begins with the template, and then discusses some new equipment, specifically appropriate bombs and guns, other equipment, and then an abbreviated power-ups section, and my favorite, the Making the [...] Useful section.
Subjectively, I like the way the article is laid out, and the information is a fun read. The character class, however, doesn't sound like my cup of tea. It is a class that depends on consumables, some of which are very expensive, and as a player that makes me anxious. The idea is cool though, and I'd definitely let one of my players use it, or use the idea for advice for another player if they wanted a gruff bombs expert.

Dungeon Saints

This article, by Antoni Ten is a lens that focuses on incorporating the Divine Favor book into the Dungeon Fantasy setting. This article mostly depends on Divine Favor and Dungeon Fantasy 1, but also is enhanced by Dungeon Fantasy 3 as it supports lenses and has prayer lists for evil versions of the Cleric and Holy Warrior, and it augments divine auras from Pyramid #3/19.
That is all fine, but the real star are the new advantages for Divine Favor: Faster Prayers and Repeated Petitioner. The prayer list is pretty long, which is nice, and the detail of the lenses for augmenting other classes, and either adjusting or augmenting the existing Cleric and Holy Warrior templates is really nice. If it had a Making Them Useful section, that'd be nice, but honestly, the characters that use Divine Favor are probably filling the same niche as the vanilla magic based varieties.

The Musketeer

This article, by Matt Riggsby, covers a new Dungeon Fantasy character template, the titular Musketeer. It does not have many dependencies, but a lot of Power-Ups assume you have Gun-Fu. The article starts with a warning that the musketeer and the demolisher from just a few pages ago might be compatible in the same setting, but to be careful with the used equipment lists, and probably use one or the other. The character is sold as a "more urban and social" Scout, with a bit more charm and city abilities, and of course, guns instead of the other ranged attack types. This article also includes an equipment list that is a bit more akin to Low-Tech versus the whimsical and less reliable fantasy-tech kind of weapons you have in The Demolisher.
The article is very detailed and the additions to Dungeon Fantasy are all appropriate. The Customization Notes especially are very helpful. I have based NPCs in Dungeon Fantasy off of this template [yes, I made character sheets for NPCs. Some people like to do that, and find it fun, even if it isn't necessary.] and with the very expensive advantages required for a good gun-user in Dungeon Fantasy, having the advice really helps. This article is also the reason I bought Gun-Fu.

Eidetic Memory: The Horrific Dungeon

This is a nearly system agnostic article about incorporating horror elements into a dungeon delving campaign, and reflects a bit on the author, David L. Pulver's experiences thereabouts. It includes some advice on setting the ambience by designing the setting a particular way, and using mechanics to give a psychological edge.
I found it an enjoyable short read, but I often like the Eidetic Memory articles. Some of the set piece advice is useful for any GM trying to create a certain dreary atmosphere.

Powering Up: Imbuements

This article by W.A. Frick is a bit of an extension to the Mystic Knight article from Pyramid #3/13, but doesn't entirely lean on it. It does depend directly on access to GURPS Power-Ups 1: Imbuements and is greatly enhanced by access to Pyramid #3/4, which I've said earlier is basically a must have if you like Imbuements. This article though, unlike The Mystic Knight is about integrating imbuements in general for everyone rather than creating a new class. It has niche protection from the ground up, so it doesn't defeat the purpose of the Mystic Knight, so much as it gives directed options to other characters. It includes some enhancements and limitations for the Imbue advantage, and several customized lists of appropriate imbuements per each of the standard Dungeon Fantasy classes. It also specially includes lenses for making a Swashbuckler a Mystic Swordsman and a Scout into a Mystic Archer to complement the Mystic Knight.
Although there is a lot here, and I think it is really well organized, for myself personally, I haven't found much use for it because neither me nor my players are too enchanted by the imbuement system. I've started playing around with it a bit more, and if I do turn out to like it, I think this article will then find itself immensely valuable.

Historically Rich Dungeons - Repurposed Real Estate For Dungeon Fantasy

This article by J. Edward Tremlett is about bestowing a sense of history to a dungeon. It asks the GM to consider things like who owned the dungeon in the past, what was the dungeon's original purpose, and why that all might matter to the delvers entering the dungeon today. The article is completely system agnostic so it can be used with any dungeon delving RPG if you like, but for me, it's Dungeon Fantasy.
This is a short fluffy article, but it does a good job at poking at some important thoughts that can help make a setting feel more alive. A lot of the points feel obvious in hindsight, but having them all laid out like that makes it easier to apply them.

All Charged Up Over Magic Items

This article, by Sean Punch, speaks to existing mechanisms for better priced single use (or rechargeable) magic items. It's short, sweet, and to the point, and I hope I remember this if I ever need to stat out some magic books. A great article that really only needs GURPS Magic to be useful.

Random Thought Table - The Joy of Hex

This editorial article, by Steven Marsh is an ode to the absurd and why Dungeon Fantasy doesn't have to make sense, and why that can be and is fun anyway. 
I find it hard to critique an opinion, so I'll say that it is a refreshing thought to think that you can do anything you want when running Dungeon Fantasy because of how ephemeral each scene is. Something happens, then it is over, and whether or not that something was disastrous, amazing, boring, or whatever, you get to do something different next time, if you want! It kinda mirrors my thoughts on why I enjoy Dungeon Fantasy, but more from a player perspective, I like it because players can come up with anything ridiculous or cool, and because it's GURPS, if they have enough points, they can do it, and they can do it better than just refluffing a thing here or there.

Other Thoughts and Conclusion

I think this is a solid 37 page issue altogether where I "like" everything, but nothing here gets a standing ovation and wolf whistle and changes my life. I like the added professional templates, I like the Divine Favor and Imbuements bit, the soft advice on setting building is fun, and I liked the editorial. There was a lot of fun pull-quotes as well, but almost no illustrations at all, besides the cover, pictures of some of the inspirational books for this issue, and a Murphy's Rules comic in the Odds and Ends section. Good for fans of Dungeon Fantasy, but I think I prefer some of the other issues, like Pyramid #3/60 Dungeon Fantasy III or Pyramid #3/76 Dungeon Fantasy IV more. 

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