Saturday, October 1, 2016
Opinions: Dungeon Fantasy 4-19 - Occupational Template
The artificer is a crafter and inventor, with her schtick being to create overwrought contraptions in a very short amount of time. In this, she is effective. Outside of her niche, she isn't especially good though. Even with regard to supporting abilities, she is lacking. The Artificer needs to carry tons of toolkits to be useful, and will almost always be way overburdened with even a very light, well optimized load. (Buy stuff with the lighten enchantment?) Overall, when doing what the artificer does best it's really fun, and succeeding despite her other shortcomings is good fodder for storytelling.
In terms of Barrier To Entry and skill ceiling, the barrier is a little high, because you need to be able to familiarize yourself with the cost of several items to be able to use the artificer correctly, and even moreso, mastering an invention system (like metatronic generators or Sorcery: Enchantment with the serial numbers filed off) if you want to reach the full limits of what the class can do. That said, the skill ceiling is not much higher than the floor. The two very hard things you need to know to use it well don't get much more complicated at high levels. Finally, the power-ups in Dungeon Fantasy 11 are all very thoughtful and unique.
The Scholar is nominally, all around, not exceptional at the bread-and-butter of Dungeon Fantasy, but does have a really high IQ. He depends on modular abilities to fill in blanks if he can prepare adequately before an adventure, and Wild Talent for the unpredictable bits that catch the party off-guard. Using the scholar well means dealing with his nominally low stats in favorable conditions, and knowing which situations count as big enough emergencies to bust out the ace up the sleeve. A good scholar is going to need a very good recall of the useful skills and spells to be able to learn with modular abilities and wild talent, so pretty high, but not as high as the Artificer. The biggest trick is knowing how to budget character points among his two strengths, or shoring up his obvious deficiencies. The power-ups in Dungeon Fantasy 11 have a few interesting options, but also consider they have a whole cool mechanical approach to custom designed books in Dungeon Fantasy 4 already, giving them tons of physical power-ups out of the box.
The problem for me with the demonologist is we have a power, spells, and allies mechanic that pulls it a bit in all directions. I would recommend focusing on a main one of those three, getting it solid, then maybe shoring up another one of the main three foci, or the inherent weaknesses in the class. Barrier to entry is about as high as any other caster, but owing to the narrow focus of the spells allowed, but the versatility given by them, they also have a pretty high skill ceiling. The power-ups in Dungeon Fantasy 11 are not very impressive.
This class is really composed of a few sub-types: either a master of elements in general, or one element in specific, mechanically the template is built well with regards to the element bent, but is a bit laser-focused, leaving an Elementalist in bad shape for anything their niche doesn't cover. The floor is a bit higher than some casters because of the summoning bent and designing allies, but the ceiling is pretty high as they have a lot of flexibility in the areas of their expertise. The power-ups are a little dry, but the Storms section in power-ups is interesting, and the options for building an elemental are pretty fun.
Basically everything I said about elementalists with two exceptions: 1) their power-ups are way better, and 2) their allies are more a thing of quantity versus the Elementalists' quality. Necromancers are built to summon hordes of cannon fodder zombies, skeletons, what have you that fight a battle of attrition winning by a thousand cuts, while Elementalists summon one strong ally.who helps in a more substantial way.
At least the other classes are super genius level in terms of IQ, Shamans aren't even that. Shamans are a weird generalist who has the power to summon helpers belonging to the other three summoner specialties. In exchange, the spell list is a little ho-hum compared to the other summoner templates as well, not that they are weak, in fact they are all pretty good, but they don't have the razzle dazzle of other casters. They do have a few interesting variations on the rules, and they have access to a few interesting summonable allies the others don't though, This class is probably slightly more difficult to use than the Necromancer or Demonologist to start with, but has the same sky high ceiling due to flexibility. The power-ups in Dungeon Fantasy 11 are boring, but thematic.
I give the bard a lot of smack because I don't like it, and that's that. This class almost feels to me what the Bard shoulda/woulda/coulda been if we tried to make it useful instead of getting caught up on certain milquetoast wishy washy elements that don't work well together. The Innkeeper has a pretty low barrier to entry, and a medium skill ceiling; eventually a player will need to specialize by something at a high level, but they have time to get used to a wide variety of easy mechanics that are very helpful in several situations before needing to pigeon holing themselves into something they don't like. Until then, they are a pretty good second string in several duties, except magic. Their power-ups in Dungeon Fantasy 11 are a bit of a let-down.
Ninja have a lot of DX but not a lot of ST and IQ, elements that I might say are also pretty ninja-y, but ah well. They start off with good stealth capability and weapon skill, and through weapon master, can become competent damage dealers as well. The disappointingly low IQ limits them a bit, but they can grow into it, and I guess with a 250 point budget, it's better to have a super awesome DX then a "decent" one with a decent IQ. The skill floor is just a little bit higher than for a thief, meaning not too difficult, but they have a lot of good growth options giving a decent skill ceiling. Unfortunately, power-ups don't exist (I think?) for the ninja, but the book has some pretty good basic options for more abilities to buy, and a cool collection of exotic tools and weapons that are exclusive to ninja.
Ok, I just complained about how the ninja was a bit too much of a laser focused one-trick pony, and then the Assassin comes along, and she has much better stats, and somehow it feels less inspiring? She's a little more social, a little more intelligent, and a little bit stronger, and she does all this without giving up any of the super cool levels of DX. I mean, mechanically sound, but almost shoehorned (actually, shoehorned, it takes up a 2/3 page aside.) A power-ups article is included in Pyramid #3/50 and it comes with a lot of cool perks, but I wish there was something a bit more whizbang, rock-em-sock-em in the catalog.
A mentalist uses Powers to pull off caster-like abilities, and as of today, besides the handful of other options one can find in various issues of Pyramid, it is the only one of its type in Dungeon Fantasy. Even compared to the power users in Pyramid, the Mentalist has a unique ability mechanic in that using powers has the chance to summon Eldritch monsters on accident, a slightly uncommon modifier. His point distribution gives him a lot of interesting clashing strengths and weaknesses that do play well together however, and create a good squishy wizard type... if PSI users were wizards. The biggest barrier to entry for a mentalist is the early point budgeting. Power based special abilities can be much more expensive than those based on GURPS Magic, so the elementalist has a lot of compensatory gaps to mind. For better or worse, it's almost like the class has a negative skill ceiling because it just gets easier to control as power rises. Obviously, this is true of any occupational template, but it almost seems to apply double to the mentalist. As for power-ups, the book itself includes several statted up new abilities. Advanced players, with gm permission, can go hog wild with GURPS Powers and make nigh endless new abilities if the decent list isn't enough.
The Incanter is a caster who uses a modified version of Ritual Path Magic, and I am a biased creature, so that automatically makes the incanter way more cool than a lot of casters. Outside of his spell casting niche, the incanter is a decent second string knowledge support character, and not an abyssal fighter (not great either though.) I find it mechanically competitive with the "other" all purpose caster, the wizard out of the box. The barrier to entry is that the players need to learn a slightly confusing new system to use the incanter at all. The skill ceiling is pretty high as players can definitely take better advantage of the incanter by understanding how to build powers better and convert them to incantation spells, and increasing skill levels can greatly increase the power that an incanter can bring to bear, making them already more versatile. So far, the incanter has a few good power-ups already packaged in Dungeon Fantasy 19, but the list is a little short (Check out Ritual Path Specialists in Pyramid #3/66 for a lot of good easily converted ideas though.)
I might do a post rating henchmen templates too eventually. Let me know if you have any strongly aligned or opposed opinions; everyone likes different things, and I'd be interested to know if I missed a small detail that might turn my viewpoint around on some of the templates I'm less enthusiastic about.