Saturday, October 14, 2017

Review: Dungeon Fantasy RPG - GM Screen, and the Cardboard Heroes.

That's about what it is.
A long time ago when I was reviewing all the Dungeon Fantasy RPG stuff, I said I'd wait to review some of the content until I got the physical box, I got the physical box now, so I guess I can review them.

GM Screen

The GM screen... I'm gonna be lazy and use approximates, is about a foot tall, a little less, and a little bit more than two feet wide when open completely. I was surprised because I never seen a GM screen before, but somehow, pop culture has lead me to anticipate something much bigger. I won't call this a positive or minus, because really, functionally, a GM screen is good for two things:
  • Hiding secret rolls
  • Holding bunches of notes on things you don't want to memorize
And in those two regards, it delivers. I think I personally would have liked the Fall distance damage (something in comparison that I think is hard to remember,) and scrapped the box on success rolls and complementary rolls (something by comparison that seems so fundamental, that you probably don't need to look it up in play) and the list of probabilities (mostly irrelevant in play, space could have been used for something else) but that's subjective, and maybe newer GMs will find the basics helpful. That said, of the information they included, I consider about 2/3 of the content absolutely essential; the remaining 1/3 is half stuff I have down by rote but is still helpful to have on hand for a newbie, and half that I find superfluous. A score of 5/6 I estimate, which is pretty good by any measure.
The art is fine, and there doesn't seem to be any compression artifacts. The material is sturdy, and shouldn't easily break by casual wear and tear, but already the ink is flaking around the hinges, extremely noticeable because it is a black border on white paper.
Overall, a pretty good thing, but the "hinges" already flaking bothers me a bit, as I have essentially not even used it yet.

The Map

The map is surprisingly big, and the print quality is good. I think it's an absolute travesty that the full-sized map is already annotated, clearly labeling where any secret passages might be, and ruining any sort of potential surprise as well as a modicum of reusability.

Cardboard Heroes and Stands

The print quality on the actual heroes are fine, and the material is very solid. The stands are also pretty sturdy, and the colored ones are useful for any situation where color coding might be helpful.
The base of the stands however have a pretty big usability flaw. Dungeon Fantasy RPG has a critical mechanic that involves fighting at close range, which is represented by two characters occupying the same space on the board. The figure stands however take up the entirety of a hexagon shaped space ("hex") and make close combat frustrating. A shape that only takes up half of a hex and allows at least two figures (the rules technically allow for even more under certain conditions) seems like a fundamental requirement miss. I could have easily forgiven the inability to put three or more figures in one space, but two is a minimum.

Pack In Books

The GM Screen had two small pack in booklets added as a bonus, Delvers to Go! includes several pre-made characters as an example to players who might be overwhelmed by the volume of options or who want to jump into the game right now and ask questions later, and Character Creation Cheat Sheet. An abbreviated book that walks players and GMs through all the steps of creating a new character.

Delvers to Go!

This book includes 13 example characters exercising a variety of character creation options, with notes explaining to readers why and how certain decisions are possible and come together synergistically. As an example of what kind of character, I think it is pretty helpful as a guide to say, "look at what you can do with this, this, and this option," but I would like to note that it sorely lacks any examples of a completed character sheet. Guidance on how you are expected to put Masha Deathfoot's 2 DR from the dragonskin advantage, and 4 DR for hands and feet only inside the singular DR box would be appreciated by even me. Likewise holds true for Ælin Rock-Talker's 1 level of Tough Skin, 2 DR from armor, and conditional 2 DR for elemental damage. More difficult combinations are certainly possible, and even more difficult to imagine in that singularly small DR field.

Character Creation Cheat Sheet

A 15 page booklet that walks players through choosing a template, referencing all advantages, disadvantages, and skills, and choosing equipment. The indices of traits inside the book and the example loadout are both good help, but what is and what is not included is a little baffling. If I understand the background of this booklet correctly, it was a spur of the moment thing when it was discovered that a little bit more content could fit into the GM screen set, so perhaps the aim was just to cram as much content that could fit, and keep adding things until they couldn't add anymore. Overall, I am wary of whether it can actually meet the intended usage of helping two players complete a character sheet at the same time since so much critical information is in the Adventurers book, a shorter book that mostly tells you what page numbers to go to doesn't help without really tearing that book apart.

Other Thoughts and Conclusion

Dungeon Fantasy RPG is designed to be an accessible streamlined GURPS spin-off. The contents of the box set and the GM screen are all good, but it seems like there is some room for improvement when it comes to making it come together in a usable way, but with some experience and practice, the issues are easier to ignore or overlook.


  1. Basically no standard miniature bases that exist take into account that most game systems have rules that require figures to occupy the same space.

    I think maybe you think the GM screen should be bigger because the ones in films are often in front of tweens? It isn't actually any smaller than any other screen.

    1. I literally had that exact thought re: the screens. "I bet they just look huge in all the cartoons and movies because it's always kids."

  2. Totally agree about the map. Seems a rookie mistake to annotate it.

  3. Also because tall screens were the norm for so many years and it seems only recently that landscape formatted screens became the norm.


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