Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Review: Dungeon Fantasy 5: Allies

No more colored cover art.
Dungeon Fantasy 5 is a pretty good book, and it comes close to hitting the perfect balance of what I enjoy in a book. I like the rules a lot, and honestly wish I could use this book more than I do use it. For a Druid, this book is almost an absolute must, though that isn't to say it is useless for anyone else. It has options custom tailored for several classes, and several options that are generic enough to apply to any class. Let's take a walk through and see what we get.


Big Table of Contents!
This book basically touches on the Ally advantage, and especially in the context, of course, of Dungeon Fantasy. 7 pages are tailored towards Animal friends, 8 pages are devoted to guardian angels, and the final 10 pages are devoted to magic familiars. Besides that, we have a pretty big introduction, and an index. I'd like to point out that the introduction is one of the most helpful up to this point in the series.
What I like about this book is that it isn't just phoning it in by listing a bunch of allies and saying, "yup, that's done!" Each section actually has enough extra features associate with it that each of the three mentioned approaches feels different than just Ally.
The book of course, at its core, is content. There is a huge list of helpers here. Interestingly besides that is the amount of optional rules like limitations and modifiers added to the system. Do I have any criticisms of the material? Not necessarily the writing, but a handful of options don't seem that competitive. That said, when you have over 30 ready to go allies, of course a few will rise to the top and a few will shuffle to the bottom, and "not awesome" doesn't mean "not useful." Let's do a deep dive now.

Druidic Allies

This chapter, is of course all about animal friends. It starts with a bit on a special system for Druids that might be summoning animals that aren't necessarily the same each time, and how to deal with that. Gameplay wise, the system seems pretty balanced with the nominal ally appearance rolls, with a handful of pros and cons beside. After the explanation of the system, it gives some meta-traits to help define new animals.
I especially like that each animal write up includes pre calculated values for the Shapeshifting spell, and the Alternate Form advantage, which shows the versatility of these friends. Several of the animals have extra lenses for even more economy. Altogether, a very good chapter.

Holy Allies

This chapter is geared towards Clerics, Holy Warriors, and Druids, and has an interesting system for constructing elemental/angelic/diabolic allies. It introduces the special encounter class Servitor of Good as well, with extra rules for what spells work and don't work against that particular type.
This chapter includes a remixing system for creating an ally from several small templates representing different elements or aspects, which is a unique idea. As a bonus, the chapter has a bit of a narration going on that walks one through the process of building an angel.
The only small issue I have with these allies is more of a mechanics problem than a writing problem, and that is that the fact that Servitors don't keep equipment with them. And having to carry it around when they are not there makes it a bit of a drag. I guess this could be fixed with some points in Signature Gear though.


This chapter introduces pets for magic users (specifically calling out Bards, Clerics, Druids, and Wizards.) Familiars are not just vanilla animals with a different coat of paint though, and they bestow several advantages that make them definitively distinct from the animals in Druidic Allies.  The chapter includes rules for borrowing energy from them for expensive spells, and for building new familiars as well. Each familiar provides a special list of fantasy advantages they can grant as well, usually in line with the theme of the animal, for example many of the bird familiars can grant winged flight.
Mechanically, the allies are a bit weak, but they have so many perks and advantages it really balances out.

Other Thoughts and Conclusion

So, the very first book without the real cover. I miss those covers. On the other hand, we do have a full color ad at the end for Warehouse 23, the place where you can buy these pdfs, which is unique. This book also starts using pull-quotes a bit more liberally than the predecessors in the series. A lot are actually pulled from the same text, but there are a few from other sources. I enjoy them, it adds a bit of spice to the book.
Overall, Dungeon Fantasy 5 is a pretty good entry. The only thing I have a problem with, again, is the apparent inefficacy of the servitors, but maybe they are better in action then on paper? I did really like the build-a-bear approach though.

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