Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Review: Dungeon Fantasy 14: Psi

There are like 3 brains right
Psi, like brain powers and stuff. To me, it feels a little weird in Dungeon Fantasy, but at the same time, I'm told it's not that weird. I mean, I'm not as extensively entrenched in traditional RPGs as a lot of people, so psi to me seems like a Sci-Fi thing. I've only seen powers like this in games like Earthbound or Shin Megami Tensei. Eh, that's not a problem in any case, because this hearty supplement has a lot of information. Even if you don't like psi powers necessarily, the book has a lot of reusable elements that might make sense in other Powers topologies and Dungeon Fantasy as a whole. Overall, a good mix of stuff for players and GMs alike.


Table of Contents
This is a sizable book, at 47 pages, minus the preamble, introduction, and index, 41 pages of content. This is a really big book, so it is a teeny bit more expensive than some Dungeon Fantasy installments, but it's pretty worth it because this book goes pretty deep and wide on the subject of psionics and its users and effects. The first 17 page chapter covers the main components of the Mentalist template, a character, of course, which is good at psionic powers. The next 5 page chapter goes over new shopping and treasure options that cover the implications of adding psionic characters and threats to a campaign. The next 9 page chapter is like a mini Dungeon Fantasy 2 that covers the utility capabilities of a mentalist, how to protect their niche without stepping on others, etc. The final 8 page chapter includes advice for psionic monsters and a list of 9 new brain powered monsters.
The book covers all elements in equal measure, lots of hard content in the way of templates, equipment, abilities, and monsters; lots of rules with new specially themed threats and obstacles especially for psionic characters; chapters devoted to strategies and guidance for playing as a mentalist or incorporate them into a campaign; and a bit of underwiring lore and fluff to tie it all together into a single cohesive package.
Organization is good, with relevant asides in good locations. The humor is on-point in this book, and details are ample and don't require as much running back and forth as some books. The book doesn't heavily rely on any existing books, but does mention that GURPS Psionic Powers and GURPS Powers can be referenced to get a better understanding of the plumbing. The art is also good, but surprisingly sparse, while the pull-quotes are all relevant. The book is presented in an easy to consume, if not text dense form.
Let's dive deeper then.


This chapter covers all the constituent bits that go into building a mentalist. It explains the Psi Talent in terms of a GURPS Powers talent and what advantages and drawbacks that has, and then goes into a suitably lengthy index of custom abilities covering all gamuts of utility. All abilities are constructed using the same mechanics one uses to customize advantages so the list is easy to expand with fairly balanced price-appropriate abilities, which is followed with a summary table that includes point costs and prerequisites for given abilities. This leads to the mentalist template proper, and then 50 point cross-train lenses to become a dual classed mentalist, and it includes the nice breakout of choice lenses and marginal lenses. The chapter is concluded with a mini Dungeon Fantasy 11 with another nice list of cool abilities one can add to their list specifically for psionic characters.
I have 0 criticism for this chapter, it is extremely detailed and well thought out. I guess the only thing I can say, is that maybe this very long chapter could have been sensibly divided into 2 or 3 smaller chapters, but it's 6 in one, half a dozen in the other for me.

Psi-Related Gear

As it says on the tin, a lot of interesting items, mundane or not, equipment modifiers, potions, what have you for the psi in your party. There is an interesting formula for calculating the power of herbs with beneficial effects which I regret that I have forgotten about since buying this book, because it sounds like a good idea. The book then goes into just a few weirder treasures, but each with a great deal of exposition, and has a few call-backs for treasures in 40 Artifacts or Treasure Tables that could stand to be psi-ified.
I like the items here because there are a lot of pre-made items ready to use, but even better, there is a bunch of details on "and here is how to spin up your own." I like that, and I wish more treasure books and sections would include similar.

Psi in the Campaign

This chapter is guidance and advice for GMs managing a campaign with psi powers (like it says in the name?) It's all about the checks and balances, and how to let Mentalists be cool, but not outshine everyone, what they can do well, what their weaknesses are, what are some good challenges, and all that. It includes a nice mini Dungeon Fantasy 2 as well, which is really helpful, I think. The chapter is long, but that's really all that can be said: each section of Dungeon Fantasy 2 has a corresponding section in this chapter.

Psionic Things

This chapter includes monsters and other unusual psi-themed occurrences (like psychic storms or npcs from another dimension) that can waylay a party. The list is written in a random encounter format so you can roll for things if you like doing that, and that is a thing I like to do. This is followed by a list of statted out monsters with psi abilities. All of the monsters have interesting mechanics, but some feel just a tad derivative, for better or worse, of concepts we've already seen in some Dungeon Fantasy 2 monsters (there is, for example, a psi version of a zombie and an as-sharak,) but a lot are unique too. All together, a valuable chapter even in a non-psionic campaign just for the extra monsters.

Other Thoughts and Conclusion

This is a surprisingly good book to me. This book does focus on one thing, but it does it in such a broad way, it feels like it helps in all ways anyway. I wouldn't say it is a must-buy, but if I were to put it in a category, I'd say a good "secondary" tier after you have all the absolutely critical books (Dungeon Fantasy 1,2,3,11,15,16,17) I've never used a psi in a campaign before, but they seem a decent challenge, while not being absolutely abstract like some others. That is, while a Scholar is fun because of its difficult to wield strengths, a Mentalist feels like it isn't a front line straightforward character like a knight or a barbarian, but isn't exactly defenseless either. Would have been nice if the book contained a mini-loadouts section, but I'd say looking at the loadouts for another lightly armored brainy class like a bard, cleric, thief, or wizard might be an ok place to start. Overall, a good entry into the series.


  1. It IS weird, but a lot of older RPG stuff is weird. If you dig back to older video games, cartoons or even some RPGs that went as late as the 90s (Rifts, for example), you'd get these mashups of sci-fi and fantasy all over the place, like mighty-thewed barbarians with laser swords rescuing the galactic princess from a dragon and a space witch.

    I get the feeling that DF 14 is explicitly channeling that sort of thing, which means that not only is it weird, but it's self-aware in its weirdness.

    1. I wouldn't be surprised, the irony and humor in the book is thick enough to choke a horse, and I know I didn't get have of the references.


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