Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Review: Dungeon Fantasy 16: Wilderness Adventures

The overly elaborate cover
with gorgeous illustrations
and thoughtful coloring
is actually outshone by the
content within, surprisingly.
Ah! I forgot I haven't reviewed this one yet, and that is a bit of a shame because it is probably the most important Dungeon Fantasy book in terms of transcending the line and becoming something that's really useful everywhere. Dungeon Fantasy kinda had a thing where the travel between dungeon and town, and then the trip back was something of a bookend or set trimming that outlined the real adventure: killing things at the place and finding the cool stuff they have and doing it in a way where you die as little as possible. If the rules in Dungeon Fantasy 2 make travelling too boring, and the rules in Basic Set - Campaigns feel a bit overwrought, then this is a happy medium that works in almost any setting, even if it isn't Dungeon Fantasy.

A heaping helping of contents in the


This is a big installment for Dungeon Fantasy, weighing in at 60 pages. Subtracting the 3 page preamble, and the 3 pages of index and ad at the end, we have 54 pages left. The first 16 page chapter discusses strengths and weaknesses of the [then] existing character templates and methods of equipping them and retrofitting them for the outdoors. The next 26 page chapter is a very expanded list of rules for things like finding food, shelter, water, calculating pace for weather, terrain, leadership, and navigation ability, and others. The last 11 page chapter covers advice and guidance in a more thoughtful subjective and less crunchy light.
The book has a fantastic balance of content, rules, and guidance, but is light on fluff, as is typical of a GURPS book. The asides are all pretty interesting, and I enjoy the choice of pull-quotes. Illustrations are a bit lacking for most of the book, and incongruous when they are not; like they are drawn in multiple inconsistent styles, and don't exactly match the content of the book.
In short, this book is great... but in a kinda strange way, isn't an absolute Dungeon Fantasy necessity. I'd call it a necessity if you ever want to have outdoor, low-tech, (fantastic or not) adventures, and I'd say of all the Dungeon Fantasy books, this one is probably the most reusable of them all.

Who Goes There?

This is the "player's chapter," and it delves into what each existing template can do, and how to shore up their weaknesses and enhance their strengths for adventures that spend large quantities of time outdoors. Each occupation template has a blurb on strengths and weaknesses, guidance for outdoors on the adventure (one quest) scale and on the campaign (a series of quests) scale. A 15 point template Wilderness Training gives the minimum skills a good survivalist should have for classes that are ill-prepared for days/weeks/months in the middle of nowhere, and is a helpful tool (I should use more often.) A small aside on p. 9 offers thoughts on some races as well. The book introduces a new Native Guide henchman in 62 and 125 point flavors, specifically tailored for the Ally advantage for 250 point characters, or useful in low-point campaigns. We then go into an aside on many of the friends from Dungeon Fantasy 5 and 9, offering similarly brief critiques to those earlier applied to the racial templates. This leads to an extra helping of gear options, some of the gear listed being call-backs to earlier installments, but the majority being new. The chapter ends with a discussion of mounts and vehicles comparing the advantages and disadvantages of each.
I really have no subjective criticism of this chapter. It is chock full of stuff, and exactly the right stuff, and it feels like just the right amount of stuff. It's organized sensibly, and I did not find myself looking back and forth to find things.

Braving the Wilderness

This is the "crunchy GM chapter," with rules for dealing with things that happen outside. It starts with a very detailed section on calculating travel distance, almost too detailed, I feel, but meh, better to have too many rules and ignore some, then not enough and make something up to fill the space. I also felt like the rules were a bit jumbled because doing things the fully crunchy way requires a table from this page to calculate mileage, from this page for weather, this page for hiking ability, this page for reading maps, and a few more, and those pages are neither in order, nor consecutive. A workflow appendix at the back of the book might have been nice.
I enjoy the camping section after it though, and it's pretty fun and works well in my groups. It has rules for finding good campsites, doing watches, and sleeping comfortably, and they all are pretty intuitive and meaningful.
We then have a section on exploration, which in theory, feels pretty solid. There are a lot of rules here, but I have yet to seriously apply the rules. They all feel reasonable, and they mesh well with what I'd expect. I especially like the guidance on the Magic book's spells, because that is something I've never attempted to just straight up read yet. The section also deals with the fantastic elements you don't think of in a "realistic" survival story, like gigantic or tiny adventurers, those that can fly or transform, and all the magic powers as mentioned earlier.
The section on Dangers is a really good bit of inspiration if trying to think of ways to introduce some risk that aren't just "succeed or fight," you got natural disasters, bad weather, aggressive fauna (and flora,) and outdoorsy traps. All explained in 
The final section, Mother Nature's Bounty, covers looking for food, water, and very interestingly, makeshift weapons. The detailed rules on the weapons are especially interesting, and give a fun way to use the rarely (in my case) applied Armoury skills.
This chapter is huge, but better organized than the previous, I don't have as much trouble finding what I'm looking for, and that is not nothing, because rules are things I need fast.

Outdoor Adventures

This is the "fluffy GM chapter," with advice on how to make a wilderness adventure and make it interesting. We start off with some archetypical plot hooks, and describes some interesting implications of all of them. Then we go into a section that details the consequences of being in a huge not so constrained backdrop compared to the typical, nigh-claustrophobic sepulchers and dungeons more attuned to the genre. Should you draw out a detailed map or not? Should your continents be thousands of miles? Hundreds? Small islands? How far away should interesting events be situated from each other? What about zero mana zones? After this we go into Wilderness Woes which discusses appropriate measured application of some of the interesting elements discussed in the previous chapter and how to make a coherent picture out of it. Do these monsters and traps go together? What kind of hints help set the mood for something awful happening eminently? What do we need to consider about fighting on a miles wide plain? Where will I fight such and such monsters? What sets the fantasy outdoors apart from the medieval outdoors?
This is a fun read with a lot of food for thought, almost dizzyingly so. Organization is on point again, and I really have no hard complaints, just a very solid chapter.


My one hard complaint is that some of the really complicated rule combos in the second chapter could have been organized better, but other than that, this book is rock-solid. I said earlier that this book is not exactly a Dungeon Fantasy necessity, but I still think it's one of the best in the series regardless. Even if it isn't a necessity, I think it has a great impact on almost any Dungeon Fantasy game you can throw at it.


  1. Cheers for this one; it's a good book. I'd wondered why they'd written this towards DF specifically. Underground Adventures wasn't a DF supplement, yet this would be along the same line of thinking. I could probably find a why if I dug about on the forums, but eh.

    1. Underground adventures is one that has been tantalizing me for a while, and you might have just pushed me over the edge.

    2. It has been a while since I have read it, but I remember finding it interesting. I recall referencing it for a Roll20 GURPS game I ran a while back.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...