Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Review: #3/72 - Alternate Dungeons

Great issue, but the cover
doesn't do it for me.
I reviewed the second one a while ago, but not this one yet. It's really good. It's got a bunch of cool things to add to Dungeon Fantasy. There's not a bad article, and it has the mix of hard mechanics and soft advice that sits just right with me. I don't really have much more in the way of an introduction to give, so let's crack open this can of worms, and dive in, like normal people do when they crack open normal cans of worms.


If it weren't entirely obvious, this is a Dungeon Fantasy focused issue, released October, 2014, almost two years old as of this writing. It's a nominal 4 pages, with 6 features.
Small table of contents.
The issue has articles that require a large amount of prerequisite books, but some that don't. It's probably more accurate to say that the articles are "augmented" by having the right books rather than they need it. Especially important ones are Dungeon Fantasy 1,2, 3, 11, and Monsters 1, also the Basic Set, and even a few more here and there.
The issue has a focus on mechanics for two articles, fluff in one article, guidance in two, and one data heavy article. Besides the decent amount of prerequisite books, this issue is very accessible, the first article in fact is about making Dungeon Fantasy a more simple experience. There are a decent amount of good pull-quotes, but not much in the way of internal art, unless you count ads for games as art? Ah well, let's look at each article now.

Pointless Slaying and Looting

The first 11 page article, by Sean Punch is an idea for a more flexible and potentially easier form of Dungeon Fantasy. Instead of using the occupational templates mostly from Dungeon Fantasy 1, you put a character together from a selection of meta-traits and wildcards that are measured out so that they have about equal point values. A player chooses a main archetype that defines the major attributes of a character, a few parcels of advantages and disadvantages, and a handful of wildcards. Because of homogenous costs, it's easy to complete the building process quickly. Too bad it doesn't fill out the character sheet for you magically as well.
This article definitely depends on books 3 and 11, both really good books for adding abilities to Dungeon Fantasy characters. It uses a lot of mechanics from the Power-Ups series as well, specifically, from Wildcards and Impulse Buys, but it explains those mechanics in enough detail that they are not necessary for the content that comes with the article, already a decent collection of wildcard skills and parcels with advantages informed by Impulse Buys. I was thinking a while about making some additional ability parcels, but I haven't gotten around to it. Overall, a fun idea, but have yet to try it because I haven't exhausted the novelty of already existing occupational templates to the point where I feel like trying something new.

Dungeons of Mars

This 9 page article, by Phil Masters, is about running Dungeon Fantasy in a romantic space opera campaign version of Mars. The idea is to make the setting unique, but still allow the familiar dungeon diving gameplay of Dungeon Fantasy. The article doesn't especially have any important prerequisite books, and if it weren't for the handfuls of references to books (in the capacity of suggestions, not requirements) and a few pieces of statted out gear, it would almost be system agnostic. It's an interesting read to me, but it is not a setting that I personally feel compelled to run, so I haven't exercised the content, or even rather entertained the thought of running it.

From the Bottom Up

This 6 page article, by Matt Riggsby is about running the campaign backwards, from the point of view of monsters, or even THE monsters. It doesn't have any especial requirements but benefits from having Dungeon Fantasy 15, and makes frequent references to 3 and 11 among others. The article includes three 250 point templates, two 125 point racial lenses, and three racial lenses of... miscellaneous costs. The 250 point templates come with power-ups lists, but no specific build recommendations. All of them are well crafted and use existing mechanics in compelling ways. 
After the templates, there is a one page... let's call it a guide on ideas for running a monster-centric campaign. Details include thoughts on what social stigmas are appropriate, and what kinda cultures might exist, and what kind of adventures might be thematically appropriate.
Interesting article that I have applied a few times.

Eidetic Memory - Good Dungeons

This 4 page article, by David L. Pulver talks about dungeons that aren't run by the forces of evil. It talks about the kind of window dressing such a setup might require, questions like why would the forces of good live underground, and why might the heroes be raiding them.  As is typical for Eidetic Memory, this is some fun food for thought good for rapid brainstorming and inspiration. I enjoyed reading it, but confess I've never been in a situation where I could use it.

Dungeon Fantasy Video Gaming

This 9 page article, by Christopher R. Rice is an awesome grab bag of statted out video game tropes. It starts with a big bit on the Imitator, a character occupational template meant to invoke the feeling you get in games that allow class changing. This template actually enables exactly that. Included with the imitator template is an expansive, detailed list of appropriate power-ups, some old, several new and very unique. It's a really cool template, and if I play Dungeon Fantasy again, I really want to try it out.
Next is a section with some really cool power-ups that could be used for any character inspired by video game RPGS. Abilities like having a mini-map, town-to-town quick travel, and a version of extra life that doesn't spend character points. There is some ideas on implementing equipment that can level up, and then a bunch of interesting optional rules. Especially popular among my friends is the idea of getting powers from eating monster souls, and I like the idea of being able to respec a character.
Now I didn't mention the prerequisite books for this article yet, but there are a lot. The Imitator template is only improved by having your hands on as many template books as you can get. The Power-Ups series is also frequently referenced. Here and there are a few other references, like Powers and Dungeon Fantasy 8.

Random Thought Table - To Conjure the Unknown

The regular 2 page feature by the Pyramid editor, Steven Marsh is about ideas for changing up the defaults and expectations about the Dungeon Fantasy genre to get a fresh take. It's a strength of GURPS that it is very easy to mold the game into whatever you want it to be, and this whole feature is a thought exercise and brainstorm on what small details can be changed to give the game a new breath of air. I've personally used several of the ideas mentioned here, but I think it was a parallel evolution rather than because I read the article. Still, I enjoy reading it.

Thoughts and Conclusion

Running out of things to review and I'm having a heck of a time trying to think of new things to write. I really like this issue a lot though, so dunno why I haven't reviewed it yet.

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