Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Review: Pyramid #3/60 - Dungeon Fantasy III

Did his arm hurted?
The Dungeon Fantasy kickstarter is almost over, and it's done nominally well. Today, I'm going to do a bit of a review of the third Dungeon Fantasy pyramid issue... well there are other ones, but this is the third one named Dungeon Fantasy. Let's take a closer look.


This is an issue of a typical length of 40 pages, with a mix of content that mostly stands alone with one good important exception. This issue contains 6 full features, and a pretty good Odds and Ends feature, besides the standard boilerplate and bookends.
Table of Contents
Of the 6 main features, one requires the Magic book, but is about Wizards, so if you care about wizards at all, then you better have had the Magic book. One is a piece that heavily depends on Imbuements (mostly Power-Ups 1) and the Mystic Knight template (At least issue #3/13 of Pyramid,) and the rest are pretty good at standing on their own feet, though the reflective editorial on the history of Dungeon Fantasy kinda requires an appreciation for the series to appreciate where it is coming from, but if you don't like Dungeon Fantasy, you can of course pass this issue up entirely.
I have a variety of opinions on this issue, and the articles run the gamut from don't care much at all to super useful, so let's look at them all in more detail.

Wizardry Refined

This 12 page article, by Sean Punch is an explicit reworking of the spells in GURPS Magic to fit Dungeon Fantasy better. The majority of the article comprises a prerequisite table to replace the old one. It calls out which spells and colleges are genre inappropriate, because for example, niche protection demands it, or it violates the fundamental challenge and purpose of a Dungeon Fantasy game, and then it talks to a few small adjustments for spells that are too powerful and either makes them more expensive, or less impactful.
I think overall, it can be helpful, and I think it is even being integrated at the core into the new Dungeon Fantasy RPG, but I never really used it because I don't use Wizards often at all. Hypothetically though, it looks like an overall improvement.

Eidetic Memory - High-Tech Dungeon Crawl

This two page feature, by David L. Pulver is a potpourri of ideas of involving higher level parties to traverse the TL3~4ish hodgepodge dungeons of Dungeon Fantasy. It's short and fun, but I didn't find it especially inspiring or novel. Most of the points made seemed pretty much self-evident, but it was still fun to read, and the statted Dungeonmobile vehicle is amusing.

It's a Trap!

This ten page article, by Christopher R. Rice is a detailed set of specifications for building traps for a dungeon environment. It is built to either create dungeons by rolling against values in tables, or just taking elements a la carte. I find this article mostly helpful as a barometer for what appropriate trap difficulties and punishments might be, but the large catalog of "build-a-bear" style options is fun just to look through as well when I'm in a bit of creative starvation and need some more variety.

Mystic Power-Ups

This 8 page article, by Antoni Ten Monrós is, as the title might imply, a big list of power-ups for the Mystic Knight template he wrote up in a much earlier Pyramid issue (#3/13 Thaumatology). The Mystic Knight is a warrior that relies heavily on the Imbuement mechanic from Power-Ups 1, just so you know. The article includes some interesting techniques, and perks, among some more vanilla follow-up Innate Attacks. Especially interesting is the section on Weapons of Pure Magic, a pretty creative spin on Innate Attacks to generate weapons out of thin air. It also includes a handful of new imbuements that anyone might want. If I would use Mystic Knights more often, I'd definitely use this article.

In All Series-ness

This 5 page article, by Sean Punch, calls itself "Designer's Notes" for the Dungeon Fantasy series. It talks about his thoughts when putting the series together and what was eventually released in 2008 (and had been worked on since at least 2004) and some of his early hopes and plans for the series, and how reality matched with expectation. It feels more like a retrospective reflection of the series up to that point though. It talks about its roots in games older than me and PC roguelike games. It ends with a template for a outtake Beastmaster class, which to me feels a bit wishy washy and suffers from a jack-of-all-trades issue spreading it a bit thin, but semantically, it all converges well on the theme of being an expert with animals. Mechanically though, I'd prefer a different template, though the key talent is pretty good. 
Overall, a fun insightful read.

Random Thought Table - The Decagoblin Dungeon

This two page feature by Steven Marsh explores the idea of using variations on a theme to produce a large dungeon from a simple premise. The dungeon in question repeats a room ten times with 10 goblins in each, but the scenario and setup each time is a bit different. After reading, the important thing is not the dungeon itself, but the idea of taking a seed of an idea and seeing where you can go with it through subtle or drastic changes in details.
I liked the article a lot, but for some reason, the idea of "10' wide trenches" annoys me, as the measure of a hex is 1 yard... woulda been happier if they said 3 yards or 4 yards instead. That's a minor thing though.

Odds and Ends

The feature ends with three interesting extras: an extra trap for the It's a Trap! article, a Wildcard Skill for the Mystic Knight and a 125 point lens for Eldritch Initiate to let characters from Dungeon Fantasy 15 grow into imbuement wielding 250 point characters. A cool bonus altogether.

Other Thoughts and Conclusion

It's difficult for me to say who I'd recommend this to, because the issue has a bunch of "pretty good" stuff, but it is pretty unfocused as well, so no one particular itch is scratched, or important niche is ignored. A jack-of-all-trades issue? I guess I'd say any big fan of Dungeon Fantasy would enjoy this issue. People still getting a feel for the series might find it a bit... "auxiliary?"

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