Monday, March 13, 2017

Review: Pyramid #3/98 Introduction to Dungeon Fantasy

Back in September of 2016, Steve Jackson Games ran a Kickstarter for their Dungeon Fantasy RPG, which is a standalone version of the GURPS Dungeon Fantasy gameline. One of the stretch goals for the Kickstarter was a promise to release three Dungeon Fantasy themed Pyramid articles over the next year. Pyramid #3/98: Introduction to Dungeon Fantasy was the first of these to be released, and as the name suggests, it’s all about helping new players and GMs get started with Dungeon Fantasy.

Let’s take a look at what’s inside, shall we?

You All Meet At An Inn
By Matt Riggsby

Meeting in an inn has long been a cliche of fantasy tabletop roleplaying, but Matt Riggsby offers a fresh spin on the concept. Instead of the party all meeting and deciding to adventure together, in this scenario adventure comes to the inn instead! Can chance-met travelers band together to fend off and then put a stop to the danger?

The article starts with a brief description of the inn that the adventure starts in, and while short, it provides enough detail to run it without issue. It even comes with the HP and DR of various parts of the inn’s construction, which is a welcome touch for any group of delvers inclined to smash their way out of problems.

The action kicks off as the delvers are settling in for the evening, with a zombie attack! The initial group of zombies should be an easy fight for the delvers, but there’s more on the way, with no end in sight. Now, they could try to escape, or they could try and find the source of the attacks, which just so happens to be beneath the inn itself.

I think that realizing where the source of the zombies is may be a potential point of failure for the adventure, since it requires that the delvers make a roll or look in the right spot. A few more hints would not have gone amiss, especially as the adventure makes it clear that escape is a much more dangerous approach.

The search for the source of the zombies takes the delvers on a short dungeon crawl, which is sufficient to introduce them to most of the ideas of dungeon fantasy, like traps, puzzles, and monsters. At the end, they face off against the source of the zombies, and upon its destruction, all of the zombies deanimate.

Several maps are included, two of the inn’s levels, one of the temple. They’re simple but functional, but the floor textures in some places make it hard to see the hex grid. Also, it’s unclear what size the maps are meant to be, and there’s very noticeable compression artefacts at higher levels of zoom. There’s no key, either, which is a mixed blessing, since it means you can reuse them elsewhere, but you need to do a bit of work to match the descriptions with the places on the map.

On the whole, this is a solid intro adventure, with plenty of potential for DMs to add in their own touches. The inn’s location, the temple, and more are all deliberately kept generic, allowing you to easily drop this into any suitable campaign.

The one potential drawback for new DMs is the need to get Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 1 and Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 3 in addition to DF1 and DF2, but those books provide a wealth of monsters and are worthwhile in their own right.

Using this Article

As Written: It’s an intro Dungeon Fantasy adventure. Round up some players, make characters, and go.

Monster Hunters: The same general premise could just as easily be used in Monster Hunters as well, and if your campaign is in a sufficiently remote, old-time area, then the inn can even be used as is. You might want to beef up the monsters, though, since 400 point champions should make light work of foes built for 250 point delvers.

The Monstrous Monstorum
By Christopher R. Rice

One thing that Dungeon Fantasy DMs can never have too many of is ideas for monsters, and Monstrous Monstorum adds fifteen more to the menagerie. They range from nuisances like the bandit snatcher to the terrifying stone sharks, and from mundane pack hunters like the bouda to the eldritch grĂ¼. Whatever your needs, you’re likely to find something of interest to torment your players with in this article.

A common thread among many of the monsters is that they’re likely to have lingering effects that will make delvers regret running into them, above and beyond any damage they may take. Curses and diseases are regular occurrences, and what the excremental can do is just plain wrong.

All in all, Monstrous Monstorum has something for everyone, and if you’re at a loss for ideas, then you’re likely to find one (or more!) within this article.

Using this Article

As written: These are Dungeon Fantasy monsters. Drop them in and go!

After the End: Some of these creatures would be very appropriate in a post-apocalyptic setting, like the excremental, though you may need to tone them down.

Monster Hunters: Another genre where having a variety of creatures is useful. Just remember that 400 point champions are likely to stomp on these monsters if you don’t buff them first.

Grave of the PIrate Queen
By David L. Pulver

Another short intro adventure, this one takes adventurers on a romp through a network of seaside caves containing the grave and treasure of pirates and a temple to a nasty old god of the sea.

As adventures go, this one is pretty straightforward. The adventures roll into town for one reason or another, hear about a seaside cave complex that’s recently been uncovered by an earthquake, and off they go! Once there, the delvers find a combat-heavy series of encounters within the relatively small series of caves.

One downside of Grave of the PIrate Queen is that it’s light on non-combat challenges. There’s no interesting traps or puzzles for the delvers to contend with, so thieves and the like will lack for things to do.

On the upside, this adventure gives a nice selection of hooks for further adventures. As the name suggests, only the pirate’s queen is buried within the caves, and the fate of her crew is left unstated. Perhaps they left more buried treasure somewhere? Alternatively, the delvers may find themselves contending with the cults of Tentacle Beard.

This adventure also comes with a map, and unlike You All Meet At an Inn, this one is keyed, making it easy to reference in play. Unfortunately, it also suffers from compression artefacts at reasonable levels of zoom. There’s also a nice, unlabeled sketch that you can give out to the players as an in-game map. It’s accurate, but gives no information beyond the layout.

Using this Article

As written: Another intro Dungeon Fantasy adventure. Drop your players in and have at it.

Variants: You could just as easily use the concepts of this adventure in a swashbuckling high seas campaign, or perhaps a Monster Hunters game with a nautical focus. Just make sure to tune the challenges accordingly.

Building a Long-Term Dungeon Fantasy Game.
By Peter V. Dell’Orto

This is an excellent collection of advice for anyone looking to run a Dungeon Fantasy game, including suggestions on how to keep it easy for players to pick up, how to make some of the more situational classes useful, and how to keep the game’s scope from expanding if you don’t want it to.

While mainly useful for new DMs, there’s enough in here that’s worth a peek for the more experienced folk as well, especially if this is their first Dungeon Fantasy campaign.

For people wanting more, I recommend also checking out Dell’Orto’s excellent Dungeon Fantastic blog, which chronicles his on-going (and long lasting!) campaign.

Back to Basics
By Steven Marsh

This is a short article on mundane but potentially useful prep work that you can do for a game, whether you’re a player or a game master. Advice on building cheat sheets and useful props is included, and the uses for items like glass beads and dice in tracking game information could be quite handy.

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