Saturday, June 24, 2017

Review: Pyramid #3/104 Dungeon Fantasy RPG

Last September, SJ Games ran a Kickstarter for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG, a standalone version of their GURPS Dungeon Fantasy line. As part of that Kickstarter, they promised to release three issues of Pyramid focused on Dungeon Fantasy.

This month, Pyramid #3/104: Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying game was released, representing the first of these three issues. So, what do we have in here? Let's take a look.

Trapped in the Living Tomb
By Steven Marsh

This is a solo adventure geared for new players, and as such, I'm going to be circumspect about spoilers. However, I will say that it's a fun little adventure, and reminds me of old-school text adventure games. The included character sheet is comprehensive, but too detailed for the adventure, which only involves a small subset of the traits listed on it.

It also serves as an introduction to GURPS, and while it doesn't go into detail, it provides you with enough mechanics to get by. After playing through this once, a new player should have at least the basic concepts for playing through a full game.

And again, it's fun. Even if you're experienced, just playing through it is a fun experience, with danger and puzzles and mysteries. But for new players, it's a great way to introduce them to GURPS. If you know someone who wants to try out GURPS, start here.

It's a Quest!
By Christopher R. Rice

One of the most challenging aspects of running a roleplaying game is taking disparate events, places, and people, and tying them all together into a coherent, engaging adventure. In this article, Christopher takes a look at how to do just that.

It begins with a section on sandbox play that is, honestly, out of place. Since the focus of the article is on narrative play, it's necessarily short, and so doesn't offer more than some abbreviated advice on how to keep the GM's workload from becoming too taxing.

The next section, Railroads and Hell on Wheels, briefly discusses what a railroad is, why players react poorly to an adventure with a structured plot, and then offers some advice on how to preserve players' feelings of choice. The advice it offers is sound, including presenting players with options, taking player ideas and incorporating them into the game, and including elements that the players enjoy. Still, it's brief, and a discussion of how to give players a feeling of choice could easily be an article in its own right.

Prodding the Quest, though, is the real meat of the article. There's some advice about how to learn what your players learn through running short, single session adventures, followed by guidance on how to organize and link the elements you're using to build longer adventures. The part on building a Game Clock, where you map out roughly how much of a session your players want to  spend on combat, social interaction, puzzles, and so on, is a great idea. Knowing how much time you're going to spend on something will, with some experience, let you know just how much of that sort of material you'll need to prepare for the session.

Finally, you have the Random Quest Generator. This is valuable, and could accurately be called the GM Writing Prompt Tables. The best part about them is that you can use the tables independently of each other, so if you're at a loss for where the adventure should be, roll on the Place table. Not sure what kind of monsters live there? Roll on the Monster table, and so on.

In the worst case, where you're at a complete loss for what to do, then you're covered as well. By rolling for Touchstone number and then for Tile number, you know how many important elements are going to be in your quest. Then flesh them out by rolling for type on the Keystone table, and continue rolling on the appropriate tables until you've filled everything out. It's quite likely that you'll have a spark of inspiration while doing this ("I've got a Knight and a Faerie involved? Hey! What if the Knight is sworn to the service of the Faerie?"), and then you can play off of that to fill out the rest of the structure.

I suggest liberally crossing over between the tables in this article and the Heroic Background Generator. Sure, one's meant for quests and the other's meant for people, but every adventure will have both, and you can use both sets of tables for filling out details.

Overall, this article has some good advice on how to build adventures, and an even better set of tables to do it with. Even if you're not running Dungeon Fantasy, they're broad enough to be used in any fantasy-esque setting.

Eidetic Memory - Heroic Background Generator
By David Pulver

So who is your delver? For most Dungeon Fantasy games, it's sufficient  to say that they're a Knight in search of treasure and glory, but what if you want more detail? Well, that's where the Heroic Background Generator steps in.

This article is a large number of tables that, when used in order, gives you a more or less complete outline of your character's past, from birth to why they took up delving in the first place. The one drawback is that it's designed to start before you've decided on the sort of character you make. However, this isn't a big issue, because you can go through the steps, picking something appropriate for your character, and then rolling for those things where you don't know or want more detail for it.

And there are a lot of details to be found in these taables. You've got tables for families, ghosts that might be haunting the character, tables for other supernatural entities, prior experience, and many more. While this may sound like a bit much, the purpose of tables like these is to help you answer questions that you're not sure about, and so the best way to use it is to roll on the tables you want and then ignore the rest.

Even after character creation, it's useful as a GM tool. Need to flesh out an NPC's background? This is a great resource. Need to pick out monster types for something? That's in here, too. Bored and need ideas? Just start rolling on tables and see what pops out.

It's tuned for use with Dungeon Fantasy, but like It's a Quest!, you could make use of it in any fantasy-esque setting without much trouble.

Random Thought Table - Preparing for the Hero's Journey
By Steven Marsh

This is a fairly short article, offering various tidbits on how to build a Dungeon Fantasy character. It's general advice, including figuring out what your skills let you do and what will hold you back, but it's useful food for thought.

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