Thursday, December 26, 2013

Review: Pyramid 3/60: Dungeon Fantasy III

This is a brief review of Pyramid Magazine #3/60: Dungeon Fantasy III.

There are two previous issues covering Dungeon Fantasy cover-to-cover.

I figured it's helpful and interesting to have a brief look at all of the articles. This issue is interesting to me because I know all the guys who wrote for it. They're my friends, co-authors, fellow gamers, or my editor. I may be biased in their favor but I do tell my friends when the stuff they right isn't useful to me.

Wizardry Redefined - by Sean Punch

One problem with GURPS Magic and GURPS Dungeon Fantasy is that mages have spell restrictions, but the complex prerequisite system can play hell with them. Read strictly, mages could bypass a lot of spell restrictions. Plus, it wasn't always clear what was forbidden and what wasn't in certain edge cases. This would have been covered if GURPS Dungeon Fantasy had been a 240-page hardback, but it wasn't. So Sean covers it here. It's a complete list of the spells you can get as a mage, and can't get, and new prereq chains that avoid the spells you can't have. It's long, but it's useful if you run DF and use GURPS Magic instead of the trendy RPM all the kids are raving about these days.

Eidetic Memory: High-Tech Dungeon Crawl - by David L. Pulver

David Pulver reminisces about having just stocked a dungeon when his players got burned on their game. So he did what anyone would do in his situation when playing GURPS - let them make up guys with guns and then clear the dungeon. This article is part campaign retrospective and part campaign seed.

This could easily have just been "guys with guns in dungeons could be fun, try it!" and it's not. David carefully goes into some of the advantages the group had (guns vs. orcs, for one), pitfalls the group ran into (hospitalization for monster-inflicted wounds), the complications oddly-sourced wealth has in the modern world, and so on. He even looks at it from the perspective of different Tech Levels. Too low, and it's just an edge vs. monsters unfamiliar with it. Too high, and it's easy to toast the monsters but nothing they have except magic is worth going after (The problem of taking $700,000 off that dragon but losing a $2.5 million battlesuit to do it . . . )

If you're going to send gun-armed guys into dungeons, this is worth reading. It's fun too even if you don't want to. Plus, he back-references "Sturmgeschutz and Sorcery."

It's a Trap - by Christopher R. Rice.

Let me just say I have my own traps generation system. It's rough, and it requires a lot of GM work providing details, but it's fast and effective. So I wasn't even sure I needed this one - but in the end, a preview of it by Christopher sold me on it (and the rest of the issue).

My system is just a series of dice rolls that tell me all I need to know about the lethality, ease of disarming, and avoidability of a trap. Christopher's system will tell you everything about the trap you need to know. You can start with a blank slate and end with a trap with all questions answered, even the ones I just handwave. It's a system that takes you from what the trap is, to how much damage it does, to how hard to disarm, etc. It'll answer all of the questions and spit out a trap or trick that fits into the format in DF2, p. 20. It does so very well - everything is rules-compliant, rules-standard, fully explained, and explained in a range of power levels so you can scale them. It even makes use of the N/whatever concept from DFA1 in an appropriate way.

Maybe the real downside to me is that there are, in fact, a lot of tables to roll on. Like DF 8: Treasure Tables you need to roll different dice (a 4, 1, 2 on three dice is different than 2, 1, 4 or 4, 2, 1, for example) and look up a table entry. Then roll on sub-tables the same way. This prevents you from just dumping a pile of dice and seeing what you get. Also like TT, it cries out for automation

I was inspired by one part of it to have, say, a place with a trap that kept-resetting to a new trap effect, using just a pointer to the tables. I experimented and found it would stop my game for a couple of minutes and a lot of rolls before I would even know if they'd trigger it. So I gave up on that.

Like some of the tables in The Dungeon Dozen or The Dungeon Alphabet, they aren't for rolling on when you need something right now but when you've got prep time and want to get it all correct. It does that very well indeed, and I've used it to stock part of my megadungeon with traps. A good tool to have.

Mystic Power-Ups - Antoni Ten Monrós

Basically, if you aren't satisfied with all the cool stuff the Mystic Knight can do, its original creator provides more. Including mystically-created weapons and armor. Neither of which you can use with Imbuements on top, which kind of gets rid of a cool character concept but prevents a metric assload of abuse.

I don't play either with imbuements (too Diablo II for my game) or Mystic Knights (see prior comment), so I can't see me doing which with this. But if you do you will want this.

In All Series-Ness - by Sean Punch

Long story short on this one - it's the history of the DF line, including reasons why it's been released in the order it has and not some precision order, what it might have been (including a hardback), and so on. It's a Designer's Notes in the form of a Line Editor's Notes on the line, basically. Or vice-versa.

It also ends with a new template, the Beastmaster!

Random Thought Table: The Decagoblin Dungeon - by Steven Marsh

Steven Marsh takes a single concept - a room with 10 goblins in it - and turns it into a multi-room dungeon each with a room with 10 goblins in it. But in each room, both the room and the goblins aren't what you'd expect. It's more interesting to read than the play, I'd expect, but it's a good exercise in changing things up and being creative with what otherwise be a dull encounter. It's not thinking outside the box so much as saying, you didn't specify what the box was like, so it could be any sort of box. Which is what fun dungeons are all about.

Odds and Ends

This consists of:

- a bonus trap from Christopher Rice.
- a Mystic Knight wildcard skill from Antoni Ten Monrós.
- a 125-point Eldritch Initiate template from Antoni Ten Monrós that'll turn any 125-point delver from DF15 into a 250-point Imbuement user. Nice!

Overall, I'm glad I got this issue. The traps or Sean's spell listings alone would have been plenty useful enough for me, even at this late stage when I've worked so much of that out myself. But the other bits were really nice to have. I especially liked the Beastmaster, and reading David's take on letting his modern-day gun toting Americans put paid to a bunch of orcs and rescue an elf. Good issue.

Again, you can find it here.


  1. Thanks for the review Peter. I understand that Imbuements are not for everyone, but they're certainly fun to play with, IME.

    Nitpick, it's Monrós not Moros. You can leave the accent off if it's a problem for your computer/keyboard setup (but I put it here in easily copy/paste-able form just for that reason, and if you have to hand-code your HTML entites, it's &oacute). Moro means Moor, as in North African Muslim, and is a charged/despective word here, about the same as the n-word for blacks in the US, only unlike the US, most people who would be referred by it are not citizens, but instead immigrants.

    1. I just spell it wrong often. I fixed it in the post.


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