Thursday, March 31, 2016

Pyramid 3/89: Alternate Dungeons II

I received a copy of this as a comp, which surprised the heck out of me. Did I write some article, send it in a while back, and it finally got published?

No, although that has happened before.

Turns out I've got an Additional Material credit, probably because of Christopher Rice's article touching on material from my previous books.

Either way, it was nice to have this pop up in my inbox:

Pyramid 3/89: Alternate Dungeons II

(I love that cover, by the way - it's part of the excellent collage of art pieces used to make the cover of Martial Arts.

So what is in it? Here's my quick review based on a read through this morning.

Havens and Hells - by Sean Punch. This is a really meaty article - ten pages top to bottom of a campaign setting. It's basically a fantasy setting where the PCs go out into the chaotic hell of the world from safe havens to recover resources needed by civilization. Like "points of light" settings surrounded by a truly metaphysically different "other"? This is it. It's got some very interesting mechanics for sourcing magic, too, with the mana needed for spells cast in the Havens being raided out of Hell. Also, death is just an inconvenience. A big one, for sure, but it's not the end of your character.

It's not something you can easily nick bits from - the central conceit is that there are no other worlds out there, so it's hard to link this to other worlds. But it's a cool setting in and of itself.

Eastern Adventures - by Christopher Rice. Want a mixed bag Asian hodge-podge Mysterious East to go a-delving in with Dungeon Fantasy? This is it. This article basically morphs the templates of Dungeon Fantasy into a more samurai-and-wushu style setup.

It has some nice stuff you can steal for other games - the Heroic Thrower advantage, for thrown weapon masters, gets a real writeup. It's also got some nice Power-Ups that fit the modified templates very well. And it's got a skill-based dueling system that's quite interesting.

Because the source material expects a bit more "social interaction," some of the templates have a level of Social Regard as a required trait. That makes them slightly less useful out of the box if you port them over to a straight DF game, but it's easily fixable. The upside of point-buy - just take back the points! Some cleric and druid spells are marked as required, as well, which pretty much means you need to buy a given level of Power Investiture and some spells, which effectively bumps up the cost. And so on - lots of little changes that significantly change the feel of the templates. Which is totally the point, in any case.

It's got a very Kara-Tur feel to it, which may or may not be intentional. Kara-Tur was TSR's mysterious east, and it too featured a big main area with Chinese-themed adventurers and an island nation with Japanese-themed adventurers. That might just be an artifact of having the same influences. It's not a bad thing, though - you can go grab an OOP copy of Kara-Tur and go to town.

The Titan's House - by David Pulver. Short version - a drop-in adventure for Dungeon Fantasy centered on the house of a titan. It's got a house, a dungeon, giant chickens, and a plethora of oversized foes. It's ready to drop in and it's interesting. The foes are a little low on skill levels for my taste - I've found that really big opponents with moderate skills = bags of easily slain HP, especially if you're inflicting their SM as a penalty on strikes vs. smaller foes. The bigger they are, the more skilled they need to be to really threaten DF PCs (where skill 17+ is a common starting point.) But still, good adventure and GURPS needs more drop-in material.

Random Thought Table - by Steven Marsh. This article presents a campaign frame for secret dungeon delving. What if it's illegal to loot dungeons, yet very profitable, and also actively discouraged? Yeah, town is safe as long as you don't talk about delving club.

Short Bursts - by Matt Riggsby. This is such an alternate dungeon article that it's not even about dungeons. It's a one-page article featuring Car Wars arenas. Reads well and it's interesting, but mostly serves to remind me that my Car Wars stuff is in a box in a basement (not even my basement) and it's likely to stay there.

Overall, good issue, and I can use bits from it right away and build off some of them later.


  1. Just bought it, loved the first Alternate Dungeons Issue.

  2. It is weird when those CW vignettes show up in fantasy/low-tech Pyramids, isn't it? But I suppose Phil et al. know what they're doing.

  3. I need to get this one. I've been skipping out on a few things, because I'd built up a backlog, but it's mostly cleared out just in time for this to come out.

    Oh, and that reminds me—I need to finish my re-read of the Kara-Tur boxed set and write up my review.


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