Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Dungeon Fantasy: Steal Which Bits? - Part I

So I mentioned that DF products, especially thanks to their hack-and-slash, keep-it-simple approach to the material, are good sources of stuff for other campaigns. Well, what stuff is that?

Here is what I found useful. More tomorrow.

Changes to Magic

This is two-pronged.

First, if you really like the Cleric/Druid/Wizard split - god-granted powers/nature-derived powers/black knowledge from moldy old books - DF has that built in.

Admittedly, it has it baked into 250-point templates centered on dungeoneering, which might not be your game. You can't just grab a cleric or wizard template and dive into a plot-and-social or lower-powered (or both) campaign.

But the basic rules are sound:

Clerics get a pick-list of spells, only those spells, but ignore prereqs. Even in a game where Power Investiture 6 isn't a no-brainer starting character choice, the actual spell lists and approach works.

And DF7 might not fit my game, but it's a great source of variant cleric approaches for games where, yes, there is a Cleric of Thor and a Cleric of Odin and a Cleric of Hermes and they all seem to just have that one god kicking power down to them.

Druids draw power from nature. Again, they get a pick-list (and some nifty powers, which can be expanded on) and spells that only they can use.

Wizards get everything else.

Secondly, that "everything else" has been modified. Spells like Enlarge and Invisibility are changed to make them less game-shatteringly important. The economy-breaking Create spells no longer turn out permanent high-grade materials such that no wizard with them would do less than turn a faux-medieval world into Star Trek's post-scarcity society. In other words, if you basically like the GURPS Magic system but have concerns with the abusiveness of some of the spells, DF goes a long way towards fixing them.

And you can always release the handbrake and allow those "off limit" spells - Gate spells, Teleport, and so on - if they aren't really sensibly off-limits in your game world.

Supplements useful here: DF1, DF7, Pyramid 3/60.


The Dungeon Fantasy line has a lot of monsters. Three books worth and part of a chapter in Dungeon Fantasy 2. All of them suit fantasy games, since DF is nothing if not a scaled-up stripped-down fantasy game.

So you have book after book of monsters to steal from. Some of them, at least some of the ones I wrote, came straight out of a long-running, plot-oriented, originally moderate-point game where the power level apex was about where DF starts out. Trolls, dinomen, horde pygmies, and more are right out of that game's notebook of monsters. They don't need to be in deep dungeons guarding dollar-sign bags and trapped chests brimming with gold and jewels. They work just fine lurking in forests, being fodder in the evil lich-king's army you're trying to avoid, or whatever.

Warning: The monsters are powerful and assume 250 point characters. For less-powerful less combat-optimized characters, monsters are proportionally more difficult. Generally, you need to use fewer types of monsters per encounter, and fewer monsters per type, when placing them into a lower-point game.

For example: Fodder monsters are probably Worthy (one-to-one challenges for PCs), Worthy are nearly boss-level (one-to-many) and bosses are going to be very special challenges. A Broadsword-14 Parry 10 orc with a medium shield (DB 2) and Scale (DR 4) is a one-turn kill for a Broadsword-20 DF Knight with ST 17 (3d cutting, 1d+4 impaling), but for a Broadsword-16 PC with ST 13 (2d cutting, 1d+2 impaling) he's going to be a challenge. A DR 17 golem-armor swordsman is going to go from "tough fight, aim for Chinks in Armor at -8 and wear it down" to "well-nigh-unstoppable, aim for Chinks in Armor at -8 to even have a chance to hurt it, if you hit"

Supplements useful here: DF2, DF9, DFM1, DFM2, DFM3, DFA1.

Part II will follow this week. If you've found bits of DF useful, please post what bits in the comments. Please keep it positive! I'm looking for what's broadly useful outside the game as written rather than critiques of the game as written.


  1. The work has a very good shot at being a 2+ round for even against Skill 20, ST 17. With a deceptive -2 swing the work still defends at 10 thanks to shield (11 if he retreats)

    And 3d damage vs DR 4 has a decent chance of rolling badly for 'not a major wound' level damage

    1. Skill 20 is two shots at 14, two at 17 if the Knight is a weapon master (based on my games, that's 100%, maybe not in other people's). That's two attacks at -1 to -3, they probably both hit, they do an average of 10.5 damage vs. DR 4, which is around 9 injury and a Major Wound each. Even if you're not using any sort of mook rules, this is a likely one

      So maybe I'm overstating it . . . but my experience says, no, expect fodder with those stats to die once per second versus an out-of-the-box DF Knight. Once you add in optional advantages, better equipment, and friends casually buffing you because they are also powerful, you are limited in your number of kills by your number of actions.

      That's much less true in a lower-point game with non-combat focused fighters.

      If you find my example still too weak, just use, say, Borriz the Dwarf, 250 point Knight. ST 15, Weapon Master (Mace), Axe/Mace-22, Dwarven Mace, did 2d+8 on day one of the campaign - all of that was day one. Now that DR 4 scale means there is a 1 in 36 chance the orc only takes 6 damage, which is nearly a major wound, and even average damage is putting him to nearly 0 HP . . . and that's with a sub-optimal weapon choice for bashing the torso. That's a level of pain infliction it takes a lot of points to buy, and DF knights are close to 300 points of pure combat mayhem. The monsters are scaled to them.

    2. I haven't seen a melee character who didn't take weapon master ever . . . the example guy was doing 3d which implied no WM. With 20 skill I always see people doing a single deceptive -2 swing since that way they still crit on a 16. Still, I still find it becomes hard to maintain 1/round kill rate, to many things can go wrong

    3. I didn't spell out everything possible - or even anything close to optimal - on the example. I didn't intend to. Just to show that the baseline DF assumptions are much higher than the baseline assumptions of a lower-point game. I think it still works as written.

      Personally I see Rapid Strike over Deceptive Attack. PCs with Trademark moves almost always stick in Rapid Strike. And as skills rise, I see Feint subbed in for one of the strikes most of the rest of the time. One kill per second is only tough, I find, because you can't get them all to keep walking into your kill zone. YMMV.

    4. Ah. I admit 'efficiently demolishing mooks is problematic' is one of those things which GURPS has as a trait through any point level. Just 'what is a mook' tends to vary

      I remember a character of mine named Missy Mookbane, who through some creative interpretations of Snatcher and Insubstantial (with numerous enhancements/limitations) was designed around summoning 500lb bombs into her hex every round as I had somehow determined this was the best way to reliably and briskly process mooks

    5. Area spells, and coupling a high skill with Rapid Strike split into Feint followed by a Deceptive Attack and average damage that inflicts a major wound. Things with fodder-level defenses will just stop being a problem.

      And the genre switches for making "mooks" go down and stay down. That's part of it - if the genre calls for them to just go down in waves, you need those rules. If you don't have them, then PCs will respond with very high skills, very high defenses, solid damage attacks, leg shots to make them fall down, etc. and then you need to scale up your boss monsters to keep up. Better to just say, yes, mooks are mooks in this genre, and they don't stand up to damage as well. DF and I both have rules for that.

  2. I'm currently starting up a Forgotten Realms sandbox/hexcrawl...thing at 150 points using GURPS and I've found a bunch of stuff from DF to be really useful. I'm stealing most of the magic changes whole cloth, though of my two casters one's a cleric of Mystra and gets to use the base Magic system instead of getting other special powers and the other is a devotee of Kossuth so he's got One College Magery and doesn't really care that a normal wizard can't heal. :-P

    I'm also using most all of the gear options available in DF, my halfling really really want spidersilk armor and soon they'll figure out the joys of charged universal scrolls from DF4 (and the frustrations of non-charged universal scrolls or charged but non-universal scrolls...)

    1. Oh, I'm also planning on using a lot of the monsters from the various DF books though I'm statting up my own orcs, goblins, gnolls, ogres, etc because even set up as fodder like they are for DF for my game with a slightly heavier slant towards survival and social interactions they'll just tear through my party.

    2. I think that's a good idea - and points out that you can use monsters as inspiration instead of a straight pull, to be on the safe side.


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