Monday, September 5, 2016

The Tone of DF, and Using Bits Elsewhere

So the utility of GURPS Dungeon Fantasy outside of the DF books, and its tone, have come up repeatedly. Maybe constantly.

The Tone of DF

DF books, at the very least how I write them, is a little off-center of serious. The other authors do pretty much the same. I gather that puts some people off.

As I've said before, I'm not laughing at the genre and thus laughing at you for liking it. I'm laughing at the inherent silliness of it with you. I'm like Monty Python mocking King Arthur in The Holy Grail - if you like knights and King Arthur, you don't come out of that feeling like they're mocking you for liking it. They like it too, they just see so much scope for poking holes into the stories the way they are told. I'm poking fun at the silliness of going into tunnels in an a-historical mix of armor and weapons and fighting monsters for treasure at the same time as I'm saying, oh yeah, this is so much fun I haven't stoppped playing these games since I started when I was nine. I'm just not demanding, like Cole Jenkins says, a deconstruction to enjoy it. That can be fun too, but rather, I'm sincerely enjoying it.

That's why I write that way. I could in theory ditch any hint of this being something other than a solemn and serious game, the basis for something "more" and "deeper" than dungeons. But I probably couldn't keep that up, or enjoy it. Like the games I started playing when I was nine, the "more" I want is more play time, and the "deeper" I want is deeper dungeons. I want to acknowledge the oddities and smile and enjoy them. That the line does this makes it all the better, and makes it more enjoyable for me. I can't really imagine doing it differently and liking it the same.

Like I said, though, I'm enjoying it sincerely. And there isn't a hint of mockery in my pointing out the silliness inherent in this great genre.

The Game is Fun As Written

I've mentioned my "this is awesome" moment.

I got that DF was a good game. I didn't doubt that. Really, though, I didn't really get how good DF was until I sat down and played it. I got it on paper and I got it intellectually. But I didn't get it in my gut until we started playing a DF game for a time-killer, until we decided to do something else.

Actually keeping the game limited has made it more fun than I'd expected, and kept it running for years. It's not boring yet - the closest things to complaints from people I've gotten is "I want to play more often" and "I want to get more things done in the dungeon." Pretty much, more of the same, and more on the days we play.

I did a serious, 10+ year game (1999-2010 or so, with long breaks between sessions for three of those years). I used bits of DF in it - golem-armor swordsmen, toxifiers, spheres of madness, eyes of death, obsidian jaguars, horde pygmies, dinomen (which were re-skinned into dinomen from what was in that game), trolls, and a few others showed up. I had a Heroic Archer who is echo'd quite accidentally in the Scout (since Sean wrote that without any reference to my game). I grabbed rulings from DF2 and recommended DF2 to others for the same, even for people running gritty mostly-urban fantasy games that lacked dungeons entirely. So I have drunk from the well of "use Dungeon Fantasy line materials in a lower-point, non-DF game." There is nothing wrong with doing that. But the product as written and created is really an excellent one, and I think it plays better than it reads. It's worth the honest try to see how it plays out.

And I think it works best if it stays that way - an inherently light and focused game raidable (like other GURPS works) for bits. It's useful in and of itself, yet avails itself of the greater GURPS collection to expand into - or be used in - something different from itself.


  1. I am your exact opposite. My first games were all 'serious', depth and complexities, and such. We almost never went into dungeons, killed color compliance monsters and stole their loot. We quested and righted wrongs and saved kingdoms and such.

    It wasn't until high school that I was in a group that did ye olde "Dungeon Delving". And I 'hated it'. I argued that I could get this from playing Curse of the Azure Bonds, /on a computer/. It got the point that me and another guy adopted "Door Opening Procedure # 1-4" which were all the same thing, just which one of us was kicking and how much carnage we immediately unleashed into the next room, without bothering to check the room (which did occasionally involve killing innocents or even the person we were supposed to save). And no one cared.

    I felt 'saved' when Vampire: The Masquerade came out and the Vampire Storyteller (DM) ran serious games.

    I've come back from the 'brink', I'll play in a DF game just fine, but I can't really run one. It gets too serious too fast to ever be considered DF.

    1. You've mentioned that game before, I think. It sounds like a pretty bad game - reducing dungeon delving down to just the least enjoyable elements for the people involved. I've played in games where that has happened in different ways - where the GM, or the other players, or the game after a while, emphasized the least-fun aspects. Hate politics? Game bogged down in politics. Love social interactions? You can get to them after all of this combat. Love combat? Well, too bad, the next 3-4 sessions are shopping and dealing with the fallout of those first few fun combat sessions, and then maybe there will be more combat. And so on.

      I hear you on play-but-can't-run. That's me for a number of genres - superheroes, for one, spy games for another. I can't keep them on the area where I feel like the game thrives.

    2. For me the play-but-can't-run is always the "less serious" games. I can play Toon, but I could never run it. I can play D&D/Pathfinder, but can't run it.

      It all boils down to "how serious the world treats things", not so much the characters. And there is levity and unseriousness, but it's just like the way the real world works. There are goods times and bad, laughter and tears.

      And the game I mention? Everyone but me and the other guy were having great fun. We wanted more depth, they wanted monsters to kill and loot to yoink, and to not have to think to much aside from tactics and what spells are best to use when.

      Shrug. it is what it was. I don't think they even got that me and him were mildly unhappy with the direction of the game. I certainly didn't realize it until the Vampire game started.

    3. I had a similar experience. I used to play D&D when I was young but then I quit until college where I played Vampire the Masquerade, Stormbringer, and Call of Cthulhu. Those games got me interested in RPGs again. I got interested in GURPS for the historical books and then I was excited about the Dungeon Fantasy series and hoped it would be serious but it is not. So I use it for the rules. Monty Python was never my thing. I prefer dark fantasy to Munchkin style fantasy.

    4. Some people are always going to prefer a different approach and different playing style. That's fine and good. DF just isn't aimed at that playing style.

      It's mostly the "the tone mocks the players who like dungeon delving" idea I wanted to puncture. It's not, not at all. The tone comes from a place of appreciation and enjoyment. It's a wink at what we all know is silly about the things we enjoy despite and because of their silliness. Anyone reading bad-intentioned mockery into the tone of DF is, in fact, read that into it. It's not there.

    5. I just ignore it. It is just a matter of taste. To me I like the seriousness of the old school D&D. For instance, I love the picture on the Temple of Elemental Evil module. It looks so foreboding to me and captures to style of fantasy i like. GURPS DF would put a condemned or foreclosed sign in the front yard and maybe some halflings gambling and smoking cigarettes to show its a bad neighborhood.

    6. It seems like it to me. GURPS DF seems tongue and cheek. It goes after the absurd parts of dungeon delving rather than making them better. It is like making fun of someone that is retarded. It is easy. What if that person has some musical or artistic talent? Why not focus on that instead? Maybe he can play moonlight sonata perfectly, why not just enjoy that instead of making fun of him because he can't tie his shoes? For example they description of elves makes fun of them. In truth elves are pretty rediculous but that is easy to make fun of. Why not focus on what is cool about elves instead ? That is all I am saying.

    7. See my entire post about tone, above, for my response to that. I think you're fundamentally, completely wrong about the tone and type of silliness in DF.

  2. I still draw from the version of Fantasy I used for Northport when it was 3e, with guild politics and social in town adventures.

    1. I like the idea of social/political/domain-level support for DF (or, more likely, in a DF-compatible way). It would be nice to have that out there, since there is clearly a desire for it.

      Personally until my players have really found the utterly cool stuff deeper in the dungeon, I don't really want to expand the outside world and/or give them reasons to draw away from the dungeon.

    2. If I were a capable writer I'd turn my hand to it. But I'm not.

      Hmmm. Sounds like a job for Rigsby (maybe with some material shamelessly stolen from Stoddard).


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