Saturday, December 17, 2016

Review: Pyramid 3/98 - Welcome to Dungeon Fantasy

As if often the case with Pyramid and GURPS items, I'm involved in this one. When the Dungeon Fantasy RPG Kickstarter was going, SJG decided to have the December issue of Pyramid be a "Welcome to Dungeon Fantasy" issue and put out a call for articles.

Christopher Rice jumped in with something like "OMG I HAVE MONSTERS!" which killed my usual plans. But there was a call for a GM advice article . . .

For more reviews, please see my reviews page.

Pyramid #3/98: Welcome to Dungeon Fantasy
Released December 2016 by Steve Jackson Games
$7.99 in PDF

You All Meet At An Inn
by Matt Riggsby

Stereotypical adventures start with strangers meeting in an inn and then getting sent on a quest. The usual problem is explaining why the PCs all know each other and work together, even if they're somewhat compatible. Matt's solution? Put them there, and then try to kill them.

This is a simple setup for a campaign, but also a potential one-shot game or throw-in encounter when you've got nothing else ready for your existing group. It's a locked-in situation, where trouble from without means you probably need to stay within and figure out how to solve your problems.

It's well written, the enemies are generally appropriate. It also avoid the "one room, one monster" and the "kill or be killed" issues. Monsters sometimes show up in combinations, even some weird-but-appropriate ones, and you can solve (or weaken) some of the encounters with clever thinking.

One weird bit is some wording that makes it sound like foul bats comes in swarms. Which is awesome but tricky, since they're individually man-sized. But otherwise, it's totally fine. The inn is well-statted for dealing with the usual "we hack a hole in the wall, it looks really thin on this map" and the adventure nicely handles "we attempt to bypass the adventure entirely" with how that will work out. And it might - RPGs are like that. It's not ham-fistedly forcing the adventure down your throat, just making the "easy way out" as hard as it should be.

The Monstrous Monstorum
by Christopher Rice

By my count there are 15 monsters here, some of which feature multiple variations. It's by Christopher Rice, but also features three monsters by other people - including the mimic I made up. Christopher mentioned that DF needed a mimic, I sent him mine, and he cleaned it up for publication. The whole mess of monsters are interesting. None are too gimmicky or too jokey or need too much backstory to use. Well, the Excremental is pretty jokey, but also really horrible. I can see using many of these in Felltower and I expect I will do so. Christopher also has a lot of DF experience, so he avoids the "these guys are too weak" syndrome. Basic 250-point DFers are tough, DR is high, defenses are high and plentiful, and players sink points in be able to resist bad things. These monsters are set up to challenge them at the appropriate level, be it as fodder, worthy, or boss-level. The offensive threats have actually worrisome offense, the defensive puzzles will take some real damage to undo.

Eidetic Memory: Grave of the Pirate Queen
by David L. Pulver

David Pulver's contribution is a nautically-themed DF adventure. It involved finding lost pirate treasure, and all of the unpleasant things that should entail. You know, nautical monsters (including fish-men and octopus-men), curses, the unquiet dead, and rum. Just kidding about the last one - bizarrely, there is no rum.

"But why is the rum gone?" - Jack Sparrow

It's a well-assembled, ready-to-run adventure with all of the details you need. Some of the foes are a bit weak for standard delvers, but you can dial up the situational modifiers and dial up the numbers if that's an issue. Overall, though, good stuff.

Building a Long-Term Dungeon Fantasy Game
by Peter V. Dell'Orto

Since I run a DF game, I've been running the game for five years, and since my DF game is clearly hack-and-slash far beyond the sessions you'd expect it to stay hack-and-slash, I decided to write that article. I also took it as a challenge - how do I convey what makes my DF campaign keep going and going and going? That and many people have told me that basically, they haven't tried a straight-up hack-and-slash DF game because no one wants to play and it can't be fun. Oh, and people asking flat-out why you would want that kind of game. If you're reading this blog, you know why - because we'd play it more often and longer if we had more Sundays and Sundays were longer.

Giving this kind of advice instead of just monsters and such is a bit out of my comfort zone, so I'm glad the article came out as it did. It was a good challenge for me. Special thanks to Andy D. for "nothing to see here" - a comment that came out of the PCs finding a corridor that led off the graph paper.

Random Thought Table: Back to Basics
by Steven Marsh

Steven wraps up the issue with some good tips for helping play move along with cheat sheets, tokens, and figures. It's not earth-shattering advice, just good basic stuff that it's better to read before you launch into a DF game than after (or learn the hard way that you'll need it.) This was a very good article.

Overall: A solid issue of Pyramid, and it should help to get people into Dungeon Fantasy a little more smoothly - play advice, campaign advice, more monsters the other kids with the books don't know about yet, and two adventures ready to go.

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