I recently read some newer and older posts talking GURPS & dungeon fantasy gaming.
I've played a DF and DFRPG campaign for 97 game sessions (mostly in the 8-10 hour length range) and going on our 8th year (we started in 2011.) So I think I have sufficient experience to back these opinions.
I'm going to structure this as a series of counter-arguments to things I read.
Is DFRPG suited to long-term gaming?
I've seen comments that it - DF, DFRPG, and GURPS in general - is not.
Based on . . . ?
I'll repeat - I've GMed 97 sessions. It will be 98 as of this Sunday. No one has mentioned 98 or even 100 being the last session. We just keep playing, and it doesn't get less entertaining than it was to start with. I simply can't take the argument that seriously. I'm sure people have run short, good campaigns, and short campaigns that petered out or died off for all of those reasons game die. But not suited for long-term campaings?
You can absolutely do long campaigns with DFRPG.
You can do short ones, too, just like with any other system. It really comes into its own in longer games, in my experience. And I've heard a lot of people like D&D in the "sweet spot" of mid-level play, with low-level being risky and high-level losing some of the savor of mid level play. While I actually found I liked higher-level AD&D play (we had plenty of games that went into the low double digits in PC level), I get why people might like the mid-level play the best. But the DFRPG ticks along well at the starting power level and hundreds of points higher than that. It's actually well-suited to long campaigns and steady character growth. There really isn't a "high level" end-game, just harder challenges for more powerful PCs. The linear nature of character growth has something to do with that.
How is the power level?
Some people say PCs start out too powerful in DF and the DFRPG. 250 points is significantly more than typical "heroic" characters according to 4th edition GURPS rules (150.)
From a taste perspective, this can't be argued. If you just don't like powerful PCs, and want PCs to start at lower points and lower power levels, then you're right - the PCs start out too powerful.
But that's taste.
If you look at it from a play perspective, starting DFRPG characters are powerful and effective within their niche. But they aren't too powerful. They're challenged, often challenged quite severely, but the monsters the game features. It's trivially easy to make the game powerful enough that even 4-8 250-point characters are wholly inadequate to defeat the enemy. They stay fairly vulnerable, and in constant need of upgrading, re-equipping, and of consumable help for a couple of hundred points afterward. You may not want to play this way, but it's a valid choice and the system does well with it.
For new players, the idea is that low-point guys are "easier." I don't actually find that to be true. It's easier to play a character who is good than one who needs to eke out every benefit to survive. I've done both, and while powerful characters do have more abilities, the very addition of those abilities make their options greater and their margin for error wider. That's a lot friendlier to new players, even those new to role-playing gaming, because their characters are much more capable.
Does GURPS do high-powered gaming well?
GURPS certainly does handle the 250-500+ point level we've been playing at. It does those levels well. At these levels:
- the PCs are quite powerful and can accomplish really spectacular and interesting successes
- but the PCs are never so powerful they can fully relax, even against threats that just don't quite reach the level of a serious threat.
While DFRPG characters are largely past the end of the bell curve, circumstances push their skill rolls down. You have great skill and ability, but face challenges that need those skills and abilities.
Why GURPS? Why not D&D?
I'd ask right back - why D&D? D&D is the original dungeon fantasy game. But it's not the only one game that does dungeon delving - it was the first, but it wasn't alone for very long. Other old-school games like Tunnels & Trolls and Rolemaster do dungeon fantasy - would you ask "Why plan T&T (or Rolemaster) when you could play D&D?" There is also a bewildering variety of D&D out there - original D&D, original plus Greyhawk, Holmes Basic D&D, B/X D&D, BECMI D&D, AD&D, AD&D 2nd edition, 3.0, 3.5, 4, 5th . . . plus retro-clones! DF and DFRPG are designed for dungeon fantasy. The DFRPG strips out everything that isn't dungeon delving fantasy from GURPS.
Still, there is a good point embedded there - there is a lot of support material for D&D. There is less for GURPS. But if you're generally rolling your own dungeons and monsters and whatnot, you don't really need a lot anyway. There is significantly more available than the original D&Ders had to play with. It's more convenient to play D&D-based games from a GM perspective, but once you start in on making your own stuff you're faced with the same work load.
So the DFRPG is designed to do dungeon fantasy. It's what it's for. So why not DFRPG? This is the genre it's meant for, why not consider it for play?
Ultimately, I find that enjoying GURPS for dungeon fantasy gaming is like enjoying any other game for dungeon fantasy gaming. If you like the way the game models the genre, and enjoy what it does well (GURPS and combat, for example, and AD&D strong niche protection and resource management, and Rolemaster with spectacular criticals and terrific spell failures), then that's the game for you. If you like a different power level, yeah, this might not be for you.
But it's an effective tool for the job of running fun, long-term, interesting fantasy gaming. It does what it is designed to do well. It may or may not be for you, but it is what it is - a good ruleset for dungeon fantasy gaming.