Saturday, February 22, 2020

Review: GURPS Dungeon Fantasy: Cold Shard Mountains

Time to review something I like. For disclosure - I'm a SJG freelancer, I write a lot of material for GURPS in general and Dungeon Fantasy in specific. Matt Riggsby is someone I consider a friend and a colleague. I was also a playtester on this book.

For more reviews, please see my reviews page.

Written by Matt Riggsby
Published 2020 by Steve Jackson Games
59 pages
$10 in PDF.

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy is unabashedly about two-dimensional (or even one-dimensional) protagonists going into dungeons and killing things for their valuable things. It's not big on culture, history, background, and development of a social structure around dungeoneering. GURPS Dungeon Fantasy: Cold Shard Mountains is about putting a culture, history, background, and a social structure around DF via a developed setting.

GURPS being GURPS, this works. DF is a pared-down version of GURPS; this setting merely brings back up some of what DF reduced to die rolls or "who cares anyway?" sorts of simplifications.

Cold Shark Mountains brings a lot to the table. You have a mapped out area with a layered history and geography - and a mix of intelligent and unintelligent creatures - that explains why there are so many dungeons. Or even a big-ass megadungeon. If you feel like DF is good but you need more than town as a menu with die rolls ala Wizardry, so does Matt Riggsby.

The maps are attractive and useful. The area is a hex-shaped region around 170 miles across (6.5 inches at 0.75" per 20 miles), and additional maps break it further down into sub-hexes. There is a GM keyed map and handout maps. They seem like they'd be easy to use at the table, once printed out from the PDF. They're black-and-white but I'd probably shade them with colored pencils so they'd look nicer but still be easy to write on and modify as play changed them.

The book contains several new monsters (some minor threats, some major annoyances), new potions from Coleopteran (bug-people) Alchemy, several magical items (including wasp flails, which is a great name and the kind of item I wish I'd come up with first), and a number of magic item suites. You know, item sets. Matt's variation on them from traditional sets of unique items is excellent. Just the crunchy bits alone would be a useful addition.

The book also has random encounters and sufficient hexcrawl rules to run the game as a hexcrawl. These are unique in GURPS as far as I can tell.

Overall: I'm not really in the market for a Dungeon Fantasy setting. But if I was, this would be an easy choice. A lot of adventuring areas, plenty of hooks, and easy tools for turning it into a hexcrawl, clear-and-develop game, or the basis for a lot of traditional dungeon-of-the-week gaming are included. If you'd like a setting for a fantasy game with dungeons plus a bit more cultural and historical development, this is something you can use.

Here are Notes on Cold Shard Mountains by the author.


  1. "Cold Shark Mountains"

    Well, there's an opportunity I missed.

    1. It's still there for you. You just have to tweak it a bit. Cold Shark Harbor. Sounds like a great adventure location or a crappy IPA!

  2. Minor nit: there's no scale for the hexes. They're four-mile hexes, but I had to measure them against the scale to find that.


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