This has been a long time coming. The Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game (Kickstarter) came out way back in 2017, which is already crazy for me to think about. I think I would best describe is as the younger sibling of GURPS that is really into fantasy, which meant it was perfect for me.
5 books, 2 large double-sided maps, cardboard figures, and 6-sided dice.
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430 pages. PDF. ▲ Price $40.00 ▲ Stock number 31-1005
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Just look at that. 5 books, 2 large double-sided maps, cardboard figures, and 6-sided dice. That’s 430 pages of an offshoot of my favorite tabletop RPG. I really don’t need much more in my life. It helps that the books, the maps, the figures, the dice, and even the box that it all came in are of really nice quality. I enjoy displaying them on my shelf. In fact, the DFRPG has its own section. That says very little of the content, though. I want to keep this review quick, but I will go through each piece of the box set. And then some…
Adventurers is about 123 pages, and it’s all about the characters. Chapter one (Basics) covers the basics of the point-buy system (so you’re buying traits with points instead of picking from a few cool options), the attributes (Strength/ST, Dexterity/DX, Intelligence/IQ, and Health/HT), the secondary characteristics (HP, Size Modifier, etc.). Chapter two (Professions) covers the professions, which are like classes in D&D, and many of those professions have their counterparts in that other game. Unlike D&D, because this is a point-buy system, there is a lot more flexibility, and you can spend your 250 points however you’d like on the traits available for your profession. Chapter three (Races) covers the races, which are fairly standard as far as fantasy races go. Chapter four (Advantages) covers traits that cost points, which is anything from Ambidexterity for 5 points to High Pain Threshold for 10 points to Unfazeable for 15 points. Chapter five (Disadvantages) covers the traits that give back points, which is anything from Callous for -5 points to Oblivious for -10 points to Very Unfit for -15 points. Chapter six (Skills) covers the skills that characters can use, and almost all characters can use almost all skills since they have default levels. There are dozens of skills, but the DFRPG makes choosing easy by offering packages of skills in the profession templates. Chapter seven (Cash and Gear) covers, well, cash and gear. I’ve been a bit redundant. Anyway, this is my favorite part, especially because there is so much great equipment to choose from, and the weapon and armor tables have been updated quite a bit from the original tables in the GURPS Basic Set (thanks to GURPS Low-Tech).
Exploits is about 107 pages, and it’s all about playing the game. It covers skill rolls, combat, poison, fire, treasure, character advancement, you name it! Being powered by GURPS, the rules lean toward being fairly simulationist, which means there can be a lot of them. But my emphasis in on can. GURPS has received much flak for being so rules-heavy, but you are free to take what you like and leave the rest, and the DFRPG even supports that right away! Take a look at page 6:
“. . . With Spikes”
A quick-and-fun way to assess penalties is to apply a cumulative TDM of -1 per nasty qualifier that describes a task. For instance, whatever the normal modifier is for climbing or balancing on something, making the surface slimy, twisting, and smoke-obscured adds another -3. Intensifiers count! If the surface is horribly slimy, wildly twisting, and smoke-obscured, that’s -5 instead.
Furthermore, if hit locations and distance penalties are too much to remember, you can start without them. If the slam rules are too much to remember, get over it because they have been streamlined from the original rules in GURPS. If using a hex map is too much, use theater of the mind—most of my GURPS/DFRPG experience has been with theater of the mind.
Spells is about 79 pages, and it’s all about using magic. It uses the standard GURPS Magic system, which I’m not the biggest fan of, but it gets the job done, and I still much prefer it to how D&D handles magic. There are spells for almost everything—dozens and dozens and dozen of them.
Monsters is about 63 pages, and it’s all about that sweet bestiary. There are plenty of classics (or takes on classics), but there are plenty of new monsters that make it a fun read for that alone. There aren’t as many illustration as I would like, and even the illustrations leave a bit to be desired, but, on the flip side, those 63 pages are packed with monsters.
I Smell a Rat is about 24 pages, and it’s all about those first dungeon feelings. I don’t want to spoil the adventure, but it is quite fun. It’s short and sweet, and it’s easy to drop into just about any fantasy setting. With the quality map and cardboard figures, it’s really fun to set up and play.
Oh, and the Eye in Pyramid Dice are also great. I have a bunch of sets at this point.
Also, something that I love about the first couple of pages from Adventurers, Exploits, Spells, and Monsters is that they make up a little GM Screen. Of course, I went in for the physical GM screen on Kickstarter, which is not part of the boxed set, but it is unquestionably helpful.
Last but not least, there’s the Dungeon Fantasy Companion, which is Traps, Magic Items, and Against the Rat-Men. Traps is about 24 pages, and it’s all about traps and puzzles with plenty of fantastic examples. Magic Items is about 24 pages, and it’s all about magical items, potions, and unique rare and very magical artifacts. Against the Rat-Men is also about 24 pages, and it’s another fun dungeon about—just kidding, no spoilers.
I backed at the $250 tier because I wanted it all (which is much more than is just listed here), and I must say that it’s probably the best $250 I’ve ever spent. To be very honest, my boxed set has not gotten a lot of use, but that is only because I run a lot of GURPS homebrew stuff. If I weren’t, however, I would probably stick to the DFRPG (with some homebrew rules that I can’t live without), and I would certainly choose the DFRPG over D&D any day of the week (not to say that D&D isn’t a fun game, but I can’t go back at this point). Still, even then, even though I don’t get much use out of it, I don’t care. I really don’t. Let me be blunt and real. For the hours and hours and hours and hours I’ve gotten out of GURPS, I would’ve gladly paid $250 to let all of those great books collect dust, knowing that I had spent good money in a good place. Because I love GURPS and I love the DFRPG so very much. They are great products made by some really great people. And I plan to play some more DFRPG, especially because there is a great setting for it that I am dying to play to its fullest: Norðlond. And I plan to get into that a whole lot after my GURPS hiatus.
Other Quick Reviews:
- Hall of Judgement from Gaming Ballistic for the DFRPG
- The Citadel at Norðvorn from Gaming Ballistic for the DFRPG
- Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 2 from Steve Jackson Games for the DFRPG
- Dungeon Fantasy Magic Items 2 from Steve Jackson Games for the DFRPG
- Dungeon Fantasy Companion 2 from Steve Jackson Games for the DFRPG
- The Dragons of Rosgarth, Forest’s End, Norðlondr Fólk, and Hand of Asgard from Gaming Ballistic for the DFRPG