Carpe Blogiem: When Is a Dungeon Fantasy Campaign No Longer A Dungeon Fantasy Campaign?, Part II

Peter Dell’Orto talked a bit about how to not let your Dungeon Fantasy campaign become a fantasy campaign. It’s extremely well-written and if you want to avoid the situation that I describe in my first post then you should follow it to the letter. If not, read on.

Many have used GURPS Dungeon Fantasy as a way to simulate Dungeons and Dragons. Now, I don’t know how you might have played D&D, but my gaming group – the core of which still games with me today – always used the D&D engine like a general purpose system like GURPS or Fate. Many of our games weren’t about going into dungeons or slaying evil wizards. They were poltical intrigue. They were manipulations of greater and lesser powers. I ran an entire campaign in Forgotten Realms Silver Marches that was just kind of nothing but survival and staking claims. The point I’m trying to make here is all we had was basically D&D (most of us had never heard of GURPS or other generic systems – lots of specialties like World of Darkness, Palladium, Shadowrun, etc. though) so we made it work to do the things we wanted. In GURPS you don’t have to do that. You just add the rules you want (one of the many things I love about it). So were I designing a “less silly” “less beer & pretzels” Dungeon Fantasy here are the top four things I’d do to make it more like a regular fantasy campaign:

Get a (Social) Life!: Dungeon Fantasy does its best to get rid of most social advantages. Sean Punch’s Traits for Town from Pyramid #3/58: Urban Fantasy II does most of the heavy lifting for you. One thing I think is key for this is you need to reinstitute how Wealth works normally instead of it’s “buying power” which is what it turns into for Dungeon Fantasy.

I Gotta a Name: Keep track of NPCs, make lists, organize them so you can draw from old acquaintances. Make the world come alive.

Settle Down, Have Some Kids: Part of the beer and pretzels gaming that is Dungeon Fantasy is the delvers never really stay in one place for too long. They’re always searching for the next “big dungeon” to loot. To give things a more “permanent” feels have the majority of adventures take place in a contained area. This is actually common in the fiction Dungeon Fantasy feeds from! There are always huge multi-level dungeons nearby ready for the looting. Use that common trope and make it so the PCs make a permanent base in a city, town, or hamlet that you can slowly highlight over multiple sessions.

We’re on a Ship, the (Relation)Ship: A player character relationships with NPCs is vital. It’s so vital that if you were to basically cut this out you’d never have to worry about your Dungeon Fantasy campaign being anything more than what it is. But if you let the PCs develop ties with NPCs the campaign will most likely head towards a more stable setting. Encourage such relationships, have NPCs occasionally go on adventures with PCs and vice versa. Basically, mix it up.

Picking Over the Bones
When it comes down to it, the PCs will be the ones who decide if they want something more from their campaign or not. It’s the GMs job to then determine whether it’s something that he wants or not. Given the vast majority of games I see being played for Dungeon Fantasy it looks like most folks like more complication than DF tends to suggest. How have you overcomplicated your simple beer and pretzels games? How have you kept them simple?

Posted in Carpe Blogiem and tagged , , .


  1. The DF game we play is totally a simulation of D&D. Our GM for that campaign had written the setting while he was playing D&D. Some of our players have never even played Dungeons and Dragons, and their intro to RPGs was GURPS so, when we invited our DF GM to start a campaign, he did so using DF as the framework for the D&D game he had intended to run (in lieu of teaching the players a new system). It works for that, but you have to just intentionally ignore some of the statements on social stuff.

    Interestingly, the "Old world" where our PC's came from is almost the flat generic fantasy setting DF is intended to simulate, but the "New World" our players are exploring is full of NPCs that are vibrant and interesting.

  2. You address how to turn a Dungeon Fantasy game into a Fantasy game, so I figure I should mention how I address running fantasy games with a combination of DF and Action! rules:

    This basically amounts to supplementing DF with existing rules in GURPS Action! to get a result that plays very much like D&D 3.x edition/Pathfinder. It’s still all about that awesome, but it expands the kinds of adventures available. Essentially, it broadens the focus of DF to include all of the typical fantasy adventuring tropes.

Leave a Reply