Gamemaster’s Guidepost: What Makes Dungeon Fantasy Special, Part II

Guest Post by +Antoni Ten Monrós

Continued from his earlier post, Toni continues talking about what makes Dungeon Fantasy special.

GURPS Characters are Diverse
GURPS is not constrained by classes or level. Dungeon Fantasy has templates, but the biggest difference between templates and actual classes is that classes give define your character’s abilities, while templates give you suggestions on how to develop him. Even if the game master, as a form of genre emulation, makes templates mandatory and severely restrict going out of them, progression still allows a lot of choice, and two characters using the same template can end up with very different characters. Also, again unless the game master restricts this, characters in GURPS grow organically, improving whatever parts the player feels he should improve, instead of being forced to increase every kind of capacity at once when “going up a level”

When it comes to special abilities, wherever they’re innate powers or magical spells, most GURPS systems use fatigue as the base resource to power them, Fatigue is recovered rather quickly, and so after a short rest, most heroes are back to full capacity, minus any damage they might have taken during the last combat/dangerous situation. No more 15 minute adventuring workdays! GURPS also has multiple mechanically distinct systems to model extraordinary abilities, each with it’s own flavour, that are much more than reskins of a single central concept. Thematically, it makes much more sense to me that using special abilities tires the character out, instead of them having a certain number of uses per day. Mind you, if that floats your boat, GURPS can also have abilities with limited uses per day and/or per session, and some are even part of the standard Dungeon Fantasy power set.

When it comes to races, most race and class systems have very limited capacity to invent new playable races, and often under or over value the benefit of non-human races. It makes it quite problematic for game masters to create new races that aren’t basically a reskin of existing ones, without causing issues with “balance”. Meanwhile, while Dungeon Fantasy might have a decent sample of playable races, the details on how they’re built are not hidden at all, and so it’s extremely easy for the game masters to build their own custom races. In fact the hardest part is creating a good concept.

Dungeon Fantasy Might be About Dungeon Delving, but GURPS is Able to do Much More
In other games that are optimized towards dungeon delving, activities and capacities outside of “murder-hoboing” are a clunky addition at best, and an after thought at worst. Not so in GURPS Dungeon Fantasy. While it’s true that Dungeon Fantasy concerns itself only with killing things, taking their stuff, and using the experience and riches obtained to kill bigger things and take their larger hoards, it does it by choice. It’s extremely simple to alter the genre assumptions and include political intrigue, social maneuvering and economic simulation, and those things will feel as integrated into the game as any others.

Sure, Dungeon Fantasy doesn’t take itself seriously, but it doesn’t mean that it can’t be played seriously. A dungeon fantasy game can be played as a postmodernist deconstruction of the genre, a.k.a “Munchkin the RPG.” or it can be played as a recreation of the adventures of pulp heroes like Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy gives you all the spiciness of old school dungeon delving while also including it’s own rich and unique flavor. 

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About the Writer 

Antoni Ten, known as Kuroshima, the Mad Spaniard Rules Lawyer in Steve Jackson Games Forums has not only been game mastering Dungeon Fantasy for years, but he’s also managed to get himself published in Pyramid, mostly on Dungeon Fantasy related subjects. He’s been playing role playing games of diverse persuasions for over 20 years now.
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  1. So where would you say Dungeon Fantasy sits on the GURPS crunch spectrum, between minimal GURPS Lite and GEarhead GURPS with all/most of the options on? If DF is GURPS cozying up to the OSR does it play as fast with a minimum of math ('cause a lot of games seem to be running away screaming from having to do math at the table…)?

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