GURPS101: Cultures in Dungeon Fantasy


One of the things that I really liked about Forgotten Realms for Dungeons and Dragons 3.0/3.5 was the “Regional Feats.” With a single trait you could give your otherwise two-dimensional character real depth. One of the many things I’m seeking to emulate in my Dungeon Fantasy campaign setting, Aersalus, are some of my favorite things from DnD. Regional feats are but a step in the road toward that end. Like a lot of “social” traits in Dungeon Fantasy, Cultural Familiarities are kind of glossed over. The bard gets Cultural Adaptability and Cultural Familiarity and…that’s it (excluding “free form adventurers” who use no template). GMs may allow the following, optional lens for all adventurers in his campaign.

Regional/Ethnic Lens

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Your character is from a specific place in the campaign world that prizes certain traits that you embody. Alternatively, you character may have been “raised by” another race. Unless the GM says otherwise delvers can only have one Regional/Ethnic Lens. The GM should design the lenses available for his campaign, but a few examples might be…

Cosmopolitan City: Your character is from a massive fantasy-style city (e.g., Lankhmar). You may spend any of your template’s points or points from quirks on the following traits: Cultural Familiarity (any) [1/culture], Jack of All Trades 1 [10], Language (any spoken within the city) [2-6/language], Piecemeal Knowledge (this may be taken at most twice) [1], and Street-Smart 1-3 [5/level].You may also learn Area Knowledge (city your from or nearby areas), Merchant, Panhandling, Streetwise, and Urban Survival if those skills are normally not available to you.

Elven Foundling: Your character is a non-elf or a half-elf that was raised elves. You may spend any of your template’s points or points from quirks on the following traits: Cultural Familiarity (Elven) [1/culture], DX+1 [20], Elven Gear [1], Forest Guardian 1-2 [5/level], Magery 0 or 1 [5 or 15], Language (Elven) [2-6], You may also learn Light Walk without need Chi Mastery if you also have DX 14 and Acrobatics and Stealth 16+.
Picking Over the Bones
It might need some work, but the concept is perfectly usable and I fully intend to use it in my campaign. The only downside I see is that the GM will have to put in some extra work and think about the campaign world in general beyond “Town.” This may or may not be appropriate to a given campaign and therefore may not be usable. The way I’ve seen nearly every GM run Dungeon Fantasy has been more or less a “Dungeons and Dragons milieu” rather than the straight-up “silly dungeon bashing where’s my new magic sword” that the series indicates. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there needs to be product support for this style of player because it is by far the most popular among DF players and GMs from what I’ve seen.
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  1. Developing cultural backgrounds for characters is important; without cultural familiarity even knowledge of the language falls short, and a template lens is definitely a way to go towards fleshing out a character.

  2. I wouldn't hesitate to also play up the Quirk-level Clueless aspect of being raised in another culture. Elves in your world might not haggle prices or promote their trade or knock on doors before entering, or find anything peculiar about public nudity.

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