August 29, 2010: What Is This GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Thing?
As the creator of the GURPS Dungeon Fantasy series, I hear that a lot. I'll try to explain.
Hack-and-slash fantasy has always been near and dear to roleplayers' hearts. In pen-and-paper gaming, we've seen Dungeons and Dragons, Tunnels and Trolls, and endless other games with words like "dungeon" and "tunnel" in the title. Digital gaming has likewise glorified dungeons; depending on your age, that might mean Zork, Rogue, "those old D&D games on floppy disk," Diablo, or some sort of MMORPG. How could GURPS claim to be generic and universal without its own take on this fantasy subgenre? So it was that GURPS Dungeon Fantasy was born.
However, full-on GURPS is too much game for a simple concept: Kill things and take their stuff. Its character and combat options often seem daunting to gamers seeking a few hours of goofy fun. Thus, we stripped things down for Dungeon Fantasy. You still need the GURPS Basic Set, and spellcasters will want GURPS Magic -- but if the GM has those books, a group can get by with just a few PDFs rather than all of GURPS.
But a big part of "What is this thing?" is understanding which PDFs those are. I can help with that, too!
The traditional "players' guide" is GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 1: Adventurers. Nonhumans and "multi-class" characters appear in GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 3: The Next Level; pets and familiars, in GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 5: Allies; and high-level abilities, in GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 11: Power-Ups. Fans of slightly unorthodox adventurers might want GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 4: Sages, GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 7: Clerics, or GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 9: Summoners. I'd recommend Adventurers, The Next Level, and Power-Ups if you plan to play often, plus any of Sages, Allies, Clerics, and Summoners that covers a favorite character type.
The customary "GM's handbook" is GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 2: Dungeons -- a "how to" guide to running dungeon adventures. GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 10: Taverns offers advice on kicking off adventures and on town-based gaming. And GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 6: 40 Artifacts and GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 8: Treasure Tables provide loot. A GM who's planning to run an actual campaign will eventually want the entire series, of course.
"Monster manuals" complete the dungeon-gaming trinity . . . and our upcoming 13th release is titled Monsters 1. You don't need to wait for that to run the game, though! Dungeons contains a modest bestiary, The Next Level provides full stats for many traditional humanoid monsters (minotaurs, ogres, orcs, etc.), and the summonable "pets" in Allies and Summoners could easily be summoned by (or be) the heroes' opponents. Monsters also lurk in the dark corners of other supplements; even 40 Artifacts and Taverns describe a few.
And stay tuned, because what's a dungeon game without endless modules to choose from? Not only is there a monster manual in the works, but also a supplement on ninja. At least two more items are on the drawing board, too.
-- Sean Punch
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