Bite-sized Review: GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 20 – Slayers

At long last, there’s a new Dungeon Fantasy supplement and this time it’s a main line item. We haven’t had any of those since… apparently September 2016 when Christopher R. Rice produced No. 19 – the excellent Incantation Magic volume. The current offering is a little smaller, but it’s also a Splatbook and it’s by the master himself: Let’s have a look at DF 20: Slayers!

Cover of GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 20 - Slayers

Facts

Author: Sean M. Punch (a.k.a. Dr. Kromm)
Date of Publication: 18/04/2019
Format: PDF-only (Warehouse 23-only)
Page Count: 24 (1 title page, 1 content page, 1 index pages, 1 page ad)
Price: $6.00 (PDF), $ 0.27 per page of content; Score of 4/10
Preview: http://www.warehouse23.com/media/SJG37-0350_preview.pdf

Review

As all my other reviews this one will be rated according to meat (rules, stats, game mechanics), cheese (setting, characters, story), sauce (form, writing, style, art) and generic nutritional substance (universal nature, adaptability). At the end you find a weighted average of those components and a value score that also takes into account price per page.

DF – Slayers is a close cousin to the previous splatbooks Sage, Summoners and Ninja, though it is more focused than the others. The lion’s share of the books 20 content pages is taken up by three new professions, one 5-page chapter for each the Demon-Slayer, the Mage-Slayer and the Undead-Slayer. A one-page intro and four pages on gear and assorted loot items rounds off the mix.

Meat

New abilities, perks, pseudo-magical skills and the templates themselves take centre stage in the as far as the crunchy meat is concerned. The templates are just what you’d expect from DF and though the abilities show some doubling (each slayer has a Detect and a Gizmo version) the abilities are different enough to give each of them a slightly different feel.

The slayers all share the lack of power modifiers and a special set of non-magical skills that duplicate appropriate spells and cost FPs as well. Especially interesting, even outside of DF and heroic fantasy are the many variations of Blessed and the appropriate perks, some of which have already appeared in other sources. Many of these could be ported whole-sale to a Buffy-esque Monster Hunters campaign as could the templates themselves. Each template comes with the usual customisation options, though lenses to add slayer-cross-training for other professions are not available. Slayers are born, not made.

For those of you who have access to Pyramid 109: Thaumatology V, the presented write-ups are very similar to the Mage-Hunter presented there (also by Kromm) – although there is no sample character. The Undead-Hunter from Pyramid 122: All Good Things is quite a different beast with a decidedly clerical bent and far less in the power-up department.

The equipment section is partly lists of useful gear, partly genuinely new stuff like Holy Weapons (not enchanted so Secret-Order-of-the-Mage-Slayers-approved), Heroic Power Items to give Slayers extra FP to use on Heroic Feats or their “spell” skills, blunt arrows and stake spears, couple of new (holy hand) grenade potions.

There are also rules for making up your own slayer variants, for varying monster flaws, having slayers research them and a box on Demon Talismans that is an interesting way to have demons that can be permanently destroyed – or safely spirited away before they’re defeated. All in all, there are a lot of useful titbits in there along with all the basics.

Meat score: 9

Cheese

Dungeon Fantasy is traditionally shy on flavour and setting, but slayers are not a generic profession. They come with some background already attached. The customisations and the choice of advantages can make a lot of difference in character. There are hints on how to make slayers useful in the campaign, behind-the-hood infos on why the the templates are built as they are. The last section – Secret Weapons – has ideas on how to mix things up and maybe take Dungeon Fantasy a bit more into a Buffy-esque direction with an obligatory research session before the dungeon. Demonic Talismans provide probably the most detailed description of how demons are summoned in DF.

The fact that slayers are explicitly self-powered, Buffy-style without blessings from supernatural entities does make quite a difference too. They’re in the same category as Barbarian, Knight and Swashbuckler and yet they are quite capable when dealing with their chosen supernatural foe. This will greatly appeal to a certain kind of player – and since a lot of us have grown up with Buffy, it won’t be such a small part of the player pool.

On the whole, there’s quite a bit of story built in this, at least for Dungeon Fantasy.

Cheese score: 6.5

Sauce

Dr. Kromm’s writing is precise and eminently readable. There are some tongue-in-cheek asides as usual, but the style is mostly concerned with clarity. As usual I had no complaints with the editing.

In GURPS the art is usually a problem, especially in short books. This one has a cover that actually looks kind of decent and the interior illustrations (that re-use the cover art) are mostly fitting too (yes, even Dan Smith has a good and fitting picture).  They are still black-and-white and aren’t quite the high quality we’ve seen in the DFRPG or DF Monsters 1.

Sauce score: 6

Generic Nutritional Substance

There are limits as to where Dungeon Fantasy templates can be applied, but as mentioned the templates can be used for a lower-powered Monster Hunters campaign or as a basis for a regular one. The abilities – especially the Blessed variants – can be useful in a variety of campaigns. So some overarching usefulness is certainly there.

Generic Nutritional Substance score: 6

Digesting Everything

Slayers is definitely a useful little volume that’ll scratch the itch of many a player and game master alike. If you don’t feel strongly about concept of self-powered (or universally-powered) slayers it isn’t a must-buy, but GMs should note that it is certainly possible to set the party against a Mage-Slayer (or more if players are making full use of Dungeon Fantasy 9 – Summoners). In short, a good, if somewhat specialised book.

Total score: 7.325 (still very good)
Total score is composed of a weighted average of Meat (50%), Cheese (15%), Sauce (20%) and Generic Nutritional Substance (15%). This is a meat-oriented book. A “cheesy” setting- or drama-orientied book would turn the percentages for cheese and meat around.

Value score: 5.6625 (short books are more expensive)
Value Score is composed of the average of Total and Price.


GURPS is a registered trademark of Steve Jackson Games, and the art here is copyrighted by Steve Jackson Games. All rights are reserved by SJ Games. This material is used here in accordance with the SJ Games online policy.

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