Bite-Sized Review: GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Treasures 3 – Artifacts of Felltower

And it’s time for another bite-sized review for one of the new five-bucks GURPS morsels. The title is a bit of a mouthful and could have easily been shortened to DFT 3 – More Artifacts.

Cover of Dungeon Fantasy Treasures 3 - Artifacts of Felltower

Facts

Author: Peter V. Dell’Orto
Date of Publication: 20/06/2019
Format: PDF-only (Warehouse 23-only)
Page Count: 17 (1 title page, 1 content page, 1/2 index page, 1/2 page ad)
Price: $7.99 (PDF), $ 0.22 per page of content; Score of 5/10
Preview: http://www.warehouse23.com/media/SJG37-0351_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.

Instead of adding more detail to all sorts of treasures like the first volume or going for the extremely epic like the second one, this third volume in is just a list of unique or near unique artifacts that is most akin to GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 6 – 40 Artifacts, which is explicitly referenced as necessary for play. That is a bit of an overstatement though, as is needing GURPS Magic for the spell descriptions. Yes, there’s no handy guide to reading the entries as in DF 6, but most of it is self-explanatory enough. And the only two spells you need to know are Accuracy and Puissance, which are also present in GURPS Basic – hint: together they make a +1 weapon like in That Other Game ™.

It’s a bit of a shame that this information wasn’t included to make the book even more accessible to DFRPG players. The origins can be easily gleaned from DFRPG Exploits p. 77. Not that DFRPG 6 is a bad book to have for DFRPG players.

The book is split in three chapters, aptly titled Weapons (6 pages), Armor (2 pages) and Other Treasures (5 pages).

Meat

Like in DF 6 every item has an origin, a FP value as a power item, a description, a list of properties with game-relevant stats and often a number of possible variations listed. There are 31 items on the whole (just missing the mark for calling this For Another 40 Artifacts More), running the whole gamut from the powerful, but simple like axe  Shieldslayer to the intriguing like the Potion Ring to the plain weird like the Gorilla Gloves.

The items are diverse enough that you don’t get bored after the sixth weapon, but the variety can’t quite reach the sheer numbers of the old GURPS Magic Items series (which incidentally can found for just $7.99 on Warehouse 23). However, these are tried and true DF items and fully Fourth-Editon-compatible without any conversion wonkiness attached.

Also there are some specials that are generically useful. A box on Magical Set Items takes you back to your favourite MMORPG (even though there is only one set in this book), Bad Influences is more something for the old-school players that miss weapons with a corrupting influence. Expired potions also hearkens back to classic That Other Game ™ days. The book also includes a few gems like Hero’s Brew, Mana Gout and dehydrated elixirs that plug holes in the Dungeon Fantasy catalogue and add extra options for more traditional items.

All in all, this might not be the most focused treasure book yet, but it certainly delivers more than a couple of useful tools and rewards for the enterprising DF game-master.

Meat score: 8

Cheese

Yeah, it’s Dungeon Fantasy, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be anything setting-related. Indeed the book starts out with two paragraphs on Dell’Orto’s Felltower mega-dungeon that make one hope it’ll see the light of day in some form or other. More relevant are the back-stories of the items in question that are on the whole longer and more detailed than in 40 Artifacts without quite reaching the level of the Magic Item series. Most of the cheese fluff in this comes from Felltower itself, but there are also plenty of ancient items mostly unrelated to the mega-dungeon.

There are also hints on what to do with the items and how to use them as plot hooks or integrate them into the campaign. Especially the section on set items is useful for campaign building. More stuff than you’d expect from Dungeon Fantasy.

Cheese score: 7

Sauce

The good news is that this volume actually has unique art pieces, the bad is that there are only two of them (the third being generic rings) and one of them shows a sabre, when it’s supposed to be a short sword). Well, it’s baby steps for GURPS 4th Edition. The editing was generally good, except for annoying typo on the first page (‘treasure hordes [sic]’). Dell’Orto’s style is generally more no-nonsense than Kromm’s, but it is very readable and there are still a couple of tongue-in-cheek jokes in there.

All-in-all par of the course for GURPS – a bit sad compared to most other RPGs, but not unexpected.

Sauce score: 5.5

Generic Nutritional Substance

Most of the gear inside the book is meant for generic-fantasy if not necessarily Dungeon Fantasy. That still covers a wide enough base and some of the pieces can be repurposed for modern urban fantasy or horror games. Some seem a little out of place for polytheistic Dungeon Fantasy (like the Bishop’s Cross), but in these cases there are always variants to make them fit.

As artifacts without a price tag, the items are more generic than the lower-priced off-the-shelf items in other DF publications.

Generic Nutritional Substance score: 6.5

Summary

Artifacts of Felltower is a solid book for GM’s looking for a 4th-Edition-compliant collection of special magic items. It can be used with minimal adjustments for any GURPS Dungeon Fantasy or Dungeon Fantasy RPG campaign and also the more epic fantasy campaigns. As MacGuffins or special prizes the gear also fits a variety of other campaigns. For the price of a fancy cup of coffee you get some good stuff. However, the shortness of the offering means you pay more than usual per page, hence the low Value Score (below).

Total score: 7.125
Total score is composed of a weighted average of Meat (40%), 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: 5,0625
Value Score is composed of the average of Total and Price.

After-Taste

One thing I am starting to get a bit annoyed at is the the weird naming of products and the haphazard placement in established series. Artifacts of Felltower is a nice enough name on its own, but with DF 6, DF 8 and the Treasure series, not to mention the relevant DFRPG books, it’s getting hard to keep all your treasure supplements straight. By now I would have appreciated a re-naming á la Backdrops: Tower of Octavius to Locations: Tower of Octavius.

Now that’s a bit harder to pull off with such a large series, but modelling the title a bit more on 40 Artifacts would have been nice. As it is, new players might look towards the Treasure series first, when they would be better advised to get the older volumes first.

Also, I was really hoping for more art, but for that we have to look at Gaming Ballistic, I guess.


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