Perky Post: Dungeon Faeries 6 – The Glaistig

Right before the end of the Dungeon Fantasy kickstarter, in jumps a new contender for Dungeon Fairy of the year:

Glaistig (15 Points)

Choice Professions: Barbarian, Martial Artist, Scout, Swashbuckler, Thief, Wizard
Marginal Professions: Bard

The goat-legged Glaistig are easily mistaken for tallish fauns – a fact that these very prim and proper faeries deeply resent. They used to be protectors of wild herd animals, changed towards domestic herds with the coming of the humanoid races and are getting more and more disenchanted by the modern world and its turning cows into iron-rations mentality. This pent-up anger makes them prone to joining adventuring parties who need someone to deliver a good ass-kicking.

Glaistig, especially female ones, try to disguise their goat legs with robes or skirts, but that doesn’t mean they can’t use them to shatter knee-caps and leap over high elves in a single bound. Glaistig enjoy wild nature, but would side with the careful farmer and caring shepherd versus the wild-haired druid. This and their “no fun please!” attitude make them pretty unpopular among other faeries, but well-liked among countryfolk. They often get offered small gifts or discounts on goods and services.

Attribute Modifiers [-20]: DX +1 [20]
Secondary Characteristic Modifiers [5]: Basic Move +1 [5]
Advantages [38]: Claws (Hooves) [3]; Magery 0 [5]; Super Jump +2 [20]; Talent: Good Shepherd* 2 [10]
Perks [2]: Glaistig Discount** [1]; Patience of Job [1]
Disadvantages [-50]: Dependency: Mana (Very Common, Constantly) [-25]; No Sense of Humor [-10]; Sense of Duty (Pastoral Nature)† [-15]
Feature: Leg and foot armour isn’t interchangeable with human armour – but, embarrassingly with faun armour. Tail (neither a manipulator nor enough of a problem to interfere with armour).

*Good Shepherd: You are naturally good at caring for livestock and keeping them safe from predators by clouting those with your crook. This talent aids: Animal handling (domestic herd animals only), Climbing (for finding lost animals), Staff, Survival and Veterinary. Reaction Bonus: simple country folk, pastoral nomads. Only Glaistig may have it and buy up to two more levels at character creation. 5 points / level.

**Glaistig Discount: This is Cheaper Gear (Simple Food, Drink and Lodging) for a 25% discount – an extra 5%, because it only applies in the countryside.

Sense of Duty (Pastoral Nature): Glaistig help inoffensive prey animals that don’t threaten to become a danger to farming. They don’t have any tuck with overgrown groves, but they don’t see a  problem with clearing a path for humanoids either. They do abhor twisted and corrupted nature  just like good druids and the other faeries. This Sense of Duty does not prevent them from eating meat of domestic animals, but they brook no cruelty towards living animals an feel pretty bad when they have to take their lives. Most Glaistig are vegetarians.


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

Perky Post: Dungeon Faeries 5 – The Spriggan

The GURPS Dungeon Fantasy RPG kickstarter continues to grow and so do these faeries:

Spriggan (20 points)

Choice Professions: Martial Artist, Scout, Thief
Marginal Professions: Knight

Spriggans are the kind of people most folks can figure out at a glance: Their faces all look like they have been violently rearranged a couple of times and the greasy, stringy hair doesn’t help either. They aren’t quite your regular diminutive farie with an attitude though.

When threatened – or really whenever they feel like it – Spriggans can grow to the size of an ogre with the strength to match. They mainly use that to keep others from stealing their treasures or deliver a beating to those disrespecting mother nature. Their dual nature as miserly nature faeries, means they can often be found guarding far-out treasure troves or moonlighting as highwaymen.

Despite their predilection for treasure, Spriggans prefer to travel light. Their growth only covers very light equipment and given the chance Spriggans rather carry a big stick instead of a bunch of armour and heavy stuff. This can lead to problems, but Spriggans are rather harder to kill than most faeries. They like to pretend feebleness only to strike their foes in the back.

Spriggans are short, but stocky – not completely unlike halflings, but don’t tell them that. They aren’t fond of protection rackets and prefer straightforward robbery. Figure height normally for their ST, but multiply the result by 0.5. Multiply the corresponding weight by 0.6.

Attribute Modifiers [-20]: ST -3 [-30]; HT +1 [10]
Secondary Characteristic Modifiers [0]: SM -2 [0]
Advantages [105]: Spriggan Growth* [105]
Perks [3]: Giant Weapons† [1]; Iron Arms [1]; Patience of Job [1]
Disadvantages [-58]: Appearance (Ugly) [-8]; Dependency: Mana (Very Common, Constantly) [-25]; Miserlines (12) [-10] Sense of Duty (Nature) [-15]

*Spriggan Growth. By concentrating for 1 second a Spriggan can grow to SM +0 and gain +8 ST in the process (for a final racial modifier of +5). A Spriggan can stay at the increased size for any amount of time and revert back by concentrating. Equipment, weapons and armour up to no encumbrance are temporarily transformed to corresponding size. If dead or unconscious the Spriggan reverts back to their original form. 105 points.
Statistics: Growth +3 (Can Carry Objects up to No Encumbrance, +10%; Maximum Size Only, +0%) [33]; ST +8 (Size, -10%) [72]
†Same as the Halfling perk, but more powerful due to Spriggan Growth.


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

Perky Post: Dungeon Faeries 3 – The Brownie

Household spirits work in the dark of the night and so do I. Let me present the Brownie in support of the GURPS Dungeon Fantasy RPG kickstarter.

Brownie (25 points)

Choice Professions: Innkeeper, Ninja, Thief, Wizard
Marginal Professions: Barbarian, Holy Warrior, Knight

These humble household spirits are often ridiculed by the more adventurous faeries like Pixies, Leprechauns and Fauns – the drab brown clothing doesn’t help either – but many an adventuring party has found them an unexpected boon. Given the chance Brownies would stay in their favourite household forever, but that’s hard to do if the tenants get torn apart by hordes of skeletons. Fortunately, they are quite adaptable. Traditionally acknowledged as masters of stealth, they are able to cook a five-course meal without waking anybody in the house. That their housekeeping skills are without par goes without saying, but only recently have adventurers woken up to the fact that this also applies to butchering monstrous foes…

Unusual among adventuring types, Brownies are not big on being paid. Many go so far as to regard payment as an insult. Fortunately even the most stiff-necked Brownies wouldn’t consider shares of loot to be payment and food given to them is always a gift, right? Brownies get along best with down-to-earth types, who enjoy good food and drink – like Barbarians and Dwarves. As domestic faeries nature comes a distant second to creature comforts, but they do feel some empathy towards animals and plants.

Brownies are strong for their size, but not quite as strong as Leprechauns. They are every bit as tough, though. Find height normally for their ST and multiply the result by 0.3. Weight is generally in the 5 to 10 kg range, but extremely fat Brownies coming in at 20 kg most certainly exist.

Attribute Modifiers [-10]: ST -5 [-50]; DX +2 [40]
Secondary Characteristic Modifiers [8]: SM -4; Basic Speed +0.5 [10]; HP -1 [-2]
Advantages [59]: Magery 0 [5]; Reduced Consumption 2 [4]; Silence 6 (Cosmic: Stealthy Work*, +50%) [45]; Talent: Household Spirit 2** [10]
Perks [2]: Alcohol Tolerance [1], Clothing Shtick: Sartorial Integrity [1]
Disadvantages [-34]: Bad Temper (12) (Only when deliberately insulted, -60%) [-4]; Dependency: Mana (Very Common, Constantly) [-25]; Vow: Do not needlessly or cruelly kill animals and plants. Use all the parts of those you do kill unless absolutely impracticable. [-5]

*The full skill bonus applies to manual work involving tools and up to full arm movements. Yes, this includes drawing weapons and aiming, but not actual fighting.
**Household Spirit: Your knowledge of household tasks is truly supernatural. You can literally turn monster entrails into gourmet food. This Talent aids Animal Handling: (for domestic animal types only), Cooking, Leatherworking, Professional Skill (Dungeon Butcher)† and Pharmacy (Herbal). Only Brownies may have it and buy up to two more levels at character creation. Reaction bonus: Innkeepers and ordinary, hard-working folk (a small group by Dungeon Fantasy encounter standards). 5 points/level.
†See Dungeon Fantasy 19: Incantation Magic p. 5.


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

Perky Post: Dungeon Faeries 2 – The Pooka

Next in my series on faerie folk in the Dungeon, here’s another classic faerie in Dungeon Fantasy guise.

Pooka (20 points)

Choice Professions: Bard, Martial Artist, Swashbuckler, Thief; Wizard
Marginal Professions: None

Shapeshifters whose “natural” form resembles slightly under-sized, anaemic  elves, Pookas often join adventuring parties without revealing their fae nature. Elves do not appreciate these elvish impersonators. Unlike Pixies and Leprechauns, who got something to prove, Pooka retain much of their capricious faerie nature. They are easily bored and wont to play practical jokes on dangerous foes – a trait that doesn’t endear them to the more stolid professions. They are much more relaxed when it comes to saving nature, but don’t count on them standing back during your tree-felling spree. The myth that Pooka like to turn into black horses and go on wild rides are derided even by the most mischivous Pooka.

Pookas are slim, but not very tall. Find height normally ST, but subtract 20% from their weight. They take 10 seconds to change into another form. They can memorize up to IQ forms and must discard an old form to memorize a new one. None of this affects their stats in any way. The only exception is faking social traits the target might have and lowering their appearance – Pooka can’t convincingly imitate beings with Transcendent Appearance. Blemishes and imperfections tend to creep in. As a side benefit to their shapeshifting they can hide small objects of up to BL/10 in their body. Getting them out takes the usual 10 seconds for Shapeshifting, however.

Attribute Modifiers [10]: ST -1 [-10]; DX +1 [20]
Secondary Characteristic Modifiers [3]: SM +0; Basic Move +1 [5]; HP -1 [-2]
Advantages [61]: Appearance (Very Handsome/Beautiful) [16]; Magery 0 [5]; Shapeshifting: Morph (Cosmetic, -50%; Magical, -10%) [40]
Perks [3]: Forgettable Face [1]; Natural Pockets (Shapeshifted Flesh); Rules Exemption (Forgettable Face with Handsome/Beautiful Appearance) [1]
Disadvantages [-54]: Dependency: Mana (Very Common, Constantly) [-25]; Impulsiveness (12) [-10]; Pacifism: Self-Defense Only (Animals and Plants only, -60%) [-4]; Trickster (12) [-15]


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

Perky Post: Dungeon Faeries 1 – The Knocker

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy has a nice little collection of faerie player races, but more options can never hurt. This is the first of new series of mini articles I’m calling Perky Posts. I hope to do one of those each day for the remainder of the Dungeon Fantasy kickstarter. So, without further ado, I present the knocker in DF format:

Knocker (20 points)

Choice Professions: Elementalist, Thief, Wizard
Marginal Professions: Barbarian, Holy Warrior, Knight, Martial Artist

Knockers are both a bane and a blessing to miners, alternately warning them of impending danger and stealing their stuff. While most of them stay in their favourite mine their whole lives, flooding, earthquakes or acute adventurer infestation will make them pack up their stuff and leave. With a penchant for deep places and carrying off other people’s stuff there’s little wonder that displaced Knockers take to dungeon-delving like fish to water. Especially their ability to locate any kind of underground metal is highly-prized among delvers – as even dwarves have to grudgingly admit.

As mining faeries they do not have a sense of duty towards nature, but instead act honourably towards miners and fellow underground dwellers when dangers like rockslides and collapsing tunnels are concerned. They won’t lure anybody into unsafe areas and won’t steal urgently needed survival gear. Of course, all bets are off, when they are aboveground.

Knockers look like wizened old men and women. To get their height start out with regular height for their ST (without taking into account their racial modifier) and multiply the result by 0.4. For body weight do the same, but multiply the result by 0.3 – they are strong and resilient far beyond their looks, but do not reach the level of leprechauns. A Knocker has SM -3 regardless of actual height. Tiny Tools (DF3 p. 8) applies to their gear.

Attribute Modifiers [0 points]: ST -2 [-20]; DX +1 [20]
Secondary Characteristic Modifiers [5 points]: SM -3; PER +1 [5]
Advantages [59 points]: Absolute Direction (Underground only, -40%) [3]; Danger Sense (Underground only, -40%) [9]; Detect: Metal (Underground only, -40%) [12]; Lifting ST 2 [6]; Luck [15]; Magery 0 [5]; Night Vision +9 [9]
Perks [1 point]: Penetrating Voice (Knocking only, Doubled Bonuses) [1]
Disadvantages [-45 points]: Code of Honor: Professional (Miner’s) [-5]; Dependency: Mana (Very Common, Constantly) [-25]; Kleptomania (12) [-15]


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

Review: GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 19 – Incantation Magic

With the GURPS Dungeon Fantasy boxed set kickstarter going strong, it’s  only natural that I finally get my behind in gear and do another DF review during the product’s release week. And Dungeon Fantasy 19 – Incantation magic is certainly a strong contender for every Dungeon Fantasy fan’s wallet. The author dream team of Christopher R. Rice and Antoni Ten Monrós took up the task of bringing Jason “PK” Levine’s Ritual Path Magic (RPM) to Dungeon Fantasy. And I don’t spoil much by saying that their margin of success is rather large.

A word of advice for those readers just tuning in from the kickstarter: This book has been added to the Expert level of the kickstarter for a reason. Like regular RPM, it puts a lot more decisions and work into the hands of the GM – probably more than any other DF task except for making up adventures and campaigns. There is a grimoire of sample spells, but restricting players to those would go radically against the intention of the supplement. So get your rules boots on if you want to feature incanters in your DF game.

Cover of GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 19 - Incantation Magic

Facts

Authors: Christopher R. Rice (Ghostdancer on the forum and his blog) and Antoni Ten Monrós (Kuroshima on the forum)
Date of Publication: 08/09/2016
Format: PDF-only (Warehouse 23-only)
Page Count: 32 (1 title page, 1 content page, 1.5 index pages, 0.5 page ad)
Price: $7.99 (PDF), $0.29 per page of content; Price Score of 4/10
Preview: http://www.warehouse23.com/media/SJG37-0340_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 will find a weighted average of those components and a value score that also takes into account price per page.

Before I dive into the review proper, I have a confession to make: I’ve never used RPM in a game before. My Dresden Files campaign took place way back in 2008 before RPM was more than a sparkle in RPK’s eye and we used Path/Book Magic and Magic as Powers for that. I’ve also never run a straight DF campaign, even though I thoroughly mine all the books for bits and pieces. So, keep in mind that there might be more knowledgeable people around to write about this!

The book is standard medium-size digital GURPS supplement divided into three chapters. After a short introduction (1 page), Chapter 1: Ritual Casters (6 pages) tells us about the necessary traits for incanters and gives us the DF templates and power-ups we’re used to by now. Chapter 2: Incantation Magic (13 pages) represents the bulk of the book and that’s where the magic happens. We get very detailed rules for working incantation magic into your DF game. Chapter 3: Grimoire (8 pages) is a list of fully-worked spells that are a good fit for a 250-points incanter.

All the rules are quite a bit streamlined from regular RPM. I deliberately don’t say simplified, because they do not represent a dumbing-down, just a different flavour that doesn’t need so many dice rolls and sympathetic connections as in a secret magic campaign. In a pinch you could use them for just such a campaign, but the original RPM rules will be a better fit.

Meat

Incantation Magic is not different from most DF titles in that it comes down heavily on the “meaty” side of things (what others call the “crunch”). The score will therefore mainly depend on this aspect. So, what’s there?

Incantation Magic makes use of Ritual Magic and paths just like RPM and Path/Book Magic. There are 8 paths: Arcanum, Augury, Demonology, Elementalism, Mentalism, Necromancy, Protection and Transfigurations. Those are more or less congruent with what a DF wizard can do. An incanter is not bound to specific spells, they can make up anything within those limits that the GM allows. Every part of a spell (effect, modifier etc.) adds spell points to its total. The more spell points, the harder it is to cast the spell; the more effects, the longer it takes.

We get a basic incanter template that follows standard DF conventions. There’s less customization going on than in other professions since incanters mainly specialise by path, not by spell. Maybe there’s going to be a DF Denizens book for incanters one day that adds a bit more variety, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

We do get the lenses to make up “multi-class” characters, though. These only include the 11 professions from DF 1 – Adventurers, even though the artificer, mentalist and scholar are called out as good combinations for incanters. At least the evil versions of the cleric and holy warrior are included as variations. That’s a bit disappointing, but can’t be helped. With more and more professions being added in supplements you can’t have all the combinations all the time, though the lack of the scholar – also being an improvisational character – smarts. My favourite is the Incanter-Wizard though – clearly the best of both worlds.

What is incantation magic like? For the rules-maniacs: it’s a streamlined Ritual Path Magic variant that uses effect-shaping instead of energy accumulation, does away with greater and lesser effects and instead sets a sliding scale of effects and hard limits on what can be achieved. For normal readers: incantation magic does away with a lot of the fiddly bits of RPM and gives you a better idea how difficult a certain effect should be. Incanters are more likely to do their casting in town and call upon those resources later. They can cast in the dungeon, but they aren’t very efficient at that.

So what are Incanters good at? Two things: First, they can prepare custom-made spells in advance (in town) and bind them to a spell slot – similar to the Vancian system used in ‘that other game’. These incantations can be activated with a single concentrate manoeuvre and a casting roll. Second, they can cast these very same spells inside the dungeon if they have enough time to prepare. This is basically a non-combat task. Even with the Adept power-up only the simplest spells can be improvised within a second and there are far and few combat situations where a 5-second casting time is worth the effort. Scripts are written on scrolls and are more resilient than incantations, but work more-or-less the same. Infusions are basically special potions that don’t take up spell slots, but have a limited shelf life.

This description already shows that incanters come heavily front-loaded. Even a starting character can have 23 incantations (or scripts), 2 scripts and 4 stabilised infusions. Regular infusions have their power go awry after a month or so, depending on your stats. That means incanters benefit heavily from good intelligence about the the next dungeon, since they can’t replenish their bag of tricks easily when in the dungeon. It also means a lot of book-keeping: The GM has to secretly note (critical) success or failure for each incantations and the sequence of their casting also matters, because you can lose them. The margin of success needs to be noted for each script and the shelf-life for each regular, non-stabilised infusion. That’s a bit of a turn-off for less strategical-minded players and GMs alike and easily the biggest drawback of the system I could find. If you have players who like a bit more Shadowrun-like scouting and planning this can turn into a bonus, though.

There are a couple of minor bonuses: It’s nice that interactions with standard magic are explicitly addressed, whether it’s dispelling each other or using energy from another reserve. That has been missing from RPM so far. There are also good guidelines as to what constitutes a spell and what is a different spell. Rules on girding your spells to make them harder to dispel, making spells harder to resist and hard limits on buffing are also quite useful.

The grimoire features a variety of 39 different spells from the expected direct damage and invisibility to betwitchment, summoning, fate manipulation and berserking spells. They are all well-done, but nothing stands out as absolutely ingenious, but Mule’s Strength, Safeguard and Twist of Fate are pretty dang nice. I would have liked to have a two or three copies from the RPM grimoire just to see how they turn out differently, but for the average reader all new spells are certainly the better deal.

Some things are a little iffy: You can make your own personal very-high-mana zone to give you a massive bonus to casting rolls – despite the book saying you can’t use magic to get better at magic. The Field Caster and Adept power-ups are so useful that they will be picked up by most characters ASAP. Some effects seem a bit strong, like directly giving a penalty to survival rolls. In general there’s nothing too wonky going on, though. All in all this is one of the most solid and self-contained rulebooks I’ve seen in some time.

Meat score: 9.5 (It’s a kind of magic)

Cheese

There’s very little in here that helps you build a campaign world or create characters. We get a little on the disdain incanters have for wizards and how incantations can’t do anything about elder things, setting up a bit of a psychic rivalry. Most spirits are also beyond their domain.

The paths themselves are well thought out and fit in with what we know about the DF world. I personally would have liked to know how incanters stand vis-a-vis the gods since they have two very dark paths indeed. Their relationship to nature is probably akin to the wizards. As you can combine every profession with every other one, these seem a bit like a moot point, but there was certainly room for improvement.

Cheese score: 4 (mundane magic)

Sauce

The worst part of the pretty stuff is easily the art again. Four illustrations and you can see the quality on the cover collage. Not very enticing, though at least at appropriate places in the book. The cover itself is typical DF style, but not one of the better ones. The technical writing is very good and makes things easy to understand almost all of the time. What’s a bit disappointing is the quality of the vignettes. They have a  clear “this happened in my last campaign” vibe. While this serves to illustrate the subject matter, it still feels a bit awkward. There are also a couple of typos and minor errors that will go directly to Steven Marsh, who will certainly take care of things as fast as usual. Still, they are there.

Sauce score: 5 (That Old Black Magic)

Generic Nutritional Substance

While this is still Dungeon Fantasy, it can be used for a lot of other genres, even if it won’t be a perfect fit for most. Yes, we do get three pages of DF templates, but at least the generic incanter can be dropped in a range of settings with only minor alterations. The magic system itself fits many campaigns, from secret magic to high fantasy to non-four-colour superheroics. It’s working together with standard magic and clerical magic out of the box too. All in all, more than generic enough.

Generic Nutritional Substance score: 8.5 (magic is everywhere)

Summary

Dungeon Fantasy 19 is the highest-scoring book I reviewed this year and my new personal favourite among the double-digit DF supplements – barely edging out the more generally applicable Wilderness Adventures and Power-ups. It’s an excellent stand-alone book debut for Messrs. Rice and Monrós.

It’s also a solid investment if you want to try something new magic-wise or have players who don’t like the rigid one spell, one skill approach that the other casters use. If you don’t feel like getting it on its own right now, order it through the kickstarter!

Total score: 7.625 (elven high magic)
Total score is composed of a weighted average of Meat (40%), Cheese (25%), 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: 5.8125 (you can’t put a price on magic)
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.

Review: GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 3 – Born of Myth & Magic

Not one of the new series Kromm and PK have been hinting strongly about, Peter V. Dell’Orto’s newest oeuvre will be very much welcomed by Dungeon Fantasy players and other GURPS fans alike. It’s close in style and content to Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 1, but whereas the former volume had a lot of unique, original and lesser-known monsters, the current one deals to a large degree with classic ones. The title is right on the money and if a monster is not connected to myths, it’s sure to have some magical slant to it (actually the mythic monsters are also magical).

Cover Page of GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 3 - Born of Myth & Magic

Facts

Author: Peter V. Dell’Orto
Date of Publication: 02/06/2016
Format: PDF-only (Warehouse 23-only)
Page Count: 24 (1 title page, 1 content page, 1 index/ad page)
Price: $5.99 (PDF), $ 0.29 per page of content; Score of 4/10
Preview: http://www.warehouse23.com/media/SJG37-0338_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.

Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 3 follows the format established in DFM1: Each of the 16 monsters presented gets a page with game stats, description, GM advice and (in most cases) possible variants. Only the notoriously hard to run Doppelgangers get two pages. Apart from the introduction, there’s a short section explaining how to read the monster stats, two pages on meta-traits not in GURPS Basic (two of them brand-new) and new prefixes. There’s nothing especially surprising about all that.

The same can be said of the mythical monsters. Basilisk, Cockatrice, Doppelganger, Dryad, Harpy, Manticore, Medusa and Phoenix are old standbys in fantasy games, but it’s good to see full game stats for all of these. It would have been nice to see non-western myths represented, but you really can’t argue about the sheer iconic value of this selection. Some less expected monsters like Giant Ant, Lava Lizard, Phase Serpent, Rock Troll and Shadow Warrior to provide variety. But my favourites are the weirdos, of course: Living Pit, Octopus Blossom and Rot Worm are surely going to provide hours of fun for your players – or painful seconds of death more precisely. A special mention goes out for the myrmecoleon – an ant with a lion’s head from medieval mythology.

Meat

As would be expected from a Dungeon Fantasy supplement, the diet is leaning towards the meat side of things, though not as much as the recent Power Items. We get the expanded stat block that has become the standard DF notation and notes how everything works in play (read: combat). There are some boxes on special combat rules, where warranted – note the large number of gaze or sight attacks. Variant round this off. We get four different Basilisks (not combinable), two different Cockatrices (not combinable), three types of ants (workers, soldiers, queens) combinable with six variants (some of which can be combined for even more fun), Sirens as variant Harpies, scalable Living Pits, five variants of Manticores (free to mix and match), six Medusa variants (stackable), six Octopus Blossoms (some of them combinable), rules for making variant Phase Critters, five different kinds of phoenix (only one burns), guidelines on using prefixes on Rot Worms and rules for making different Shadow Beings (Shadow Warriors already can be modified by race).

The two new meta-traits (Amorphous Stone and Plant) are very useful, the prefixes (Flying, Furious, Holy and Phase) a bit less so with Phase being the most interesting one. Rules for fighting monsters without looking at them, for attacks out of phase, falling into monsters and a decapitation Achilles Heel for Unkillable 1  round off the rules-side of things. All in all, the book comes through for all those who cherish stats and rules.

Meat score: 8.5 (deliciously roasted monster meat)

Cheese

Despite the rules-heavy outlook of the book, there are also roleplaying hints for all creatures, though those are often on the short side of things and sometimes solely confided to tactics and whether they are able and willing to negotiate. The exception is a very good treatment of what to replace with your Doppelganger adversary.

Cheese score: 4 (none of these monsters are giving up any milk)

Sauce

Except for a rather boring composite of interior art on the title page, the inside art is quite good. While it’s certainly not up to DFM1 level, it’s a clear step up from most GURPS offerings nowadays and gives off a cool medieval bestiary vibe too. Peter V. Dell’Orto also manages to capture the tongue-in-cheekiness of Kromm’s Dungeon Fantasy.  While he doesn’t quite reach the master in all cases, I laughed out aloud at least once and chuckled many times. Whispering tree gossips, pit-fighting, death by weasel, chibitrice and the dreaded leaping ethereal dungeon shark are among the funnier concepts I read in RPG supplements lately.

I did manage to find three spelling mistakes, which is abysmal for a GURPS supplement, but still stellar for regular RPG products. I’m not marking the book down for that.

Sauce score: 7 (pity there wasn’t a chuckling variant for the Cockatrice)

Generic Nutritional Substance

The monsters presented are optimised for fairly high-powered fantasy, but many wouldn’t look too shabby in a Monster Hunters campaign or any urban fantasy with a couple of tweaks. Indeed, there is a nice range of power levels present in this volume. Prefixes and especially the new meta traits are pretty dang universal. I can’t believe we didn’t have the Plant one before now. The extra rules are also useful for fighting any weird foes and will come handy in many unrealistic campaign settings.

Generic Nutritional Substance score: 8 (a true bestiary)

Summary

On the whole, there is only one true criticism I have for this book: It’s too short. Even another four pages with non-western monsters would have been nice, but with this topic I could have seen a full eighty-page treatment – though that would have necessarily overlapped with 3rd Edition’s Monsters. A pity most titles on the GURPS wishlist are for 30 pages or less.

Total score: 7.45 (my favourite title for the year so far, barely edging out After the End 1)
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: 5.725 (just at the right length to get a positive price rating)
Value Score is composed of the average of Total and Price.


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