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.


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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Review: GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Treasures 1: Glittering Prizes

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.

I haven’t even managed to review the last Dungeon Fantasy title and then there’s another one. And the mouthful that is GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Treasures 1 – Glittering Prizes starts its own sub-series too. So now we have five different DF series: the main line, DF: Monsters, DF: Adventure, DF: Denizens and DF: Treasures. And that’s not even counting Magical Styles: Dungeon Magic. It sure would be nice to see each sub-series fleshed out with another two to three issues soon.

GURPS_Dungeon_Fantasy_Treasures_1_Glittering_Prizes_1000

 

Before you start buying this, better heed the preview’s advice: DF 2: Dungeons and DF 8: Treasure Tables are required reading for this. I might add that readers who didn’t like the latter won’t get much use out of this volume either.

Another caveat: This book is very much oriented towards the detail-oriented GM and those who run Dungeon Fantasy as beer-and-pretzels game might feel overwhelmed. However, it’s not only for Dungeon Fantasy GMs. Yes, you need the mentioned books, but if you’re like me and use the DF line as a quarry for ideas and stats, it might be even more useful than for the DF purist.

Facts

Author:  Matt Riggsby (a.k.a. Turhan’s Bey Company on the fora)
Date of Publication:  2015/11/12
Format: PDF-only (Warehouse 23-only)
Page Count: 22 (1 title page, 1 content page, 1 index page, 1 page ad)
Price: $5.99 (PDF), $ 0.27 per page of content; Score of 4/10
Preview: http://www.warehouse23.com/products/gurps-dungeon-fantasy-treasures-1-glittering-prizes

Review

As I’ve said the book is brimming with details. It is similar in this regard to Riggsby’s earlier Treasure Tables, but it contains less tables and some of those aren’t even random. What it does contain is details you might have been missing in TT. The first part (the book only has one chapter) uses nine pages with different kind of coins and other tokens of exchange. The second part deals with materials, decorations and cultural details on eight pages. As always contents, introduction and index are present too and a page each.

Meat

While the book is rules-oriented it is less so than you might expect from a DF book. Especially in the “Filthy Lucre” part we learn a lot of historical details the production, adulteration and use of coins. It’s almost enough to make the reader think this was a Low-Tech book. Small wonder as Riggsby has been deeply involved with that series too.

All the rules expand Treasure Tables considerably. Money wasn’t even a consideration in this earlier volume and here the GM finds a lot of ways to make a favourite treasure more interesting than “You find coins worth $10.000”. There are detailed tables on coin worth by weight, coin size by weight and random tables for composition, shape and condition. The decoration tables and even the improbable materials tables from the second part can also be used for coins, of course.

Despite that the tables are not the main thing here. This part is half a GM’s toolkit for designing monetary system for different societies and half a guide on how to use money in game. Even paper money is included for those who can fit it into their fantasy world-view. Magic coins and coin-based weapons aren’t missing either.

As far as low-tech and fantastic money goes, there’s not much to be left desired here. Personally, I could have done without the expansive weight and size tables. Inch measurements are not very enlightening for non-American readers to say the least and a simple excel file with densities and weight formulae would have gone a long way to make them superfluous. But maybe some GMs will appreciate them.

The second part features a detailed table for decorative motifs that completely replaces the one from TT. There’s also information on fasteners and fabrics with some historical details and rules for attacking fasteners, but I would have liked some more detail. I have been working on something similar for a while and it’s kind of sad to see many weaves to be defined only by a cost factor. And frankly, for fashion there can never be enough details.

The part about implausible materials does it better. Almost each of them (whether blood, flower petals or darkness) has a special effect. So your pixie ninja can finally wear a cloak made of moonbeams.

The last part is about building interesting societies for your delvers to identify and plunder. Again we get some historical detail and on top of that three non-human sample societies with their ethnic cool gear.

On the whole, the material is very usable. The book suffers a bit from the fact that Riggsby can’t go all Low-Tech inside the Dungeon Fantasy line. There are more than enough details to satisfy most DF GMs, but one or two more pages to satisfy the Low-Tech crowd would have been anticipated.

Meat score: 6.5 (still shiny)

Cheese

The real surprise is how much world-building information the book contains. The historical details are fun and I only missed a mention of Spartan iron money. Those useless ingots would have been a fun way to ruin any delver’s day. The sample cultures are interesting even without their ethic gear and if there ever is a DF worldbook I’m looking forward to see more about the Glittering City. All that doesn’t mean this is a hugely cheesy book, but for a crunchy book it’s certainly above average.

Cheese score: 5.5

Sauce

Illustrations are far and few between and mostly workmanlike. One looks like it was lifted from an archaeological textbook and I for my part wouldn’t mind seeing more of those. While the title page contains sparkles, it’s a bit boring that the title image was repeated on the very next page.

Matt Riggbys’ style is very readable if a bit technical – which is more than understandable given the subject matter. Editing is as top-notch as we’re used to. Jokes are sadly mostly absent, but I smiled at this line describing the Yellow Mountain helmet level: “Widespread use of the device has led to a myth that dwarves have an inherent ability to measure slopes.” Ring a bell?

Sauce score: 6 (okay art, good writing and editing)

Generic Nutritional Substance

As I’ve been saying, this book can be used for more than just DF or Fantasy. Only the supernatural stuff is inappropriate for realistic campaigns. Coins, details and textiles will be interesting even if you play in a gritty Roman Empire or the Mongol steppes.

Generic Nutritional Substance score: 7 (some fantasy-specific stuff)

Summary

Glittering Prizes is certainly not the most anticipated must-have buy. It’s a bit fiddly for DF and a could use a bit more details for real-world adventures. It could have profited from some excel support – though not as much as Treasure Tables. I’m certainly holding out hope for more volumes in this line. Both enhancements to parts of TT and completely new subject matter would be welcome. And maybe we can get automatic item generation when we hit the tenth volume…

Total score: 6.325  (good, but hampered by some hiccups)
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: 5.1625 (still average, though among the pricier GURPS PDFs due to its short length)
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.