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.

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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.

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