This is an issue that could be a lot of fun. Dungeon Fantasy is full of entertaining tropes, some used for amusement, some for simplification, and some for the one true purpose of absolute and total mayhem.
But Alternate Dungeons takes this and attempts to come at you sideways. I strongly suspect, given that every article in this issue was written by a headliner, that there’s plenty more where that came from, but let’s go with what we have.
I’ll be publishing this review one article at a time, but maybe more than one per day as I can find time. So check back!
Dungeons of Mars (Phil Masters)
Summary: An essay on using the Dungeon Fantasy tropes and techniques to enable the planetary romance genre. The article is part retrospective, but the majority of it is dissecting the elements of planetary romance and relating them to the usual care-abouts in a DF game. An example is worked in through the text, and some minor game mechanical help is given along the way.
Style, Writing, Execution [-2 to 2 points]: This article is both thoughtful and thought provoking. By analyzing one particular genre or idea against the things that are needed, provided, or asked for in DF, Phil enables you to ask that series of questions about any prospective treatment. The writing is engaging and interesting, and it reads like the essay it is, rather than the more crunch-laden works often found in GURPS publications. 2 points.
Background, Inspiration, Epiphany [0 to 4 points]: The core of this article is all about background and inspiration, with the epiphany coming from the extension to other treatments (left as an exercise to the reader). 4 points.
Drop-in Gaming Utility [0 to 4 points]: While a few of the passages contain game-mechanical help in the form of templates and stats, this is not drop-in material. It, on the other hand, is not supposed to be. 1 points.
Overall: 7/10. The score is biased downward by 40% of the grade being meted out based on what you can drop into existing games. This is, of course, not the point of the article and it seems almost unfair to judge it that way. That being said, Anything in the top half of the scale (6-10) will find a home somewhere, and I heartily recommend the content of the piece for brain food.
Would I use it? In a way, this is a funny question for this article, which is as much essay and (short) dissection of a topic than something you “use.” One can argue (and I will), that by being exposed to the concepts of planetary romance with a DF lens on, not only might I use it, but I have already done so. The purpose of the article was to expand my horizons, and in that it was successful regardless if I can now drop a new character class into my existing game.