Pyramid #3/72 – Alternate Dungeons Review (Dungeon Fantasy Video Gaming)

I finally return to Pyr#3/72 (after Pyr#3/73 is already out!) to finish up my review of this issue, Alternate Dungeons.

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.

Ahem. Sorry.

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.

Dungeon Fantasy Video Gaming (+Christopher R. Rice )

Summary: Christopher goes for a two-fer, in that either the Imitator template or the video game achievements sub-sections are basically complete article concepts as stand-alones. The Imitator concept takes multi-classing to a mechanical extreme, allowing selection from a number of templates. The video game sub-section presents several (more than 10) plot devices from games and implements them mechanically in GURPS.

Style, Writing, Execution [-2 to 2 points]: The Imitator template, powers, new power-ups, and detailed full-page under the hood box make me almost give up my default distaste for the GURPS template format as a nod to how complete it is. Almost. The other video game tropes are short and to the point, but clearly understandable representations of the desired ability. 0 points.

Background, Inspiration, Epiphany [0 to 4 points]:  The video game tropes were my favorite part of the article, as any of them might make a good “oh, you’ve come from a video gaming background, we can emulate that style with . . . ” switch. The Imitator concept is interesting, but one can get the breadth needed simply by waiving the need to build from templates; if the GM says “templates mandatory” approach, consider this a cheat code. Even if you don’t like the concepts themselves, the rigor with which the powers and abilities are designed is worthwhile. 3 points.

Drop-in Gaming Utility [0 to 4 points]:  The video game tropes section contains rules switches that are utterly drop-in. The Imitator template might only be available at the start, but between the under the hood box and the detailed workup of the base Imitation power and Emulation ability, this can be obtained piece by piece if needed. All of them can drop into an existing DF campaign. 4 points.

Overall: 8/10. Two articles for the price of one, almost. All of the concepts presented can be found in some of the video games that inspired the Dungeon Fantasy series and concept even more than Dungeons and Dragons. Being able to borrow explicitly, rather than implicitly, from these progenitors is an interesting take on the genre, and new to me since I was never much involved with those games. The template is well presented (my own biases aside) but a concept made necessary only by the usual enforcement of “must use templates” for Dungeon Fantasy. The ten-or-so other mini-tropes are each of them interesting, and I really need to revisit the soul eating thing. That one is a fascinating alternative to character points that would take a game in an entirely new direction – and yet still fall within both the DF genre and respectful to the computer games from which it sprung (and which co-exist with it on PCs and consoles today).

Would I use it? Mostly. The Imitator template and power set isn’t for me, but that’s because I use templates less as niche protection and more as cheats to save time. If someone wanted to free-form design a character, I’d probably let them. Three of the tropes (the mini-map, leveling up your sword, and the supremely cool soul eating section) are good choices for how I like to play games. That’s more than enough to make this a worthwhile read for me.

Biases Aside: I’m going to start adding this to my reviews. This is an alternate scoring if you’re approaching the article as not-me.

  • Dislike of Template Format: I more or less loathe the GURPS Template presentation style (though I’m very, very fond of templates as implemented with GURPS Character Assistant; I just can’t stand reading them). I cannot think of a better way to execute a template concept as it’s presented, other than +Sean Punch‘s Pointless Slaying and Looting that is found within this very issue. If you love templates and your eyes don’t glaze over reading the giant wall of stats, the writing score would go up to 1 point.
  • Mandatory Templates: If you run a game that enforces templates, as I would not, then the drop in utility of this article goes to 4 points. 
  • Limited Selection: Of the video tropes section, there are three I love, and the others I’d probably not use. If you also don’t like templates and are disinterested in some of the options, you might hit Background, Inspiration and Eiphany and Drop-in as 2 points; I can’t see how you go lower than 3 on Drop-in; everything in it is available for this purpose.

Upper-Lower bound Rating: As high as 9/10 if you don’t share my views on things, or as low as 5/10 if video game emulation or stealing ideas from it are not your cup of tea.

4 thoughts on “Pyramid #3/72 – Alternate Dungeons Review (Dungeon Fantasy Video Gaming)

  1. It strikes me that you've got a paradox in your rating system. On one hand, you don't like GURPS's wall-of-stats format (and who can blame you?), which can drop a rating. On the other, full stat blocks provide hella drop-in utility, which raises a rating. It's almost as though you can have an immediately useful article or a readable one. How can these be reconciled?

  2. I can't have an immediately useful article that is all about GURPS character templates that is as readable as I'd like, I agree. If I didn't have to read the darn things, the GCA utility of templates is high – so they will always get good ratings from me in the drop-in category.

    Sean's Pointless Slaying article was both drop-in and very engaging and well executed for me. A good self-contained adventure can be engaging, well executed, and drop-in. So I think the contradiction is only inherent when I hit my nemesis: articles that do templates.

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