This is the fourth issue that is devoted to Dungeon Fantasy. No surprise – it’s the most popular sub-line, having spawned at least 16 or 17 books, and of course, since it occupies the same turf as the most popular game today (D&D in all its flavors, be it D&D5, Pathfinder, or the various OSR or D&Derived versions).

This issue is quite eclectic in its coverage, and some of the articles are downright . . . well, somewhere between odd and squicky, but in a *I have to put that in my game* kind of way.

So, let’s delve in . . . but remember you’re descending from an upper level, where psychic freakin’ Jedi can be found . . . or slighty below that, where books and mighty spells can’t be found. Nope. Nothing to see there.

But what’s this we see here? And why does the floor . . . move?

Eidetic Memory – Living Rooms (+David Pulver )
In this installment of Eidetic Memory, David pulls out all the stops in making delving as awful, gross, and cringe-inducingly squicky as possible. And I mean this in the best possible way. The article covers some of the history of having part of your dungeon be actually alive, as well as what various viscera and giblets can be found within. Living rooms (a phrase I will simply never hear correctly again) as traps, as rooms, as diversions . . . and monsters. It’s all here. Including making chili out of the dungeon floor. I mean, yuck.

Style, Writing, Execution [-2 to 2 points]: I have to admit it, despite repeatedly cringing at the text, I couldn’t stop reading. I mean, ewwwww. But it really drew me in. Now I have to bathe. 2 points.

Background, Inspiration, Epiphany [0 to 4 points]: The article is strongest in this category. Between the history of living rooms, lots of ideas to make them either gross or spectacularly gross, stats as a monster, or advice on using them as traps, you’re covered. 4 points.

Drop-in Gaming Utility [0 to 4 points]: You can always populate a room with this stuff, but you may need to design a special location to properly host it. There’s lots of generic advice, and a few drop-in statblocks, but again, this is a how-to guide, not a “do this immediately” style of article. 2 points.

Overall: 8/10. Very, very strong offering from David this round. It’s simultaneously disgusting and useful.

Would I use it? Yes. I might need to wash thoroughly after planning an adventure with this advice, or maybe not eat for a day or three. But overall, this is great fodder for a DF alternate mission, as well as any horror adventure.

Biases Aside: An alternate scoring if you’re approaching the article as not-me.

I don’t have much to say here. Drop-in utility could be lower if you don’t like the overall concept. Higher if you want to do this as a level of your existing megadungeon. Likewise, I think that at worst you’re in the 3 zone for Inspiration because of the cross-over possibilities for horror and maybe even sci-fi.

Upper-Lower bound Rating: If you stop reading because you’re grossed out, well, I guess that’s a tough one. So if you despise the concept and aren’t willing to read through, you could wind up with as low as a 4. If you have an existing megadungeon you can drop this into, its probably as high as a 3, which makes the range 4-9, but probably clustering in the 7-8 range.

But I still need to get some mental floss and clean up.

Over at Ravens N’ Pennies+Christopher R. Rice is thinking of doing some adventures.

Now, a bit about Christopher:

He’s ridiculously prolific. If you read his blog, you’ll find this out. If he says “I’ve got an idea for an adventure,” what he means is likely an epic series of awesome ideas. Trust me, the guy just doesn’t do shallow railroady stuff. Ever.

He’s a research fiend. The only thing, from what he’s said, that he does faster than type is read. I mean, seriously – he’s gone through the entire series of The Wheel of Time in as much time as it usually takes me to read a single book of it. And I’m not a slow reader. He’s widely read (as +Kenneth Hite advises, as do lots of smart folk), and can turn that research into good, solid worldbuilding.

He’s a frequently published GURPS author. If he’s not yet the most frequently published author in Pyramid, just give him time. He’s not just a dabbler, either – and he’s got a book coming out as well. Can’t say what it is. But it’ll be cool. I just have that feeling.

He gives back. He started Pyramid Write Club to help aspiring GURPS authors get over the hump of the writer’s guidelines and writing and publishing in the GURPS arena. He also does my transcriptions for The Firing Squad, which is likely at least half their value.

If you don’t read his blog, start now. He’s eclectic, so you’re bound to find something worthwhile. +Charles Akins: if he’s not on your blog roll, he should be. His monster-files (triple threat) are worth the price of admission. Which, by the way, is free, of course.

In any case: he’d dearly appreciate it if you’d drop by his blog and let him know what you think of his writing some GURPS adventures via Patreon.

And one more thing: this is his living. He’s an independent author and writer, and if you like his ideas, I would appreciate it, as would he, if you would throw support his way. Reshare at the minimum, contribute if you can.

Think of this as a way of saying “Merry Christmas, everyone!”

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.

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.

Over on Google+ and the RPG Stack exchange, +Jeff Demers asks for help:

I thought some people here may want to assist in answer this question. I’m writing an adventure for tonight and I’m floundering! How to write an adventure where the primary focus is the characters being hunted?

I ran into some issues posting to the exchange, and given time constraints, threw down an answer here. Toss in your own comments. Maybe +Peter V. Dell’Orto+Erik Tenkar+Tim Shorts , or +Rob Conley would have good things to say. Heck, +Matt Riggsby writes great adventures. +Kenneth Hite wrote a book on this, from which I borrow heavily in my advice below. So . . .

I’d borrow heavily from Night’s Black Agents here. What you’re running is a thriller, where the PCs are, in a way, in the position of Jason Bourne. Very capable on their own, but outclassed by an enemy that keeps coming out of nowhere, and if they show up with great numbers, it’s all over.

First piece of advice: have a scene where some capable bystanders are utterly and thoroughly destroyed by the hunters. Or even better, have that happen off screen, to prevent the PCs from wading in to a TPK.

Night’s Black Agents suggests that there are only two types of scenes – information gathering and action.

So the first thing for this is “gather information.” In this case, if they come across a dismembered, disemboweled, folded, spindled, and mutilated battleground, where the losers just happen to resemble the PCs to some extent. This one was brown-haired and wearing mail…just like Bog. That one was fair haired with a bow and leather scale. That’s not quite Betterthanyouiel, but it’s close enough. Geez, fatal case of mistaken identity!

The tracker could say they were swarmed over and overrun. The point guy of the dead group is in two pieces – but only evidence of one blow (gulp – if they hit us, we’re dead!).

So there should be some fear there of individual beasts, as well as a pack.

Then you can stage minor skirmishes (action scenes) where if things go well they escape or can deal with a minor scout threat (a lesser beast?). That’s the action bit.

The investigation is (a) why are we being hunted? (b) What’s hunting us? (c) Do we fight, bargain, or run? (d) Do any weaknesses exist? (e) Do we need to go on adventures in order to obtain what we need to take advantage of those weaknesses? and finally (f) how do we set it up so we can kick their butts by using clever tactics and leveraging their weaknesses?

If there’s an action scene of some sort in between each question, that’s at least 12 sessions right there!

If only I could be this logical and easy for Alien Menace. Grrr.