RogerBW's Blog

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Settings: Caverntown, Sean Punch 07 July 2018

This first Dungeon Fantasy Settings book deals with a town - in other words, the very thing that Dungeon Fantasy tends to skim over lightly, as merely a place to heal up, sell loot and buy supplies.

In other words, it's looking at the conventions of the dungeon-bash as codified in Dungeon Fantasy and subverting them into something more interesting. This isn't just a place to buy and sell things; it's a place that makes some small degree of sense in a world where super-powerful beings roam the land answering to no master (and that's just the player characters).

Caverntown is deliberately not the standard faux-mediƦval town, or even the standard faux-mediƦval city. It explicitly caters to dungeon delvers; it's underground, near where the adventures happen; and it has defences against wandering monsters for when delvers aren't around. Through various contrivances, there's light and air in this cave, and the place is magically stable.

It's an odd blend of specificity and flexibility: there's no map, and the size and population of the place aren't precisely fixed, but the fee to enter or leave is calculated exactly, as well as how long the (golem-cranked) lift takes to get you in or out of the place. The walls and gates have DR and HP values in case someone takes it in mind to bash them down, because that's a thing you have to be able to do in this genre.

There are notes on residents and visitors, including what those visitors are likely to be doing; stats for important people, and more usefully a general idea of how governance and defence works; temples and guilds (including a barely-disguised thieves' guild that at least makes some sense of why such an organisation would be allowed at all), and some suggestions of which ones might hire adventurers to go after the others; and a chapter on what you can buy and sell, and for how much.

There's a lengthy section on crime and punishment, because Dungeon Fantasy is all about the murder-hoboing and some characters (and some players) can't leave that behind at the gates of civilisation; in particular, this deals with how to make punishments a deterrent without making the game non-fun. This is not one of those towns where people have to leave their weapons and armour behind (most Dungeon Fantasy PCs wouldn't stand for that).

There are brief notes on campaigns that happen mostly in the town, though it seems that the intended use of the setting is as a home base for exploration of surrounding dungeons.

This is a really interesting setting that does a good job of working up my enthusiasm for the blatant everyday magic of a Dungeon Fantasy campaign, even though it's not a style of play I normally favour. While I have no current plans to run such a game, if I do, this will certainly be a "town" that I use. Dungeon Fantasy Settings: Caverntown is available from Warehouse 23.

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