Monday, May 9, 2022

Aquilae: Dungeon Fantasy

This is a tough decision and one I have been flip-flopping on. I had originally intended to play this with Pathfinder 1e, but my sudden flash of inspiration at reviving Starfinder with mixed in Pathfinder 1e content means by 1e books are seeing a lot of use, and I am free to play this with another system.

Why not keep playing it with Pathfinder 1e?

Well, there are times I feel I want more out of combat and skill use in a fantasy game, so Dungeon Fantasy becomes a strong contender. Plus, I never really felt this world was really defined by the Pathfinder "stuff" - the monsters, the magic items, the classes - it was designed so they would fit in, but is all that stuff what defines this world? In my first two playthroughs, I used some pirates, a wolf, and a giant crab and I was happy with that monster selection. The towns were more fantasy-medieval normal places. The world felt more gritty and realistic. Nothing was over the top or silly, like Paizo's goblins.

So I wonder if this would be a better fit for Dungeon Fantasy.

What Did You Like?

I played two scenarios, the first one a really gripping tale of survival in the frozen north, and a "new person in town and pirate attack" second scenario, and it did not really feel like it clicked for me - and that probably needs to be rethought and replayed. The winter survival story was very fun, gripping, interesting, visceral combat, and it had a really cool story and battle against the odds.

The monsters here were nothing special, a wounded wolf and a giant crab. Everything else was avoiding exposure, navigation, moving over tough terrain, and survival. Lots of times I was telling myself, skills matter. Nothing in that playthrough really used anything identifiably "Pathfinder" - this could have been done in any skill-based fantasy system with survival rules.

My hero was a level one cleric, and while she had some staying power I had to GM fiat a town nearby and end the scenario. I would have loved to do some hex-crawling and exploration, perhaps put a dungeon out there or ancient ruin that she could explore and find a few resources in - even before she knows about towns or civilization.

There is nothing like not knowing where you are, not knowing how long you will hold out, and being forced to go into a dungeon to find supplies that may not even be in there. And you could get seriously wounded, lose gear, or alert local enemies - and lose more than you risked by going in there.

What I liked about that experience was more the story and situation, and I did not need 30+ books full of stuff to support that experience. In fact, I feel a game with less and a more character-focused build system with deep character customization is going to give me an even better experience. I am not looking to min-max a combat build, or get more spells to solve all my problems, what I want to do is get XP and buy skills and abilities to make my character even better for those types of situations.

With Pathfinder 1e, she needs a high INT to have a lot of skill points to play with. Skills are such important parts of my builds I rarely give any character anything below a 12. With Dungeon Fantasy, intelligence does not matter to skills, everything is on the same point-buy scale. The skill level of IQ-based skills (and the cost to buy up) is based on the score, but IQ does not give you more points in your build.

What Will You Miss?

If I lost Pathfinder 1e for this world? I would miss the huge selection of monsters, but then again, I wasn't using them so I possibly would not miss them. A lot of the random charts for magic items and treasure would be missed. The selections of classic spells and the iconic classes. A lot of that "ease of use" would be gone and I would be home-brewing a lot of things. Enemies would likely be a lot more human or humanoid NPCs, so the gritty factor gets turned up.

I will need to lean on the Dungeon Fantasy and GURPS resources pretty heavily to make up for the lost content, though Dungeon Fantasy does have a cool random magic item chart I may be using.

I have a few monster PDFs for Dungeon Fantasy, but nothing with the selection and organization of even a B/X version of that document. Also, Gaming Ballistic is creating an awesome line of Norse-themed Dungeon Fantasy adventures and a setting book - with a hefty Nordic bestiary.

And I am looking forward to it.

And this may change things again. I may move my character and Norse adventures here instead. I have the PDFs and I am giving them a look now, and I like what I see.

More soon.

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