Delvers to Grow - fast character building for Dungeon Fantasy RPG and GURPS DF

Taking a break from my daily dose of discussions about immersion, story-now, gm notes, and prevarication, I thought I'd mention a new Kickstarter for a book that I was lucky enough to be able to playtest recently. The book is Delvers to Grow by Kevin Smyth, who also wrote Hand of Asgard and Norðlondr Folk for Gaming Ballistic's Norðlond setting. The book supports the Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game which is a dungeon-fantasy-focused GURPS variant. It has two primary features: a lightning-fast modular character-building system and the ability to build characters at lower point values than the 250-point standard.

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The book is intended to help players build characters for GURPS by only making a few quick choices. The GURPS character generation system is, in my view, a beautiful thing, but it is overwhelming for new players; there are simply too many choices. Choosing a genre, like dungeon fantasy, helps narrow things down, but there are still a lot of options to consider. Delvers to Grow narrows this further, allowing you to choose to be Strong, Smart, or Quick. That sets your starting stats and a few basics. Then you choose a few modules from there, depending on your point-value target and character vision. Modules range from basic packages, like "Swashbuckler" and "Druid," to upgrades like "Witty Duelist" and "Beast-Tamer." It includes equipment load-outs and thematic spell-lists to round out the characters. You can literally whip up an interesting character in five to ten minutes and dive into an adventure.

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The second focus of the book is to create PCs (or NPCs) at lower point values. Characters for DFRPG and GURPS DF typically start at 250 points. In D&D terms, this is often likened to at least fifth level. They're competent and skilled, ready to tackle difficult challenges. In a nod to the "Universal" aspect of GURPS, it makes sense to be able to start with characters at the greener end of the spectrum. This fits with the "zero to hero" motif that many people enjoy. It's also easier on newer players because, again, they don't need to digest as much of the system prior to their first session. Delvers to Grow provides three starting tiers: 62 points, 125 points, and 187 points.

Finally, although the book doesn't aim for every combination to be power-gamer-optimized, the author has worked hard to remove anything subpar. There are no hidden "gotchas" in here that a new player might miss.

As a proof of concept, Kevin Smyth and Gaming Ballistic released an early draft to folks who were interested in playtesting it. I spent some time creating characters to see how it worked. Then I joined up with an online group (none of whom I knew) running what they called "The Meatgrinder." The point was to use Delvers to Grow to generate characters at the start of the session and then play through a grueling siege where characters were likely to drop like flies. That is indeed what happened. I lost my first wizard within the first 30 minutes of play. So I created a new, different character and jumped back in a few minutes later. Some of my fellow players were even less fortunate, creating three or more new characters during each four-hour session. Actual play notes from the two sessions I attended are here and here. (I was "Dalin" in the scenario... Dalin the Wizard, Dalin the Knight, etc.)

This is not my usual sort of scenario. I haven't tried to create a character mid-game since, um, the early 1980s? But it was fun and the system in the book totally worked. If I were playing in a "real" campaign, I would probably tweak and customize my characters more, but it was surprisingly easy to create unique individuals both in terms of their core skills and their roleplaying potential. (I love the GURPS disadvantage system from a roleplaying perspective!)

The Kickstarter runs until Tuesday, May 25. Check it out. If you're new to the DFRPG system, there are pledge levels that get you the basic books and/or PDFs too.

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woefulhc

Explorer
I am so excited for this. I showed it to one of the players in my face to face group that should resume meeting at the end of the month. He had a Chun Li wanna be character built in 5 minutes. He did this with a general understanding of how GURPS works, but having never built a fantasy character in either GURPS or DFRPG. The host for Roleplay Rescue indicates he had a character built 14 minutes after receiving the copy the Doug sent him. I have used it for building a about 85% of a 250 point character.

A note on the pledge levels for this. The $35 pledge gets the five books of the campaign as pdfs: Delvers To Grow, one book of characters built using the system for each of Fast, Smart and Strong and an adventure tuned for 4-6 125 point characters. Higher pledge levels include physical copies and/or other items from Gaming Ballistic's catalog. (The catalog options also have the choice for just pdf or pdf & print). All the stretch goals for this campaign are based on backer count.
 


A note on the pledge levels for this. The $35 pledge gets the five books of the campaign as pdfs: Delvers To Grow, one book of characters built using the system for each of Fast, Smart and Strong and an adventure tuned for 4-6 125 point characters. Higher pledge levels include physical copies and/or other items from Gaming Ballistic's catalog. (The catalog options also have the choice for just pdf or pdf & print). All the stretch goals for this campaign are based on backer count.
Thank for pointing this out. I'd forgotten that I would be getting five printed books for $70. I'm pretty happy with that price!

This is one of those products that will work best in print, at least once F2F gaming fully resumes. I'll probably end up with more than one copy, especially for my middle school gaming club, so that many characters can be made in parallel. Even in the playtest, I was wishing that I had printed my draft PDF out to make it easier to flip through it.
 

I love this! I've always prefered starting as lower level heroes. And as an into game I think it's better to have new players start a bit smaller and get a handle on things before moving on to higher point values.
Yes, this can be a great way to do it. I enjoy low-level play.

Douglas Cole, the publisher of the book, just posted this blurb to the GURPS discord:

This is an absolutely game-changing book for those who like GURPS and the Dungeon Fantasy genre, but find that the 250-point expectation is a higher-power campaign than you like to play, or find that you and your players get frustrated with Character Creation.

Kevin has penned a system that allows chargen in Powered by GURPS to be fast. TFT Fast. OSR fast. 1st level D&D fast. Five to 15 minutes to a playable, robust, interesting character with only a few decisions required.

It's the best on-ramp to GURPS that has ever been written. You can do pick-up games at conventions or your FLGS with this book and have each newcomer make a character on the spot. Despite a "Nordlond" flavor to the art and examples, this is 100% exportable to any DFRPG and most DF games with no alteration.

Yes, I think it's that good. I hope you do too.

Delvers to Grow (Dungeon Fantasy RPG, Powered by GURPS)
 

woefulhc

Explorer
Doug was just on the Steve Jackson Games live and indicated there will be support in both GURPS Character Sheet and GURPS Character Assistant for this. To clarify this (for other dummies like me) this means the modules will be available for those programs so you can use which ever of the two you want to Build a Bjorn. About half the time I spent building characters so far has been finding the stuff or making the stuff in GCS. They support files for the character programs may not be available when the pdfs ship, but they will be provided.
 


woefulhc

Explorer
My understanding is provided this "market test" does well, Doug will publish additional material for lower end Dungeon Fantasy. (In other words, "back this.") From a GMing standpoint, it means fewer enemies and enemies with fewer special abilities. IMHO, that along with lower competency on the PC means it is easier to scale threats.
 

Emerikol

Adventurer
I admit I've never played a GURPS fantasy campaign before. The appeal to me is when I create a campaign I could actually factor in the type of fantasy I wanted to go with that world. So vary up how magic works etc... The combat is a bit clunking has always been my biggest hesitation on the game.

I'm wondering if these rules and Dungeon Fantasy in general address some of this stuff.
 

Argyle King

Legend
I admit I've never played a GURPS fantasy campaign before. The appeal to me is when I create a campaign I could actually factor in the type of fantasy I wanted to go with that world. So vary up how magic works etc... The combat is a bit clunking has always been my biggest hesitation on the game.

I'm wondering if these rules and Dungeon Fantasy in general address some of this stuff.

They do. The Dungeon Fantasy RPG is specifically geared toward a particular type of fantasy. It is compatible with (and "powered by") GURPS, but it also cuts out and modifies some of the stock GURPS rules to better fit the theme of Dungeon Fantasy.

Note: There are a series of Dungeon Fantasy pdfs and a Dungeon Fantasy RPG. The pdfs came first. The boxed set came later and had the changes added to create a stand-alone GURPS product.

The pdfs are still a great resource, but they aren't required to play DFRPG. One of the values of the pdfs are they have a lot of worked examples to show how to build something. For example, one of them shows how to make clerics/paladins function a little more like what people might expect from D&D: with auras and powers rather than a list of spells. I'm away from books at the moment, so I'm unsure which one that is offhand.

In contrast, the DFRPG (boxed set) already has many of those options built into the respective classes (which GURPS calls "templates").
 

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