Thursday, April 16, 2015

Dungeoneer Your Own Fighting Fantasy films! Part 1

“Now you and your friends can create your own fantasy movies! Imagine that you are the director and your friends are the cast of heroes. Will you send them to battle with the evil wizard or recover the Dragon's hoard? The choice is yours, and Dungeoneer makes the exciting world of fantasy roleplaying accessible in a thoroughly user-friendly manner.
“You can start straight away and introduce more complex rules and scenarios as you and your friends gain experience as director and actors. So, are you ready? Then let the camera roll...”

Dungeoneer is an odd book, but a fun one. I’m not even really sure why it exists as there was already a rule book for turning the Fighting Fantasy Gamebook rules into a proper tabletop rpg. That original book seems to be almost impossible to find nowadays, but there was a reboot done in 2011 that I am keeping a very eager eye out for.
The Holy Grail of 1984
So what is Dungeoneer? It is about as an ‘introduction to roleplaying’ manual as you could find. It was intended as a manual for transitioning kids from gamebooks to full-on rpgs. The entire book is structured so that first time players and ‘directors’ can get a game up and running in the Fighting Fantasy world of Titan. It actually does this surprisingly well. The approach reads as a bit hokey, comparing running a game to ‘directing’ a movie, but this really isn’t a bad way for first time gamers to look at it. They set up scenes and learn to build tension, and plot while learning what to cut out. It also makes sense when you remember that this was published in 1989 and invoking images of Conan, Hawk the Slayer, Krull, Willow, Dark Crystal and other films of the time is surprisingly effective. I would have been around just the right age for this when it first came out, and I would have eaten this shit up like Dunkaroos.
I gotta stat these sugar-crack dealing Kangaroos at some point. 
After the standard 'what is role-playing' introduction (girls can play too!), it launches right into a generic adventure called, generically enough ‘The Tower of the Sorcerer’ . This is designed to get the group rolling without the tedious task of learning the rules.  This works well as Fighting Fantasy is relatively rules-lite, and it is always more fun to learn by playing than reading or listening to the GM explain everything.  The adventure itself is pretty bland (climb the tower to rescue the princess. There isn’t even a maze, just a long corridor with optional rooms) and would be a major turn off even for an introductory adventure, except for three things: 

1 It avoids the whole ‘you are approached in a tavern’, or the ‘starts with a battle’ stuff that has become an immediate turn off for me. Tower starts with your group being lead up towards the evil sorcerer's lair by the local garrison. After a quick explanation as to why you’re there to encourage some actual role-play, the adventure gets underway almost immediately.  

2 The art of John Sibbick. I love the art of the FF books, it evokes a real sense of place. Titan comes across as quite a classic fantasy gritty world, more in common with Thieves World than Tolkien, but with a lot more traps and haunted forests.  
3 The adventure end with the heroes stuck at the top of a goblin riddled tower, a new antagonist or two, no way home and the whole world of Titan to explore. There is also a sequel adventure, which you can launch into right away, or you can start playing in your sandbox. If the kid was already a Fighting Fantasy veteran, they would know that there is a whole wide world out there to explore (and adapt). 

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