6/26/2015

Frugal GM Review: Dungeonteller (Part 1)

Frugal GM Review: Dungeonteller (Part 1)
Poking around my DriveThruRPG wishlist I finally pulled the trigger on picking up the Dungeonteller Fantasy RPG, which had a great deal on a bundle containing the main book, a monster book, some monster counters, and some freebie new PC classes.

It took me all of about two minutes to decide I had to do a read-only review now and get in a playtest for an additional review later. It has been quite a while since I've been so impressed with a product at first sight.

Dungeonteller bills itself as "the roleplaying game for everyone" and I believe it. Now I've gotten to play RPGs with kids before and every since my brother's kids were little I've kept my eyes out for good starter RPGs. I doubt they've ever played the games I've sent, but I do think if I had Dungeonteller back then they would have. Instead of taking a current game and trying to simplify or "dumb-down" things, Doug built a simply, graphic-oriented game from the ground-up.

I remember a D&D starter set that had color-coded the dice and put a picture of the set across the bottom. That was great if you had to have your players learn what a d20 was and didn't mind telling them to "pick up the orange die" until they get it. Dungeonteller seems to try and meet younger players where they are at. Instead of shoe-horning in the "fancy" dice, there is a simple d6 mechanic.

I love this d6 mechanic! This might be the smallest of things, but allowing players to decide what numbers count as successes, and giving them 2 numbers to choose, is the simplest of tweaks that I think all players would get a kick out of. The PC sheets list the number of dice needed to roll for an action as well as show graphically the same thing. Brilliant.....simply brilliant.

Great way to lay out actionsThe book is littered with notes and game-play tips & hints aimed at newer players without seeming, at least to me, childish. New RPG players often don't get that they can do so many things and Dungeonteller does a great job giving options, lumping them together, and explaining how to play. For example, page 20 has this "What action do you choose?" page, pictured right. Here are certain words/actions that would probably fall under specific skills/abilities listed on the PC sheets. A few pages later they go into each action in much more detail, along with the PC's unique abilities/special actions. All of these unique abilities have their own special iconography as well.

The Dungeonteller RPG comes as an 82 page PDF that is password-protected and has one.....one!...promo page. That page (77 in the PDF) is hilariously entitled "Gratuitous Promo Page" and while it lists the author's webpage and DriveThruRPG, it doesn't even have any links. Sadly the PDF is not bookmarked, but I hadn't even noticed until checking just now. This is not a game I want to play from the PDF. With such a beautiful layout rich with simple, useful; graphics.....you want a nice color-copy of this book.

Even the TOC has some great tips, tricks, & hints.
99% of the time I loathe RPG books that I need to print out, especially in color, but this.....this I want to print out.

There were only two little things that jumped out at me when reading through the main book, and a couple of other minor issues, with one being the aforementioned lack of bookmarking. When reading the rules I noticed a discrepancy in describing the turn order. Page 18 has turn order indicated by proximity to the dunegonteller's seat at the table. This is repeated in a sidebar on page 43, but page 45 has a different method listed.....a method I prefer myself. I also noticed that the d6's depicted on the warrior's PC sheet are not the same d6s used most everywhere else in the book (definitely not on the other PC sheets). There are some other minor dice depiction discrepancies, but the warrior was  the biggest. Lastly, when downloading the bundle, the pixie PC only came as a single sheet when it should have been three sheets. Easy enough fix to download it independently.

Frugal GM 5 Star Review: Dungeonteller (Part 1)
Now I've been spending time looking for a good "beginner" RPG and I have a few more systems to check out, but I really think I'll end up picking Dungeonteller as the system to use. It has everything I want and several things I didn't realize I needed until now. At $5 for the Complete Bundle.....it seems like a no-brainer to me. While I don't expect to get a lot of mileage out of this RPG at my home table, I do think it'll be the right game when I want to introduce new players to RPGs in general. I'm seriously considering using Dungeonteller to run an "Introduction to RPGs" event at my local convention. That con is in August so it might be a while until I get to the Part 2 of this review.