Every Week It's Wibbley-Wobbley Timey-Wimey Pookie-Reviewery...

Friday 2 December 2022

The Other OSR—DURF

DURF: An Adventure Game For Brave Adventurers
is a rules-light dungeon-fantasy roleplaying game in the vein of games like Knave, Troika!, and Into the Odd. In fact, it is inspired by and draws from those roleplaying games in terms of its design. For example, it uses an Inventory Slot mechanic for both the equipment carried by the Player Characters and the casting of magic from Knave, and employs the three attributes, deadly combat, and absence of Classes commonly found in the lighter micro-clone designs emanating from the Old School Renaissance. The result is a generically light, retroclone-derived roleplaying game which emphasises the risky nature of combat, simplicity of rules and play, and the need for preparation prior to setting out on an expedition, whilst also adhering to reduced bookkeeping, quick character generation, and a simple advantage system. DURF is also intended to be hackable and purchasers are encouraged to alter and adapt as is their wont.

DURF includes rules for creating Player Characters, straightforward rules for handling most situations, opposed rolls, and combat, spells and spellcasting, NPCs and monsters, and magical items. Where possible, individual elements of the rules are kept to just a single page, and even when placed across two pages, the rules and their supporting content—for example, spellcasting and the spells themselves—are constrained to a page each. It makes everything all very accessible. There is no adventure in the core rules, but given that DURF is a rules-light dungeon-fantasy roleplaying game and Old School Renaissance adjacent, finding a ready source of dungeons and adventures should not be too difficult.

A Player Character in DURF has three attributes, Strength, Dexterity, and Willpower, initially rated between one and three. They can go as high as eight. A Player Character also begins play with one Hit Die, which is rolled to determine if wounds suffered are fatal. He also has a number of Inventory Slots, and begins play with two Supplies, which can be swapped with common dungeoneering equipment during play, a dagger, three random Belongings, and some gold. A Player Character can be created in mere minutes.

Dirk the Dice

Strength 2
Dexterity 3
Willpower 1

Slots 12
Supplies 2
Gold 90
Spells: Drain Life
Belongings: Dagger, Light armour, Tonic of Health

Mechanically, DURF uses a simple roll of a twenty-sided die whenever a player wants his character to act. An appropriate attribute is added to the result and if the result is fifteen or more, then the Player Character succeeds. Opposed rolls are simply determined by the highest result. Instead of Advantage and Disadvantage mechanics of rolling extra twenty-sided dice, DURF uses Buffs and Breaks, rolls of six-sided dice. Individual Buffs and Breaks cancel each other out, but if a Player Character has one or more Buffs, only the highest is counted and added to the player’s roll, whilst if the Player Character has one or more Breaks, only the highest is counted, but is subtracted from the player’s roll. Buffs can be gained from any number of factors, but a Player Character can gain a Buff by Pushing himself. The downside is that the Player Character takes Stress and this fills an Inventory Slot. This can only be done when a Player Character has an empty Inventory Slot.

Combat is fast and employs opposed rolls. This is Strength versus Strength in mêlée combat and Dexterity versus Dexterity in ranged combat. The winner inflicts damage equal to the weapon he wields. Armour reduces this damage, but is damaged in the process. A roll of twenty is a critical hit and inflicts double damage, whilst a roll of one means the weapon is worn and inflicts less damage until repaired. Any damage left over is suffered as Wounds. When this happens, the player rolls his character’s Hit Die or Hit Dice and if the result is less than or equal to the number of Wounds currently suffered, then the character dies. Whenever a Player Character acquires a new Level, his Hit Dice also increase by one, and consequently increase chances of his survival.

Spellcasting in DURF is available to any Player Character. If a Player Character knows or learns a spell, he can cast it. This requires a roll against his Willpower and causes Stress, further filling the Player Character’s Inventory Slots. A roll of one indicates a Blunder, the accompanying table giving a number of entertaining options, including gaining twenty pounds (potentially weight or gold) or a small gnome turning up, ringing a bell as he shames the Player Characters. Accompanying the rules is a selection of twenty spells, which include the familiar such as Levitate, Charm, and Turn Undead, but also the more interesting, like Grasp of Yahzahar which enables the caster to grab his opponents and pin them with shadowy hands.

Rounding out DURF is a guide to creating NPCs, hiring Hirelings—probably a necessity given the deadliness of the mechanics and game play, rules for converting monsters from the Old School Renaissance, and some sample NPCs/monsters, like the Echo Gecko, Dragon, and Eelfolk. The Game Master will definitely need to adapt or create some more. Lastly, there is a selection of magical items and rules for their use.

What distinguishes DURF is its Inventory and Slot management rules combined with the Stress mechanics. DURF is likely to become a roleplaying of resource management as each player manages what his character can carry and then, if he can cast spells, how far he is willing to exhaust himself, gain Stress, and literally choose between what he can carry and what he can cast. This is not new, having been seen elsewhere in the Old School Renaissance, but DURF is a roleplaying game whose designer admits his influences. In roleplaying game designed to be one of purely ‘dungeon-fantasy’, they are notable though.

Physically, DURF is cleanly, tidily laid out. The roleplaying game is well written, easy to read, and quick to learn. It is lightly illustrated in a comic style.

If DURF is missing anything, it is a scenario. Not necessarily to see how the game is played, since the rules are very light and easy to understand. Nor is it to see what the world of DURF is like, since there is no world implied, since DURF is meant to be a rules-light dungeon-fantasy roleplaying game and we know what such a world is like from Dungeons & Dragons and its numerous iterations. Rather, the point of having a scenario or dungeon in DURF is to get to the point where the Game Master can start running DURF and her players can start playing it. DURF is obviously designed so that it takes minutes to create a Player Character, so why not make it minutes to start play after that?

Overall, DURF: An Adventure Game For Brave Adventurers is what you want in a micro-clone. Rules light, quick to play, deadly where it counts, and open to tinkering and development if the Game Master wants too.


Lair of the Gobbler: A Dungeon for Low Hit Dice Adventurers (1-2 HD) is the first official adventure for DURF. It is not part of the core rulebook, but is available to download. It details an eight-room dungeon location in a hill in the Barrenmoot Swamps, which the Player Characters will discover is where a missing chef is being held. The complex has a muddy, sodden feel to it, its locations nicely detailed and flavoursome. As per DURF’s remit, it is very easy to prepare and the Game Master should be able to run through it in a session or two.

No comments:

Post a Comment