The Fantasy Trip
It was developed from Metagaming's Melee and Wizard MicroGames, also designed by Steve Jackson, which provided the basic combat and magic rules. These games could be played on their own, or, using the "Gamemasters" module In the Labyrinth, expanded into a full-fledged role-playing game. The basic combat and magic rules presented in Melee and Wizard were greatly expanded specifically for purposes of role-playing in Advanced Melee and Advanced Wizard. It was the first published role-playing game to use a point-buy system for character generation, instead of the random dice roll method routinely used in the 1970s.
A series of solitary adventures were published for The Fantasy Trip, called "MicroQuests". These inexpensive adventures allowed for group or solitary play. A total of eight were published. More traditional role-playing modules were also released. The first was Tollenkar's Lair, a traditional dungeon crawl adventure published in 1980. Two modules detailing countries were released in 1982, Warrior Lords of Darok and Forest Lords of Dihad.
Metagaming also published two magazines that featured TFT material. The development of the component MicroGames and some early articles are covered in The Space Gamer. After The Space Gamer was sold to Steve Jackson, Metagaming debuted a second house organ called Interplay, which produced material related to all Metagaming products but focused primarily on TFT.
Jackson left Metagaming in 1980. By that time, Howard M. Thompson, the owner of Metagaming, was not happy with the TFT work done by Steve Jackson, stating that it was too complex and had taken too long. During 1983, Thompson closed down the company and sold most of its assets. Jackson tried to purchase the rights to The Fantasy Trip, but Thompson's asking price of $250,000 was much too high, and TFT is now out of print. Instead, Jackson started work on a new "third generation" role-playing system. The eventual result was GURPS, which was strongly influenced by The Fantasy Trip.
Metagaming released Melee in 1977 as Microgame #3. It was designed to be a simple, fast-playing man-to-man combat boardgame. The game came with a small empty hex map, a counter sheet of men, monsters, and weapons (for any weapons dropped in combat) and a 17-page rulebook.
Every figure had a Strength and Dexterity attribute. Strength governed how much damage a figure could take and the size of weapons which could be used; heavier weapons increased the damage one inflicted in combat. Dexterity determined how likely one was to hit one's opponent. Armor could be worn, which would reduce the amount of damage taken in combat while lowering one's Dexterity.
Metagaming released Wizard in 1978 as Microgame #6, a pocket board game of individual magical combat. Its 32-page rulebook included most of the Melee combat system with the addition of a magic system.
Wizard added IQ as a third attribute that determined magical ability. A player could improve his character by adding points to the character's attribute scores. A high IQ score allowed the use of more varied and powerful spells. Casting a spell would temporarily drain a character's strength score, limiting the number of spells one could cast before requiring rest to regain strength.
In the Labyrinth
Released in 1980 as an 80-page, 81⁄2 × 11 saddle-stitched book, In the Labyrinth: Game Masters' Campaign and Adventure Guide added a role-playing system and fantasy-world background to The Fantasy Trip. Released simultaneously and in the same format were Advanced Melee and Advanced Wizard, which greatly expanded and revised the physical and magical combat systems. Character creation, which had been part of the original Melee and Wizard was incorporated into In The Labyrinth.
The three books together formed the complete Fantasy Trip game system. As in the original microgames, each character had Strength, Dexterity and IQ attributes, each calibrated to 10 for an average human. New (human) characters began with 8 points of each trait, with 8 extra points for the player to add to any of the abilities as they desired.
In the Labyrinth introduced a point-buy skill system, an extension and generalization of the magic system inherited from Wizard. Each character had one talent or skill point per point of IQ, and each skill had a skill point cost as well as a minimum IQ to learn it. The range of abilities provided by character classes in a first-generation game like Dungeons and Dragons was replaced with talents. For example, the "Thief" talent would allow a player to roll against his Dexterity to pick a pocket or open a lock. Other talents included standard fantasy skills such as Literacy, Alertness or Weapon Proficiency. It was possible for a wizard to learn mundane skills, or for a hero to learn a spell or two (with great difficulty).
- 3103 - Melee
- 3106 - Wizard
- 2102 - In The Labyrinth
- 2103 - Advanced Melee
- 2104 - Advanced Wizard
- 3201 - Death Test (MQ#1)
- 3202 - Death Test 2 (MQ#2)
- 3203 - Grail Quest (MQ#3). Set in King Arthur's court, the players were knights searching for the Holy Grail. Considered one of the more enjoyable MicroQuests.
- 3204 - Treasure of the Silver Dragon (MQ#4). This module contained clues to a silver dragon figurine hidden somewhere in the United States. The 31 troy ounce dragon was found by Thomas Davidson, who was awarded with a $10,000 check in addition to the figurine.
- 3205 - Security Station (MQ#5)
- 3206 - Treasure of Unicorn Gold (MQ#6). Identical in concept to Treasure of the Silver Dragon, except the quest was for a small golden unicorn. No prize was awarded before Metagaming folded, and the disposition of the gold unicorn was not announced. See the link below to a website claiming to have nearly solved the mystery of the unicorn's hiding place.
- 3207 - Master of the Amulets (MQ#7). A very simple adventure where the player explores a valley and picks up many magical amulets laying about.
- 3208 - Orb Quest (MQ#8)
- 2201 - Tollenkar's Lair
- 2202 - The Warrior Lords of Darok. The first module released in a series called The Land Beyond the Mountains, a full campaign setting designed exclusively for TFT. This detailed the province of Darok, whose inhabitants worship a mean and nasty god of war and fire. This land was to be detailed over the course of several modules, but only this and The Forest Lords of Dihad were released before Metagaming's demise. Planned modules would have detailed the provinces of "Muipoco" and "Soukor", and two or more cities, the provincial capitals. The city modules for the capitals of Darok and Dihad were redesigned and released under other names by Game Lords, Ltd.
- 2203(?) - The Forest Lords of Dihad. The last TFT release before the closing of Metagaming. The product number is speculative, as it does not appear anywhere on the module itself.
- 2301 - The Fantasy Master's Codex. Originally called the TFT Yearbook, this was planned to be a supplement that would be updated annually to include rules changes, expansions and new rules interpretations. It was also planned to include variants and expansions submitted by TFT players. Only one was released.
- 2302 - The Game Master's Screen. A cardboard screen to hide notes and maps from the players, featuring useful reference charts and tables for game play; it was similar in concept to the Dungeon Master's Screen produced by TSR for Dungeons & Dragons.
- 5102 - Dragons of the Underearth. A compact set of fantasy role-playing rules derived from Melee, Wizard and ITL, with simplified rules for combat and magic.
- 3118 - Lords of Underearth. This was a separate Microgame of large-scale combat, but was developed to work with TFT as a system for combat involving large numbers of troops. It featured a set of conversions for building units based on TFT characters. It also featured a setting that could be used as a very large dungeon environment.
City of the Sacred Flame. This was originally intended to be Shaylle: Soldier City for the Land Beyond the Mountains campaign, but when Metagaming went out of business the module was rewritten and issued under the new title, for use with the Thieves' Guild rules system. The history section was heavily redone and the main non-player character's names are changed, but many of the area descriptions and the adventures remain essentially unchanged. In fact, at least one quest in this module still has the original NPC's name, unchanged.
Within the Tyrant's Demesne. This was originally intended to be Intrigue in Plaize for the Land Beyond the Mountains campaign, but when Metagaming went out of business the module was rewritten and issued under the new title, for use with the Thieves' Guild rules system. As with City of the Sacred Flame, the history is rewritten, but many descriptions and references remain largely unchanged. The product number would probably have been 2205.
Conquerors of Underearth. Slated to be an adventure module for use with the Dragons of Underearth system. It was never released but had at least progressed to the draft stage. Interplay #8 gave a couple of details, stating that "it deals with Adventurers entering a Goblin fortress and encountering organized military units, and as such often involves 10-20 or more fighters in a battle." Since CUE was fairly streamlined, it lent itself to these sorts of encounters.
At least three different fanzines dedicated to The Fantasy Trip are known to have existed (but are difficult to find today). Fantasy Forum ran from 1987 to 1992 with a total of ten issues. Inept Adept and Goblin Keep published two issues each. A fourth fanzine, Vindicator, was devoted to Microgames in general but did have some material specific to The Fantasy Trip. Vindicator published at least fourteen issues from 1995 to 1998.
A small, active TFT fan community exists online, through the website http://tft.brainiac.com.
A fan tribute site exists at http://meleewizards.com.
A revival of TFT and associated MicroQuest adventures is underway at http://www.darkcitygames.com.
- Letter to Andy Windes from Howard Thompson, http://micro.brainiac.com/htletter.jpg, http://micro.brainiac.com/htletter.txt, 31 March 1980
- "Where We're Going" by Steve Jackson, page 28, The Space Gamer, Number 65, Sept/Oct 1983.
- Designers' Notes and Errata for The Fantasy Trip by Steve Jackson, 1980
Reviews on RPGnet:
- The Fantasy Trip: Melee — Playtest Review, by Travis Casey on 2002-07-15
- The Fantasy Trip: Wizard — Playtest Review, by Travis Casey on 2002-08-03
- The Fantasy Trip: In The Labyrinth — Capsule Review, by John Laviolette on 2002-05-20
- The Fantasy Trip: In the Labyrinth — Playtest Review, by Travis Casey on 2002-08-18
- Melee and Wizard at BoardGameGeek
- The Museum of Role-Playing Games -- The Fantasy Trip (TFT)
- Treasure of Unicorn Gold Solution? A seeker's tale.
- Complete list of all official rulebooks, adventures and accessories from The Fantasy Trip