The Fantasy Trip

Into The Labyrinth D&D is not the only roleplaying game that evolved from miniature combat games. Steve Jackson’s GURPS actually is based on “The Fantasy Trip”, a roleplaying game that itself evolved from Metagaming’s Melee and Wizard combat games. All these games had been designed by Steve Jackson, too.

Back in 1977 Metagaming released Melee a fast-playing man-to-man boardgame. Melee actually laid some of the basics for some of the GURPS rules. Each character had a Strength (ST) and Dexterity (DX) attribute back then. Strength was a measure of what weapons a character could use and how much damage he could inflict and take during combat. Dexterity determined the chance of hitting your opponents. Armor reduced the amount of damage taken.

When in 1978 Wizard was released, it added magic rules to Melee and another attribute was introduced: Intelligence (IQ). A high IQ attribute allowed characters to cast magic spells. Spellcasting caused temporary ST damage, limiting the amount of spells that could be cast. All this sounds already very much like what we know from GURPS.

In 1980 the third book in the series, In the Labyrinth, was released which finally turned Melee/Wizard into a fully-fledged roleplaying game. Melee and Wizard were rereleased as Advanced Melee and Advanced Wizard which together with In the Labyrinth formed the basis of “The Fantasy Trip”.

In TFT each character had three attributes: Strength, (ST), Dexterity (DX) and Intelligence (IQ). IQ was however not only important for spellcasters, but for other characters, too, because of the introduction of a point-based skill system.

1980 Steve Jackson left the company and the owner of Metagaming decided to close down the company just three years later. Today, TFT, the spiritual predecessor of GURPS is long out of print, but recently Dark City Games have released some rules inspired by TFT:

All those PDFs are available for free and from what I’ve seen are pretty close to the original TFT. I also stumbled upon another tribute site to TFT that also features some nice paper models and a TFT Wiki.

I have to admit that I actually never heard of TFT before I started to do some research on GURPS recently and I was actually surprised that a) the game looks that much like GURPS already and b) that there are not more retro-clones of TFT. Or did I miss anything?

So, what are your thoughts on “The Fantasy Trip”? Have you actually played the game back in the day and would you like to play the game even today?

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

9 thoughts on “The Fantasy Trip”

  1. I actually have all of the books, gathering dust on a shelf somewhere in my library. Only played Melee a few times and it was a lot of fun. Now that this article dredged up old memories I'll have to dig up the books and take a look.
    Thanks for the interesting elbow to the memory ribs.

  2. I played a lot of Melee way back when Metagaming was still around and a little Wizard. ITL seemed like a lot of fun (and I really liked their take on goblins) but I only got to try out the system in some solo adventures. Yes, it does have an Ur GURPS feel to it, but it is a lot lighter rules-wise.
    .-= Sean Holland´s last blog ..Tuesday Magic Item – Robes of Secure Status =-.

  3. Perhaps someone should convince Steve Jackson to write a rules-lite GURPS reminiscent of ITL. I would buy it. 🙂

  4. TFT was the second roleplaying game I discovered as a youngster; although, like a previous responder stated, I am most familiar with it as a solo game. I loved Microquests and have them all in my dusty box of goodness.

    TFT led me to GURPS; although I fell out of love with GURPS 3rd, and have not given 4th a go (doubt I ever will).

  5. Yeah. I played D&D, but the original Melee was what got me into gaming. D&D was such a challenge with it’s sweet hardcover books and incredible looking dice. However, I always thought In The Labyrinth had an easier style of play. The hex thing, is what I think did it for me; I didn’t have hex paper. I had tons of graph paper, though. I think I liked the fact that D&D had more modules. I also bought both Gamma World and Boot Hill. Now my son wants to play D&D and the 4th edition is just way convoluted. I believe I’m starting to figure it out, but fuck, couldn’t you guys have simplified this by now? On my days off, I don’t want to do this much math. Hell, I don’t even have to do this much math at work, and I get PAID to do that math.

  6. I played and ran The Fantasy Trip for many years. I introduced friends and convention gamers to it.

    Originally I played with the hex and chits that came with it, but eventually I converted to inches and lead figures. The game is oriented to single figure RPG, but eventually I ran ‘troop movement’ games where a player had 8 figures on a Troop Sheet. These had the barebones data for each figure and you could play a squad.

    I ran a mega-game where I had a 4’x8′ sandbox table with terrain. In that game each side had over 100 figures each and they had a war going. It took about 16 hours to play, but man was it glorious!

    I’ve moved from my players and have dropped out of TFT for several years, but now I’m going to introduce it into Maine. Such a simple system, I don’t even need the rulebooks to start someone up. Just those three Stats (Strength, Dexterity & IQ) and the data from memory on weapon damage and armor protection versus adjusted dexterity and You can start a novice playing in five minutes with three six-sided die.

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