Thursday, February 7, 2013

Returning to The Labyrinth

I'm going to start playing a campaign for The Fantasy Trip this weekend. For those of you who might not know, TFT is sort of a proto-GURPS: character creation is point-buy, with a base value of 8 for each of three stats: Strength, Dexterity, and Intelligence. Then, the player may add a total of 8 points to one or more of these. The basic resolution is to roll under a target number on 3 or more d6, the target being determined by skills and circumstance. The game only uses d6es.

Steve Jackson, of the eponymous game company fame, created TFT in the late '70s, while working for Howard Thompson at the now-defunct  Metagaming Concepts. TFT proper comprised three books (almost booklets, really): Advanced Melee, Advanced Wizard, and In The Labyrinth. Advanced Melee and Advanced Wizard were beefed-up versions of the microgames Melee and Wizard, which were short, tactical combat games; In The Labyrinth took these two and added more in-depth character generation (namely, one of the first comprehensive skill lists in RPGs) and campaign creation rules. One point of interest I found when first reading the books back in 1980 was that Charisma, rather than being an attribute, was a skill you could purchase, either at creation time or later with experience points.

Thompson was dissatisfied with TFT because it was supposedly "too complicated". For this and other reasons known only to him, he dismantled Metagaming in 1983, leaving TFT and other Metagaming intellectual property in a state of legal limbo. One wonders what he would make of GURPS, to say nothing of later editions of D&D. Myself, I find TFT to be very easy to understand and play. Like GURPS, most of the complexity is in character creation; unlike GURPS, that still doesn't mean it takes any longer than twenty minutes to a half hour to create a new PC. Although some might say, since it's a point-buy system with a notch more complexity than D&D, that it's on the cusp between classic and modern RPGs, but I think that the simple resolution system and the logical way the rules interconnect put it firmly in the Old School.

Regardless, I'm looking forward to statting up the wizard, Nicodemus, on Saturday.


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