Flashback or Fast-forward

“Have you ever wondered how nostalgia isn’t what it used to be?”

― Jasper Fforde

We have been watching the Kickstarter campaign for The Fantasy Trip with great interest her in the ‘aerie, and its pretty excitement. In just one week’s time it has blown past $150,000 and the stretch goals are piling up like awards in Meryl Streep’s closet. Not bad for minor RPG last seen on game store shelves in 1982.

But I start to wonder why. Is there really pent-up demand for Wizard/Melee style board game combat? Or the inspiring, but often obtuse, role-playing rules laid out in In The Labyrinth? Or is it just a nostalgia tour (like the caravan of aging rockers that rumble between outdoor concert halls every summer) for people with fond memories of their gaming past and a little disposable income? I hope that its not just a well-overdue payoff for Steve Jackson after the Metagming debacle so many years ago.

An unearthed opportunity

The enthusiasm shown by the Kickstarter campaign should be a good sign that there might be money to be made with the Fantasy Trip. And giving people value for this investment should be their priority. At the very least, the game should be broken down to its mechanics and edited and reorganized for the modern reader. This is not a slam against TFT, but at virtually every page of gaming material produced at the time. Amazing ideas and elegant mechanics were buried under piles of typos, poor structure, and inconsistent rulings. It was a often a forensic investigation to find a specific rule for a situation, and it could easily be contradicted in another location, or be worded in such a way that it only brought more arguments.

People (Steve Jackson included) have been writing and publishing role-playing games for well over 40 years now, and there have been a lot of lessons learned. There are a seeming infinite ways of creating a set of RPG rules, but we have learned a lot about how to present them. Improving the consistency and clarity of mechanics, and using defined examples of how they work would go a long way toward easing new users into the the game. I wouldn’t want them to change how the game is played, just how it is explained.

Other than some minor concerns, like the reliance of ST and IQ for everyone and the complexities (and vagueries) of experience growth, it is an amazing elegant and simple game that focuses on dynamic action rather complex tables and attempts at simulation.

Even if they just fix the spelling, unify character creation, and give us an index, it will bar a worthwhile game. But it can be much more. I hope we don’t just get a dusted-off version of a game we once loved, but a version that will inspire us and legions of new gamers in the future. We were never big fans of the GURPS-driven Dungeon Fantasy, and felt a little failed by flip-flops on Car Wars, but we’re not too old to hope.

Delving deeper

As far as we stand, we’re fully behind the new Fantasy Trip. We want to take what we’ve learned playing this game for all these years, and apply it to the new game to create unique and exciting modifications and adventures. TFT’s strength is simplicity and flexibility, and how it can used to tell many kinds of stories. We plan on using that inspiration to create worlds and build legends, creating variants for special needs and expansions for new mysteries.

Depending on what is in the TFT Legacy Edition, we may leverage some of the rules from our own Heroic Expeditions as optional TFT rules. Or, simply use these rules as jumping off point for new cultures, heroic paths, or terrifying corruptions. We’d like your help with this, and would love to hear what you want to see.

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