The Fantasy Trip

The Fantasy Trip
Designer(s) Steve Jackson
Publisher(s) Metagaming
Publication date 1980
Genre(s) Generic Fantasy
System(s) Custom

The Fantasy Trip (TFT) is a role-playing game that was designed by Steve Jackson and was published by Metagaming Concepts.

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.

An extensive set 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. In addition, 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 published a second house organ called Interplay, which had articles regarding all Metagaming products but focused most 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.[1] 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.[2] 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 ones increased the damage one inflicted in combat, while 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 magic-based pocket board game of individual combat. Its 32-page rulebook included the Melee combat system, with the difference being that it added magic.

Wizard added IQ as a third ability score that determined magical ability. A player had points to put into each attribute. A high IQ score allowed the use of more varied and powerful spells. Casting a spell would cause a temporary drain on one's strength score, limiting the amount of spells one could cast in a given period of time before resting.

In the Labyrinth

Released in 1980 as an 80-page, 812 × 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: greatly expanded and revised versions of the previously-released physical and magical combat systems. (Character creation was moved from those books into In The Labyrinth, however.)

The three books together formed the complete Fantasy Trip game system. As in the original microgames, each character had Strength, Dexterity and Intelligence traits, 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.

Perhaps the most novel feature was the use of a point-based 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. What would be different character classes in a game like D&D were covered by different talents instead; for example the thief talent would allow a player to roll against their dexterity to pick a pocket or open a lock. Other talents included standard fantasy skills such as literacy, alertness or weapon proficiency. It was also possible for a wizard to learn mundane skills, or even for a hero to learn a spell or two (with great difficulty.)

Released products

  • 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). Notable for its associated contest. The game contained clues to a real silver dragon hidden somewhere in the U.S. The 31 troy oz. dragon was found by Mr. Thomas Davidson, who was afterwards awarded with a $10,000 check in addition to the dragon itself.
  • 3205 - Security Station (MQ#5)
  • 3206 - Treasure of Unicorn Gold (MQ#6). Identical in concept to Treasure of the Silver Dragon, except this time the quest was for a small golden Unicorn. No prize was awarded before Metagaming folded, and it is not clear whatever became of the gold unicorn. Read one person's account of his search for the golden unicorn at an external link listed at the bottom of this page. It is titled, "Treasure of Unicorn Gold Solution? A seeker's tale".
  • 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 untimely demise. In the works were two more province modules for Muipoco and Soukor, along with two and probably more city modules, detailing the provincial capitals. As noted below, 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 rule changes, expansions and new rules interpretations. It was also planned to include variants and expansions submitted by TFT players, as well. Only the first one was ever released.
  • 2302 - The Game Master's Screen. A GM's shield, featuring useful reference charts and tables for game play. Similar in concept to the DM's shields produced by TSR for Dungeons & Dragons, the screen summarized all game mechanic information likely to be required during a given session.
  • 5102 - Dragons of the Underearth. A compact set of fanatsy role-playing rules derived from Melee, Wizard and ITL, with simplified combat and magic . Not actually a Basic TFT but close to it.
  • 3118 - Lords of Underearth. Technically, this was a separate Microgame, but was designed with TFT in mind as a mass combat system for armies. Featured a set of conversions for building up units based on TFT characters. Conversely, with a little work, one could turn Underearth into a fine labyrinth for the players to explore and get eaten in.

Unreleased products

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.

Fan activity

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 had two issues each. A fourth fanzine, Vindicator, was devoted to Microgames in general but did have some Fantasy Trip specific material. Vindicator ran for at least fourteen separate issues from 1995 to 1998.

A small TFT fan community, based at, is still active.

A fan based, tribute site is also maintained at:

A revival of TFT inspired rules and associated MicroQuest adventures is underway at and


  1. ^ Letter to Andy Windes from Howard Thompson,,, 31 March 1980
  2. ^ "Where We're Going" by Steve Jackson, page 28, The Space Gamer, Number 65, Sept/Oct 1983.

External links

Reviews on RPGnet:

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