Talking With Steve Jackson About The Fantasy Trip

Recently, I was able to ask Steve Jackson, of Steve Jackson Games, a couple of questions about the upcoming relaunch of his classic role-playing/combat game The Fantasy Trip. In addition, he gave us at EN World an early look at the preliminary art for the cover of The Fantasy Trip: Melee.

Christopher Helton: First off, let's talk about the game itself. For the uninitiated, what is The Fantasy Trip?

Steve Jackson: It's a fantasy role-playing game that I started writing in 1977. It had a period of great popularity, which waned when Metagaming went out of business and there was no further support. But some people have always continued to play it. And last year I recovered the rights, so I can publish a new edition now.

CH: What led to the creation of The Fantasy Trip?

SJ: TFT grew out of the combat game, Melee. I created Melee specifically because I didn't like the combat system in original D&D. I wanted something that would feel more realistic, that would take into account where the characters were in relation to each other, and that would not be so table-driven.

When Melee became popular, I did a magic version of it; that was Wizard. The next step was to write a full set of role-playing rules around the Melee/Wizard combat system, which is what we know today as The Fantasy Trip.

CH: There is a lot of interest in older games again, from the early editions of Dungeons & Dragons to a Kickstarter based around the third edition of Champions. What does The Fantasy Trip offer to people who are looking at older games, or want to recreate an experience from when they were younger?

SJ: It's an old-school role-playing experience, centered around dungeon-crawling, monster-fighting, swords-and-sorcery adventure. It does not try to be generic, and it does not try to go into overwhelming detail. It's for people who want to sit down with a few friends and explore, fight, and try to get home alive!

CH: To flip that question, what about the Fantasy Trip would appeal to people who've never played it?

SJ: The same things, I hope. It's a lot lighter than GURPS, or, for that matter, the current edition of D&D. Character creation is easy, combats are quick without being trivial, and there are just not all that many rules to learn. It's not a game about finding exploits or weird combinations of skills. It's about creating a hero or a wizard, and going on an adventure.

CH: After four editions of GURPS some may wonder why you would revisit The Fantasy Trip. What do you say to them?

Because it's a different game and I like it a lot!

CH: Should people who've invested a lot of time and money into GURPS worry that it might be replaced by a simpler game in the Fantasy Trip?

SJ: Nope. The games have different strengths, and people who are into GURPS are not going to abandon it.

CH: What do you hope for the future of the Fantasy Trip?

SJ: Enough interest from fans that we can continue to put out new background and adventure material at a good rate. But I don't want to layer on complexity. Fans of complexity have already got games to play. This is about making a character in five minutes and going out to fight the orcs.

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I loved TFT back in the 80s.
Kind of got swamped in other games and in the 90s only some rare grognards even knew what TFT was.
My two favorite creatures are from TFT.
The Am-Bush, a plant that throws explosive seedpods to kill interlopers so they become fertilizer for it.
The Piranhakeet, a swarm of parakeet like colorful birds with razor sharp sawtoothed beaks that strip victims to bones in seconds like piranha.

Those were always fun :)

Not sure where on this website now to mention this, but if you live in or near Virginia, and you want to meet him, Steve Jackson will be the gaming guest of honor at a convention called Mysticon in Feb 2019 in Roanoke Va.


First Post
I am a fan of TFT, but I am kinda suspicious about his newly rediscovered love of the game. Seems like he just wants to run another huge kickstarter like Ogre.

Which is certainly his right, after all he wrote the game. But it seems to me if he really liked it, he would have tried to do what Jeff Dee did with V&V over the years. I hope to be proven wrong, but...

It would also be nice if he worked with some of the companies who made clones of TFT and produced adventures for it.


I am a fan of TFT, but I am kinda suspicious about his newly rediscovered love of the game. Seems like he just wants to run another huge kickstarter like Ogre.

Which is certainly his right, after all he wrote the game. But it seems to me if he really liked it, he would have tried to do what Jeff Dee did with V&V over the years. I hope to be proven wrong, but...

As someone who has had many discussions with Steve about the game for the last two decades, as well as the amount of behind-the-scenes legal work that went into this, I think you're failing to understand the situation. Steve recovered the rights to the game last year, and we announced this back in December:

What you seem to perceive as "his newly rediscovered love of the game" is, in fact, the ultimate "playing the long game" as Steve waited decades to reclaim his ownership of the Melee, Wizard, and the rest of The Fantasy Trip. Until that was successfully executed, we were left simply working behind-the-scenes and patiently waiting.
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Is this going to be a "relaunch" of the original game, or will it be updated to a new version?

Steve is making very few changes to the game. I won't say there are zero changes, but he's approaching everything as if "this worked then" and aiming for a final game that's very close to the original. All new artwork; he didn't recover the rights to the art.

Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
To half my gaming group TFT is to them what AD&D is to me. We have played a bit of it and I'm sure we will again. I'll check these out but I think I have all the original books.

Doctor Futurity

Its 3d6 and skill based. I always thought the lineage from this to GRUPS was pretty clear.

In defense of those unfamiliar with TFT (or GURPS) I only game with one person (aside from myself) that has ever played (let alone heard of) TFT, and half my players only discovered GURPS exists from my introducing it to them. The lineage is likely only obvious to the old guard.

To the earlier commentor about Steve's sudden interest; to me this is like the culmination of decades of patient waiting, and not at all surprising; if anything, it's sort of like a very long, very cool payout to see SJ finally reclaim TFT.

Steve Bruns

First Post
Love TFT, but not digging that cover. The logo's great, but the sword... it's realistically rendered and historically accurate, but not cool at all because it's so small, it really detracts from the image.

Ed Laprade

First Post
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: If TFT had come out before AD&D, my gaming group at the time would have played it to death. But after spending Big Bucks (at the time) on D&D, we just never played TFT much. Sad. Nonetheless, this is a must buy for me.

Jim Thurmond

First Post
For those of us who haven't read the original, can someone tell us about the mechanics, etc.?

I lived in Austin during the 70's and 80's, and had friends who worked at SJGames, so we played a LOT of TFT. I ran several campaigns. GURPS is definitely a clear descendant, but TFT is orders of magnitude lighter in weight. Only the core skill mechanic (roll 3d6, if roll is equal or below skill, you succeed) and the basics of combat (which are quite good; my fave combat system) are there. The "Skills" and "Advantages" are combined, and there are very few of them compared to GURPS - just what you need for basic dungeon-crawling adventure.

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