November 8, 2013

TFT - The Dump Stat

The Fantasy Trip was a role-playing game that came out in 1980 with the release of In The Labyrinth, the core rule set. It also included Melee (tactical combat) and Wizard (spellcasting), as well as the Advanced versions of them. The game was written by Steve Jackson who later used the system as a base for GURPS. This series of articles is a look at the rules of The Fantasy Trip as seen through modern eyes.

The Fantasy Trip (TFT) uses only 3 stats for characters, Strength (ST), Dexterity (DX) and Intelligence (IQ). Stats are also the driving component of the game as almost everything a character does is based directly off the value of their stat (players try to roll below their stat value to accomplish tasks). At first glance only having 3 stats makes it harder to find a "dump stat". In traditional D&D, which has six stats, there are often dump stats. For example, a fighter has no need for Wisdom or Intelligence and thus those tend to be where a player playing a fighter will put the lowest value for a stat. With only 3 stats, TFT, looks like it can circumvent that habit by making each of them important to the success of a character. However, looks can be deceiving...

A magic-user in TFT uses all of the stats with equal need. ST is used as a measure of how often a magic-user can cast. Each spell has a ST cost and each time a magic-user casts a spell, it comes off their ST. Thus they are limited by how often they can cast spells. DX is used to hit a target with a spell. A lower DX means the caster will miss more often thus wasting ST and time. IQ is used as a limit to how powerful a spell the magic-user can cast. Spells are rated by the IQ required to cast them. If a magic-user wants to cast an IQ 16 spell, he needs at least a IQ of 16. IQ also sets how many spells a magic-user can know. Thus we can see that a magic-user needs all 3 stats equally. There is no dump stat for a magic-user.

A fighter needs ST as it determines how much damage his melee attacks will do. A fighter also needs a good DX as it sets his chance to hit with his weapon. However, IQ is not as essential for a fighter. IQ allows for certain Talents to be purchased (Talents are small abilities a character can have, similar to Advantages in other game systems). Talents are not necessary for a fighter though. With the base IQ every character starts with a fighter can get a good selection of Talents. IQ is a dump stat for a fighter.

Ranged fighters actually have 2 dump stats. ST does little for a fighter that is primarily using ranged weapons. DX is the main stat for such a character. Thus both ST and IQ are dump stats for a ranged fighter.

We can see that, for a change, magic-users get stuck with having to take more stats than other character types. It makes for a weird dichotomy between classes to have one require so much more in stats than the others. Non-magic-users are able to "stack" their stats to increase their chances for success; magic-users can not do this "stacking" without giving something up in exchange. Perhaps this was intentional as a limit to the power of the magic-user (which often became far more powerful than the other classes in other game systems).

This all goes to show that simply paring down the number of stats in a system is not enough to remove dump stats.
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