November 28, 2013

TFT - Example of Play

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.

One thing I think all rule books require are examples of play. This is when you give a narrative that showcases the players making decisions and how those decisions are enacted by the characters. Sometimes the way rules interact between player and character can be lost. A player thinks "I want the character to do X" but sometimes the rules are unclear how a player should state that or when or what mechanics to use. Examples of play can solve those issues.
All rpgs have their own vocabulary. In order to play the game everyone needs to have the same vocabulary. An example of play can facilitate that.

The Fantasy Trip (TFT) includes an example of play.

It shows how a GM can combine descriptions with mechanics. "You see a big hole - a whole megahex around. Stairs lead off down to the southeast."

It shows how to implement a rule. "Okay. We enter. We all have torches. Here's our march order. (He shows the GM the counters representing their characters, lined up on a set of tunnel megahexes.)"

It shows how dice work and how the results can be conveyed. "Starting from the first hex after the stairs, then, you go one east, one northeast, two east. (At this point he rolls the dice several times. There is a hidden door at No. 2 on the map, and the party is now passing it. He is rolling against the party's IQs to see if any of them spot it. They have bad luck; none of them do.) Nothing happened to you guys there."

Along with helping to see specific rules in action they also help to give a feel for the setting as well. Some settings are gritty and some let magic fly loose. Examples of play can also be similar to the stories some rpgs sprinkle throughout their books. Those stories are used to evoke a mood for the game; an example of play can show how that mood comes into play.

When a rulebook does not include examples of play I definitely miss them. In a way, I feel that the authors "cheaped out" on the book. How important do you think examples of play are?

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