November 21, 2013

TFT - Playing When You're Not Playing

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) has a mechanic in place for character "down-time". This is the time a character spends in their life that is not taken up with an adventure. Each character has a job, such as baker, blacksmith or assassin. There is a base salary for each of these occupations and each span of down-time (one week) a character gets to roll to see how they fared. The results range from gaining money to gaining an attribute point (which is a huge considering the game is attribute driven) or taking hazard damage.  Different jobs offer different payment scales and different chances to succeed or fail. TFT sums it up with...

"...characters have lives of their own. A character can earn money, get experience, and get killed ... all without ever going on an adventure ... just like real life."

One one hand, I like the concept of things happening to characters when they are not adventuring. It adds a level of realism to a campaign. It also removes the concept of "murdering hobos" from the campaign. The campaign can focus on adventure and setting things right rather than the pursuit of gold.

However, I am not a fan of such huge changes to a character. I feel advancements should come as a result of adventure, not from toiling away as a clerk in a store. One question some players have is...why does my character adventure? If the benefits of not adventuring are as good as adventuring, why bother adventuring? It also removes the concept of choice. Rolling for downtime is a single die roll with no choice to be made by the character. During adventuring characters are constantly making choices - I prefer that over a simple die roll.

All that being said, I like downtime rolls - just keep any changes to a character at a low scale. Your thoughts?


Philo Pharynx said...

I like the idea, and that the repercussions should be enough to give flavor without enough to remove the need for adventure.

And I absolutely think there should be choice. After all, once you faced the Lizard King of Downbelow Swamp, are you going to go back to Baking for coppers a day?

I think you should ask the players, "What are you doing during your downtime, and the GM needs to work with that.

I can think of dozens of ideas for characters to get up to. Arcane research. Looking for love. Writing a book about their adventures. Gamblin' and drinkin'. Spending time with family. Running a business. Training an animal. Training an army. Communing with nature. Forging new armor.

Granted, this is hard on the GM. You need to figure out what sort of consequences there are. I ususlly make them roll something appropriate based on what they want to do and set a range for basic result, good success, excellent success, failure and bad failure.

A hint, having them roll first lets you only figure out what happens on that roll instead of the whole spectrum.

Andreas Davour said...

I think the idea is just awesome that you're killing kobolds and taking their stuff, get back home and go to work being a baker and one of the characters gain a point of STR during downtime, and another died!


imredave said...

Although I have had some interesting experiences with downtime tables (including marring a nobleman's daughter),I do not think death should be included as an option. No one wants to show up at a game ready to play, only to discover their character has died in-between adventures.