November 29, 2013

TFT - Racial Equality

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.

Chapter V of The Fantasy Trip (TFT) starts by going more in depth on the various races a character can play. The default character generation is based off of the Men (or human) race but allows for random generation of race. This section goes into what happens if a player rolled a non-Men race. It is interesting that TFT allows for "non-standard" races. They have Men, Orcs, Elves, Dwarves, Goblins, Hobgoblins, Halflings, Prootwaddles, Centaurs, Giants, Gargoyles, Reptiles, and Mermen, all available as a player race.

In the early days of rpgs one of the first ways players wanted to change the games was with race. Players were always asking if they could play this or that race, often based off of a monster type. TFT seems to have embraced that allowing for a wide range of races and even creating a new one, the Prootwaddle (a sort of human kobold).

There was some semblance of attempting to balance the various races, mostly by limiting how high certain Attributes could go, but it was possible to quickly unbalance some characters. Given where rpg games were at the time, this is not unexpected.

One thing that irks me, and has for some time, is the useless-unless-special-circumstances-occur race. In this case it's the mermen. As expected they are aquatic based and require a spell to be cast for them to function on land. Assuming the character has easy access to this spell, they are still hampered on land by having their DEX attribute reduced significantly. Sure, in water they will always have the advantage, but how often will that occur in a non-contrived campaign? Why would anyone play such a character (other than some inane desire to be wholly different)? Why include it as a possible player character race?

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