Confessions of a TFT Addict

The Fantasy Trip Legacy Edition

(Plans change. This post was originally slated as the introduction to a book of The Fantasy Trip essays, now found in issues of Hexagram. Watch for my TFT fencing article in Hexagram #6!)

My game design career started with selling a four-paragraph review to Steve Jackson Games’ Space Gamer magazine. Why Space Gamer instead of TSR’s Dragon? Because I was a Steve Jackson junkie.

In 1981, my game group had dumped AD&D in favor of The Fantasy Trip, at my own instigation. I wanted characters who, no matter how experienced, had good reason to fear wolves in a pack and goblins in a gang, and TFT supplied that. Along with skills instead of classes, and tactics instead of abstract one-minute combat turns. TFT provided a reason to use miniatures for more than just pretty. All that in literally 150 pages instead of literally 472.

I GMed The Fantasy Trip for years to the exclusion of all other RPGs. Our group played TFT long after Metagaming (its publisher) went out of business and TFT went out of print. I scoured hobby stores for supplementary material, photocopied and ringbound every magazine article I could find, bought Gamelords’ The Forest Lords of Dyhad and Warrior-Lords of Darok, and prayed for the two remaining books of that setting to be published. Prayed for anything new to be released.

No exaggeration, I still wake from the occasional nightmare that I’m traveling, stumble across some hobby store in Texas, find an unknown TFT-related title in a bargain bin, and don’t have the cash on me to pay for it.

So when I landed a full-time game design job in my hometown, at Game Designers Workshop (publishers of Traveller), I asked for a special dispensation to launch a non-GDW fanzine, The Fantasy Forum, in my free time.

As I recall, GDW let me run a little ad in their house organ, Challenge magazine, and even let me print out the ’zine on the office copier. And of course I submitted an ad to Space Gamer. Other addicted fans subscribed to this little quarterly. Content submissions soon exceeded the bulk-rate page count. To fit Howard Trump’s solo adventures, I had to print them in 6-point type with 1/8th-inch margins. (In retrospect, I could have published those separately and printed monthly.)

Gen Con 20 in 1987 was my first big convention, and as a brand-new industry pro, I approached Steve Jackson to shake his hand and goob over The Fantasy Trip. When I asked about the prospects of a new printing now that Metagaming was defunct, and Steve told me how much cash Howard Thompson wanted for the title, I gasped, and something inside me died a little bit.

So you can easily imagine my delight when Steve regained the rights in 2017 and launched a Kickstarter shortly thereafter to print a new, deluxe edition. That boxed set now stands in a place of honor on the very top shelf of my RPG collection, right next to the big ringbinder (“liberated” from The Armory) that holds my cherished collection of original TFT material.

And you can imagine my pleasure to be writing this introduction to a collection of essaygs honoring The Fantasy Trip.

Thank you, Steve, for the years of wonderful memories, playing The Fantasy Trip with my friends.

https://thefantasytrip.game

Political Expression

Photo of Obama & Trump meeting
I have a theory:

As a college-educated man with working-class roots, I am perhaps well poised to perceive a wide spectrum of political perspectives.

To put it another way:

I’m a Blue Collar guy with a college degree, so I can see the whole picture.

That’s the theory. Not the dubious “I’m special” part. The fact that both sentences say the same thing, in very different ways.

The US has had two, perhaps three populist Presidents: Andrew Jackson, Donald Trump, and arguably Bill Clinton. With the rest, we’re used to a type of speech I’m going to call “diplomatic” for purposes of this theory. It’s also scholarly speech, presenting ideas with a subtle acknowledgement that later developments might change things. In the first statement above, the word “perhaps” does it. A similar phrase might be “events suggest.” To the average citizen these may sound wishy-washy or mealy mouthed.

Now, holding “events suggest” side-by-side with Donald Trump’s “some say,” or the more commonplace, man-on-the-street’s “I’ve heard,” I see a similarity.

“Some say” grates on my ears. “Events suggest” grates on other ears. To me, “some say” is vague, with no documentation, inviting a response of “well others say,” which leaves us with “who knows?” (William Perry’s second stage of cognitive development.) To others, “events suggest” is just as vague, drawing a conclusion from hidden sources like a stage magician.

Don’t get me wrong. I still think Donald Trump is a snake-oil salesman born with a silver spoon and never went a day in his life without servants, let alone food and shelter, who managed to dupe common folk into thinking he understands and cares for their plight, while riding a golden escalator and telling them their toilets are hard to flush, but not his.

But I could be mistaken. Similar things could be said of any politician.

In any case, this theory prepares me to more openly listen to him, and to FOX News. Even his Tweets, because they’re not *all* self-congratulatory or insulting. Some are actually positive, affirming, even comforting.

If you listen to the language in a different way.

Liberally Biased Professors

NobleWorksCards.com

“I thank God, we have not free schools nor printing … For learning has brought disobedience, and heresy and sects into the world; and printing has divulged them and libels against the government. God keep us from both!”

~ Sir William Berkeley, (1606-1677) Royal Governor of Virginia

Something I often hear from Conservative family members is that college professors have a Liberal bias.

Ergo higher education has a Liberal bias.

At kindergarten (and pre-kindergarten, and nowadays pre-pre-kindergarten) all the way through high school, we can …

  • Vote for a school board to preserve our Conservative values.
  • Raise a ruckus to enforce prayer in school. (Granted, we can already pray there, just not officially lead prayer.)
  • Apply pressure to let teachers teach from the Bible. (Granted, they can already talk about the importance of the Bible in our culture, along with the Qoran in Arab nations, or the Tao te Ching, or whatever else those godless heathens in other countries read. But we can’t teach directly from the Bible like in those glorious one-room schoolhouses of the 1800s.)

Public schools we can influence. But at college level, education is out of our hands.

Higher education has a Liberal bias. Could that be why college costs so much in our good ol’ U.S.A.? God knows we don’t want to be manufacturing no more uppity Liberals.