$210K Stretch Goal - Three Heretical Variants
August 16, 2018
As the $210K stretch goal, here are three heretical variants for The Fantasy Trip . . .
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In any game design project, some paths are not taken. This essay will present three paths that I considered, but did not take, for the new edition of TFT. In each case I decided that the “shock” of the change would outweigh its good points. But they all had possible benefits to the game! Here, then – knowing that these ideas may be considered heretical by some – are three directions TFT might have gone, and didn’t.
Square Movement Grid
TFT and its younger cousin GURPS are vastly in the minority in their use of a hexagonal play grid. D&D, the granddaddy of them all, uses squares in those editions that have tactical combat. Most games follow the lead of D&D. I could have gone there too. It would have taken considerable testing to decide which combinations of adjacent squares were “front,” and which ones “sides” and “rear.”
Advantages: It would have made the game compatible with a lot of already-created maps from dozens of publishers. And human buildings have square walls, which map poorly onto hexes.
Disadvantage: The hex movement is a signature element of TFT, and I decided that too many people would miss it. It also gives much more consistent movement rates, since on a square grid a diagonal move is half again the length of an orthogonal one. I’m not sure how I would have gotten around that problem.
Solution: Don’t go there.
I very seriously considered making skill rolls, such as the to-hit roll with a weapon, on a single d20 roll. It still would have been “roll your skill or less.”
Advantages: Slightly faster play. Makes the transition from (for instance) DX 15 to DX 16 as meaningful as that from DX 10 to DX 11. Gives the ultra-low-DX people a better chance to hit. Opens up a different dimension of die mechanics (because I would not have discarded the d6s used for damage).
Disadvantages: Many of the existing TFT mechanics are built around the bell curves of 3d6 and, to a lesser extent, 4d6. Players’ choices of stats, weapons, and armor are all manipulations of that bell curve. The seemingly small change to a d20 would have reverberated through the whole system. So I chickened out and went conservative, retaining the 3d6 success roll and adding more emphasis to the 4d “unskilled” roll.
Solution: Don’t go there, either.
One More Stat
Using ST to represent fatigue, as well as hit points, was making exhaustion deadly, especially for wizards. Thus, some character designs featured “Conan the Wizard,” who had great ST solely for powering spells . . . which is just silly. I looked at the addition of a Health or Fatigue stat, possibly derived from ST to simplify character creation. Another possibility, since it was wizards who needed the help, was to give them a stat for magical energy – Mana.
Advantages: Would have helped differentiate characters. Would have eliminated Conan the Wizard.
Disadvantage – Would have changed every single character ever created. Would have increased the perceived complexity of the system.
Solution: Beef up the abilities of the wizard’s staff so advanced ones can store some extra ST for the wizard! So the extra stat does exist, but it is a stat of the staff, not the wizard. Conan the Wizard goes away.
I hope you have not been completely terrified by this look into my heretical musings. In fact, if any of them sound interesting, DO try this at home. One of the strengths of the system is that, being simple, it’s easily tweaked. I have always considered my TFT rules to be suggestions – well thought out suggestions, I should hope, but still suggestions. If something might work better for you, don’t hesitate to give it a try. And if it works, tell the world!