In the Labyrinth (1980)

In 1980, Metagaming released the three books that made up the proper The Fantasy Trip RPG – Advanced Melee, Advanced Wizard and In the Labyrinth. It is a bit odd that all three feature the same cover art – they would have been a box set, but that was too expensive to produce.

In the Labyrinth is essentially the DM’s Guide, expanding the core tactical system behind Melee and Wizard into a full fledge RPG. There are character creation rules, guidance on world creation, advice on running adventures and a section on monsters and such. All packed into just 80 pages. Which should tell you a lot about the weight of the system. It isn’t nearly as accessible as, say, Tunnels & Trolls, but it is a good deal more stripped down (and precise!) than D&D. Steve Jackson didn’t have room to ramble on, so the proceedings are pleasantly concise.

A couple things of note. First off, to balance against the spells of wizards, heroes (that is, any PC who isn’t a wizard) have access to talents, which are special abilities that can be bought using the IQ attribute (same as spells). So, Melee had the first point-buy attribute system and now Fantasy Trip has the first point-buy skill system. I think balancing talents against spells is extremely elegant.

You might be thinking “Hey, ‘point-buy skill system’ sounds like Steve Jackson’s GURPS!” And you’d be right! Jackson used the Fantasy Trip system as the basis of GURPS once he left Metagaming and couldn’t afford to bring the rights to Fantasy Trip with him.

I have a lot of love for Roger Stine’s cover art. It is easy to see why Jackson and company were OK with using it as the cover of three different books, it is mighty fine (even if there is a bit of a disco groove energy in the poses). It is a shame, though, that we didn’t get two more covers as sweet as this one. Ah well. Interiors are all by Robert Phillips, who brings a pretty Frazetta vibe to all his work. That goes well with the cover painting and the feel of the system overall, I think.  

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