Dragons of Underearth (1982)

I bought this because of Denis Loubet’s excellent cover. Look at it! So good, so smooth, so warm. What is it? Something damn strange: Dragons of Underearth (1982). But what’s that? Steve Jackson’s Fantasy Trip, sort of.

The Fantasy Trip is great, a lean and mean point-buy RPG focused on tactical combat that began life as too microgames, Melee and Wizard. Based on the success of those games, in 1980 Metagaming had Jackson design a more advanced game, a full-fledged RPG consisting of three books and an adventure (Advanced Melee, Advanced Wizard, In the Labyrinth and an adventure, Tollenkar’s Lair). All those things were supposed to be in one box set, but got released separately, seemingly because it was cheaper to do it sans box. That, and other difficulties, led to Jackson bailing on the company and the game. After that, The Fantasy Trip gets even more confusing, with a series of supplements coming out that were advertised as being compatible with both versions of the game, or lacked any compatibility information at all. Many of them, like Dragons of the Underearth, came packed, infuriatingly considering the history of the game, in boxes. Unsurprisingly, Metagaming shuttered in 1983.

This thing is appealing in a lot of ways. The box is small and reminds me of a videogame box. The art is good. The tokens are sharp as hell. But it is just a watered-down version of Fantasy Trip. Or rather, the previous box, Lords of Underearth, was a watered-down version. This is technically an advanced watered-down version. Dear god.

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