RE: The Fantasy Trip Returns….Eventually

So I have been thinking about this for a little while now and I have been considering just what Steve Jackson might do with the property. Looking out at the internet, there is very little in the way of community around this game. other games of the time seem to be doing well, Tunnels & Trolls for instance has been in print pretty steadily for the last 10 years, Traveler as well and RuneQuest. So if there were a real hunger for this game, I would be able to find a some serious web space dedicated to it. Sure there are a couple of fan sites, but mostly they have not been updated in years and yes there are a couple of knock off game, but nothing that seems to be getting any traction. This brings me to the conclusion that there are at the outside a few hundred active players of this game. This is not a big customer base, sure there are more than a few people like me who remember it, but looking at the forums where the news of Steve Jackson re-acquiring the copyright is being discussed, there is really not a ton of enthusiasm beyond “Hey this is really neat” and most of the discussion has already died down after less than 48 hours. This leads me to believe that the potential customer base for this game is a few thousand at best. If I were Steve Jackson, here are the things I would be thinking about.

  1. How to get people interested in the game again: Running a Kickstarter and putting out a huge Dungeon Fantasy style boxed set will take 2 years, assuming nothing goes wrong. Two years is a long time to let the enthusiasm die down. I would be thinking of ways to get this into customer hands as quickly as possible, even if I eventually wanted to do a big boxed set.
  2. How to keep it from competing with GURPS: Steve Jackson has a huge investment in GURPS, it has been their staple RPG for decades. Unfortunately gamer money is limited and it is good possibility that every dollar spent on TFT is a dollar not spent on GURPS. Both games fill the same niche and will naturally compete with each other.
  3. How to make this more than just a vanity project: The reality is, TFT is an old system that was never super popular and had this not happened, practically no one but Steve Jackson would have regretted it. The only reason this is happening is because on some level this has been bugging him for the last 35 years. At its core this is a vanity project for Steve Jackson, however he is also a business man and everything he does needs to make at least a little profit. Moving a new edition beyond this will be a challenge.

Here is how I would handle it. First I would try to get this back into the hands of gamer as quickly as possible. The original game was published back when they still had to typeset printing presses, so there are no real electronic versions available. First thing is to hire a transcription service to type those 8 books in word for word, update the new books with errata and commission some new art. This process will likely take less than 6 months, then put them out in PDF format and sell them for $5 each. This will solve problem number one, it will get people playing the game, it generate interest and give you breathing room to produce the big boxed set.

Once this is done, launch the Kickstarter, get the ball rolling on the big boxed set. Spend the time updating the rules for the 21st century, I know this will upset some people, but if you want solve the 3rd problem, you will need to publish a modern game, not rehash an unpopular game from the 1980’s. This needs to be a game people will play, not a box that will sit on the shelf. Remember you are selling this game to new players, the 200 people who are still playing the game are not your target audience, if this game is going to be more than a nostalgia buy for aging Baby Boomers and Gen X, the new edition needs to appeal to the new generation of gamers.

As for keeping it from taking sales from GURPS, this is more difficult endeavor. Basically, I would not move TFT beyond the fantasy genre. If gamers want a truly universal system, where they can bounce between genre without learning a new system, then that is what GURPS is for. If they want an easy to learn, fast to play fantasy game, then TFT is what they will pick. This is mostly an exercise in marketing. One of the things I would not do is dual stat. Dual stating is one of those things that everyone loves in theory but never works in reality, and is frankly mildly insulting.

Now, I seriously doubt this is how Steve Jackson will handle this. I expect we will see a Kickstarter for Melee which will have a boat load of miniatures and some nice maps, he himself has said as much. Then later we will either see a Kickstarter for a similar Wizard product or we will see one for a more compete system, but all of this will not see the light of day before 2019 and more likely 2020. The question will then be, will anyone besides Steve Jackson really care anymore.

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