Fear and Loathing in TFT

Fear and Loathing in TFT

One gaming aspect that was missed in The Fantasy Trip was fear. Why does that matter? One view was that most adventurers seemed to be psychotic killers who were never affected by all of the blood, gore, monsters and the supernatural that were all around them. Another is that in the years since TFT was published, roleplaying has come a long way.

One of the key roleplaying aspects that GMs and players can utilize is that of fear. Fear adds elements to the game that help players enjoy the story of the game, while help21ing GMs add a sense of realism to reactions of the characters to the dangerous elements.

One way this has been incorporated in game terms in other systems is some kind of saving roll against IQ. Rolling 3d against a character’s IQ would work in TFT terms (the GURPS-style “fright check”). This can be modified as the GM sees fit for the situation–the more out of place, the higher the modifier. For example, a battle-hardened soldier would not be frightened of a dead body. But if magic were rare, that same soldier would be terrified of a fire spell!

When making the fear roll, the normal critical saves or failures would apply. The bigger the failure, the bigger the effect. The effects could be anything from losing initiative to running in fear–to phobias or a loss of IQ. Roll 3d and see the sample table below:

3-4: Loss of initiative. Recover normally.
5-6: Stunned for 1d seconds.
7-10: Stunned for 2d seconds.
11-14: Run in fear.
15-16: Faint for 1d minutes.
17-18: Develop phobia. Roll another 3d/IQ to avoid losing 1 point of IQ.

This table is just a sample of effects. If you want to run a game with more of a horror aspect, expand the effects to suit your story.

The point is to have fun with it. Let the addition of fear help the story–and players’ enjoyment–and not let the rules get in the way. And if they don’t suit you, just don’t use them!

Marko ∞


  1. I really like this aspect, and indeed used a variation of this when I experimented with a Call of Cthulhu TFT variant many years ago. Basically, each character had “Sanity Points” equal to five times his/her IQ and then lost or gained sanity points based on “Call of Cthulhu-ish” events. Nowadays, I’ve seen simpler systems in which the figures are given a “morale rating” which is fairly generic (Heroic, Brave, Average, Cautious, Cowardly) and which changes the meaning of the results they get when they have to roll against morale (usually a 3/IQ roll) for some reason. As with any other test roll, results of 16 are automatic failures, and results of 17 and 18 mean “failure, with consequences.” Likewise rolls of 5 mean automatic success, while results of 3 or 4 mean “Success with benefits.” However, having said all of that, it’s a fine line we walk in “seizing control” of a player character by inflicting some sort of “insanity” on him or her, versus giving them a few opportunities to role-play whatever the consequences are.

  2. I also use moral for NPCs in combat; I make a roll each time an ally goes down I roll against IQ, modified by the number of living allies and method of death, to see if the NPC flees. A fleeing NPC can cause moral rolls in allies who see them flee.

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