Talents, Spells and IQ Levels in The Fantasy Trip

Talents, Spells and IQ Levels in The Fantasy Trip

One of the common problems debated in the community is that of IQ levels in The Fantasy Trip. The tie between the number of spells and talents and that of character IQ often leads to super-genius characters–characters that are supposed to be well, dumb.

The Problem

The problem is that as characters gain experience and try to gain more talents or spells, their IQ can grow to ridiculous levels. Because the IQ attribute limits the number of spells and talents a character can learn, players have to keep adding to add IQ levels just to gain useful talents or have a higher spell capacity.

This obviously limits wizards and their ability to learn more spells, but it also limits heroes who want to learn additional combat or practical skills. And what about talents that are useful for roleplaying? TFT throws those into a Mundane talents, or “here are some other talents” category.

How do you incentivize players to give up the ability to have extra talents or spells–and a super-high IQ–in order to roleplay? How do you allow the extra talents or spells without fundamentally changing the TFT system?

What Can You Do?

A number of options have been written about on the Internet. One option is to just keep the system as it is. Clean, simple and easy. Everyone knows, no changed needed.

One other option is to simply reduce the cost for spells or talents. This would allow characters to have a lot more spells or talents, but at the cost of game balance. Forcing players to make tough choices during character creation is part of the fun of the game, though.

Another is to add an attribute, sometimes called “skill/spell points.” On creation, the character gets spells or talents just like in the In The Labyrinth rules. After that, experience points can go into IQ or talents.

One option, too, is to change the way talents and spells are done in TFT, and use a system like GURPS where players put points into attributes, but also into “skills” and spells. That moves away from the simplicity of TFT and to the dreaded complexity of GURPS.

Finally, some people have proposed a split IQ system where a character’s IQ is limited at creation, and used for IQ checks, but a secondary IQ level is used to limit spells and talents.

The challenge is how to keep things simple, but stay within the spirit of the original rules. It’s tough–and that is why there are so manu house rules with different solutions.

The Solution

What I have come up with is to have a combination of an IQ limit by race, but with levels above that determining spell or talent limits. In the Labyrinth does not have a limit for IQ, but one could be assigned for humans at around 20. After reaching 18, the character could then add spells or talents by increasing IQ normally–but any roll against IQ would still be limited at 20.

While this is not a perfect solution, it does solve two problems: One, it caps IQ at a reasonable level. Two, it allows players to gain spells and talents based on experience.

However, it does not solve the problem of a high IQ for a dumb character. The argument could be made that such characters would not be able to learn that many spells or talents in the first place. Regardless, that would take roleplaying to adequately portray such a character.

Another problem is that IQ limits would have to be defined for each player character race. The number 20 just comes from the top end of the Advanced Wizard spell list. You could apply that across the board for all sentient races–with some races being lower, such as giants.

Still, I think this solution is very simple to play by, sticks to the spirit of the original rules, and still allows characters to gain talents or spells as their experience allows. It allows them the ability to add talents for roleplaying, but maintains that cost. It also gives players the incentive to raise their character’s IQ, but keeps the it at a somewhat reasonable level.

What do you do think? What house rules do you have to solve this problem–or do you just let the IQ levels grow?

Marko ∞


  1. I doubt this response will actually get to you — none of my responses ever seem to, but I’ll throw something into the mix just on the off chance you DO see this.

    I use Dark City Games’ system (as it is in their solo adventures) of skills and spells. Basically, a character can spend XP to increase attributes or increase skills/spells. The number of Skills and Spells a character can have are thus uncoupled from IQ entirely (starting characters can have a total of four Skills and/or Spells, at least one of which should be a roleplaying skill or the AID spell). This reduces the incentive to build an enormous IQ, and at the same time permits skills and spells to be acquired through experience and training, just as they would in the “real” world. It also keeps the players on the horns of the “resource management” dilemma — do you opt for that extra point of ST, DX, or IQ? Or do you add a useful skill or a needful spell? Which will pay off more in the long run? What about the short-term?

    This actually keeps thing pretty simple, keeps us with just the three characteristics, and still forces the players to choose between options.

  2. That was one option that I seriously consider. I don’t want to turn TFT into GURPS, but that solution is really pretty attractive.

  3. I agree. GURPS jumped the shark long ago. The appeal of TFT to me was always the overall simplicity. You could figure everything out, build a character, and start an adventure in about 15 minutes! And you could pretty much remember everything you needed to know throughout the game without a lot of rule-book flipping. Any changes I make to TFT are always based on the KISS principle and designed to dovetail into the existing game system as much as possible.

    One of the things I really liked about Dark City Games’ stuff was that they very much simplified and regularized (if that’s actually a word) the talents. Now they pretty much all work the same, and the players can rapidly decide which skills they want and know thoroughly how to use them. That makes them almost “instinctive” in play, which is precisely the way they SHOULD be — after all, you spent months or years learning and/or mastering this skill — it SHOULD be instinctive to you!

    Frankly, I’m seriously considering ripping out the existing skill system in it’s entirety and replacing it with skills written to DCG standards.

  4. About the only thing GURPS seems good for is the world sourcebooks. They have a lot of info that I like for inspiration.

    Let me know what you do with the DCG talents system. I’m curious how that works.

  5. I don’t consider DarkCityGames products to be FTF or even a decedent, despite their claims to be child of TFT.

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