The Fantasy Trip Returns Home

By now most of you have heard the news that Steve Jackson has regained the rights to The Fantasy Trip. This announcement on December 26th took the TFT community by storm, with an overwhelmingly positive reaction. This is truly great news for lovers of the game, but some things are uncertain moving forward.

So what happened? About a month ago, I got a note from a reader that the copyright status on the eight TFT games that Steve Jackson authored for Metagaming showed that they had been reclaimed by the author. This led to a bit of discussion on Google+ about what that meant, what Steve Jackson’s plans were and where the community goes from here.

On Tuesday, Steve Jackson announced on the SJG website that The Fantasy Trip returns home–that he had reclaimed the rights to Melee, Wizard, In The Labyrinth, Advanced Melee, Advanced Wizard, Death Test, Death Test II and Tolenkar’s Lair. A thread on the SJG forums was opened up, where people could ask questions, give their thoughts about the game and SJG could push some info out as well.

The basic answer to most questions about the future is “don’t know yet.” Steve Jackson does plan to do a Kickstarter in 2018 for Melee. I would assume if that is successful, Kickstarters for the other products would follow.

I honestly think all of this is wonderful. As I said on the forum thread, I never thought that the person who should own the games would ever get them back. I also thought the game we all know and love so much would never be published again, and we would just be another small niche gaming community. This changes all of that, and I am ecstatic.

(I was inches away from posting the question on the G+ community about how we could grow our TFT community. Any discussion we would have had there is now overcome by events…)

It does beg the question about the retro-clones that are out there. These include Dark City Games, Heroes & Other Worlds, HEX and Galaxy System Games. On the SJG forums, Steve Jackson did say that in his view of a perfect world, there would be no retro-clones on the market in the 2019-2020 timeframe.

I have no idea what that means. In the vacuum that TFT fans have had since the mid-80s, these games plus fan sites have sprung up to fill the void and keep the TFT flame alive. We really had no way to introduce new players to the game unless we created clones or distributed PDF copies of the rules. I understand that things have changed now, but I also feel for the folks that have put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into these games and sites.

One thing that Steve did say in the forums was that he did not get the rights to the artwork in TFT. Any future reprints would have to have new artwork.

And finally, I selfishly wonder what it means for myself and this website. I don’t think SJG lawyers are going to tell me to take down the artwork from the original games, but David O. Miller said on the Brainiac mail list that Steve did not want people linking to the rule PDFs. I don’t–but I link to people who do. Will those be taken down? What about my downloads that have the spell lists, weapons lists, etc? What about the Talent page and Grimoire, that include canon text from the original games–plus additions I have made? What will I or other fans like me be able to legally post on our sites?

Ultimately, this will all shake out, though. While I am a little nervous about what this change will bring, I truly am happy that Steve has the game rights again, and that our community of fans may be seeing the game published again–and heaven forbid, more players!

Marko ∞


  1. Those are all really good questions, and you should probably write to Steve and see what thoughts he has on the subject. But given that literally hundreds of other blogs talk about games that are currently in print and copyrighted, I cannot see why you would be shut down by Steve filing a “cease and desist” order; in fact, he’s a pretty savvy guy, and might see a real use for having your blog as another way to disseminate information about both TFT AND GURPS in the future. Your approach to TFT (and GURPS, for that matter) has always been pretty darn respectful, and were I the owner of a game company producing products that you write about, I personally would be happy to have someone outside “the company” talking as favorably as you do about my products!

    I can’t see where converting monsters or spells from other games to TFT rules would be a problem. Nor can I see anything like a home-brewed adventure, a campaign background, or discussions about possible “house rules” being an issue. Even your version of Death Test might be okay, given that you randomize the dungeon; though you might have to take it down until Steve can publish the “new version” of Death Test first… Basically, I just think of all the discussions on other blogs about other game systems — whatever works on them should still work here. NPC lists, evil villains, new monsters or spells, new talents/skills, etc, could all be an acceptable thing. And discussions among the fans, pretty much what you do now, all that sort of thing would be cool.

    The fantastic news is that your work-load should drop — you can just post ADDITIONS or suggested tweaks to the system, instead of having to re-post the entire system, which was kind of the monkey on your back before. I can also see new artwork being a possible area of yours in the future — fan art, maybe?

    The Bottom Line: You might have to pull some things that are already in the rules, but a lot of what you’ve done here over the past couple of years should be just fine, because a lot of it simply adds to the system, instead of replicating it! You still have a voice here, and I still want to hear what you think, what your ideas are, and how you approach things.

  2. It’s funny isn’t it? Here we are talking about proposing new ideas, etc., about a system that we love and dearly wish were back on the market, and now, when all our dreams come true — we’re even more confused and conflicted that before! At the end of the day, I think that you and I both, Marko, (plus all your other readers) are just really happy and excited that our fondest wishes have actually come true. But the devil is in the details, as they say, and now you have to figure out those details. Steve is probably starting to feel somewhat the same; he probably never gave a second thought to all the various web-sites, bloggers, retro-clones (whether sold for money or not), or anything else out there, and now suddenly he’s got people — like me, unfortunately, in the SJG Forums (I’m JLV, there) — asking for answers on questions that he’s probably not only never thought about, but also probably can’t answer until he has a nice long sit-down with his legal people. And on top of everything else, it’s the Holiday season, which means that nice, long, sit-down probably won’t happen for a few weeks yet! Yep, it’s a pickle all right. I don’t envy any of you trying to figure this out, and just wish there was some way I could help…

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