The Fantasy Trip is my favorite old school roleplaying game, and one of my top three favorite RPGs of all time.
It was the game I used to run the campaign that most shaped the Rainy City setting as found in the Visitor’s Guide. I associate TFT with sword and sorcery (probably because of the art in the original Advanced Melee, Advanced Wizard, and In the Labyrinth), but I had a suspicion that it would sing in an urban, 17th century-ish fantasy city.
First, here are some things that work really well out of the box, in large part because many of these setting elements were designed as explanations of something about how TFT itself works.
- Religion is a social fact (and thus, “Priest” is a talent), but for whatever reason, the gods do not directly grant magical spells and powers to their acolytes. Religion is still important to the common life of the city.
- Chemistry and Alchemy work as described in TFT. These talents are both closely controlled by the Harmonious Chantry of Alchemists. Unregulated or non-guild alchemists are dealt with in a most violent manner (usually with clubs) if caught operating without the oversight of the guild.
- Healing potions are made through alchemy, and are one of the reasons the guild has so much power in the city, having the monopoly on this very useful power.
- The city is plagued by oozes, slimes, and puddings, which are well represented in TFT. Puddings fill the niche that rats and other vermin might fill in other settings.
- Slime poison is one of the most profitable potions that can be produced in TFT by the book (when you compare cost of item ingredients and risk of disaster to sale price), so this is yet another major source of money and power for the guild, who provide slime poison to the Puddingmen’s Union (the guild of those who do work equivalent to that of “Rat Catcher” in other settings, but for puddings).
- There is a dueling grounds in Public Square in the Mids. Many disagreements are resolved on the Public Field, and schools of duelists compete to demonstrate the superiority of their martial arts systems. One-on-one TFT combats can be staged here.
- The Silver Mines are in the Tower Cliffs, the neighborhood controlled by wizards. Silver is not only the main currency of the city — it is also the metal that works most consonantly with magic.
- Much common street violence, both unorganized and organized, is carried out with clubs. Anyone can pick up a club, after all. From the belaying pins of the Port Association to the truncheons carried by Levee Town Constables, clubs are the most common tool of street violence.
- Common races of the city include gargoyles, mermaids, reptile men, mine goblins, and even achterfusses (say this one out loud…), all in no small part due to the influence of TFT.
- There are gunpowder weapons, but not very advanced ones.
- Carriages are pulled by giant newts (called “ewts”) rather than horses. These began as riding lizards from TFT.
- The Talent system from TFT works well with the prominence of guilds, clubs, and societies in the city — it’s a very simple thing to say that possessing certain talents marks one as a member or former member of a particular guild or club and that said talent can only be learned in play from that guild or club. This ties characters to the city itself in valuable ways. Chemist and Alchemis can only be learned from the Harmonious Chantry of Alchemists. Armourer and Master Armourer are only available from the smithing guild (“The Molten Men”). Various mundane talents are limited to certain guilds. Etc.
Some other Considerations
Fire and the Seasons
There are four seasons in the Rainy City, and each can be helpfully thought of as being elementally aspected, affecting both fire-based magics and ordinary fires (and thus, also, gunpowder).
- The Quiet: All fire based effects are minimized (e.g., they do minimum damage, have minimum size, etc.), and they produce a lot of smoke (hindering visibility and potentially even becoming choking in tightly enclosed quarters). Mundane fires also burn only weakly and with much smoke during this season.
- Firelight: Fire magic works normally, just as this is the only time of year when mundane fires burn normally.
- The Rainy Season: Neither mundane fires nor magical fires will light or burn at all.
- The Windy Season: All fire based effects are minimized (e.g., they do minimum damage, have minimum size, etc.), and they produce a lot of smoke (hindering visibility and potentially even becoming choking in tightly enclosed quarters). Mundane first also burn only weakly, and with much smoke.
This can change the tactical situation for wizards significantly. If you want the same tactical possibilities to be available, replace the fire hex spells with lightning hex spells.
Firearms are also affected by the seasons, working only during Firelight. Gunpowder weapons are largely under the control of the Wheelmen of Levee Town (who treat firearms as a badge of office, of sorts). The Harmonious Chantry of Alchemists produces the gunpowder, in part through an agreement with the Worm of the Sump in Wormswell.
Larvae may be the doomed souls of the evil dead. But they are also people.
Yet some wizards disagree… perhaps because it is so convenient to do so. The horrible truth is that a wizard can eat a larvae for magic power. It takes a little under an hour to eat an average full-sized larvae, which is about the size of a dwarf. It must be eaten alive, and it will stay alive the whole time, fighting and screaming and cursing your name. However, once each bite is chewed and swallowed, it is transfigured into magical energies, filling your spirit but not your belly. As you eat it, you consume its ST. It takes 5 minutes per point of ST you consume. This ST can be used to refill spent ST, or it can be used to temporarily overcharge your body with power. You can consume up to your ST in larvae ST in one sitting, potentially doubling your ST for a time, but it will fade away at a rate of one lost ST per hour.
People of the Rainy City
I posted about using TFT to represent the “People of the Rainy City” on this blog about… yikes, seven years ago now. Most of what’s there should still be applicable.
Much of the city is lighted by “Wisp Lamps,” lamps that contain a single mote of a Will o’ the Wisp. In TFT, these are easy to model if you start on the assumption that Will o’ the Wisps are small colonies or swarms of tiny spirits that can be separated from one another by skillful “Wisper Men,” to be put inside lamps. Will o’ the Wisps entrance people and draw them into the waters of the city to drown, creating more wisps in the process. In TFT, the saving roll to avoid being entranced is rolled on 1d6 per mote in the wisp. Most Will o’ the Wisps have three motes. If you separate them out into one mote each, most people will make their saves (and it isn’t worth rolling). But risky players could carry them around, breaking them so they recollect into a spirit of 2-4d entrancing power. Just make sure you don’t look at your own wisp! This leads to a lot of potential for shenanigans.
Other Bits of Joy
For extra fun, use S. John Ross’s magical calamity rules, which now live in GURPS Thaumatology (p. 76). These rules work well with TFT because you can make drawing ambient magic very tempting. And temptation is fun.
Works like this:
- Spells cast from the wizard’s ST work as normal.
- A wizard can instead draw magical energies from the environment.
- The standard threshold is 0.
There’s a part of the Tower Cliffs called “the Crumble.” Part of what happened to it involved a significant magical calamity playing out in our game.
While I’m at it, I should mention that two very fine works — GURPS Swashbucklers and GURPS Goblins — influenced the Rainy City in numerous ways. Indeed, GURPS Goblins is probably the sole reason that the Rainy City didn’t end up a medieval fantasy city and moved more in the direction of Georgian era influences and inspirations.