Monday, March 22, 2010


I managed to rope a couple of people into playing some Melee this last weekend. I don't think they were as enthusiastic as I was, but Gabe and Chris seemed to have fun. Thanks for going along with me guys. We didn't have any magic or wizards in the game to keep things simple. It was just straight forward arena combat. I used this chart to determine the foe:

1, Wolf
2, Giant Snake
3, Gargoyle
4, Orc
5, Goblin
6, Bear Ursaurus

There will always be as many foes as there are fighters (e.g., two fighters rolling a 4 would fight two orcs, etc.). If the fighters roll a foe they have already faced they must each fight one more than they did the last time.

(What's an "Ursaurus", you ask? Gabe didn't think bears were a worthy opponent, so I invented the "Ursaurus". It has the same stats as a bear, but it's scaly and reptilian. That went over better.)
The game went good, even though I had a few of the rules wrong. I was counting -1 for each Megahex distant on missile weapons instead of -1 for every two after the second. And once I had a giant snake make an attack even though it had moved its full MA that turn (luckily it missed). But overall things went well and everybody had fun.

Melee is a very well designed game, and every time I thought I'd found a loophole a quick skimming of the rules would show it was covered. That's not to say the rules don't have some idiosyncrasies. The most obvious is the one dealing with thrown weapons which has it that if you miss your intended target and an ally is on the other side and in the line of fire your chance of accidentally hitting them increases the farther away they are. Hence the need for the rule, "You may not "roll to miss" an enemy." There are a few other odd things like that, but all of them work in actual gameplay.

This is a very gritty and realistic game. In that sense it has more in common with RuneQuest than with T&T (although it might possibly have been inspired by the latter given that in 1976 Steve Jackson edited and produced Monsters! Monsters!). You won't have limbs hacked off and be left bleeding to death like you would in RQ2, but it is very lethal. So while in T&T a 7th level fighter could single-handedly hold off a hoard of lowly goblins, the equivalent TFT fighter would quickly be chopped to bits. And like RQ even a novice has a chance of landing a lethal blow on a master swordsman.

All in all it's a very clever and well made game, especially given it's brevity. It would definitely make a solid cornerstone to build an FRPG campaign around as long as the players liked the tactical focus of combat. Which of course is where In the Labyrinth comes in. While Dark City has released their version of TFT they've taken quite a few liberties with the rules. By contrast, Chris Goodwin's Wizard & Warrior (not to be confused with Ray Allen's d20 Wizards & Warriors) is a much more faithful version of TFT released under both a Creative Commons license and the inescapable OGL. The advantage of the latter is you could take all those free OGL adventures out there and port them over to TFT. So maybe it's time for a TFT campaign.

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