Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Look Back: Fantasy Paths

In 1981 Chaosium published a series of boxed sets of map tiles. This is the first of them called Fantasy Paths. The tiles were sturdy and printed on both sides. They are crude when compared to the slick dungeon tiles recently produced by WotC. Aesthetically the art wasn't great, but it had a charm to it much like the early 70's DnD art did with monochrome printing: brown, blue and black on an off-white cardboard. And each was numbered for convenient reference.


Fantasy Paths included 28 tiles:
6 small 2" by 4" tiles
4 rectangular 2" by 8" tiles
12 square 4" by 4" tiles
4 long 4" by 8" tiles and
2 large 8" by 8"tiles (rooms)
While the interesting features such as planks over a chasm or a stone circle in the center of the room make the tiles nice to look at, such specificity makes using these generically a bit harder. Furthermore the attempt to create the illusion of depth by including the walls looks nice, but eats up considerable usable space making these even less utilitarian. Yet these flaws also give them the same charm that many products of the 70's and early 80's had. They retain a hobbyist feel, rather than being a slick mass market product.

Unfortunately I missed out on these in my youth. Chaosium products were exceedingly rare where I lived (I only knew of Call of Cthulhu from ads in Dragon magazine). But I picked up the entire series on clearance at a convention once and have quite enjoyed them since.

They included a little 4 page adventure designed to use the tiles and numbered chits that could be used as a randomizer (psuedo dice) or as markers for the locations of characters and items. Also included was the introductory basic role-playing rules booklet, as it seems every Chaosium product of this era did. Making this box set a 'complete' RPG.

Afterthought. BRP (Basic Roleplaying) is considered one of the best RPG's written and is still well supported online, in particular basicroleplaying.com has a lot of excellent and free resources. Chaosium tried valiantly to create the ultimate generic rpg rules yet never quite had the success that GURPS had. I suspect one problem was the name: Basic Roleplaying. In middle and high school my friends and I wanted little to do with anything called "basic", which is partly why Advanced DnD was so appealing. Had it been given a catchier name and more widely appealing products, who knows how much more successful it could have been.

3 comments:

  1. Wow, talk about a walk down memory lane. I had this box set, and used the hell out of the tiles. Chaosium had a way of publishing games and games supplements that had their own unique feel, and this set them apart from the TSR stuff. I have tried breaking away from D&D (Labyrinth Lord, etc.) over the years, and start playing RuneQuest and/or Basic Roleplaying, but something keeps me from fully investing in those games. The sirens song of the game I started with seems to always be the sweetest I guess.

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  2. You may enjoy this old school adventure from "back in the day" which was a dungeon under the Black Tower. It used the Fantasy Paths. http://www.busygamemaster.com/Diary_Lich.html

    Greg
    :)

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