Saturday 17 October 2020

Adventures in Fantasy

Dave Arneson's other game 

Adventures In Fantasy was written by Dave Arneson and Richard Snider. How much of the game was designed by each person I don't know. Snider, a mathematician, was known for using formulas to calculate outcomes and abilities, so maybe the maths in the game can be put down to him? As for Arneson, he claims in the Forward (written in April '78) that he feels "that the basic spirit of the Role Playing Fantasy game has not been well looked after", by which of course, he means Dungeons and Dragons. So it can be assumed that he meant Adventures in Fantasy (AiF) would correct this situation. Remember also that Arneson had acrimoniously left TSR at this point in time and was in legal dispute with them over the ownership of D&D. 

The game (AiF) was published by Excalibre Games in 1979, although somewhere out there are 164 copies of a pre-publication version of the game released a year earlier (play test versions? Game in beta?). It came in a full colour cardboard box 30cm×22cm×3.5cm, with the Excalibre Games logo on the top but a copyright notice on the bottom saying 1st edition/1st printing, copyright Adventures Unlimited. I don't know how well it sold. Then, in 1981, Arneson (flush with TSR legal settlement money) and Snider, bought back the rights and republished AiF under the name of Adventure Games. Stickers with the new logo were hurriedly printed and stuck over the old Excalibre logo, and they were good to go.

The copy I have is graced with both Arneson's and Snider's autographs. A fact I thought made my copy uber special, until I discovered that this was something they did to practically all of the boxes they sold! Presumably they did this as they were sticking on their newly printed logos. So, not rare after all I thought. Then I found out that they actually had signed some of the boxes they got back from Excalibre but before their Adventure Games stickers had been made. So, rare again! Either way, I'm just pleased the have Dave's signature. 

Inside the box are three booklets (shades of OD&D here): The Book of Adventure (The Blue book), 57 pages, all printed in blue, explaining the basic mechanics, character creation, combat, gaining experience and, interestingly, reputation (you can have a higher rep than your experience level! Which might mean you get asked to perform feats you aren't yet capable of!).

Then there's the Pink book: The Book of Creatures and Treasure. 

This has some nice touches and unusual monsters. You get the feeling that in Arneson's games, the monsters are characters in their own right and not simply cannon fodder. There are 29 pages of monsters, nine of which are about dragons! There are some ready reference tables collating info about these monsters and then the remainder of the book as about treasure. This includes formulas for calculating the personal wealth of monsters, the value of everyday items not always considered as treasure such as plates and goblets, tapestries, saddles and artwork. The treasure is divided into five catagories: swords, armors, amulets, talisman and misc. And starting characters can begin games with magic items gained as part of an inheritance. I like some of the swords. There's a Resuscitate Dead Sword, which is really cool to own because not only can you bring back a dead mate once a day, if you are wielding it when you are killed- you come back to life! Handy. The amulets and talismen are interesting too. Arneson likens them to the way magical armour and magical swords work. Like armour, an amulet just works by being there, and like sword, a talisman does nothing until you actively use it. Another favourite is the Goblet of Greatness. In return for drinking from it once a day, the character's charisma is doubled, his Social level increases every month and his lands bring his twice the income they did before! Greatness indeed.

The final book (Green this time) is The Book of Faerry and Magic, 49 pages. Magic in AiF is points based and spells are limited by alignment. There are further categories of magic such as permanent magic and the Faerry magic of the title. The power of Magic is scaled so that most spells become more powerful when  cast by higher level magicians. Saving throws get harder to make if more spell points were used in the casting of the spell. All good stuff and could work well I think. The Faerry magic is only used by people of the Faerry. These are creatures of otherworldly looks and powers, not all benign: Elves, Trolls, Troll Lords, Dwarves, Goblins and Faerries. There are also Elementals which include Gnomes.

The whole package is rounded off by three, double sided reference sheets printed on stiffly waxed card and a couple of "d20s". These are however, the old wargamers' sort: 20 sided but marked 0-9 twice. With one set of numbers coloured in with a wax crayon, you can produce 0-9, 1-10, 1-20 and 1-100(%).

I have yet to play this game but I would really like to. It's indeed a lot more coherent than OD&D, but... that's working from a fairly low base! If Dave and Richard wanted to write an rpg that novices could pick up and play more easily than Dave's other game, I'm afraid they failed.

Finally, part of a review from Clayton Miner who reviewed Adventures in Fantasy for Pegasus magazine #1 (1981). He completed his review by saying: "Admittedly, this game does have its fascinations, especially to those who are interested in running a game with the flavor of medieval tales, rather than as Middle Earth. This is a game that should be avoided by those people who derive enjoyment from running a wide variety of character classes, as the only ones available are Warrior and Magic User. It is unfortunate that what could have been a superior project has turned out to be a disappointment in terms of playability and quality."


  1. Great rundown of a fascinating product!

  2. I keep running hot and cold about it. There are some really nice ideas but it’s just too much like hard work to get my head around it properly! One of these days.

  3. I picked up my copy at the 1980 Worldcon, Noreascon II in Boston MA from a booth run I think by Excalibre Games. In addition to Snider's and Arneson's signatures, it has the cover artist's signature.

    I've read through it a few times, but I've never tried to run it. I may have tried generating a character. I think I just never found it interesting enough against the other games I was running, I don't even remember finding anything to lift from it.