Saturday, March 28, 2015

How The Fantasy Trip Could Have Been Published, and Saved a Great Deal of Trouble...

While doing research the history of The Fantasy Trip I was struck by the creative differences that arose in the conception and realization of TFT. Coupled with some reviews I read of the game, it became obvious that a major problem was not so much with the material itself (though issues existed there), but perhaps more with how it was organized and published.

As is known, TFT was published in four booklets: three rules manuals (Advanced Melee, Advanced Wizard, and In the Labyrinth) and one adventure supplement (Tollenkar’s Lair). Interestingly, this is not what had originally been intended. According to Steve Jackson in The Space Gamer No. 29:
“Plans called for it to be in boxed format, selling for $20. And for that $20, the buyer would get a LOT. The box itself (with a beautiful painting by Roger Stine); 140 pages of rules; hundreds of die-cut counters; four full-color labyrinth maps; light cardboard melee megahexes; master sheets for character records and mapping; a GM's shield with charts and tables; and even three dice.”
The above is also corroborated, albeit in less detail, in earlier issues of TSG. The Metagaming 1980 Spring Catalog in Space Gamer No. 26 provided a somewhat more detailed description of the soon to be released role playing system:
“IN THE LABYRINTH contains a 144 page rules booklet, four full color labyrinth map sheets, 480 die cut counters plus monster counter sheet, tunnel megahexes, Game Master’s reference shield, map blanks, map note sheets, character record sheets and three dice”
However, the title page in this same issue made the following correction to the catalog description noted above:
“The catalog in this issue carries a description of TFT: ITL as a boxed, $19.95 fantasy role-playing game system. (THIS PRODUCT WILL NOT BE INTRODUCED IN THIS FORM AT THIS TIME.) We decided that boxed ITL was the wrong package at the wrong price at the wrong time. 
TFT: ITL is better than Dungeons & Dragons or any competing system. However, at $19.95, our great fear was that too few would try it. You have to play TFT to realize its superiority. For this reason, we’ve reformatted the initial Game Master’s package as a $4.95 rules booklet. 
The rules you get for $4.95 will be the same rules that were going into the $19.95 package. What has been deleted are the counters, box, and other play-aids. The other material will come out in a supplementary package later. 
TFT: ITL will be the Game Master’s module with the hero talents section. You will need the TFT: MELEE rules for combat and TFT: WIZARD rules for magic. 
TFT: ADVANCED COMBAT and TFT: ADVANCED MAGIC modules will also be introduced in booklet form. If you want the enhanced combat and magic system fully compatible with MELEE and WIZARD, the Advanced modules will fit the bill. Each module is three to four times as long as the basic MELEE and WIZARD rules.”
The decision to go with the booklets rather than the boxed set was Howard Thompson’s, and did make a certain amount of sense from a marketing standpoint, particularly since In the Labyrinth was playable with just the basic Melee and Wizard rules. Also, when compared to the competitors of the time (Runequest, D&D, Tunnels & Trolls, Swords & Sorcery, Chivalry and Sorcery), one can also see some motivation to try and reduce costs. A closely related factor was the sheer amount of time it took to get TFT on the market – had TFT come out sooner, they would have had much less competition, and thus might have had an easier time going with the “Cadillac” version.

Interesting the comment about the “counters, box, and other play-aids” being released in a supplementary package later; in the event, only the GM’s Shield was produced.

It is worth noting that the original 1st edition boxed set release of GURPS was actually modeled after what the TFT release was supposed to have been, according to Steve Jackson in Space Gamer No. 71, p. 40:
“As far as format goes, we’re planning an original set like you wanted for TFT and never got: a large-sized box with several booklets and other components. (Don’t hold me to this, but we may even be able to include dice.) Later supplements will be 8 ½” x 11” books, with size depending on price.”
And, indeed, the first release of GURPS was in a boxed set, as shown here:

Going back to the TFT rules themselves, it is to be noted that Howard was not happy with the new game. Quite apart from the extra time spent, he was not happy with the rules as written. In a letter addressed to Andy Windes dated 31 Mar 1980, he has this to say about the newly released TFT:
“TFT is too complicated as completed by Steve Jackson. He completed the project as he wished, not as I’d hoped or even laid down constraints.”... “I think the system is better than D&D, but not by a huge margin. All the material in Advanced Melee and Advanced Wizard didn’t need to be added at all. More spells and weapons fine, more detail of combat, no. 
My feeling is that in the extra two years of work TFT got longer instead of better. I’m having work started [on] a new FRP system that can be introduced in 3-4 years and is closer to what I think the market wants and what I’ll feel comfortable in publishing.”
Dragons of Underearth (one of Metagaming’s last releases) was possibly an introductory rules set to this “new FRP system” that Howard mentions. It has been described as a sort of “Son of TFT” and was designed by Keith Gross. It is likely more closely representative of Howard’s “vision” as to what he wanted; unfortunately, DOU is very terse and Spartan,[i] to the point that it is really lackluster and boring, and would require some work to make any sort of enjoyable role playing campaign with it.[ii]

That said, however, Howard Thompson did have a valid point. TFT had considerable tangential and other background material, along with duplicative or overly verbose rules in places, which could easily have been combined or edited to make for a significantly more streamlined game. Certainly not to the extent of Dragons of Underearth in its mere 30 or so pages, but there was definitely opportunity to contain the rules bloat in TFT. For example, I don’t need a half page to explain death in Advanced Melee, nor do we need two separate hit location systems. Dragons of Underearth had some quite reasonable proposals to help streamline the TFT system.

Further, materials were not organized very well. A good example is the Cidri material, which actually sort of cluttered the ITL book and added relatively little to it. It should be noted also that this more streamlined approach might have been completed more quickly, thus averting Howard Thompson’s wrath and perhaps preventing the split between him and Steve Jackson in the first place.

Furthermore, the last minute switch in publishing approaches seems to have contributed to the rudimentary or non-existent table of contents, lack of indices, general poor organization, and some errors and omissions in the rules.

Admittedly, it is conceivable that some of the organizational problems may have been Steve Jackson’s fault, but it was more likely a result of the last minute dismemberment of the original 140 page rules booklet (which was probably better organized and integrated, but only a look at the final drafts of TFT – which are likely no longer extant – would bear that out). But could this whole process have been done better?

There are two approaches I would propose: the first being in the realm of the possible, and the second quite impossible, but fascinating as a thought exercise, and perhaps pointing the way to how a TFT 2nd Edition could have been released, had that project ever been brought to fruition. With regards to the first approach, the following cites from the Errata article by Steve Jackson, published in TSG No. 29 are useful:

“May 1978: TSG said TFT:ITL might be out by Origins. I, personally, was merely shooting for a finished rules draft before I left for the World SF Convention in Phoenix - that being Labor Day. I didn't make it.
September 1978: TSG announced that "work is progressing." It really was, but SLOWLY. I was over the block, but now I had another problem. I was dealing with a truly massive pile of material, and I wanted to make it ALL fit together. It had to be "just right." I have a tendency toward monomaniacal perfectionism, and the tendency was STRONG right then.
Early 1979: I delivered the last rules draft (we thought) to Metagaming. It was better than 300 typewritten pages. TSG announced that publication would be in one of two forms: a "stripped" $20 game or a "cadillac" $30 game. Most of the feedback on that was emphatically in favor of the $20 version. 
Mid-1979: Correspondence with Draper Kauffman, a gamer in St. Louis, turned up some problems with the economics in TFT. That's my weak point; it seems to be one of the Draper's strong ones. He pointed out some problems and loopholes in the sections on jobs and magic items. He also told me how I could fix them . . . and I did, gratefully. (Thanks again, Draper!)”

A big problem was really Steve Jackson himself – his unfortunate writer’s block and “monomaniacal perfectionism” I think were key problems with the whole TFT:ITL project. Had these alone not happened, I think that there would be no Steve Jackson Games, Metagaming would still be in business (and would have ended up publishing the SJG games for the most part anyway), Steve and Howard would be friends, and a great deal of history would be different. Even failing that, however, there is one other way the unfortunate split could have (possibly) been averted: releasing the material in smaller supplements, rather than as one grand, complete system.

While there are plenty of good reasons to release an integrated, complete game system all at once it is not as if there wasn’t any precedence for releasing products in increments. Original D&D featured a total of five supplements (Greyhawk, Blackmoor, Eldrich Wizardry, Gods, Demi-Gods, and Heroes, and Swords & Spells) that came out over a period of a few years, and the Advanced D&D rules came out in three books, the Monster Manual in late 1977, the Player’s Handbook in 1978, and the Dungeon Master’s Guide in May of 1979. Why couldn’t the same have been done with TFT?

Though perhaps not ideal, by releasing the game in smaller “bites” it would have alleviated some of the pressure on Steve, while getting marketable products out much sooner and building up interest in the final game. Given that a solid draft of the full product was available by early 1979, I could see extracting at least some of the materials into a short series of supplements that could have been published right away, in two “waves”. In particular, I would suggest the following breakout for the first wave:

1) Advanced Melee combat supplement, which would be similar to what was published, with one crucial addition, namely all of the combat related talents would be included, at a minimum, along with an expansion to the figure creation to include IQ. So the basic concept and rules for talents, along with the various weapon proficiencies, two weapons, fencing, running, tactics, unarmed combat, etc., would all be here. In addition, non-combat talents could be mentioned by title and IQ level as placeholders to drum up interest in the final game product.

2) Bestiary or TFT “Monster Manual”, in the form of a Micro, to include a bunch of countersheets in addition to the monster stats and descriptions. Note that this would have addressed a major shortcoming of the released TFT, which was the lack of counters, especially for monsters.

Once these were out, presumably by mid-1979, then the focus would be on the magic and role playing rules (especially the economic aspects that Draper Kauffman helped out with, along with any other revisions that were necessary). The goal would be to release three more supplements in a second wave, in the following order:

3) Advanced Wizard supplement, which would be similar in concept to the Advanced Melee I outlined above, and would include any talents that pertain to wizards, such as literacy, alchemy, etc. Obviously a much smaller list, though.

4) In the Labyrinth supplement, which would contain all of the role playing and game master material, including the remaining talents, along with the promised full color labyrinth maps, with one important exception: anything pertaining to Cidri, which would be a the subject for the next (and last) core supplement for TFT…

5) The World of Cidri, with a much fuller description then was provided historically, and including various area maps, rules for overland travel, etc. Specifically, in addition to the Elyntia map and Bendywn, I could see having expanded details for Elyntia (significant figures, creatures, encounter tables, etc), a larger scale area map that shows Elyntia in relation to the larger region, and perhaps having all maps done in full color.

At the least Advanced Wizard should have followed as soon as possible, preferably within a couple months of the Advanced Melee and Bestiary products, and ITL a couple months after that, certainly by the end of the year. Finally, more time could then have been devoted to just Cidri, producing a much expanded and more useful product (perhaps by mid-1980, a few months after the March 1980 release of TFT historically).

I truly believe that this approach might well have yielded much better results overall than what happened historically. Indeed, had this approach been pursued from the very beginning, perhaps Steve could have avoided writer’s block since he would have been taking much smaller “bites”, thus speeding up the timeline by perhaps a few months, or even more. It is worth noting that additional weapons, along with the Cidri Octopus, were published in TSG No. 13 (Sep-Oct 1977) by Steve Jackson, and some notes on using Hymenopteria in Melee/Wizard came out in the following issue, so at least some “Advanced” material was available early on. It really depends on the order in which Steve ended up writing the material, and when he came up with the talent rules, but I could certainly see both the Advanced Melee and Bestiary supplements coming out sometime in early- to mid-1978, which would have sped things up dramatically, even if the other supplements dragged. It is even possible that Advanced Wizard could have been released sooner, I expect, if the magic item creation rules had been stripped out and made a part of the ITL rulebook. Granted that the follow up ITL and especially the World of Cidri might have been a much longer slog, but having the key combat and magic elements essentially locked in would have been a much better situation then what prevailed historically.

File the above under “Forever Lost Opportunities…”

In a later blog post I will discuss the “Ideal” approach to release, which would have been wonderful had it been done from the get-go (though requiring Nostradamus-like prognostication on the part of Steve Jackson), and might still have been a useful strategy for the planned 2nd edition of TFT.

[i] I’m not the only one to think this. C. R. Brandon in his Sword and Shield Blog has stated something similar.
[ii] In fairness, that was not the goal of DOU, which was actually an offshoot of the never-released Conquerors of Underearth and intended to be very streamlined to facilitate faster mass combat game play.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

TFT Related: What to do about Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Wizard...?

One of the consequences of TFT’s streamlined design was the combination of related yet separate attributes into a single “Super” attribute. For example, IQ is a combination of raw reasoning capability, memory, experience, perception, etc. while DX is a combination of manual dexterity and agility. One could easily separate these into several more attributes, as was done in D&D and most other systems. But by far the most thorny problem is that of ST, which is combining raw musculature, hit points, constitution, and endurance all in one package. While physique and hit points actually do make sense together, endurance does not - one can be very strong and yet lack endurance, and vice versa, even though both are tied to overall physical “wellness”. Now, much as I love streamlining and elegance, some purely comical situations arise under the TFT system. This is brought home most forcefully in the following description of the High Priest Faron-eld from Warrior Lords of Darok, in which it is stated that he is “Frail of frame,...” Yet, he has a Strength of 18 (!!!). To put this in the perspective of the TFT rules as written:
  • He can wield a Great Sword (the most powerful melee weapon available, doing 3d+1 damage), and yet is “frail of frame
  • He can punch you in the face for 1d+1 (equivalent to a warhammer), and yet is “frail of frame
  • He can lift 324 kg (that’s over a third of a ton...), and yet is “frail of frame
  • He can wander around in cloth and leather armor without penalty, and yet is “frail of frame
  • Per ITL, he can also pick up “...items of furniture, BIG rocks, etc., and throw them for (1+1) damage”, ... and yet is still considered “frail of frame

Geez! I wish I could have such a “frail frame”... I could arm wrestle Conan of Cimmeria and actually rip his relatively “puny” little arm off and beat him to death with it, if I so chose! I would sure hate to see what the module writers would have considered to be a robust frame...
Of course, the real problem here is that ST is used for both fatigue and physique, and since a wizard’s spells can exact a high price in terms of exhaustion “damage” (especially for the more potent spells), they are forced to bulk up like Hercules just to be viable spellcasters.
Naturally, I am hardly the first to notice this, and many house-rule solutions have been proffered to remedy this situation. They generally involve either creating a separate “Constitution” or “Endurance” type attribute,[1] or splitting ST in some manner so as to have a separate “Fatigue ST” (fST). These solutions will certainly work, but their general drawback is that they take away from the elegance of the basic TFT system.
There are three other approaches that have not really been proposed before, though. The first two involve the creation of new talents that allow for either additional fST points, reduction of fatigue damage or more efficient spell casting capability in terms of fatigue cost, while the last allows for using more than one IQ point to learn a given spell, which would give various benefits to include in some cases lower fatigue costs.
A straight-forward talent to add would be an “Endurance” talent, similar in concept to the existing “Running” talent, that could enhance one’s ability to take fatigue damage through yoga and other exercise. The in-game effect would in its simplest form be to arbitrarily add a few fST points to your total ST. Any loss of fST due to spells or other exertion would be taken from this, first. An alternative approach would either reduce the cost of the fST loss or spread it out over time better (or both). For example, a spell that cost 3 to cast and 1 to maintain might cost only 2 to cast and 1 every other turn to maintain. There would be at least two levels for this talent, maybe three. Adopting this approach would make the most sense if other fST costs and penalties were assessed for other strenuous activity, such as fighting for several turns, running in armor or running in general for long distances, etc.
Another approach would be talents geared specifically towards wizards. A truly skilled wizard may well be able to manipulate magical energies in such a manner as to gain the same “bang” for less fST “buck.” Using this approach you might have some sort of “Magery” or “Sorcery” talents that reduce the cost of casting and maintaining a spell (as explained above) and perhaps provide some other benefits as well.
The final method is simply to allow for “double” and “triple” memorization of spells, in other words, to practice them more intensely to allow the wizard to cast them more efficiently and/or effectively. Depending on the type of spell (T, M, C, or S) this allows for lower fST to cast, or perhaps greater effectiveness (or both). In many cases the wizard will expend less fST to cast the spell.
I have not settled on a final method, as each approach has advantages and disadvantages. I do kind of favor the multiple memorization of a given spell, which sort of treats each higher “level” of the spell as an advanced talent, sort of like UC1, UC2, UC3, etc., though I also like some of the ideas behind using talents, as well.
Bottom line, though, is that with these changes to the TFT rules you can make Lou Ferigno wizards a thing of the past!

[1] See especially Michael Friend’s articles in Vindicator Nos. 4 and 5.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Martian Metals “Microtures”

This blog post has been a long time coming. The intention is to gather into one place as much information as possible on miniatures produced by Martian Metals specifically for certain Metagaming products. I hope this information is of use to collectors and enthusiasts everywhere!

IMPORTANT NOTE! IF ANYONE HAS ADDITIONAL INFORMATION, PICTURES, ETC. PLEASE SHARE! I will update and edit this post as appropriate to reflect any new information that is passed along, making this a living repository for this information.

Metagaming licensed Martian Metals, headed by Forrest Brown, to create dedicated miniatures for three of their products, called “Microtures.” O.G.R.E., The Fantasy Trip, and Rivets each had their line of Microtures. These seem to have been produced from late 1978 until January 30th, 1983 when the Martian Metals factory burned down due to an electrical short.

Forrest Brown, seen at Hobby Industry of America 1981 trade show

The factory was located in Cedar, TX, close to Metagaming’s headquarters in Austin. The fire that shut down their business really only destroyed the molds; the master models were not harmed. However, despite being fully insured, it appears that it was enough of a setback that they went out of business anyway.
The advertisement shown below features Microtures for OGRE in 1/300 scale and THE FANTASY TRIP in 15mm. Each package of the TFT Microtures contained an assortment of metal fantasy figures, usually about a dozen or more man-sized figures, and a smaller number of larger figures, and featured optional hex bases that were compatible with the facing and movement requirements of Melee/Wizard/ITL.
The first seven packages were to be available in December of 1978, per Space Gamer No. 20 (Nov-Dec 1978). An announcement in the “Where We’re Going” column stated “The first packages of Metagaming’s Microtures (trademark applied for) will be available by the time you read this.” and “The best we’ll manage is some miniatures produced under license in December, 1978...” (this last statement was in reference to new products intended for early 1978 release). Also, the advertisement for the Microtures on the following page made clear which ones were available. Here is a full list of all known TFT-related Microtures, compiled from several advertisements:

TFT 01        Heroes and Heroines $2.95 (2 ea. Man w/two hand axe, Man w/two hand sword, Man w/bow, Man w/sword, Woman w/sword, Woman w/bow, Woman w/dagger)
TFT 02        Wizards $2.95 (2 ea. Clerics, Clerics w/staff, Sorcerer, Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Sorcerer w/pedestal, Wizard, Wizard w/staff)
TFT 03        Dwarves $2.95 (2 ea. Dwarf w/bow, w/spear*, w/axe, w/sword, leather, Dwarf w/chainmail spear*, w/hammer, w/crossbow, w/two hand axe)
TFT 04        Elves $2.95 (2 ea. Elf w/sword, Kneeling w/bow, Standing w/bow, Chainmail w/sword, w/bow, w/spear standing; 1 ea. Elf chainmail w/spear kneeling, Leather w/spear)
TFT 05        Labyrinth Dwellers $2.95 (2 ea. wolves, bear, gargoyles; 1 ea. giant, ogre)
TFT 06        Orcs $2.95 (4 ea. Orcs w/bow, w/sword, w/crossbow, w/poleaxe)
TFT 07        Hobgoblins $2.95 (2 ea. Hobgoblin w/sword, w/scimitar, Standing w/bow, Kneeling w/bow, w/axe, w/hammer; 1 ea. Hobgoblin w/polearm, w/poleaxe)
TFT 08        Dragon (One-Hex) $2.95 (1 ea. Dragon, Treasure chest, Gold pile)
TFT 09        Orcs No. 2 (2 ea. Great Orc w/sword, w/cree [sic], w/axe, w/swordaxe, Standing w/bow, kneeling w/bow; 1 ea. Great Orc w/poleaxe, Commander)
TFT 10        Hobgoblins No. 2 (6 bows, 6 axes)
TFT 11        Labyrinth Dwellers No. 2 $2.95 (2 ea. spiders, scorpions; 1 ea. slimes, molds)
TFT 12        Seven-hex Dragon $7.95 (1 ea. Dragon)
TFT 13        Halflings $2.95 (3 ea. Halfling w/dagger, w/sword & shield, w/sword, Standing w/bow, kneeling w/bow, w/axe)
TFT 14        Trolls $2.95 (2 ea. Trolls w/club, w/hammer, w/two hand axe, w/two hand sword)
TFT 15        Goblins $2.95 (3 ea. Goblin w/sword, w/axe, w/bow, w/spear; 1 ea. Wolf Rider w/axe, w/bow)
TFT 16        Dragon (Four hex) $4.95 (1 ea. Dragon w/treasure chest, Gold pile)
TFT 17        Giants

Most of the descriptions come from the ad run in Space Gamer No. 25, and are probably reasonably correct. It is to be noted that there are some differences between titles and contents descriptions from earlier to later ads.

As can be seen, dragons are covered pretty well, though nothing past 7 hex. Giants, trolls, orcs, gobins, hobgoblins, and most “adventuring” types covered. However, there are some glaring omissions. Octopi are not in any of these sets, nor does one find centaurs, reptile men, horses, elementals, demons, and so forth. Perhaps there were plans for such that were never realized.

As for the TFT Microtures themselves, they are reasonably good, but not up to the contemporary standards set by, say, Ral Partha. Some of the poses do seem to based on artwork from TFT counters; for example, the giants in the TFT 17 package, seen here:

...look an awful lot like this giant:

One must, however, question the decision to go with 15mm scale, as opposed to 25mm, given that the hexes on the standard Melee, Wizard, and other maps and megahexes are ⅞” across, and yet represent a scale distance of “1-1/3 meters” across, making the minis grossly undersized. Indeed, if they were truly at the proper scale, 30mm minis would have been required! Presumably the scale was decided by the fact that 15mm minis are cheaper than 25mm, which is in keeping with the general Metagaming philosophy of inexpensive but fun products. This might have worked had they scaled down the hexes, to say ½” across (which, interestingly, was the usual size of most Microgame maps), but as released the TFT Microtures simply do not “fit” the hex grid that well.
Also, 25mm allows much more scope for detail than 15mm. Not to say that 15mm minis lack detail, but you can simply do a lot more with 25mm. Ral Partha, again, provides a good case in point.
While they are not bad miniatures, they are not great, either. As can be seen in the various attached photos the level of detail isn’t spectacular. Better than most of the contemporary Grenadier offerings, but not quite as good as Ral Partha, though some of the Martian Metal offerings in 25mm, such as the ‘Dragonslayers’ line, are actually pretty good. In any case, the standard cardboard counters are probably a better choice for regular game play, particularly when figures engage in HTH combat and so forth. Still, one cannot help but wonder what an appropriately scaled miniatures set, with an attention to detail comparable to Ral Partha, and based on artwork in various TFT related games, Microquests, etc., would have looked like...
Worthy of note is the fact that the 31 oz. silver dragon that was the subject of the Treasure of the Silver Dragon Microquest was cast by Martian Metals. It is not clear if this was a unique model, or if an existing mould for either the 7-hex dragon, or perhaps some other dragon figure was used. I've never seen a 7 hex dragon Microture, though I am pretty sure that is what would have been used. Two silver dragons were made, one of which was kept by Metagaming (i.e. Howard Thompson) and the other buried near the Sunspot, New Mexico solar observatory (and presumably still in the hands of its finder, Tom Davidson). It is likely that the Gold Unicorn was also sculpted and cast by Martian Metals, but this is only speculation. The fate of the latter is unknown; however, it is likely that Howard Thompson recovered it and, I suspect but cannot prove, probably sold or melted it for its gold content.
I know of only one photograph of the actual Silver Dragon, which I have reproduced below. It is taken from a news blurb in White Dwarf magazine (issue No. 23) mentioning the contest and the early finding of the treasure. And, no, apart from what is stated in the caption I know nothing of the two hotties in the picture...

As to the golden unicorn, there are a couple of Martian Metals figures that might have been used as a model for the actual figure:

Obviously, we will never know what the original looked like, which is too bad.
Also, sources (See Gypsy Comet's post referenced below on the TFT forums, and corroborated by a certain Leland R. Erickson) stated that Martian Metals was working on a set of Microtures for the Hymenoptera of Chitin:I. Mr. Erickson specifically stated that he saw pre-production figures for the Chitin I Microtures at Pacificon '82. These may well also have been useful for TFT, as those creatures are detailed in the Flora and Fauna of Cidri section of In the Labyrinth. However, the destruction of the Martian Metals factory put an end to this line of Microtures before it could be released (though, in any case, the cessation of operations at Metagaming would have put the kabosh on this project as well, even without the fire).
The TFT Microtures are rare;[1] they do not seem to come up very much at all on eBay and for those that do certain collectors are willing to pay beyond top dollar to obtain them.[2] Indeed, they seem fairly rare, and may not have been produced in very great quantity, though I do not have any production numbers to back that up.
Below are several pix, from various sources, showing photos of TFT Microtures in their packages:

Some close up pix of the unopened TFT Microture sets in my collection, specifically the Underearth Dwellers and Wizards:

Note that these next pictures may or may not be a 4-Hex TFT Microture dragon, since it appears identical to a similar 15mm scale dragon in the Dragon Slayers line:

Shown here is what I believe to be a One Hex Dragon: 

Here are several shots of loose TFT Microtures from various packages. Several of the pictures are courtesy of Robert Saint John on The Fantasy Trip Google+ community:

As noted above, Microtures were created for both O.G.R.E. and Rivets, the two “robot tank” games in the Metagaming product line. For the O.G.R.E. Microgame, the following Microtures were created:

OGR1         O.G.R.E. Mk V
OGR2         G.E.V.
OGR3         Heavy Tank
OGR4         Missile Tank

These miniatures were produced from 1979-1981 and were sculpted by Forrest Brown and Randy Hoffa. Production seems to have ceased sometime after Steve Jackson left Metagaming, taking O.G.R.E. with him. It is likely that the license was retained, but that Jackson later rescinded it and gave the contract to Ral Partha (I think - lemme know if I got that wrong). Below is a picture of an O.G.R.E. mini (a MkV, if I'm not mistaken):

For Rivets, the following line of “BOPPERS” (i.e. Battlefield Oriented Pre-Programmed Eradicator Robots) were marketed, also in 1/300 scale:

MM-8001   Rocket BOPPERS (4)

MM-8002   Jack BOPPERS (4)

MM-8003   Dive BOPPERS (2)

MM-8004   Tiny BOPPERS (4)

MM-8005   Big BOPPERS (4)

MM-8006   Light BOPPERS (12)

Below are pictures of assembled and painted miniatures along with an unopened package:

Martian Metals also produced miniatures for Traveller and Runequest (sculpted by Paul Jaquays, who also did some artwork for Metagaming and TSR) along with several lines of generic 15mm and 25mm fantasy minis for use with any system. Note that Martian Metals lost the Runequest miniatures license due to slow debut of their releases, and soon after the license for Traveller was lost, as well. Interestingly, Grenadier bought the Traveller line from Martian Metals, and received them not too long before the fire. It would seem that the fire only put the coup de gras on an already dying company. As a matter of purest speculation, it is to be wondered if the sudden destruction of Metagaming’s sole producer of miniatures contributed in some fashion to Thompson’s abrupt decision to go out of business, or at least the timing of it. The sequence of events does make one wonder, though I tend to think that the failure of Starleader: Assault! was a more likely catalyst, as outlined here.


Different Worlds No. 28, Apr 1983 (“Gossip,” pg. 54)
Post “Re: (TFT) Hymenopteran do you use them?” on dated March 9, 2003 by “Gypsy Comet”
Space Gamer No. 20, Nov-Dec 1978
Space Gamer No. 23, May-Jun 1979
Space Gamer No. 24, Sep-Oct 1979 (ad on pg. 29)
Space Gamer No. 25, Nov-Dec 1979 (ad on pg. 25)
Space Gamer No. 33, Nov 1980 (“News & Plugs” p. 40)
Space Gamer No. 61, Mar 1983 (“Scanner” p. 28)
White Dwarf No. 23, Feb/Mar 1981. (“News” p. 25; picture of the Silver Dragon and the 'Meta-twins')

Known Martian Metals Sculptors and Artists

Forrest Brown (O.G.R.E.)
Randy Hoffa (O.G.R.E.)
Paul Jaquays (Runequest)
George Freeman (Dragonslayer)
Scott ---- (Dragonslayer)
Jim Zejedia (?) (Dragonslayer)
Mary Peralta (?) (Dragonslayer)
Steve Lortz (Dragonslayer)
Nieal Erickson (artist)

[1] At the least, if they do come up on eBay, the sellers do not know what they have and perhaps mislabel them. Not a surprise since, prior to the release of this article, there was no published information at all on this subject that I am currently aware of.
[2] Let me tell you all a story: in early March of 2007 I had bid on two TFT Microtures, sans packaging, that had come up out of the blue on eBay, a One-Hex Dragon and Four-Hex Dragon, both apparently complete with treasure chests and so forth (though I had to ask the seller about the accompanying items, since they weren’t originally listed). Checking my e-mails to see if I had won the first auction I found that I indeed had, however, the second auction (for the Four Hex Dragon) had been relisted and my bid cancelled. Checking the relisted item I found that it had sold with a “Buy it Now” for $100 (!!!). Going back through my messages more closely I found one from the seller, who told me that this collector had come out of the woodwork and was literally willing to pay not only $100 for that Four Hex Dragon, but was willing to pay me $100 for the One Hex Dragon I had won! While ultimately nothing ever came of this, it was a serious offer nonetheless. Definitely illustrates just how scarce these TFT Microtures are... I shudder to think what one of the boxed sets, in its original packaging, might fetch! ADDENDUM 7/21/2009: I just won two sealed packages of TFT Microtures. I paid a little over $150 for them - and that was only because I put down a $212.72 bid 30 seconds before auction end (there were several last second bids, including the one for $150. As expensive as they were, it was satisfying to stuff that bid down my adversary’s throat!