Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Comparing First Edition Tunnels & Trolls to the Deluxe Edition

“Please realise that more than almost any other game still in commercial production, Tunnels & Trolls (and MSPE) is flexible and utterly independent of endless rules books; Ken, Liz, Mike and company having delivered all that you would ever need to stimulate your group’s imagination while laying a solid foundation off which to build your own games.” — Kyrinn S. Eis

It really does surprise me how excited I am about this game. It’s exactly what I needed in my life all those years ago when I was struggling with Gamma World third edition as a twelve year old that didn’t quite comprehend role-playing games. As much as I love that dear old train wreck, I have to say… Ken St. Andre had a much better grasp of how to take zany, wide open wa-hoo adventure and put it in a format that a novice could actually run and comprehend.

There is very little in the new Deluxe edition rules that I feel that I absolutely must change before I could play it. Honestly, some of the nuance of first edition hurts my head and I just don’t always want to dig back into it to figure out what exactly they were doing back in the seventies. However, as far grasping the spirit of the rules goes, I have to say… a close reading of first edition really is essential– especially given just how many things have disappeared from the latest version of the game. In fact, there are places where I think some unnecessary interpolation is required in the Deluxe rules… but the original game goes a long way towards filling in the gaps.

Here then are a few comments on first edition that I noted after both rule sets a close reading back to back:

  1. The first section of the rules after the introductions is some advice on how to “dig” a dungeon. The original Tunnels & Trolls was a game for people for whom the $10 and three booklets of OD&D was too much complexity and too much expense. It was a game for people that had no experience with either Avalon Hill or miniatures gaming. The use of only six-sided dice was an intentional design decision that meant that it was a game for all the people that would have been unable to get ahold of set of fancy polyhedral dice. While it was more comprehensible to a wider audience than original D&D, nevertheless… it still required a great deal of creativity to run. The referee was required to create an entire adventuring scenario as a first order of business– and with only the most spartan of advice to go on!
  2. Just how exactly a rogue gains his spells is somewhat ambiguous and varies across editions and gaming groups, but the intent of the original rules seems to be the rogues buy spells from player character wizards for whatever price they ask for!
  3. Tunnels & Trolls referees could not afford a fancy Monster Manual like what became de rigueur for that other game. Monsters could be created with the same attributes as player characters or they could be defined with a single number: the Monster Rating. There was no hard and fast system for how to do it– but there was a whole lot of enthusiasm for doing it however you wanted. One odd idea here is it was taken for granted that they way monsters were developed or that monster ratings were interpreted should change as after the first level of the dungeon. For instance, monster damage results might be multiplied by their dungeon level so that people would not have to roll fist-fulls of dice in order to keep up with them.
  4. One critical change: the monster originally got half of its Monster Rating as “adds” on the first round… and only a quarter of its remaining hit points on subsequent rounds. Presumably its dice would have been dropping as well, because they could not defend themselves when they got below ten! While no one has been keen on keeping up with this amount of math and chart lookups– the dice the monster gets for its monster rating is kind of wonky– nevertheless, having a cutoff point where the monster will beg for mercy and possibly even ask to become a henchman is a nuance that’s now lacking from the Deluxe Edition. (Note that a player character’s charisma would come into play when a subdued monster attempted to revolt against them.)
  5. Combat was assumed to be “theater of the mind”, but while it was even more simplified than the system in even the simplest editions of D&D, it nevertheless was not assumed to be some sort of die rolling contest. It was intended that the referee was to make many common sense rulings about how many separate melee battles would go on at once, when and for how long missile weapons would be allowed to fire, and what circumstances pole arms would actually be relevant and effective.
  6. There was a system for Monster reactions in the original game… and it did not survive the decades of development to make it into the Deluxe edition. (!!) While it did not include any modifiers for player characters’ charisma scores, it did include a range of possible outcomes that included the monster going berserk to parlaying to running away.
  7. The combat adds rules were very different under first edition. In the first place… there was no Speed attribute back then. Secondly, there were separate ratings for melee and missile combat. Thirdly, there was a penalty to the adds if the relevant attributes were less than nine. And finally… wizards did not get combat adds! (Under the Deluxe rules, a wizard loses the benefit of his adds if he elects to use a weapon larger than a staff or dagger.)
  8. The original rules for awarding experience points are instructive. The most obvious difference is that “xp for gold” was in force in the earliest edition and then dropped from the Deluxe rules. Unlike D&D’s occasionally byzantine rules regarding “xp for selling magic-items”, first edition Tunnels & Trolls gave out experience points for simply recovering them. Finally, the “xp for saving rolls” was originally developed when making such rolls meant that something bad was coming your way. When using saving rolls as a general task system, it doesn’t make as much sense to award experience for them. (And note that in the original game, if you failed a saving roll and took damage, you earned experience equal to the saving roll times the total damage taken. That’s kind of epic, really…!)
  9. The biggest change from first edition to Deluxe edition is that in the new game, characters’ levels are a function of the their highest attribute. The original game had it be a function of earned experience points. Upon leveling up, the player could raise an attribute by a given fraction of the new level number. In the newest edition, experience can be spent to any attribute by a point… and they can get really, really large…! (I really wonder how that will work in actual play over the course of a campaign.)
  10. First edition’s nifty slave and hireling rules are gone in the Deluxe edition.
  11. In first edition, monsters gained experience points, too! (Why have I not ever thought of that?!)
  12. The rules for creating new spells are completely wide open under the Deluxe edition. Originally they cost 1000 gold per spell level or (strangely) nine tenths of the wizard’s strength. (?!)
  13. In the Deluxe edition, spells have both an IQ and a Dexterity requirement. Originally they were limited only by IQ. (Also… there was no WIZ attribute and spell power was taken against Strength instead.)
  14. There are many more poisons in the Deluxe edition. (This was a central part of actual play back in the day, so don’t skip it.)
  15. It’s surprising, but the first edition had elaborate rules for weapon composition and breakage.
  16. There were relatively detailed rules for how to deal with berserk party members that continue attacking their friends after the monsters are defeated. In the original rules, the choice of whether to go berserk or not was made when looking at their damage throw. Also, the strength cost was two under first edition and has become 1d6 in the Deluxe edition. Finally… the rules for monsters going berserk was also different.

Remembering Edgar Rice Burroughs

Happy birthday to Edgar Rice Burroughs, born September 1, 1875. Through his creations of Tarzan and John Carter, he had a major role in providing the inspiration for the creation of Superman. For inspiring D&D, Gary Gygax placed Burroughs as being on par with Robert E. Howard, de Camp & Pratt, and Fritz Leiber. The Star Wars franchise owes its existence to the revolution in literature that he single-handedly created. And when Ray Bradbury declared that Burroughs was the most influential writer in the history of the world, he wasn’t exaggerating. He didn’t just introduce an entire generation to a love of reading and adventure. He inspired the scientists and technologists to pursue careers that would ultimately culminate in the moon landings.

The nudniks didn’t think much of him in his day. They don’t like him today, either. But the thing is… even though his works are all in the public domain, he still outsells his critics. Uninformed commentators invoke him as epitomizing the sort of dated and old fashioned works they despise, but the fact is… he never went out of style.

Blog Watch: Pulp Fantasy’s Nabokov, Supplanting the Canon, Sword-and-Soul, and Radical Heterogeneity

Appendix N (Vice) Why I Still Love ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ in the Age of Video Games — “‘Weird’ was always key to D&D’s continuing survival. On paper, the game should look and feel no different than any of the mechanized orc-killing toys you can get for your PC, Playstation, or XBox, or like the special effects blockbusters we’re getting more and more now that Hollywood’s figured out how to make armor and tentacles look right on a screen—but it doesn’t. Dave Arneson, Gary Gygax and other architects of the early RPG scene had read Tolkien and Howard’s Conan books, but their fandom was crazy deep and genuinely literary, embracing the wisecracking and oddly adult sensibility of Fritz Leiber’s medieval noir, the anti-mythic experimentalism of Clark Ashton Smith, and the amoral freakshow wordplay of Jack Vance—pulp fantasy’s Nabokov, who inspired spell names like ‘Oitluke’s Freezing Sphere’ and ‘Leomund’s Lamentable Belabourment.'”

Appendix N (Black Gate) Discovering Robert E. Howard: Jeffrey Shanks on The Worldbuilding of REH — “When most people think of Howard’s world-building, the essay ‘The Hyborian Age’ is usually the first thing that comes to mind. This extensive fictional history of the setting of the Conan stories, written in early 1932, was never intended to be published — it was merely a background reference for Howard himself. And yet, the essay went through multiple drafts — clearly Howard put a lot of work into this essay to flesh out the world of Conan.”

Appendix N (Cirsova) Robert & the Reptoids (or The Conspiracy of Kull) — “Most people think of the Reptoids as a relatively recent tin-foil hat conspiracy associated with David Icke, but the modern origins of this 20th century myth go back at least a bit further than most realize to Robert E Howard’s first Kull story, The Shadow Kingdom.”

Appendix N (Black Gate) The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Ramblings on REH — “It’s almost unbelievable how many stories Howard had rejected and/or weren’t published until many years after his death.”

Books (Every Joe) Anne Rice: We Are Facing a New Era of Censorship, In The Name of Political Correctness — “I think we are facing a new era of censorship, in the name of political correctness. There are forces at work in the book world that want to control fiction writing in terms of who ‘has a right’ to write about what. Some even advocate the out and out censorship of older works using words we now deem wholly unacceptable. Some are critical of novels involving rape. Some argue that white novelists have no right to write about people of color; and Christians should not write novels involving Jews or topics involving Jews. I think all this is dangerous. I think we have to stand up for the freedom of fiction writers to write what they want to write, no matter how offensive it might be to some one else.”

Appendix N (Black Gate) The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, August 1963: A Retro-Review — “Notable letters include one from James Blish complaining about the term “Science Fantasy” (“… stands as a warning that the author reserves the right to get the facts all wrong”); and one from a reader complaining about Davidson’s editorial hand and declining to renew his subscription – who was the reader? One E. Gary Gygax!”

ACKS (The Rhetorical Gamer) ACKS on the Borderlands — “One thing I’ve been enjoying in this campaign so far (and had a similar experience in my last campaign) is the fun that comes from just trusting the process and letting it happen. Four sessions and we’ve had some crazy stuff happen. The party has had a couple of flyovers by a green dragon and a manticore. We’ve had several deaths and new characters introduced. And most of it is emergent play that I don’t have to feel solely responsible for creating on the fly. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy making stuff up but there is a kind of magic to incorporating the weirdness of rolling up a random wilderness encounter and realizing that you just rolled up a green dragon… for first level characters.”

Books (New Statesman) I read the 100 “best” fantasy and sci-fi novels – and they were shockingly offensive — “I can understand how many of the books on the list may have once been groundbreaking but that doesn’t mean that they are now the best examples of the genre. They have been supplanted, hundreds of times over, by other authors that took similar themes but made them better and more inclusive.”

Books (Black Gate) New Statesmen on the “Shockingly Offensive” 100 Best Fantasy and SF Novels — “I’m sure Ms. Lutgendorff’s comments will be hotly debated, but I think it’s foolish to ignore her gut reaction. Like it or not, the classics of an older generation are giving way to new novels, as they should. That’s what happens in a living genre.”

Books (Castalia House) Griots — “Charles Saunders’ introduction covers his discovery and love for the sword-and-sorcery genre and his creation of Imaro, the world of Nyumbani, and the beginning of what he called ‘sword-and-soul,’ and his finding of like-minded writers over time. Saunders describes sword-and-soul as ‘Fantasy fiction with an African connection in either the characters or the setting…or both. The setting can be the historical Africa of the world we know, or the Africa of an alternate world, dimension or universe.'”

D&D5e (Gaming Ballistic) Character Study – why focus on combat? — “With the change to 5e, I wasn’t sure what combat effective meant. I noted that certain classes (like rogues) seemed to be the real damage dealers, while fighters did low damage each turn, and just stood there taking it. Peter V. Dell’Orto had made the same observation. I think I’ve mostly shown that doesn’t have to be true, with the right focus, for fighters. But it took this exercise to figure it out for me.”

D&D (1d30) You don’t have time to build up to something great — “The next thing that happens needs to be the best thing you can think of. Don’t hold that idea back for use later in the dungeon, or in some other campaign. Trust me, you’ll have other ideas. Maybe better ones. What you can not afford is to have a mostly empty ground floor with some bandits who don’t know about the snake living in the corner.”

D&D (Goblin Punch) Keep Dungeon Threats Threatening — “If I put a pit trap in the dungeon, I want it to be threatening. I don’t want to have to metagame my players, thinking about what immunities they have. Then I have to build an encounter around that, just to challenge them.”

D&D (Known World, Old World) America and D&D — “Something twigged in my brain on these trips, as this wasn’t a medieval England of innumerable villages, each a day’s walk from the other, a landscape tamed and human-ized, however ancient. This is a landscape of awe-inspiring scale, and to a European, strangeness. A landscape of isolated settlements, both those of Native Americans and European Pioneers. A land of radical heterogeneity – of religion and ethnicity, as well as environment and economy – with adventurers building quasi-states in the borderlands. I imagined the amount of planning and calculated risk taking required to explore this new world. Wilderness expeditions, full of strange landscapes, a hostile environment, and encounters with peoples and animals that could roll either way, depending on their Reaction.”

D&D (Kill it with Fire!) 1d12 things that could happen when a god dies — “The things that the god was in charge of stop working properly. Sure this seems great when you kill the god in charge of death, at first…”

D&D (Don’t Split the Party) Law, Chaos, the UK, America, Teutonic Knights, Orcs, and Just What the Heck is Going On With 9th Level Fighters?! — “Despite the desire of contemporary people to think of the faerie/sidhe as fun-loving hippies in folklore they’re are much, much more like the Weeping Angels – inhuman, utterly other creatures that if you were lucky will only cast you decades through time away from all you know and love.”

D&D (World Builder Blog) Introducing Adults to D&D — “I recently played one of the most fun sessions of Dungeons and Dragons in my tabletop gaming history. It was with adult coworkers aged 25 – 35 who were almost entirely new to the game. After me the player with the most amount of tabletop role-playing game experience had last picked up dice and a character sheet when he was 14. It was everyone else’s first time.”

Books (Black Gate) Science Fiction Classics #10 Now on Sale — “The most recent issue, Science Fiction Classics #10, reproduces one of the rarest early pulps, and certainly the rarest issue of Amazing — the very first Amazing Stories Annual, from 1927. It includes the complete Barsoom novel The Master Mind of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and a short story by A. Hyatt Verrill, as well as five reprints — two classics from A. Merritt, including the long novella ‘The Face in the Abyss’ and ‘The People of the Pit,’ and tales by Austin Hall, Jacque Morgan, and H. G. Wells. It also contains interior artwork by Frank R. Paul, Gambee, and others.”

Books (Black Gate) Vintage Treasures: Flamesong by M.A.R. Barker — “Barker followed The Man of Gold a year later with an even more ambitious sequel, Flamesong. Flamesong was highly acclaimed… but only by those few who read it. It’s a tough find today; unlike the first book, which was reprinted by DAW, had a British edition, and is currently in print in both trade paperback and digital formats, Flamesong vanished shortly after it appeared. It has never been reprinted, and is highly sought today by Tékumel fans.”

Appendix N (Blackfive) The 2015 Hugo Awards: Some Thoughts — “What can you say about meeting classic Science Fiction writers from the Golden (and other) age(s)?  About meeting and talking with Gordon Dickson, who’s Dorsai series spoke to me and made me think and explore?  About meeting and talking with the wonderful de Camps, Fred Pohl, the delightful Pournelle’s, Fred Saberhagen, Harry Turtledove, Jack Williamson, the Zahn’s, the Niven’s, A.E. van Vogt, and others?”

D&D (Blessing of the Dice Gods) Let’s Talk About Campaign Settings II: Second Edition Settings Analysis — “I want to start out our trip by taking a detailed look at the poster children of published campaign settings: the 2E boxed sets, and the worlds they detailed. You’ll notice as we go that I do not much talk about Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, or Dragonlance. It’s not that they aren’t lovely settings, and as +Charles Akins  pointed out to me on Google+, they are far and away the most popular settings in D&D history, what with their novels and game tie ins and representation in later editions and so forth. So why no love from me in this post?”

Appendix N (DM David) Once subversive, the Arduin Grimoire’s influence reaches today’s games — “As D&D’s audience exploded, in the days before Appendix N, most new players’ experience with fantasy started with Tolkien and ended with a few imitators. The sort of science-fantasy found in say, Jack Vance, seemed wrong.”

D&D (Cave of the Dice Chucker) Rogue Rant: Suck it! — “While there’s no reason that you can’t count on a well appellated thief to climb walls, decrypt codes, or defuse bombs for the good of the party, all you can expect from your rogue is that s/he’s going to give you lip if you ask him or her to do something:”

REVIEW: SJW’s Always Lie by Vox Day

“I don’t agree with what you say and I will defend to the death the abuse and vitriol you receive for saying it.” — Godfrey Elfwick

Ten years ago I took a job teaching high school. And I can tell you, if you’re coming into that sort of thing through some kind of lateral entry program, you’re liable to have a very tough row to hoe. There were maybe ten of us “noobs” in the beginning. The guy across the hall from me that was particularly kind to me in those first couple of weeks? He’d neglected to mention to the administrators that he was an ex-con and just disappeared one day. Half of the doe-eyed idealists that came in with me were gone within six weeks. They just couldn’t take the stress. And that smart English teacher with a thing for Lobachevsky? Three-quarters through the year she ended up taking a better paying job at a non-profit. In the end, I think only two of us made it through the whole year.

The thing that really got to me about the experience was the knowledge that all it took was a single misstep and I would not only be fired, but I’d also be on the six o’clock news. I could grind through the day-to-day routine, but I never really came to grips with just how precarious my position was. Once when I asked the students to clear their desks for a test a young lady insisted on leaving her gigantic purse out. When a persistent request that she comply devolved into argument, every cell phone in the class was instantly out and recording my every move. And that in and of itself wouldn’t have been so bad if not for the fact that every interaction I’d had with the school administrators indicated that they not only didn’t have my back, but they’d gladly throw me to the wolves if I ever became inconvenient to them.

In light of this, it was not hard for me to move on to a career that required far less interaction with bureaucracies and/or the public. When I successfully landed a job that paid far more than what I would have made as a teacher, I thought I had gotten away from that strange social dynamic altogether. At any rate, I can’t remember anyone picking a fight with me and recording it on their cell phones since then. And when I chose to home school my kids, I figured I had gotten away from the Bizarro World mentality altogether. Life has been good on the whole.

But then I noticed that that pressurized dynamic was starting to permeate other industries. I don’t remember feeling much in the way of pity for Don Imus when there was an uproar over an off color remark that he’d made. However, the antics surrounding figures ranging from Brendan Eich to Matt Taylor and Tim Hunt were another matter. These were guys that were making real contributions to science and technology… and they were being subjected to witch hunts like something out of the McCarthy era over a campaign donation, a shirt, and a joke. In all cases, none of them had made the sort of mistakes I’d been afraid of making as a public school teacher. It didn’t make any sense.

But while most of us just want to do our jobs, take care of our families, and get a break from having to hear about the gory details of some of these culture war incidents, it’s another thing when this sort of thing begins to creep into your hobbies. The one refuge we have from this is under siege. Consultants to the latest edition of Dungeons & Dragons come under fire. Satirical games get banned from One Book Shelf. Apple pulls war games from their app store due to their use of the Confederate flag. Anything and everything is liable to be declared “problematic” at any moment and even creators that themselves have politically correct leanings are not immune to the mobs.

Which brings us to this book.

If you are not already concerned about the trends I highlight above, I can go ahead and tell you… this book will not change your mind. But if you want to know what the common denominator is between everything I’m talking about here, this book is the only game in town. If you want to know what you can do to protect yourself when your turn in the hot seat comes, this book is the best resource currently available. If you wonder just what exactly is wrong with the sort of people that seem to live for these bizarre puritanical crusades, this book will give you insight into just how they think. And if you are interested in pushing back against this sort of thing, this book contains a coherent strategy for exactly that.

Of course, if you are weary of hearing about the Scalzi/Day feud, Gamergate, and Sad Puppies… then yes, three of the ten chapters are going to be a bit tedious for you. But even if you’ve been following those skirmishes compulsively over the past few months you’re liable to pick up more than a few tidbits that never made it into the news stories about them. Even if you have no intentions of jumping into the culture wars yourself, this book is a good read. Check it out.

Disclosure: I have a column over at Castalia House. I also was included on the Sad Puppies slate.

Tell Me More About This Cost to Peoples’ Careers

At this point with the Hugo thing, I’m more concerned with just how far various media outlets will go to push a narrative that is obviously untrue. I have plenty of friends that are more cynical than me that are like, “dude… it’s always been like this; you didn’t know?!” Well no. I had no idea that it could be this shameless, this coordinated, and this relentless over something so petty. I don’t understand how people can observe this first hand and then walk away. But there it is. And you know… I tend to think people are generally honest and I want to give them the benefit of the doubt. But seeing person after person swallow obvious lies and then puff themselves up because of how easy it is to counter the straw man arguments that supposedly motivate their opposition… it really does surprise me.

Now that the facts are all in, there’s no shortage of gloating from various players . The bulk of it, I can pretty well pass over. Oh, there are some zingers here and there among the spin and the sour grapes that are particularly entertaining. But this bit from John O’Neill over at Black Gate I think deserves more attention:

I don’t mean to be unkind but, come on. This is idiotic. Every nominee made their choice back in April — to accept the glory of a Hugo nomination, walk arm-in-arm with the Puppies, and risk the wrath of the Hugo electorate coming down squarely on their shoulders, or to forgo the glory of a Hugo nomination because the price was too high.

Black Gate made its choice, and we paid a price for it. So did every other nominee. Anyone who pretends they couldn’t see that cost — to their career and to their reputation — is either a liar, an idiot, or so blinded by pride that they willfully ignored what was obvious to everyone else.

I think I’ve read every single article on this kerfuffle, but I haven’t seen anything that breaks down this aspect of the affair. If it’s as blindingly obvious as John makes it out to be, it ought to be really easy to explain, even to people that aren’t following this closely. So, John… what exactly are the professional costs to the puppy nominees that got “No Awarded” this year?

Update: John has answered here.

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