I realized recently that it has been a lifelong dream of mine to run the justifiable infamous first edition of the Tunnels & Trolls game. So, I did it. In order to sidestep the issues of scheduling and coordinating with people, I went with a simple “play by Twitter DM” approach. Compared to, say, postal play from the early eighties, this ticks along at a fairly brisk pace. I think we completed a quick delve in about four days without having to block out four hours of time away from family, etc.. The Tunnels & Trolls combat system turns out to be well suited to this particular medium!
I had each player roll up four human characters and told them to take Ken’s suggestion of selecting warrior if strength was higher than intelligence or luck, a rogue if luck was higher than strength or intelligence, and a wizard if intelligence was higher than strength or luck. If more than one attribute is tied for the highest, you may select the one you like to be treated as such. Finally… I made one offer that no one took me up on: if you get a wizard that does not have the ability to cast spells, then you may select one of the somewhat overpowered non-human kindreds.
I suggested players take their favorite character of the bunch… with maybe their least favorite serving as sort of a henchman or torchbearer. Picking out equipment was the most time-consuming aspect of this. In any case, we very quickly sallied forth into our brief game that would hopefully demonstrate the key aspects of the system.
They players began the game at the tunnel entrance with no preamble whatsoever. They encountered a troll both, and after some discussion elected to pay the entry fee of 5 gold per adventurer– probably due to a couple of ragged shacks that appeared to have arrow slits on them. For their trouble, the players did get some hints from the toll. He said there was a goblin infestation on the second level what would be the most level-appropriate challenge for them. He also said to steer clear of the cathedral area, which would be certain death.
Travelling through the tunnels, we soon had our first demonstration of a T&T Saving Roll. The leading warrior of the group, Ozzy, slipped on some slippery rocks and ended up taking a bit of a tumble. He failed his saving roll and ended up taking some damage. On the other hand, he also got some experience points for his trouble. Hopefully this time bad things happening would only make him stronger?
The players then arrived at Ogrehead Rock, found the nearly hidden passageway to the second level, and wondered if there might be something magical about the big stone head. Some feral humanoid creatures showed up that ended up running away into the darkness. The players decided to explore in the direction that they went rather than going down a level. (They suspected the troll of lying to them.)
In order to convey the idea of T&T combat, I had a 50 M.R. swarm of bats show up. The players wiped them out in two rounds without taking any damage. For the second round I had them go berserk in order to demonstrate that as well. Finally, I handed out 50 experience points to each character because that is how Tunnels & Trolls works. So far so good!
Now they were really deep into a gigantic, almost unending room. They found some rotting adventurer bodies that were covered with grey mold. One player burned them up with a torch and collected some gold, silver, and an unusually looking stone from them.
At this point 13 of the feral humanoids showed up, ready to pounce on everyone. The monsters charged in while the players seemed to assume that melee weapons ought to do the trick against them. The first round, the players took a lot of damage! Divided ten ways it was not terribly much. But with Ozzy in an already hurting state, the damage was just enough to take him out of the game. Very sad!
Round two was not too different. One wizard did elect to cast Oh Go Away, so the players only had to face twelve of these feral humanoids, but it was not enough to turn the tide. Three more player characters bit the dust this round– the ones that had low constitution scores. Survival of the fittest, Tunnels & Troll style!
At this point the players decided to bail. I ruled here that they needed to make a level one saving roll for each character. If they fail, then a swarm of feral humanoids managed to drag them down into a throbbing mass of claws and teeth. In making these rolls, lots of doubles came up so the players finally got lucky. All except for the wizard that rolled a measly four.
‘The players then ran out of the dungeon as fast as they could and went back to town. Half the party was killed, but the survivors each walked away 323 experience points and 23 gold. They also recovered an IOUN stone that can add plus two strength to any wizard!
Second level is totally within reach!
Surviving player characters:
Oliver Plunkett — Warrior, Human, 15-11-12-12-11 -5, 23 gold, 3 adds, Battle Axe (4), Steel Cap (1), 323 e.p.
Laurence Plaquette — Rogue, Human, 8-11-11-10-14-9, 28 gold, 1 / 3 adds, Sword (2), Leather + Steel Cap (3), 323 e.p.
Zebulon — Rogue, Human, 8-10-14-13-15-9. 23 gold, no adds, Dagger (1), Leather (2), 323 e.p.
Boris the Brave — Warrior, Human, 11-10-10-15-8-12, 44 gold, -1 subtracts, Dagger (1), 323 e.p.
Tony — Rogue, Human, 10-11-13-12-7-13, 23 gold, -1 / -3 subtracts, Dagger (1), 323 e.p.
*** IOUN stone that adds +2 ST to a wizard
Ozzy — Level 1 Human Warrior — Killed by the charge of 13 feral humanoids on 1/17/2022
Primaris — Level 1 Human Rogue — Killed in battle with 13 feral humanoids on 1/17/2022
Savus — Level 1 Human Warrior — Killed in battle with 13 feral humanoids on 1/17/2022
Jiri — Level 1 Human Wizard — Killed in battle with 13 feral humanoids on 1/17/2022
Perrin Quickwit — Level 1 Human Wizard — Swarmed by 13 feral humanoids while attempting to flee on 1/17/2022