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Category Archives: Tunnels & Trolls

1st Edition Tunnels & Trolls Session 2: Enter the Balrog


We run an open table, so when one player left the game, a new person manifested from the ether in order to play in our second delve. Players that lost characters last time shuffled in their replacements without missing a beat. With relatively little bookkeeping, we quickly had ten characters headed back to the tunnels.

Now, I was quite vexed at this point, actually. My first impulse was to run this game more or less the same way as I would Basic D&D. But here’s the thing… the rules just don’t produce the same sort of dynamics at all. All of the things I normally lean on to make that other game work just weren’t materializing. I didn’t know where the Tunnels & Trolls rules encouraged you to go. But by playing it by the book, I was about to find out.

The players paid off the troll at the Troll Toll and blew past Ogrehead rock. They wanted to go back to the dead bodies so they could get a sword for one of their characters that couldn’t afford one. They get there and there is this giant snail with arms collecting fungus. The players try to talk to it and it gets scared and then heads off into the dark sort of forward and to the left. He moves in slow motion except when he teleports about forty yards or so at a time at a rate of about once every two seconds.

This was both too weird and too dumb and the players wanted to do something else. They burned some fungus, cast “oh there it is” to help find a sword and identity the four skeletons that were there, and then went sort of further in and to the right. Here they encountered a crude sign with an arrow and the word “treasure” written on it with the “r” turned around.

Now this was just obviously a trap. It was such an obvious trap that following up on the giant snail guy suddenly seemed like a better idea. The players want to go in the direction that he had gone, but they get waylaid by six feral baboons. The players completely outclass this group and I had to rule if these things were smart enough to run away or if they went berserk or something. I decided they just fought on because they are just that dumb. The players happily picked up ninety experience points for their trouble.


Now they arrive in this new area where this eleven-foot-tall guy wreathed in flames sits on boulder in the exact same pose as Rodin’s The Thinker. The players carefully investigate, but one guy gets a little too close. The thing suddenly leaps up and yells, “ooga booga!”

So, I had read in the 4th edition rules that even though monsters in Tunnels & Trolls can be stated up with nothing else but the monster rating, some of them nevertheless have special powers beyond just the standard monster dice and adds. So this monster grabbed one guy by the head and started zapping him while he sprayed a sort of flamethrower attack at everybody else. (The next turn, the monster threw this dude at a wall in order to stun him for a turn.) I gave people chances to avoid the flame damage by making luck saving rolls. I got a curve ball when the new guy that had eighteens in Luck and Dexterity hauled off with a “self bow” (??) that did one die plus twenty-three adds. (!!) Now, this guy was getting flamed, so I ruled he had to make a luck save in order get the shot off. He did and then I ruled that the monster didn’t get the normal defense roll against the attack because he was distracted by his own flamethrower action.

The first edition missile rules are not at all like what the later editions did. It’s very easy for powerful monsters to just avoid missile damage altogether. This is the first time playing this game where I really felt that something in it was broken. I don’t know what I am going to do with this just yet. Probably just assign a missile defense rating on a monster-by-monster basis, I guess. (I honestly don’t want to-hit rolls to creep into this game if I can help it.)

Well, I shifted the combat to be a standard free for all melee then. The guy with the bow kept wanting to shoot into the melee which I thought was fair since this monster was eleven feet tall. However, a couple of times I gave him a roll of 10+ on two dice (doubles add and roll over) to pick up one of his combatants and use them as a human shield. I also gave him his totally unfair monster dice as a missile defense.

Anyway, after eating a “Take That You Fiend” spell in the face, this awesome monster was really getting beat down. He begs for the party to spare him, and the players are debating whether to kill him when he says he can take them to the treasure. The players end up agreeing, but they bind him and gag him and then roll him back to the sign marked treasure. They get to a tunnel entrance, and after the players take his gag off, the monster says they have to cut him loose to let him retrieve the treasure.

The Value of Traps and How to Use Them in D&D 5e - Dungeon Solvers

The players do not agree to this at all and just keep him rolling into the tunnel. Then something utterly fantastic happens. The thing manages to NOT set off a pit trap as he rolls over it. But the player character behind him sets it off and then falls down into a deep pit. Now there is a pit between the monsters and the players!

The monster keeps inch-worming into the tunnel. The guy with the bow takes a shot and it is not enough to kill it. The monster then set off a blade trap and, knowing exactly where it would go, he holds out his bonds so that it slices right through. (Truly, I had drawn all this up before this and the dice just gave this miracle to me. So great!)

The players are really disappointed when they didn’t get to either kill this guy or take the treasure. So they went back to the boulder to make sure there wasn’t some treasure there. I put a level two saving roll against luck to uncover this one and Mr. “two eighteens” delivered. The players find a rock perfectly fitted to conceal a niche.

They removed the rock and inserted a torch into the hole. They hear a snapping sound and remove it– and there’s a mouse trap on the end now! One dumb adventurer volunteers to reach in and he ends up grabbing this gem… that turns him into a minotaur! They also find 621 gold to split between themselves.

At this point everyone was keen to head out, buy new gear, and make another stab at killing the monster that got away. I don’t know what it is, but this has to be just about the most uninspiring dungeon I have ever made. Yet somehow it manages to work anyway. I feel embarrassed now that I ever thought I wasn’t creative enough or entertaining enough to be able to run people through an original dungeon. But I was struck by how a couple of fairly lame room ideas combined with some rather unorthodox rules could combine to produce some serious high-grade hijinks.

It worked better than I could have planned it.

Why does it work? It’s a mystery. But it sure does!

Cast o’ characters:

Oliver Plunkett — Warrior, Human, 15-11-12-12-11 -5, 80 gold, 3 adds, Battle Axe (4), Steel Cap (1), 605 e.p.

Laurence Plaquette — Rogue, Human, 8-11-11-10-14-9, 75 gold, 1 / 3 adds, Sword (2), Leather + Steel Cap (3), 586 e.p.

Eko — Warrior, Human, 8-4-7-5-13-8, 60 gold, -2 / -1 subtracts, Sword (2), Steel Cap (1), 252 e.p.

Calar — Warrior, Human, 15-6-12-7-10-6-3, 65 gold, Battle Axe (4), Chain (5), 252 e.p.

Boris the Brave — Warrior, Human, 11-10-10-15-8-12, 57 gold, -1 subtracts, Dagger (1), 637 e.p.

Paul Pickpocket — Wizard, Human, 9-11-12-12-10-8, 60 gold, no adds, Dagger (1), 264 e.p.

Tony — Level 2 Rogue, Minotaur, 25-8-13-18-11-39-14, 80 gold, 14 adds, Dagger (1), 1082 e.p., turned into a minotaur by a magic gem

Geezer — Wizard, Human, 14-14-12-15-10-10, 60 gold, no adds, Staff (1), 303 e.p., IOUN stone that adds +2 ST to a wizard

Tegid — Wizard, Human, 13-15-15-14-13-15, 57 gold, no adds, Staff, Dirk (1+2), 281 e.p.

Alnyn — Rogue, Human, 9-11-18-14-18-13, 57 gold, 12 / 18 adds, Self bow (1+5), Sax Dagger (1+5), Steel Cap (1), 262 e.p.

The graveyard:

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

Morose character that drinks too much and stays in town now because he is too afraid to delve:

Zebulon — Rogue, Human, 8-10-14-13-15-9. 23 gold, no adds, Dagger (1), Leather (2), 323 e.p.

1st Edition Tunnels & Trolls: Ozzy and the Rabid Baboon People

Pictures Have Stories: the Summoner - Oakheart by Liz Danforth

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

The graveyard:

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

The Wisdom of Tunnels & Trolls

One of the big changes in the new edition of The Fantasy Trip is that Steve Jackson has recanted on the old rule that IQ provided a harsh upper limit on the total number of spells and/or talents a character could have. The reason is… under the old advancement system there comes a point where attributes get ridiculously and pointlessly high. So Steve’s solution is to have players buy attributes early on in their adventuring careers… and then at some point switch over to buying more talents and spells when the usual method of advancement becomes cost prohibitive.

I like the idea, mostly because I’ve long been hung up on the old first edition AD&D Fighter/Magic-user multi-class ever since I saw it. A great idea, but a clunky implementation to be sure. The idea of slower advancement is preserved here under the new rules here for The Fantasy Trip: non-wizard characters are going to pay triple the experience points for each new spell they acquire!

But of course, Steve isn’t channeling the more baroque elements of the biggest fantasy gaming franchise on the planet. No, he’s merely rolling back to a key element of The Fantasy Trip’s predecessor, Tunnels & Trolls!

See, the justifiably infamous Ken St. Andre had this hilariously brilliant “Rogue” class. This one was not like any of the Rogues in more ubiquitous games of today. It was an offbeat first-class treatment of the fighter/magic-user hybrid. Rogues didn’t have double armor ability of the warriors, though they could still use any weapon that they had the strength attribute for. (Shades of GURPS and The Fantasy Trip!) They could cast spells like a wizard, but didn’t get the strength cost break that wizards got from magic staffs and from casting spells at lower spell levels than their character levels.

And note again… because Tunnels & Trolls had Constitution be a distinct stat from Strength when determined the energy reserve, T&T avoided the “Conan the Wizard” problem that The Fantasy Trip accrued to itself due to its overly elegant design framework! Problem solved way before GURPS even came close to being on the drawing board!

The real genius of Tunnels & Trolls lies not just in its development of the ultimate fighter/magic-user combo. It’s that additional spells were doled out in that game in exchange for gold, not experience points. Wizards pay a flat rate to the guild, of course. But Rogues have to learn from other player character wizards. And they have to pay whatever amount those players are asking!

This is awesome. Not only does it inject a healthy amount of old school “XP for Gold” into T&T’s gameplay, but it also keeps the wizard players out in front of the rogues when it comes to spells. Not only are rogues limited to selecting from the spells the wizards have already purchased, but wizards can also relieve the rogues of all their spare cash… and then turn it over to the guild for even more spells!

This is particularly brilliant because the stupid stuff players do to min/max character generation and advancement is always inferior to the hi-jinx that ensures when the players start playing off of each other.

Score another one for Ken St. Andre, y’all!

A Key Line of Influence in the Development of Roleplaying Games

One of the ways that it becomes clear that Appendix N is more than just a list of books is that there are clear lines of influence running through it, chains of authors that inspire each other in succession. Everyone has been reminded by now that Leigh Brackett’s entire career was predicated on her reading and emulating an Edgar Rice Burroughs John Carter novel. Fewer have marked the fact that there would have been no Conan were it not for Tarzan, but it’s true all the same. Jack Vance, Philip Jose Farmer, and Michael Moorcock each wrote books that even if they were not outright pastiche nevertheless hewed closely to Burroughs’s template.

But there’s more to it than just Burroughs being the real author of the century. Science fiction legend Jack Williamson set his sights on imitating the Lord of Fantasy A. Merritt. August Derleth and Margaret St. Clair each continued on in the same vein Lovecraft mined. And Lovecraft’s career in fiction was in turn directly inspired by the work of Lord Dunsany.

There’s a story there, a sprawling conversation that spanned decades. There are lights there that shined so brightly, voices so powerful that they defined how even the idea of fantasy could even work.

Another such conversation played out in the mid-seventies as the foundations of the roleplaying game hobby were laid down.

Some of the lines of influence are pretty obvious, of course. Traveller in its original incarnation was released as a set of three “little black books”– a very careful adaption of original D&D’s “little brown books” to a science fiction theme.

The core rules to GURPS have been called a “Basic Set” from its initial release because it was originally patterned after the phenomenally influential Basic D&D sets created by Holmes, Moldvay & Cook, and then Mentzer.

Looking at the precursor to GURPS, Steve Jackson’s The Fantasy Trip… it’s hard to imagine such a tightly engineered masterpiece of design could have been produced when TSR was in the process of developing the nigh incoherent early D&D rules to the ponderous and outright unplayable AD&D system.

The man that set the stage for this incredible little game was none other than Ken St. Andre, the creator the second role-playing game system Tunnels & Trolls. That game system did much more than blaze the trail for solitaire gaming modules which would inspire Steve Jackson from his earliest Fantasy Trip and Car Wars supplements. It would remain a cornerstone component of his vision even in his magnum opus of GURPS.

But look back into the offbeat T&T variant Monsters! Monsters!– which was published by MetaGaming and edited by a very snarky Steve Jackson– and you’ll find key innovations that were very quickly embraced and refined by Steve:

  • One of the six core attributes– constitution– is used for hit points instead of having a separate hit point stat. In The Fantasy Trip, Steve Jackson would trim things even further, folding the idea of both constitution and hit points into the strength attribute!
  • Instead of having a weird set of off the wall saving throw stats that are a function of class and level, Ken St. Andre used a more generalized “saving roll” against the luck stat. Again, Steve Jackson generalize things even further by making nearly every roll in his system be against one of his very few core attributes.
  • D&D has an elaborate tradition for statting up monsters and foes that is entirely distinct from the one used to generate player characters. With Monsters! Monsters!, Ken St. Andre showed how to make monsters a first class element of the game system, giving them all the same attributes and means of advancing. Steve Jackson would maintain this approach within The Fantasy Trip.
  • Weapon choice (and thus damage output) in Tunnels & Trolls is a function of the strength attribute. This concept is carried forward into The Fantasy Trip.
  • Magic staffs are used to reduce the cost of spells cast in Tunnels & Trolls. In The Fantasy Trip, staffs are used as mana repositories.
  • The primary benefit of being able to level up in Monsters! Monsters! is that you may increase your attributes, which define the lion-share of the character’s capabilities. In The Fantasy Trip this is taken even further and the concept of class and level is (finally) removed altogether.

There’s more. And its well worth your time to pick up copies of both Tunnels & Trolls and The Fantasy Trip to go delve into every nugget of all this.

Another thing you’ll see in Monsters! Monsters!, though, is a great number of references to what would later become known as the books of Appendix N. Balrogs from Lord of the Rings, of course… but also Living Skeletons from Fritz Leiber’s works, Lovecraft’s, Shoggoths, the demon from De Camp’s The Fallible Fiend, and a full page illustration of Roger Zelazny’s Shadow Jack. (Hilariously, in a footnote, Steve Jackson corrects Ken St. Andre on the proper way to stat up The Grey Mouser in the Tunnels & Trolls system!!)

Gary Gygax and Ken St. Andre might have had their disagreements when it came to roleplaying game design, but one thing’s sure: they had an almost identical conception of  what the best works of fantasy were.

REVIEW: Saving Fang from the Pits of Morgul by Ken St. Andre

This is one of those things that just needed doing. I mean… can you imagine an edition of Tunnels & Trolls not being supported with solitaire adventures? I know, shudder to think, right? Well, thankfully with the “Deluxe” edition being in the works these past few years there was plenty enough reason to get this one nagging detail taken care of. And by the progenitor of this iconic game no less!

So… how is the only adventure designed especially for the first edition of Tunnels & Trolls? Well, in keeping with the line’s traditions it’s lavishly illustrated. Even better, it’s loaded with dash and charm. And I must say, the gratuitously captivating “Cherry” adds far more than her share of pep to the proceedings. But the best thing about it is that it does a great deal that the monstrously large Deluxe edition of the game does not do:

  • First, it takes you into Troll World and gives you a glimpse of the city of Khosht and what it’s like adventuring in its vicinity. After reading in the Deluxe rules that this was the first city developed for the game and that it was even the city that got burned down via the premise of Metagaming Concepts’ Monsters Monsters!, I have to say that I’m thrilled to have (in effect) gotten a guided tour of the place from Ken himself.
  • It illustrates how a Tunnel Master can use a couple of higher level non-player characters to throw one or two novices into more of an epic scenario. You don’t have to play out the details of their actions; you can use them to provide a frame that allows the low level characters to focus on the part of the adventure that depends on them! This is a neat trick and I’m glad to have it incorporated into my game mastering arsenal.
  • It shows how combat situations can be broken down into multiple parallel encounters. The various editions of Tunnels & Trolls suggest this sort of thing, of course… but it’s great getting a glimpse into how an old pro applies these suggestions in an actual gaming situation. I am much less likely to simply total and compare the combat results of the players and the monsters now.
  • It has both a set of fully stated and defined monsters and some fleshed out NPC characters to go with them. ( know… it’s crazy to me that the big Deluxe book doesn’t quite do that, but the ghouls, skeletons, zombies, and necromancer are really useful to someone that is flat new to the system.

Ken St. Andre is a very gracious referee. He’s no Monty Hall, sure… but he allows players of this dungeon to take whatever equipment they want from the lists in the first edition rules. Even better, he grants players of the Rogue character type the option of selecting any first level spell they like right from the beginning. (That’s really nice of him. While that is standard operating procedure in the Deluxe edition, in the first edition rules there’s no telling how long it’d take a rogue player to scrape up enough funds to convinces a wizard player to teach him something…!)

Playing this out strictly by the first edition rules, I am convinced now more than ever that the streamlining of the Deluxe edition is (for the most part) spot on. In my game, I dutifully looked up the monsters’ dice ratings each time I did damage to them. (The dice progression is not only much more predictable in the latest version of the game, but they keep their dice rating throughout the combat, so there’s nothing to rethink there.) I also applied the rule of the monster only getting one quarter of their rating in adds starting with the second combat round. When the monster dropped below ten hit points, I was even rolling zero dice for them. You just don’t lose anything by dropping this sort of extraneous detail.

Now, I’ve lost many a player character in these Tunnels & Trolls solitaire adventures previously, so I expected the worst. I probably didn’t have to be so paranoid, but I took every measure to see to it that the guy I rolled up was competitive. In this case… that meant playing an elf. Here he is if you want to use him in your game:

ST 12
IQ 14 + 7 = 21
LK 15 + 7 = 22
CON 10
DEX 8 + 4 = 12

Type: Rogue
Kindred: Elf
Level: 1 (First Edition rules)
Weight Possible: 1200
Experience Points: 0
Languages: Common, Elvish, Trollish… and seven others?!
Combat Adds: 10

Spells: Take That You Fiend (costs 6 strength to do damage equal to IQ)

Bastard Sword (Weighs 75, does two dice damage… may spend one strength to go two handed and do three dice damage instead.)
Dragon Venom (Weighs 10, 20 applications, quadrupals edged weapon damage before adds.)
Light Crossbow with 20 bolts (Weighs 105, 2+3 damage)
Chain Mail (Weighs 500, takes 5 hits)
Steel Cap (Weighs 25, takes 1 hit)
Shield (Weighs 300, takes 2 hits)
Total Weight: 75 + 10 + 105 + 500 + 25 + 300 = 1015

Now… as you can see here, going with the elf kindred is basically just free attribute points. In this case, the bump in Luck even went straight into my combat adds! The lack of a WIZ attribute meant that the same resource that paid for exerting myself in combat was paying for my spell. And yeah, I did end up using the bastard sword two-handed on occasion because that extra die in combat was well worth the fatigue it cost. And finally… I did go the full munchkin and took in the Dragon Venom with me. I wasn’t sure how well that stuff would have worked against undead, so I didn’t actually use it in play… but man, that stuff is awesome. Of course, that one item was worth more than the loot I took out of the dungeon, but seriously… what adventurer is going to turn up his nose to such gifts?

One thing I wasn’t clear on was how the armor provided protection. Now… my assumption is that it works like damage resistance in GURPS. But the first edition Tunnels & Trolls rules talks about how they merely add to constitution. The implication seems to be that the armor is destroyed as soon as the player applies his damage to them! Is that really the intent of the game designer…? I’m not really sure. If it is, adventurers are liable to go through a lot of armor!

Now… I gotta say one thing about Tunnels & Trolls combat here. It really seems to me that a lot of the times in one-on-one combats, it’s really only going to turn out one way. In GURPS, anybody can get lucky and do serious harm even to a Navy SEAL. But the three fights I played out when I ran myself through this one…? I don’t think I was ever in much danger. I think some of the issue with this would be ameliorated if the monsters in a situation were diverse and the players had to allocate their characters to different combats without knowing the exact ratings that their foes had. But still… this is very different from Moldvay Basic D&D where the players can be outclassed, but gain initiative, drop a single foe, and then watch the bad guys flee due a failed morale check.

And another thing… the “big gun” spell of first level Tunnels & Trolls is not an “I win button” like D&D’s Sleep. It’s more like a bigger better Magic Missile! The tone of the gameplay is very different as a consequence of these contrasting design choices.

As friendly as the Deluxe rules are overall, I have to say that playing this solitaire makes me a lot more comfortable with the idea of running the game. Looking at the notes for running this as a GM adventure, I think this is probably a better introductory scenario than what is included with the big fat rule book. (Note that the stats in the back are all for Deluxe edition anyway, so the designer may well have anticipated this particular use case!)

And while I’m glad I gave first edition a shot, I can say that I’m sorry to put the spartan spell descriptions and incomprehensible “Advanced Weapons Chart” behind me. On the other hand, a pruned down version of the Deluxe edition’s weapon list might be a good idea. The weapons and armor lists on the new GM screen looks a lot better to me if I’m going to be walking new players through the process of creating characters…!

There were a couple of errors in this product. In my play-through, I went to a location where I got my weapons back even through I had never lost them. Also… the experience point award for the monsters looked different from what the rules seemed to indicate. And there is a magic item in this thing that is not completely defined and which doesn’t come with an appropriate first edition style experience point award. In fact… there is one section that describes some of its effects… but you cannot get to that location of the text! This did not ruin things for me, though… and given how good everything else about this adventure is, I can still recommend it for people that are just now breaking out their brand new Deluxe Edition rule books. Experiencing the iconic city of Khosht through the virtual refereeing of the system’s original designer is well worth the price of entry. And of course, I’ve already raved over the value of the first edition reprint.

So check it out!

The big puzzle with some of these classic solitaire adventures is figuring out the best combination of equipment purchases to optimize your chances. I attempted to do that before I’d read that Ken was giving me whatever I wanted. For what it’s worth, I don’t think I would have had a harder time getting through things without the fancy gear. Here’s the stuff I originally picked out:

Weight Carried: 220 + 250 + 25 + 1 = 496
Gold: 140 – 75 – 50 – 10 – 5 = 0
Battle Axe (4 dice)
Leather Armor (2 hits)
Steel Cap (1 hit)
Curare (3 applications)