Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dual Weapons Revisited

I had three good comments to my post on dual wielding weapons so I thought it would be worthwhile to revisit the subject.

First off I would just like to say that I know that two weapons can be wielded at the same time. I have seen it done to great effect. I myself was in the Society for Creative Anachronisms (SCA) and have seen several fighters wield two swords with great skill. But these were veteran fighters who had been practicing for years. Most used a sword and dagger but some used two swords; however, they never used two swords with blades longer than three feet and I certainly never saw anyone using two axes, spears, or maces. Of course they were using weapons made of rattan and not steel; but these fighting styles are also used by other historical recreation groups that do use steel weapons like the one pictured above and in my last post on this subject. So there is no question that it can be done in my mind, the question is simply how do you reflect this fighting style in game terms?

When fighting with two weapons at once, the weapon in the off hand is often used for defensive purposes (at least as far as I have seen). This off-hand weapon is used to block incoming blows, launch feints, and occasionally make attacks. This is my reason for reducing the effectiveness of the second weapon by not counting weapon adds. Another suggestion on Trollhalla was that the second weapon only provides extra adds in the amount of the dice plus one if the weapon has positive adds. A dirk (2+1), for example, would provide +3 adds if used as a second weapon. I like this idea, but I also like the random effect dice provide rather than pure adds. Of course, this penalty can be minimized by selecting weapons with the most dice and fewest adds. A short sword (3+0), for example, could be used as a second weapon with no penalty.

My comment on game balance had more to do with different fighting styles available to player characters rather than between characters and monsters. As Ken said, the fighting abilities of monsters are often balanced by game masters to match the characters. I usually don't subscribe to this idea, often presenting my characters with both push-over fights and hopeless ones; it's up to the players to figure when they should fight or not. But given the current rules I don't see why any character would not elect to use two weapons at all times. Mine certainly do. In T&T, characters can fight with one one-handed weapon often paired with a shield, one two-handed weapon, or two one-handed weapons.

Let's look at a match up between three warriors with a 14 Strength, 14 Dexterity, and 14 Constitution. Looking for maximum punch a warrior selects a headsman's axe with 4D+4 and pairs it with a pavise shield that can take 7x2 hits. Another warrior, wanting to get the largest weapon possible, selects a forkspear, a 7' polearm that gets 5D+2. Maybe it's not the most practical weapon to bring into a dungeon, but what the hell. A third warrior likes the flash of wielding two blades. He selects a saber and a haladie that gets 5D+8 combined. The warrior with two weapons is the most effective in combat according to the rules as written. Of course, the warrior with the shield can absorb 14 hits of damage, but the warrior with two weapons generates 1D+4 more per combat turn which is often enough to turn the tide of a battle.

I decided to assume that they all have equal personal adds and no body armor to see what happens when the two-weapon warrior faced the weapon-and-shield and two-handed weapon warriors in five battles using standard 7.5 edition rules. The two-weapon warrior fared very well against the two-handed warrior. He won all five fights, the longest taking only four combat turns while he won three fights in just two turns. In all five fights combined he only lost two combat turns both in the same fight. The weapon-and-shield warrior proved a bit more of a challenge due to the fact that he could absorb 14 hits of damage per turn. That's a good thing because the weapon-and-shield warrior lost 57 combat turns out of 60 in the five battles to the two-weapon warrior. The battles lasted an average of 12 turns, the longest being 17 turns and the shortest 9 turns. The two-weapon warrior was able to get past the shield eight times (2/1/1/2/2) over the course of the five battles. This was enough to soundly defeat the weapon-and-shield warrior every time.

These lopsided results point to the reason I think it is necessary to modify the dual-wield rules. I simply don't want the warrior with two weapons to always win a fight just because he has two weapons. This is why I wanted to add some kind of penalty to the second weapon and limit the size of the weapons used. Tom's suggestion of doubling the Dexterity requirement of the second weapon was quite interesting. This rule would definitely temper weapon combination. In the end, however, I think I prefer limiting the number of dice of the weapons that can be used and cutting the adds of the second weapon for the sake of simplicity.

I played out some quick fights with the house rules from my last post and did find them a bit wanting. So like any good set of house rules, I altered them. Here are my newly revised house rules for dual wielding weapons. I think that they are a little cleaner than my last set. Of course they are only my house rules and everyone has plenty of their own.


No weapons with more than 3 dice may be wielded at the same time. This eliminates the ridiculous combination of heavy weapons like a broad axe and a pilum or a war hammer and morningstar. I know this is fantasy I cannot see this happening. Of course this rule applies to human-sized characters. This can be increased by one or two dice for such larger than human character types as trolls, ogres, or giants.

Warriors may use any two one-hand weapons with 3 or fewer dice. Rogues may use a second weapon with 2 or fewer dice. Wizards may not use two weapons at once. This reflects the extra training of warriors but allows rogues to use a dagger or similar as an second weapon. Wizards, with no combat training, are more likely to hurt themselves while trying to wield two weapons than their opponent.

Weapon dice are used for the second weapon but not weapon adds. This accounts for a slight loss in effectiveness of the second weapon in attacks. This is meant to help balance the three fighting styles even if it is not an ideal representation of reality.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Temple of Issoth

I recently released a stand-alone version of my solo adventure The Temple of Issoth on RPGNow. This solo first appeared in TrollsZine #3 released in August. I have made a few modifications and improvements to the original solo, including corrected a couple of links, adding a few new paragraphs, and providing some new options. I have also added a color cover with art by Joe Calkins (Cerberus Illustration) and Robert Hemminger (Avalon Game Company). The interior of the book includes several black and white illustrations. The Temple of Issoth also includes three fully equipped pregenerated characters just in case you don't have a delver that meets the requirements of the adventure.

The Temple of Issoth is currently available as a free pdf download at my Lone Delver Games page. I will be releasing a print version of this solo on either LuLu or the new print on demand feature offered by RPGNow. So far The Temple of Issoth has been downloaded over 260 times!


"You must help me. The priests of Issoth have carried my son away. He is to be sacrificed to their dark god this very night. I will pay you 100 gold talents if you go to the Temple of Issoth and rescue him."

Your blood chills at the mention of Issoth's temple. You have heard only rumors of that dark and forbidding place. Horrible stories of demons and the undead. The priests of Issoth are said to be fanatics that sate the great beast Issoth's every fiendish appetite. This man asks you to risk a great deal and offers very little in return. Do you dare enter THE TEMPLE OF ISSOTH?

This solitaire adventure is suitable for a single humanoid warrior with 20-30 combat adds. You may bring whatever weapons, armor, or equipment you wish. Three pregenerated characters are provided if you do not have one that fits the requirements.

Friday, December 10, 2010

One Sword or Two?

Starting characters are usually pretty poor fighters. Even a well-to-do starting delver will only be equipped with a weapon that provides three dice and a few adds. That's not much, especially when you are going it alone. One way to give your first or second level warrior or even rogue or wizard a leg up against that MR 30 goblin is to leave your shield behind and go into battle with a blade in each hand. With the right combination of Strength and Dexterity, any character can become a unstoppable killing machine; well, almost.

In a previous post I mentioned my preference for using two weapons over a weapon and shield. My personal favorite combination with starting warriors is a short saber and bank. In all T&T editions, as long a a character has a Strength and Dexterity equal to or exceeding the combined Strength and Dexterity requirements of two weapons, he can use those weapons at the same time and get the full combined dice and adds of both weapons. That's a pretty significant increase in fighting power. Even the weakest of characters could go into a fight with two banks requiring a ST and DX of 2 and get 4 dice and 6 adds. An average warrior with a ST and DX of 12 could use a short saber and haladie and get 5 dice and 5 adds. A more powerful warrior with a ST and DX of 19 could potentially wield a falchion and a short saber and get 7 dice and 5 adds on top of any personal adds, which if the character wasn't horribly unlucky would be at least another 14 adds. Not too bad. Such a warrior could handle a MR 50 monster single handed. The dual weapon wielding warrior not only has a better chance of winning a combat turn, but also effectively limits the number of hits he may take if he does lose. In this way the second weapon also doubles as a shield.

It does seem that this rather simple game mechanic can get a little unbalancing. In my play-by-post game, The Lost City, there are two dwarf characters, a warrior and a wizard. The warrior wields two short swords providing him 6 dice and 11 adds in combat. The wizard wields two kukri (daggers) providing him 4 dice and 20 adds (!!) in combat. Just these two characters, therefore, are able to muster 10 dice and 31 adds per combat turn. That's an average CBT of 61 between the two of them and they're first level characters; holy $%#^!

Given the power that using two weapons provides, I have previously stated that shields are almost useless in the rules as written. I tried to remedy this situation in another post with some shield house rules to make them a little more appealing. There is also the question of two-handed weapons. There are few cases where a single two-handed weapon provides the dice and adds of two one-handed weapons; so why bother with a polearm or two-handed broadsword unless your character concept demands the use of such weapons.

Despite the balance issue, there are more practical questions about fighting with two weapons to consider. For example, when fighting with two weapons, could you really get the most out of both? Is it reasonable that anyone could effectively fight with two broadswords, two scimitars, or two heavy flails? Does fighting with two weapons require special training and years of practice that most characters would not have (yes it does)? This is supposed to be heroic fantasy, however, and not an accurate re-creation of medieval combat. Almost every sword and sorcery story includes a warrior charging into combat with a weapon in both hands. So rather than removing the use of two weapons completely, why not alter the rules a little (i.e. complicate them) to keep the arms race under control.

To that end, I have come up with a few house rules for two-weapon fighting.


Warriors only: Fighting with two weapons requires special training and practice. Warriors have this training, rogues and wizards do not.

One weapon must have at least 1 die less than the other: The weapon in the warriors off-hand should be smaller to maintain balance and speed. The classic example of this is fighting with a sword and dagger.

Weapons with five or more dice may not be paired with another: There is a limited set of one-handed weapons with five or more dice, but these may not be paired with another weapon.

Weapon dice are used for second weapon but not weapon adds: Only the dice for the second weapon are used in combat, weapon adds are excluded. This accounts for a slight loss in effectiveness of the second weapon. If the weapon has no adds or has negative adds, then it loses 1 die.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Still Delving

Only one post in November? Where has the time gone?

Over the next couple of months I plan on continuing my "Evolution of T&T" series. Future posts will include discussion of Attributes, Character Types, Levels, Arms and Armor, Combat, Spells, and of course Covers.

I also have a few new house rules posts rattling around in my head (two-weapon fighting, ranged weapon combat, and first level spell details) as well as two new Solo Design topics, Consequences and Twists.

I'm also working, somewhat sporadically, on a stand-alone version of my "Temple of Issoth" solo originally published in Trollszine 3. This will be fully illustrated, revised with some new sections, and available as a free pdf from RPGnow. My goal is to have this available by the end of December.

There are some new T&T blogs out there including "Deeper Delvings" and "Five-And-A-Half Trolls" that I plan to add to my list. If anyone knows of any others, please let me know. A few blogs on my watch list have not been updated in months; these I'll likely cut loose.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Inspiration from Clipart

A ruined arch sitting alone on a blasted landscape. The benign remains of an ancient civilization or something more sinister? What will befall those two curious travelers who have taken shelter in the dark shadows cast by the grim edifice? Will they dare to make camp beneath the crumbling stone structure as growing storm and darkness descends upon them? What lies beneath mounded earth surrounding the ruin? Why does nothing grow? It's not a bad start for an adventure; and you don't even need to go underground.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Fighting Fantasy Lives!

My thanks to Scott Malthouse of Trollish Delver for his latest post on Fighting Fantasy. I had not been to the Fighting Fantasy website or even known of its existence until now. The amount of content on the website, including fan-produced material, is impressive. I bought and played a number of these books published by Dell in the 1980s; the first one I acquired was Deathtrap Dungeon and is still the one that stands out in my mind as the best. The cover of that edition by Richard Corben (shown to the right) was also one of my favorites in the series. The Baron is especially creepy and devious-looking in this portrayal. My collection of these books is long gone but not their influence.

My favorite part of the website is the Amateur Adventures page. There are 46 (yes, 46) Fighting Fantasy adventures produced by fans and available as free pdf downloads. The amateur adventure page includes a template for starting your game book and a very good article on how to create a fighting fantasy adventure from the initial idea to playtesting. This article includes comments by Steve Jackson, Ian Livingstone, and Jon Green. The advice is equally useful for designing T&T solo adventures and is well worth reading. The article also includes many of the classic illustrations from the books that I remember well. I've looked through a few of the amateur adventures and most look quite good. It certainly would not take much work to run these as Tunnels and Trolls solos if one were so inclined.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Evolution of T&T: Kindred

Note: In my discussion in this post and later posts on the Evolution of T&T, I will be discussing the rules as written in the published rulebooks. Of course, the final rule in T&T is "if you don't like it, change it," so there have always been house rules.

I've always played humans in Tunnels and Trolls. It's not that I have anything against dwarves, hobbits, leprechauns, fairies, or even elves (well, maybe elves). It's just that I've always felt that humans were more likely to be the ones crawling around tunnels and old ruins in search of wealth and an early grave. But, like in any other fantasy role-playing game, players do have the option of playing nonhuman characters of several different types. In T&T you may play any kindred you like; and I mean any. Goblins, orcs, gremlins, trolls, giants, minotaurs, and more are all fair game depending on your GM (or yourself if you're playing solo). Many of these monstrous characters are listed in the 5th edition rules and by the 7th edition there is a list of 32 different monster characters to choose from including dragons and living statues. My focus will be on the main five nonhuman kindred, however: elves, dwarves, hobbits (or hobbs), leprechauns, and fairies.

When looking through the different editions of the T&T rules, it's interesting to see how these main five nonhuman kindreds have been presented each time. The most obvious way to quantify difference between kindreds is to provide attribute modifiers. What I find most interesting is that these modifiers have changed three times on the road from 1st to 7th editions.

Here are the attribute modifiers for the major humanoid kindred:

1st though 4th Editions

5th Edition

7th Edition

Kindreds can also be given special abilities that make them stand apart from humans. No special abilities are given in 1st or 4th editions with the exception of flight in fairies (in the small ones anyway). In the 5th edition, however, there are special abilities that are mentioned for each of the kindred. These abilities are not quantified in any way, but instead are presented in a mysterious manner almost as if they are rumors and legends. Here is an example:

"The pointy-eared Elves might be able to hear just a little better than a Human, but rumors that they can see to the farthest horizon, or see in the dark are entirely unfounded."

This method of presenting special abilities leaves the details of each of the abilities up to the discretion of the game master. What I like most is that none of kindred can see in the dark unlike other games. This puts all characters on an equal footing when underground or inside a windowless, ancient ruin.

Here is a summary of the kindred abilities in 5th edition:

Elf: Better hearing than humans
Dwarf: Able to appraise jewels and gems on sight
Hobbit: Good at stealth and hiding
Leprechaun: Can only be Wizard, but start with no spells other than a modified Wink-Wing
Fairy: The power of flight (Does that do anything for you?)

In 7th edition, the restriction of Leprechauns to wizards is listed as well as their starting use of a Wink-wing ability, but their lack of 1st level spells in not included. No other kindred abilities are mentioned.

As you can see, the five major nonhuman kindred have changed considerably over the last 30 years. There is certainly nothing wrong with that; rules like organisms, should change over time. In most cases I think the goal of the change was balance (of course I could be wrong).

The most striking aspect of the different nonhuman kindreds in 1st - 4th edition rules is the imbalance of their attribute modifiers. At their inception, elves were the uber-kindred of T&T. Four (intelligence, dexterity, luck, AND charisma) of their six attributes were increased from the initial roll and none were reduced. This made elves the default kindred of choice for the aspiring delver because they had no weaknesses (except for being snooty elves). Dwarves were similarly imbalanced having their strength and constitution doubled with no other attribute reduced. Dwarves were stronger and heartier than any other character option, capable of dealing more damage and taking more punishment than the other kindreds with no drawbacks (well, they were short). Leprechauns were just the opposite of dwarves; their strength and constitution were both halved with no benefit of any sort. One wonders if anyone ever elected to play a leprechaun and if they did, why? Hobbits and fairies were the two most balanced nonhuman kindreds and I think they set the stage for later development of kindreds in the following editions. Both featured attributes that were raised and others that were lowered. Hobbits enjoyed increased dexterity (x3/2) and constitution (x2) with the loss of half their rolled strength. Fairies had charisma doubled, but only a quarter of their rolled strength. They did have the ability to fly, but only with a strength of 2 or less. Any higher and they were considered too heavy to get off of the ground.

In the 5th edition rules, all kindreds acquired both positive and negative modifier to their attributes. In fact, in some cases the attributes that were modified changed from those in 1st and 4th edition. Elves retained their increased intelligence, dexterity, and charisma, but lost the increase to their luck. I've wondered why were elves considered luckier in the first place. In addition, the mighty elves were given a disadvantage (gasp!). Elves constitution was reduced to 2/3 of the rolled value. They might have been quicker, smarter, and prettier than mere humans, but at least they were now easier to kill. Dwarves kept their doubled strength and constitution, but suffered a reduced charisma. Given that charisma is generally considered a 'dump stat,' I doubt this reduced the number of dwarf warriors out there. Of course, a charisma saving roll can also spell the difference between life and death. Dwarves, typically thought of as miners, gained the ability to determine the value of gems and jewels on sight. Quite a handy ability once you try to sell your plundered valuables. Leprechauns were given new life in 5th edition. The changes are actually highlighted in the rules and the statement is made: "We hope more players will find the new Leprechauns of sufficient interest to insure their presence in dungeons everywhere." In 5th edition, only the strength of leprechauns is halved. They also gained bonuses (x1.5) to their intelligence, dexterity, and luck. That was quite a change. Tempering these boosts in attributes is their restriction to the wizard type but with no starting 1st level spells with the exception of a Wink-Wing equivalent (short range teleportation, normally a 4th level spell). In comparison, wizards of every other kindred start with the knowledge of ten first level spells. Fairies received a similar level of overhaul; their strength and charisma modifiers remained the same, but they received boosts to their dexterity and luck (x1.5) as well as a large reduction (x.25) in constitution (to be expected in such a small creature). The restriction that fairies with a strength greater than 2 could not fly was also removed. The reason given for this change was that a fairy's ability to fly was magical in nature and not restricted by physics. Hobbits, being hobbits, remained unchanged. They were already the most balanced nonhuman kindred in the game so there was no need to alter them although they did gain their mysterious abilities to sneak and hide (tricksy hobbits).

Kindred experienced another pulse of evolutionary change with the release of the 7th edition rules. Elves, never ones to left out, lost their increased dexterity but regained their increased luck and doubled their magical energy with the official addition of the Wizardry attribute. Why the switch from increased dexterity to increased luck? No idea, elves are mysterious. Dwarves also experienced a shift in their attributes; their charisma was no longer reduced (did they start showering and shaving?) but instead their luck was reduced. This change is a rather significant one because it reduces the number of personal adds, the T&T quantification of fighting prowess, of the standard tough dwarf warrior. Hobbits, a species that experienced no change since their appearance in 1st edition, gained increased luck. They also received a new name: Hobbs. Oh well, they'll always be hobbits to me. Fairies once again were increased in their attributes making them even more viable as characters; in particular wizards. The dexterity and luck modifiers of fairies were increased to x2 and the new Wizardry attribute was given a x2 modifier. The major problem with fairies before this was that their low strength made them poor fighters AND wizards because strength was needed to power magic as well a provide personal adds. With a doubled wizardry attribute now powering a fairies spells, and doubled dexterity and luck providing personal adds to make up for lost strength, these become very potent characters. The attributes of leprechauns remained unchanged from 5th edition. As I mentioned previously, there is little to no mention of special abilities of the different kindred in 7th edition. This aspect of kindred appears to have been left entirely up to the game master and player. The exception is for leprechauns who are still restricted to the wizard type and have a natural Wink Wing ability. Their lack of starting first level spells, however, is not mentioned making leprechauns much more appealing as characters.

Just as an example, I rolled up a character and assigned the rolls to attributes in order. I included Wizardry from the 7th edition rules, but left out Speed to keep Personal Adds modifiers constant. Here is the human version:

ST 11...IQ 15...LK 7...DX 11...CON 16...CHR 9...WIZ 14...ADDS: -2

Not too bad. A rather unlucky, but healthy wizard perhaps. His low dexterity will prevent him from casting higher level spells, but he can work to improve his finger-work with some practice; if he survives.

Let's see this same character as an elf through the different editions:

1st/4th..ST 11...IQ 23...LK 11...DX 17...CON 16...CHR 18...ADDS: +5
5th.......ST 11...IQ 23...LK 7....DX 17...CON 11...CHR 18...ADDS: +3
7th.......ST 11...IQ 23...LK 11...DX 12...CON 11...CHR 18...WIZ 28...ADDS: +0

There's no question that in 1st and 4th editions the elf is somewhat over-the-top. I imagine most adventuring parties were composed of a large number of elves. In 5th and 7th editions, this is tempered somewhat by the reduction of CON; but with a good starting roll it is not a great disadvantage, especially with the addition of the WIZ attribute in 7th edition which is doubled. There's also the fact that in 7th edition your starting level is dependent on you attributes (a topic for another post). So the majority of elf characters will always start at a minimum of 2nd level providing added bonuses.

Now here's the dwarf:

1st/4th..ST 22...IQ 15...LK 7...DX 11...CON 32...CHR 9...ADDS: +8
5th......ST 22...IQ 15...LK 7...DX 11...CON 32...CHR 6...ADDS: +8
7th......ST 22...IQ 15...LK 5...DX 11...CON 32...CHR 9...WIZ 14...ADDS: +6

This makes a pretty solid warrior regardless of edition, and in particular in 1st/4th editions. In 5th edition he's a bit unlikeable and would certainly not be leading any negotiations you'd want to succeed. I wouldn't want to stand near the 7th edition dwarf in a thunder storm; this character also highlights the fact that the negative modifier on luck can reduce the combat effectiveness of the dwarf to counterbalance their extremely high strength. The presence of a 2x modifier in two attributes also guarantees that most dwarf characters (Citizens, Specialists, Warriors, and Paragons) will start at level 2 in 7th edition.

The sneaky hobbit:

1st/4th..ST 6....IQ 15...LK 7...DX 17...CON 32...CHR 9...ADDS: +0
5th......ST 6....IQ 15...LK 7...DX 17...CON 32...CHR 9...ADDS: +0
7th......ST 6....IQ 15...LK 11..DX 17...CON 32...CHR 9...WIZ 14...ADDS: +2

As I've mentioned, the hobbit started with a good balance of positive and negative modifiers. His high constitution makes an armored hobbit almost unkillable (almost). With the addition of increased luck in 7th edition, hobbits are even more potent characters as this easily offsets their reduced strength when paired with their already heightened dexterity.

The misunderstood leprechaun:

1st/4th..ST 6....IQ 15...LK 7...DX 11...CON 8....CHR 9...ADDS: -5
5th......ST 6....IQ 23...LK 11..DX 17...CON 16...CHR 9...ADDS: +2
7th......ST 6....IQ 23...LK 11..DX 17...CON 16...CHR 9...WIZ 14...ADDS: +2

Again, why would anyone play a leprechaun in 1st and 4th edition? By the 5th edition, however, leprechauns make very effective wizards with heightened intelligence, dexterity, and luck as well as a constitution equivalent to humans. With these changes I'm sure their numbers swelled the ranks of adventuring parties everywhere. The addition of the wizardry attribute in 7th edition also helps them overcome their reduced strength and maximizes their spell-casting abilities.

Finally the fairy:

1st/4th..ST 3....IQ 15...LK 7...DX 11...CON 16...CHR 18..ADDS: -8
5th......ST 3....IQ 15...LK 11..DX 17...CON 4....CHR 18..ADDS: -1
7th......ST 3....IQ 15...LK 14..DX 22...CON 4....CHR 18..WIZ 28...ADDS: +7

The 1st/4th edition fairy is very disappointing. Sure he's pretty, but being musclebound for a fairy with a ST of 3, he can't even fly. The fairy improves considerably in 5th edition; the increased luck and dexterity significantly increases his personal adds (although they're still negative) even though his constitution has been quartered. But by 7th edition we have a formidable wizard or rogue on our hands; a flying platform hurling TTYFs over the heads of his larger comrades and into the ranks of goblins, frogmen, or zombies.

So as you can see, the five major nonhuman kindred have changed considerably from 1st to 7th editions of T&T. While many of these changes might be considered minor, I think the examples I presented above illustrate how significant they really are to the game. Having analyzed these kindred in such detail, I may stop playing humans. My next 7th edition character may just be a leprechaun.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Evolution of Tunnels and Trolls

I have the fortune of owning copies of the 1st, 4th, 5th, 7th, and 7.5 editions of Tunnels and Trolls. I look through these rule sets from time to time looking for new ideas and changes in the system. It's amazing how often I find things I never noticed before as well as discover elements that disappear. It's also striking how much the rules have actually changed since the 1st edition of 1975. The core of the rules, the Saving Roll, has remained relatively untouched but every other aspect of the game has been modified, tweaked, or completely overhauled. Some elements have been removed and new ones have been added. While some have stated that the 7th edition rules were too much of a deviation from the true spirit of the game laid out in 5th edition, the same could be said of the 5th edition over the 4th.

I'm going to start a series of posts discussing different elements of the rules that have evolved over the various editions. These posts will be mixed in with my usual posts on rules elaborations and complications, my various thoughts on solo design (I certainly won't refer to these as advice), the occasional solo narrative (whenever I am able to get back to playing), and the other odds and ends I post on an irregular basis. I hope everyone enjoys them, and as always feel free to comment. First up will be nonhuman kindred in T&T.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

RPG Now Doctors Without Borders Bundle

RPGNow and DriveThruRPG are offering a bundle of $730 worth of RPG items for only $25 through October 25th. All funds raised from this bundle will go toward flood relief in Pakistan and help provide medical care, clean water, food, and other necessities. The bundle includes a lot of great items including one of my own, House in the Hills. There are plenty of different complete rule systems (like Dragon Warriors), adventures, clip art, and supplements for a variety of genres (fantasy, scifi, superheroes, horror, zombie apocalypse, and modern to name a few). This is a great opportunity to have a look at products produced by a multitude of independent publishers for very little money and the money you do spend will go to a good cause. As of now RPGNOW/DriveThruRPG have raised over $15,000 in just over 24 hours. To have a look at the list of items included and order the bundle, go here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Giving Shields Their Due

My post on 'Equipping the Lone Delver' generated a good deal of discussion in Trollhalla, in particular over the relative value of carrying a second weapon versus a shield. In the discussion on Trollhalla there were some interesting ideas thrown around regarding house rules for dual-weapon wielding and shields. In this post I'm sticking to shields; I'll comment on house rules for wielding two weapons in a future post.

In the Tunnels and Trolls rules as written, any character can use two weapons as long as they have ST and DEX scores equal to or greater than the combined requirements of the two weapons. The advantage of using two weapons is that you get the full dice and adds of both weapons. The obvious disadvantage of using two weapons is that you cannot use a shield. In my post on equipment for solo adventurers, I indicated my preference for using two weapons over a shield. My reasoning was that the extra hits generated by a second weapon effectively protect a character as well if not better than a shield; they also increase the likelihood of winning a combat turn. I did not mean to malign shields in any way. They are certainly useful pieces of equipment; especially in real combat. But given the T&T combat mechanics they are simply less useful.

In reality, however, shields are used for more than passively deflecting damage in combat. In trained hands, shields can be used to hit and stun opponents, intercept incoming projectiles, deflect blows aimed at nearby comrades, or even overlapped to form impenetrable walls or formations (the classic Roman testudo). Of course, all of these additional uses do require special training.

As I said there were a number of suggestions for house rules for shields, both those that have been employed and those that were just thought up. Here are just a few of those ideas. Sligo suggested that a player could make a Saving Roll on Speed each combat turn at the level of the attacker; a successful roll would mean the shield took double the number of hits. Khalfrrd mentioned that shields are really parry weapons and as such they should reduce the number of dice the opposing side rolls. The number of dice would be doubled when attacked by missile weapons. In addition, if two or more shields were interlocked, the opposing side would lose an additional die for each pair of shields. Mahrundl had an interesting idea that shields could be used to absorb one or two more points of spite damage. This idea was elaborated on by Khayd'haik who suggested that a shield can absorb a number of points of spite damage per combat turn equal to the hits taken; however, if a shield is used to absorb spite damage it cannot be used to absorb normal damage that combat turn. Also, each point of spite damage absorbed reduces the armor value of the shield by one. The idea that any shield could also be used as a weapon was commented on by Toad-Killer-Dog who mentioned that all shields served as 1-die weapons in his house rules. Knorrrsk, on the other hand, suggested that each shield provided combat adds equal to it's armor value.

Ken St. Andre also chimed in on the subject stating that in T&T shields always provide protection, even when slung across your back; the rationale being that a large piece of metal or wood strapped to ones body will offer some protection from incoming blows just like body armor. I had not considered this possibility before, so I went back and read through the various editions of the T&T rules. In the 1st and 4th editions, it does indeed say that slung shields provide half their hit value in protection. But there is no mention of this rule in either the 5th or 7th edition rules. Of course, the possibility of using two weapons is never explicitly stated in the 5th edition rules either (although it is hinted at in some of the notes in the weapons tables). If the slung shield rule were incorporated, a character could wield two weapons and sling a shield and get the best of both options; provided he has the strength to carry it all.

Incorporating ideas from the members of Trollhalla, including Ken St. Andre, with some of my own, I have come up with this list of house rules for making shields more appealing in T&T. In all examples I am using the 7.5 edition rules for armor values.


Hits Taken When Slung: Shields take 1/2 their hits taken value, rounded down when slung. (Ex. A target shield (4 hits) takes 2 hits when slung. A buckler (3 hits) only takes 1 hit when slung.)

Absorbing Spite Damage: Any shield can be used to absorb 1 point of spite damage per combat turn; however the number of hits taken by the shield is permanently reduced by 1 as a result.

Combat Adds: Warriors and paragons (warrior-wizards) receive bonus combat adds equal to the hits taken by the shield.

Protection from Missiles: Warriors and paragons (warrior-wizards) equipped with a shield may make a SR on DEX to deflect incoming missiles. To determine the SR level, subtract the number of hits taken by the shield from the number of dice of the projectile [Ex. A warrior with a buckler (3 hits) is fired upon by an uruk with a crossbow (5 dice). If the warrior can make a L2-SR on DEX, he will deflect the crossbow bolt.]

Protecting Comrades: Warriors and paragons (warrior-wizards) equipped with a shield can elect to allow an ally fighting on their shield side to make full use the doubled hits taken value of the shield. The warrior wielding the shield may not use the shield to absorb normal or spite damage that combat turn.

These house rules make shields much more appealing in my mind, especially for warriors, as it should be; they are the ones trained in the use of such equipment. They are also not overly complicated so they shouldn't slow down game play by requiring multiple additional die rolls or charts to reference. My thanks to the member of Trollhalla for all their excellent comments and input.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

New Art

I've added this new piece of art featuring a lone delver from the Tunnels and Trolls 5th edition rulebook to the sidebar. I plan on changing this picture about once a month. This piece is by Rob Carver and is one of my favorite from the 5th edition rules, but all of the illustrations from that book form the basis of my personal image of the T&T world. What I love about this illustration is how much is going on despite the fact that it is a seemingly simple picture of someone stopping to read a map.

We have a lone warrior (or perhaps a rogue or even a warrior-wizard) squatting over a map next to an open chest. Also on the floor around him are three rings and three skulls. The delver appears to be in a temple or tomb, given the elaborate mural on the wall in the corridor beyond the archway. The mural depicts warriors attacking demons, undead, and other monsters. The monsters seem to be falling before the warriors, so this may be the tomb of a great hero and the mural depicts one of his (or her) victories. Turning our attention back to the delver, we see that he has some skill at picking locks; a padlock hangs open on the latch of the chest (or maybe he found the key?). The delvers prize consists of the three rings lying in front of him and the map he is studying. But then there are the three skulls. Were these also in the chest or are they the decapitated heads of the guardians of this treasure? Looking at the closely, the eyes of the skulls almost seem to be staring at the map as well. What is most striking, and steals the show in my opinion, is the trail leading from the chest to the bearded skull on the right. These are not the harmless heads of defeated foes, they are alive and mobile. But are they helping the delver or attempting to harm him? Are they the remains of three wise sages with knowledge to share or terrible beasts that slay the unsuspecting delver (but how)? I think this might be worth some more thought. I'm planning on 'fleshing out' these skulls and submitting them to Troll Hammer's Creature Feature. We'll see if they are friend or foe.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

New T&T Blog and Solo Links

A new Tunnels and Trolls blog, Troll Hammer has been started. This blog will include a regular Creature Feature consisting of detailed write-ups of original monsters for T&T 7.5 edition. These monsters will be submitted by the members of Trollhalla. The first entry to the Creature Feature is by someone named Ken St. Andre.

I have also added three links in the two free solos sections. These links are courtesy of Mahrundl over at the Trollbridge.

The first is an online solo called The Murren Moors designed for three characters. The adventure takes place in a swamp and includes a nearby castle that the player can return to in order to rest, recuperate, buy new weapons, or hear rumors. It's a nice touch. This is an old solo, apparently, having been written in 1998. Mahrundl stated that this solo was once on the defunct Castle of Otranto Tunnels and Trolls site.

There are also two new Free Print solos available. The first is a solo by Tim Lowell entitled The Warren which originally appeared in The Hobbit Hole #14. In this solo the player must save a colony of moles from a merciless band of ogres. The second solo is Down in the Sewers where you undertake a mission in the sewers for the Rat Catcher's Guild. Doing what I wonder? This nice site also has a number of interesting supplementary material for Tunnels and Trolls including a potion list, a talents list, and a very useful chart summarizing all of the rules for each character type in the 7.5 rules.

I have not played any of these solos so I can't make any recommendations. I've only given them a quick once over to see what they were about or if there were any interesting mechanics. But more T&T solos are always a good thing.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Public Domain Friday Returns

I thought I should post something just to get things started again. What better way that to post another piece of public domain art? A ruined gate in the wilderness. Where did it once lead? What else is left of the ancient structure? Perhaps a stairwell leading down to a dark and foreboding dungeon? Another building beyond the archway may still be intact and ripe for exploration. Or does the archway itself lead somewhere? Perhaps back in time to when the building was not in ruins? This is a great scene with which to start an adventure. There are so many possibilities.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Catching Up

After the last of my summer travel I am still trying to get caught up on things at home and work leaving little time for gaming. Getting back to posting on this blog has been slow, but I do have three half written posts that I started before I left. One deals with the consequences of actions in solo adventures and how to incorporate them into solo design. Another discusses various house rules for shields which I started after a lively discussion on the topic in Trollhalla in response to my post on equipping the solo delver. A third post reflects on my experiences with play-by-post Tunnels and Trolls games; I've played in three so far all of which are now inactive and am currently running one at the Trollbridge. I hope to make some time to finish these up in the near future. My current goal is to get at least one blog post in per week. That and to get back to working on the spaghetti western themed solo adventure I currently have in progress.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Equipping the Lone Delver

The solo adventurer faces difficult challenges. Among these is the need to carry enough equipment to be able to deal with any situation that arises, but not so much that he/she is unable to walk more that a few feet without stopping to rest. Since a previous post considered the use of equipment in solo adventures from a designers perspective, I thought I would provide a list of my personal thoughts on equipping a lone delver from a player's point of view.

Armor: Obviously a critical piece of equipment. But how much do you really need? A warrior in a full suit of cuirboille (7.5 ed.) or leather (5th ed.) armor can take 14 hits before losing any CON. Is there any need to encumber yourself with a full suit of mail so that you can absorb 22-24 hits? Let's face it, if you lose a combat turn by that much, you're not going to win and you're better off running away. If you're not a warrior then don't worry, you're likely dead anyway (kidding). To go with your nice set of armor you should also have a good set of boots.

Melee Weapons: I always use two weapons and leave the shield at home. Shields are great if you have a few friends to help out, but alone they're a nuisance. The hits taken to weight ratio is ridiculous. Sure, if you're a warrior with a target shield you can take 8 more hits, but wouldn't you rather generate a couple more dice and some adds for you combat total? In a way this extra weapon serves a defensive purpose as much as an offensive one. The higher your combat total, the fewer hits you'll end up taking if you happen to lose. But isn't it better if you don't lose? The bank makes the perfect off-hand weapon; it only requires a ST and DEX of 1 so it is easily paired with a variety of other weapons and get 2D+3. You can then generate between 5 and 15 extra hits each combat turn.

Missile Weapons: If you're planning a cross-country adventure and have the dexterity, a self bow is a good choice. If you're planning on crawling through some caverns or exploring a lost temple, you probably won't get the chance to use one. Better to tuck a couple of dirks in your boot just in case you get a chance to throw something and save your money.

Lanterns and torches: This one is a no-brainer. Every lone delver should be carrying a light source. I show no mercy to adventurers that stumble around dark places in my solos before lighting a torch. Who knows what is lurking in the shadows? Torches are cheap. Carry one, or better yet two.

Rope and grappling hook, hammer and pitons: Eventually you are going to have to climb up or down something. It could be a ruined wall of a forgotten keep, a pit you just fell into, or a cliff below a wizard's tower. Rope is also good for other purposes like tying up prisoners, making tripwires, lassoing hoofed mammals, or dragging heavy loads. I usually just take one of these pairs of items to keep weight down. Considering the versatility of rope it's a solid choice and ff you have the money, you can't beat silk.

Packs and sacks: How else are you going to carry all of this stuff and all of the coins, jewels, and other knick-knacks you manage to steal?

Provisions: Armies and delvers march on their stomach. Fighting and spell-casting are strenuous activities. So is lugging around 30-50 pounds of armor, weapons, and gear. Eventually you're going to have to stop and drink some water or eat some food. It's better to be safe and pack some just in case the adventure calls for you to eat or lose CON. One days worth of provisions and a waterskin will usually suffice unless you're about to undertake an epic journey.

First- and Second-Aid Kits: Both of these are nice additions from the 7.5 ed rules. The second-aid kit has enough bandages, healing salves, and pain killers (or so I assume) to restore 5 CON points five times. This can make all the difference in a solo adventure. First-aid kits are not described, but given the fact that they're one-tenth the cost of a second-aid kit I have used them to restore 1 CON point five times. In either case, these kits are a life-saver in solos, especially if you're using spite damage. Not every tomb and dungeon has a convenient fountain that magically heals those who come to pillage and plunder.

Other gear: There's always other equipment you may need at some point. The 5th edition delver's pack is a good assortment of random bits (string, chalk, wax, mirror, matches) that could eventually come in handy. A couple of cloves of garlic, some wooden stakes, and maybe a silver arrow or two may be useful if you're out hunting vampires or werewolves. Of course the 7.5 edition rules come with a vast array of new equipment to choose from. If you're the MacGuyver sort you may want to pack some tools like saws, mallets, awls, crowbars and the like. In a solo adventure, however, it's unlikely that you'll find a use for them. I always stick to the basics. Although a crowbar can come in handy and it makes a good back-up weapon if you run into trouble.

These are the principles I use to equip my solo characters. I'm sure everyone has their own ideas and I'd like to hear them.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


The third issue of TrollsZine has arrived at the Trollbridge Lulu Storefront and RPGNow for the unbeatable price of $0. This issue is bigger than ever with 82 pages of adventures, rules elaborations, short fiction, adventure locations, new monsters, spells, and magic items. There's even a review of The Tomb of Baron Gharoth. The editors, Dan Prentice and Kevin Bracey, have done a phenomenal job in making the project a continuing and improving reality.

The contributing writers include Ken St. Andre, Justin Williams, Randy Whitley, Patrice Geille, Tori Bergquist, Andrew Greene, Andy James, Jeff Freels, Mike Tremaine, W. Scott Grant, Dan Hembree, Dan Prentice, Lee Reynoldson, Simon Rafe, and Tom Grimshaw. The contributing artists include Jeff Freels, Kevin Bracy (also responsible for the excellent cover), David Ullery, Mike Hill, Grant Ennis, Alex Cook, and A. Kelly. As you can tell from these long lists, there is no shortage of talented writers and artists in the T&T community and it appears that the TrollsZine will never be left wanting for quality material.

There just so happens to be a solo adventure by yours truly, The Temple of Issoth, as well as one by Ken St. Andre, Four Jars of Mead. I must admit that I never thought one of my solos would end up in a publication with the man himself. The Temple of Issoth is a short solo. I managed to keep it to a trim 76 paragraphs. Writing short solos is a challenge; I tried to strike a balance with the fewest number of paragraphs with the maximum amount of choices and action. I'm definitely interested in getting some feedback from those of you who give it a try.

I've only had a chance to browse through this issue so far. I'll need to make some time to sit down and read it in detail. I'll definitely give Four Jars of Mead a try. There are also two GM adventures that Bludgeons and Flagons (designed for trolls) by Justin Williams and The Tomb of Agathor by Tori Bergquist that look quite good. I also spotted a few new magic items, spells, and monsters to entertain the delvers currently exploring The Lost City. How can you go wrong with a carnivorous, fire-breathing, death camel? Thanks Justin.

You can download TrollsZine 3 for free from Lulu or RPGNow.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

New Additions

In the interest of keeping things up-to-date on this blog, I've added some new links to the right.

Most gaming blogs have a "What I'm reading" section so I thought I would do the same, if just to remind myself what book is lying around my house half-read. As you can see I am currently reading the first book in David Gemmel's Troy series, Lord of the Silver Bow.

I have added two new online solos that have appeared since I started this blog, The Blood Wars of Saxon and Dark Rising. These are the first two parts of the Secrets of Saxon trilogy by Tom Grimshaw and first published in TrollsZine volumes 1 and 2.

I have also added a new section, Free Print Tunnels & Trolls Solos, which are solos that you can download as pdf, Word, or html files. The list includes three well-illustrated solo adventures published by Patrick Witmer (Barony of Sanris, Dark Side of the Desert, and No Rest for the Weary at War), one solo by Tom Grimshaw (The Blood Wars of Saxon) first published in TrollsZine vol. 1, and three classic solos by Tori Bergquist (Queen Scorpions and Lady Nymphs, The Sunk of Tarsus, and The Bullow Lands) published in The Sorcerer's Scrolls in the mid-80s.

Monday, August 9, 2010

I write like...

I saw this posted on a few other blogs so I thought I would give it a try. I entered some text from "House in the Hills" and was rewarded with this badge:

I write like
Rudyard Kipling

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Training Between Solo Adventures

Not all of a delvers life is spent crawling through dark tunnels. Every delver has to return to a city, town, village, or even a small tavern at a crossroads to get some decent rest, a warm meal, sell some of his hard-earned treasures, and resupply for the next adventure. In this time, however, is the delver simply sitting around?

I like the idea of Phineas the Red spending his time at taverns drinking, eating, and telling stories. Consequently, I have removed most of his loose coins left over after reequipping as expenses from these activities. But shouldn't he get something out of it besides a full stomach and a pounding head the next morning?

So I had the idea of training or gaining Adventure Points for specific attributes in between adventures. Take the example of carousing at local taverns. When time spent in this type of activity, you will earn APs toward Charisma equal to a SR made on that attribute. Roll 2D6, doubles add and roll over. The total rolled is the number of APs earned. To earn any AP, however, you must make a SR level equal to your attribute/10 rounding down but with the minimum of a L1-SR. This makes the training more difficult with increasing ability. A failed SR means no APs are earned. Each time you do this, however, you must spend 3D6 gold coins whether you make your SR or not. But you may only earn a maximum of 100 APs or enough to increase your CHR by 1 (whichever comes first). This will prevent excessively wealthy delvers from gaining too many APs from this kind of 'training.' If your character does not have sufficient cash on hand before making the SR, then you must give up an item of equal or greater value.

The same may be done with your other attributes. Strength can be improved by training. Your character wouldn't be hitting the gym but could be carrying heavy loads, lifting wagon wheels, splitting logs, etc. Think of the training montage in Rocky IV. Dexterity, Speed, and Constitution could be improved in similar manners. Football training camps are designed improve these attributes of the players. Increasing Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution would also earn APs equal to a SR on the attribute being trained. The cost would be 4D6 gold coins per roll.

Intelligence could be increased by spending time studying in a library, museum, or university. Given the nature of the attribute and the special materials required, training your Intelligence costs 5D6 gold coins per roll.

Luck and Wizardry are the two attributes that cannot be increased by training. Luck is improved by, well luck. Wizardry is improved by casting spells under duress.

Here is a table summarizing the basics:

Attribute SR Level GP per SR
STR STR/10 round down 4D6
INT INT/10 round down 5D6
DEX DEX/10 round down 4D6
CON CON/10 round down 4D6
SPD SPD/10 round down 4D6
CHR CHR/10 round down 3D6

Flashing back to Phineas the Red after his adventure with Six Pack in the cellar of Mongo, he spends the night carousing moving from tavern to tavern chatting up the locals, buying drinks, and telling stories about his adventures. He makes a L1-SR on CHR (CHR 10) and rolls a 9. That's just below what he needed for a L1 success. Phineas earns no AP toward Charisma but spends 3D6 = 6 gold coins during the night.

While these ideas are specifically tailored for my own Level and Attribute Advancement system, it can easily be used with 7.5 or 5th edition rules. You would still earn APs, but these would go to the general pool rather than to each individual attribute.

This system would allow characters to increase attributes that might not have been tested on previous adventures. It also gives characters something to do with all of the loose change they have jingling around in their pockets as they wander through town. I am going to implement this system in my online adventures of Phineas the Red and later characters when his luck finally runs out.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Phineas the Red Part 3

Phineas the Red had survived another dangerous adventure and managed to collect an impressive amount of treasure. This time, however, most of his prizes were magical in nature and he earned very few liquid assets. Lucky for him though, these items either came with instructions or their properties were revealed by Mongo and Six Pack thereby eliminating the need to pay for the services of a wizard.

Phineas did acquire enough experience to increase his proficiency as a warrior, or in game terms to increase his level. As a Level 2 warrior, Phineas now gets +2 to his personal adds and +2 to his saving rolls. That should serve him well in the future. Phineas also managed to increase three of his attributes. The cup of tea offered by the female dwarf on the barge increased his Strength and Constitution. He had the opportunity to increase each by 1d6, but I managed to roll a 1 and 2 respectively. Phineas earned enough APs to increase his Luck by 1. He earned a few APs toward his other abilities, but far fewer than he did in his last adventure.

Phineas picked up quite a few magical items in this adventure. He has the magic sword offered by Mongo which he was able to purchase for a mere 400 gp. This sword served him well against the werewolf, so he did not want to give it up. He also has an amulet (with instructions) that fully restores his CON every full moon. Not too bad. Next there is the grey elf cloak that makes his practically invisible when standing still and the piggy bank that can hold an unlimited number of gold coins and only weigh one pound. Obviously Phineas plans on keeping all of these items. But he gained little in the way of cash, only 20 gold and 80 silver coins. Most of the cash and gems went to Six Pack. In order to get some more cash and lighten his load, Phineas sells his saber for 22 gp then buys a new lantern to replace the one Six Pack lost in the lake as well as some provisions to keep him fed while traveling. Then it's off to the tavern for a bit of fun and adventure of a different kind.

When Phineas wakes up the next morning, he has very few coins left in his belt pouch but he feels confident that he can fill it once again. The only question now is, what adventure will Phineas take on next?

Phineas the Red

Type: Warrior
Kin: Human
Level: 2 (+2 adds, +2 SRs)
Level AP: 1412/3000

STR 15 (0/150)
CON 15 (8/150)
DEX 13 (62/130)
SPD 13 (29/130)
INT 11 (21/110)
WIZ 6 (0/60)
LK 15 (26/150)
CHR 10 (5/100)

Adds: +10

Thievery (DEX +3)

Bright green skin

Money: 11 gold, 1 silver

Long sword* 4+0, (*enchanted, takes 8 hits, returns with 'Help')
Poniard* 2+0, 10 wu (*enchanted, x2 vs undead)
Bank 2+3, 20 wu

Haubergeon 4 hits, 240 wu
Bracers* 4 hits, 20 wu (*enchanted, +1 hit each)
Greaves 2 hits, 30 wu
Open-face helmet 2 hits, 35 wu

Total Defense: 12 x 2 + 8 = 32 hits

Magic Items
Magic ring (Doubles personal adds during 1st combat turn)
Amulet (1200 gp) (Fully heals CON three times per full moon)
Piggy Bank (100 gp) (10 wu, holds unlimited # gold coins)
Grey Elf Cloak (100 gp) (Invisible when standing still)

2 days provisions
First-aid kit (5 uses)
Flint and steel
Lantern and oil
3 spare flasks of oil
Small mirror
50' silk rope
Grappling hook
2 small sacks
Water skin
Green silk cloak
Ankle-high hard boots
Leather belt
Belt pouch
Cotton trousers and shirt

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Sword for Hire, Part 2

At long last here is the highly anticipated (??) second part of the adventures of Phineas the Red in the dungeon cellar of Mongo the Wizard. Once again, if you have not yet played Sword for Hire this will spoil many of the surprises. The image below is from the interior of the book and is by Brian McMrary.

Phineas waited in the dark, remaining as still as possible. Suddenly a red-robed priest carrying a torch and staff appears from the eastern passageway. He stops at the intersection and looks to the south. Then, a procession of five more priest file through the intersection. Phineas holds his breath, his hand slowly edging to the hilt of his sword, waiting for the cry of discovery and the inevitable fight. But it does not come. The priests walk through without a word and the priest on watch follows the others.

"That was close," Six Pack says while lighting another torch. "Those guys are crazy." Six Pack takes a long drink from his keg then offers one to Phineas. Phineas accepts the keg, but only drinks a mouthful of the strong ale.

"Lets keep going," Phineas says and leads the way to the intersection.

"I'm not sure I want to go where those priests did," Phineas mutters while considering which way to go. "Let's head to the east."

The corridor leads east for a short distance then turns to the north. Finally the hall ends at a rune covered door. Six Pack sniffs at the door, puts his ear against it, and finally gives the thumbs up.

"It should be safe to enter. I don't smell or hear any priests. But who knows?"

Brimming with confidence, Phineas tries the door handle and the door opens to reveal a torch-lit room in the middle of which is a large golden piggy bank set on an altar. At the northern end of the room is a large circular shaft with flames flickering from deep below.

"Payday!" Phineas exclaims and hurries over to the piggy bank. As soon as he places his hands on the golden surface, however, three ghouls materialize on the altar in a puff of smoke. They hiss and growl and Phineas and Six Pack through decayed mouths. The stench of their rotting bodies is almost too much for Phineas as he backpedals off of the altar and draws his saber and bank.

"Now you've done it," is all Six Pack says before he rushes the ghouls. The ghouls in turn sprint toward the retreating Phineas and reach for his throat.

In a quick move, Phineas decapitates the first ghoul that reaches him. Six Pack arrives and tears an arm from the second. The creature screamed but continued to attack. In the next moment it was over. Six Pack quickly finished the ghoul he crippled and Phineas cut the legs out from the third. In the end, the two adventurers suffered only a few cuts.

"Nicely done," Phineas says while cleaning the foul smelling fluids from his blades. "Now lets see about this bank."

"Wait!" Six Pack yells but it is too late. Phineas picks up the golden piggy bank. A cloud of green dust erupts from the altar and engulfs Phineas. He coughs and sputters as the dust settles. He looks around in concern, then sees Six Pack rolling on the ground laughing. Looking down at himself, Phineas sees that his skin is a bright shade of green and all of his hair has fallen out.

"Looks like you'll have to change your name," Six Pack says still laughing. "But seriously, that's a nice color on you."

Phineas grumbles to himself and inspects the piggy bank trying to ignore that fact that he was now hairless and green. Inside the bank are 50 gold coins. Surprisingly, the banks does not seem to weight that much. After he replaces 10 coins, the bank stops increasing in weight.

"Nice prize," Six Pack says in admiration. "Hopefully that will come in handy."

Phineas smiles and packs away the bank. Without a word he heads toward the fire pit at the north end of the room.

"Of course you'd go that way," Six Pack mutters from behind him.

Looking over the pit, Phineas can see nothing but flames coming from deep below. On the other side of the pit is dark tunnel continuing to the north. Around the pit is a narrow ledge.

"Let's make our way around toward the east," Phineas says. "Just be careful."

"Did you need to say that?" Six Pack replies.

Phineas presses himself against the wall and slowly makes his way along the narrow ledge. Halfway around the ledge, a stone gives way beneath his right foot. Phineas scrambles for a moment, but is able to maintain his balance. The stone skips and bounces from wall to wall and never seems to stop falling. Phineas looks ahead and sees that rest of the ledge is gone.

"We have to back the other way," he says grimly to Six Pack.

Once back where they started, Phineas and Six Pack make their way around the pit to the west. This time a belch of gas erupts from the pit. The fumes make Phineas dizzy but he once again maintains his balance. Six Pack reaches out and helps to steady Phineas. Finally they arrive at the northern edge of the pit.

"I think I may have been here before," Six Pack says as he look around and sniffs the air.

"All I know is that it's dark," Phineas says and scrounges through his pack for his lantern. Lighting it, he starts to look around himself. He sees that they are standing in a L-shaped tunnel with branches leading to the west and south. Not wishing to cross the fire pit again, Phineas leads the way to the west.

"You're not looking so good there chief," Six Packs says to Phineas pointing to the numerous blood stains on his tunic and pants. "You might want to do something about that before we go on."

"I'll try the amulet," Phineas says and presses the pendant to his heart as instructed. He feels a warmth spread through his body, and all of the cuts, scrapes, and bruises vanish.

"A nice bauble," Six Pack says looking astonished. "Drink?" Six Pack takes a swig of ale and heads down the western tunnel.

Eventually the tunnel ends at a T-intersection. A water-filled canal fills a tunnel running to the north and south. Next to the tunnel entrance is a horn hanging from the moss-covered wall.

Phineas points to the horn and shrugs.

"Why not?" Six Pack says and takes another drink. "What's the worst that could happen, greeny?"

Phineas ignores the comment and takes the horn from the wall. He waits for a trap to spring, but then puts the horn to his lips and blows. In response, a barge slowly emerges from the south tunnel with a red-bearded, one-eyed dwarf at the helm. When he arrives at the tunnel entrance he waves impatiently at Phineas.

"Hurry up and get on board youngster. I'm late. Hey there," he says suddenly noticing Six Pack. "I haven't seen you in a while."

Six Pack looks at Phineas then whispers, "I've never seen him before. I think we should kill him and take his barge."

"No, no," Phineas says, "we can't just go around killing everyone we see. Let's see where this canal goes."

Phineas climbs on board the barge, dragging the complaining rock demon behind him. Once on board, Phineas sees that the barge is loaded with bulging leather sacks. Making himself as comfortable as possible, Phineas watches as the dwarf steers the barge away from the tunnel and down the canal to the north. Soon a female dwarf emerges from the cabin.

"Can I offer you any refreshments?" she asks. "I have wine, tea, and milk."

"Tea would be wonderful," Phineas says enthusiastically.

"Nothing for me," Six Packs says from a pile of leather sacks. He takes another long pull from his keg then belches loudly.

The dwarf returns with a large cup of tea which Phineas drinks quickly. As he drinks the warm beverage he starts to feel quite good. He feels just a little stronger and bit healthier than he has in quite some time. Phineas thanks the dwarf then returns to watching the tunnel ahead.

"Danger ahead!" the one-eyed dwarf suddenly announces from the helm. "Put out that lantern!"

Phineas quickly extinguishes his lantern, then draws his sword and dagger in case of treachery. The barge passes unmolested through the stretch of dark tunnel and eventually the dwarf relights his torch.

"I'll take whatever gold you can spare for the ride," the dwarf says pointing to a small box near the helm. Phineas drops ten gold coins from the piggy bank into the box as the barge pulls up at a cross tunnel.

"This is where you get off," the dwarf says matter-of-factly. "Come again."

Phineas and Six Pack prepare to climb off the barge, noticing that there are landings to the west and east.

"I think the way west will be quicker," Six Packs says searching his memory. "But the way east is far more interesting."

"West it is," Phineas says not wishing to see what a Rock Demon considered interesting.

The tunnel west quickly turns north and ends at a wooden door. Opening the door, Phineas steps into a torch-lit room. Another door stands in the northern door on the other side of the room. Standing in the middle of the room is a 5 foot tall werewolf. The hairy beast growls and lunges at Phineas.

"Look out!" Six Pack shouts from the doorway.

Knowing the danger that he faces, Phineas draws the magic sword Mongo gave him and the enchanted poniard he found in the snake cult's temple. Phineas thrusts and stabs expertly, wounding the werewolf, but not before it rakes a claw across his forearm.

"I can't hurt it!" Six Pack shouts.

Phineas and the werewolf are evenly matched for a short time, exchanging only minor injuries. But then, Phineas spots an opening and slices off one of the werewolf's hands with his magic longsword. The creature howled with pain and gripped the bloody stump. Phineas quickly took advantage of the crippling injury and thrust his sword once, then twice into the beasts heart before it crumpled to the floor.

Panting and bleeding, Phineas stood triumphantly over the werewolf watching as it transformed back into a human male.

"Sorry about that," Six Pack said. "It's a good thing you had that sword. Hey take a look at that!"

Phineas turned from the corpse to look upon an altar in the center of the room. Sitting on the altar was a 8" tall jade statue of a knuckle duster. Six emeralds sparkled from small recesses in the altar itself. Phineas drooled over the wealth that sat just within reach. Then he noticed the six, life-sized green statues of warriors arrayed around the altar.

"I don't suppose these are just for decoration," Six Pack says while patting one of the statues on the butt. "No, I didn't think so either. You're move chief."

Phineas walks up to the altar and uses his poniard to extract the six emeralds while keeping an eye on the statues. He marvels at each emerald as he pries them loose. Each must be worth at least 200 gold coins. He manages to free the last emerald without disturbing the statues.

"That was easy," Six Pack says from below. "Grab the statue."

Phineas reaches out and snags the jade statue from the altar. As expected the warrior statues respond. Surprisingly, however, only one comes to life. It advances toward Six Pack with a axe raised menacingly.

"Get him!" Six Pack shouts. The battle is over before it is started. Phineas leaps into fight and together they smash the statue to pieces before it can swing it's axe.

"I like this room," Six Pack says happily. "Well worth the trip."

Phineas admires the jade statue, worth at least 1000 gp it should keep him fat and happy for a while.

"Let's get going," he says finally. "We should be near the exit by now."

Phineas open the northern door and steps into another room. As soon as they pass through the doorway, the door slams shut and a grinding noise tells Phineas and Six Pack that it is locked. Neither really cares, however, as filling the room are rows of small rune-covered oak kegs. Six Pack jumps up and down in excitement and starts to wander from keg to keg muttering strange words.

"Malt, stout, light, dark, bock...Look! A dark heavy malt!"

Six Pack grabs a mug from off a peg set in the wall and fills it from the dusty keg. He thrust the mug toward Phineas for the first drink.

"I'm not sure that's a good idea," Phineas says to the Rock Demon. "Drinking and delving just don't mix. Let's keep heading to the north."

Six Pack looks insulted. He throws down the mug and grabs another off the wall for himself.

"I'm not leaving here until I have a drink from each and every one of these kegs, maybe more than once too."

With his back turned, Phineas has an idea. Sure the Rock Demon was a little unstable, but he was helpful to have around. Slowly, Phineas snuck up behind Six Pack then hit him in head with the flat of his sword. Six Pack passed out cold on the floor. Phineas quickly gathered his belongings and dragged Six Pack through the northern door.

After while the rock demon came too.

"What happened?" he asked.

"We were jumped by some dwarves," Phineas explained. "You were busy drinking when six of the little buggers broke into the room. I fought them off but not before they hit you in the head and knocked you out. I was able to drag you out before more of them showed up. You don't remember?"

"No..." Six Pack says slowly rubbing his head. "No I don't. But nice work though. Stupid dwarves. Drink?"

Before them was a rune-covered door leading north. The door south was now securely locked.

"Dwarves," Six Pack says in disgust turning the doorknob uselessly. He then turned and opened the door to the north. Suddenly, he sniffed the door and backs away.

"A Death Vortex Lock. Nasty trap. But I know how to fix that."

Six Pack shakes his keg vigorously and points the spigot at the door. Opening the spigot, Six Pack blasts the door with foam. Calmly, the rock demon goes up to the door and kicks it open.

"Hurry," he says from the other side. "The trap will reset in a few seconds."

Not needing to be told twice, Phineas rushes through the door and finds himself on a sandy beach in a cavern. A dark lake fills the cavern. Starting at the beach and leading around the lake is a narrow ledge leading east. Sitting on the beach is a bamboo raft and some poles. Alongside the raft is a giant lilypad skiff.

"Decisions, decisions," Six Pack says. "I'll leave this one to you."

"I've never ridden a lilypad," Phineas says considering the option. "It seems pretty ridiculous, but then what hasn't been down here. Let's go."

Phineas and Six Pack push the lilypad out into the lake and climb on board. Six Pack holds the lantern while Phineas pushes off with a wooden pole from the raft. At first, Phineas is able to keep the skiff under control and follows the ledge toward the east. But then the skill swings toward the center of the lake.

"What are you doing?" Six Pack asks with rising concern in his voice.

"Nothing," Phineas says with equal concern. "I'm not steering anymore."

Six Pack suddenly points toward the center of the lake. Under the water Phineas sees a huge glowing orb slowly rising from the depths. The skiff is heading straight for it.

"See you!" Six Pack says and jumps into the water.

The magic keg he carries pops to the surface like a cork with Six Pack hanging on. Phineas quickly jumps from the skiff as well aiming for the floating keg. He just makes the jump and latches onto the keg. His lantern is gone however, lost to the depths of the lake. In the darkness, Phineas can see that the cavern has a faint glow. The orb and skiff are gone and the two drift on a strong current that carry them to the east and into a tunnel. Eventually the water becomes shallow enough that both Phineas and Six Pack can stand. Ahead is a circle of light coming through a small waterfall.

Phineas and Six Pack wade through the base of the waterfall and find themselves standing in a small stream in the woods near Mongo's tower. They have found the secret entrance! Phineas staggers over to the shore of the stream and collapses. Suddenly there is a flash of green light and Mongo appears.

"I'm glad to see that you have made it out safely," the wizard says. "Did you make a map?"

"Yes I did," Phineas says still lying on the ground. He rummages through his belt pouch then pulls out the piece of parchment. "It's a little wet, but still intact. That's one hell of a basement you have there."

Mongo accepts the map happily and looks it over.

"You have completed your task. I thank you. Now what else have you found?"

Phineas drew himself up and emptied the treasure from his backpack. Mongo's eyes study the gold and jewels arrayed in front of him.

"If you would like to keep the sword I gave you, you may buy it for 10% of what you have collected."

"Sure thing," Phineas says and hands over two emeralds. "A pleasure doing business with you sir."

"My thanks to you, warrior," Mongo says after pocketing the gems. "Good luck in your travels. That is a lovely shade of green by the way."

With that, Mongo vanishes in another flash of light.

"Is he gone?" a voice asks from a dense hedge near the woodline. Six Pack's head pokes out of the thicket and he looks carefully to the left and right. Satisfied that the coast is clear, Six Pack drags himself free of the branches, vines and thorns. Reaching back in, he extracts his rune-covered keg.

"I can't have that wizard taking this from me. Hey, that's a nice pile of loot. Shall we divide the spoils?"

"Certainly," Phineas says, "50-50 as we agreed. There's more than enough to go around."

Phineas and Six Pack sort through the treasure and take their shares.

"I guess that's that," Six Pack says. "Thanks for helping me get out of there."

Phineas bid the rock demon farewell, not wishing to remain in his company too much longer. Rock demons are demons after all and a fickle lot at that.

"May your cup never go dry," Phineas says and heads back toward town.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Solo Design Part 7 - Making Use of Equipment

Delving requires equipment. That does not simply mean weapons and armor, but also more mundane items such as sacks, rope, torches, oil, chalk, hammers, spikes, even string. You never know what will come in handy when exploring a cave complex, a ruined temple, or a haunted mansion. In a GM-run adventure it is quite easy for players to make use of the wide variety of items that their characters might have crammed into their backpacks. The players simply need to announce their intentions as to how to use the equipment and the GM can decide whether or not it will work. In solo adventures, however, making use of equipment requires some careful ques from the writer.

There are two basic ways to approach the use of equipment in solo adventures. You can either make certain pieces of equipment necessary to acquire a treasure or overcome a monster not connected to the final goal or make some items necessary to complete the final objective. It is obviously a good idea that if your solo requires a specific piece of equipment to overcome the primary obstacle of the adventure it should be made available somewhere within the adventure. These items can be found as part of a monster's treasure horde, on the corpse of a fallen delver, or locked away in an ancient storeroom. An alternative to this is to design an adventure where the character can return to a town or store where new equipment can be purchased.

Here are just a few examples of the types of equipment that could be required and ways to utilize them in a solo adventure:

1. There can be dark areas that require light sources such as torches or lanterns. This is fairly easy to incorporate into a solos design. Simply give the player the option to enter the darkened area without a light source or to prepare a torch or lantern.

The passage in front of you is dark and foreboding. You may either enter the dark passage immediately and go to 24, or light a torch before entering and go to 57, or light a lantern and go to 78.

Of course a torch and a lantern can always produce different effects. Perhaps the unconstrained flame of that torch will ignite a pocket of flammable gas near the ceiling? Entering a dark room or tunnel can have equally bad consequences. Who knows is lurking in the darkness waiting to pounce upon unsuspecting delvers. Those who have played any of my solos know that wandering around in the dark is never a good idea.

2. Food and water are typically not considered in most solos. If the adventure takes place over a long time or involves travel over great distances, however, it certainly should. Characters should be expected to obtain food at least once per day. Characters may have started with provisions as part of their equipment (although these are oddly missing from the expanded equipment tables in 7.5) or you could allow foraging or hunting. The price for not eating at specified times would be to lose one or two CON or STR points due to starvation.

You travel across the sweeping plains for an entire day seeing no sign of another living thing except for small rodents that scurry into deep burrows and birds of prey soaring high above you. As the sun begins to set you find a place to stop for the night. After the days travel you are famished. You can either consume a days worth of provisions or try to find some food in the wilderness. If you want to try to hunt, make a L2-SR on LK. If you make the SR you manage to find enough food. If you fail the SR, you do not. If you are unable to obtain food, you bed down with your stomach grumbling and lose 1 point of STR and CON.

3. Rope, grappling hooks, hammers, and pitons are needed to cross various obstacles such as chasms or pits, climb walls, or even retrieve items. Coming up with situations requiring these items and providing options for their use is almost as simple as with torches and lanterns.

The ground suddenly gives way beneath you and you fall into the darkness below. You have fallen into a deep pit. You don't suffer any injuries but you are trapped for the moment. You stand up, dust yourself off, and look around. The walls of the pit are made of densely packed earth with no good hand or foot holds. If you have a hammer and at least four pitons you could climb up the wall of the pit. If you have at least 30' of rope and a grappling hook you could also try to catch one of the large branches overhead. If you have a hammer and pitons, go to 34. If you have a rope and grappling hook, go to 76. Otherwise, go to 13.

4. Obviously you can't cart of everything you manage to find tucking away thousands of coins, statues, and necklaces into your pockets. Packs and sacks should be part of any delvers equipment. Some may find requiring the use of containers to haul away treasure a bit tedious for an adventure, but I think of it as simply another obstacle to overcome. Sure you found a horde of 5000 silver coins. But how are you getting it out of that cave and back to town where you can spend it unless you have a bag of some sort? But sacks are useful for more than just carrying shiny coins and glittering gems. There are more creative uses for these rather mundane items that can be worked into an adventure.

You spy the small bird in the clearing ahead. It is busy pecking at the ground eating ants and does not seem to notice your slow approach. If you charge the bird and attack with a hand weapon, go to 89. If you have a bow, you can try to shoot the bird by going to 65. If you have an empty sack, you can try to capture the bird alive, by going to 34. Otherwise you can try to catch the bird with your bare hands by going to 12.

A good adventure should involve more than just killing innocent monsters. Other obstacles should be included that require a little creativity and, of course, equipment. When designing a solo, you don't have to provide the equipment required to overcome all obstacles such as these in your adventure. These are items that a delver could be expected to have in his/her possession. If not having the item would lead to the death of the character or prevent the completion of the primary goal of the adventure, however, you may want to give the player a chance to find the item somewhere ahead of time. If lacking the equipment simply causes some extra damage, prevents the acquisition of some treasure, or leads to some other annoying hardship then it should not be expected. There should be some reward for being prepared after all.