Friday, January 22, 2010

Public Domain Friday

In keeping with this weeks theme of armor, I present some public domain images of warriors in various types of armor. In any solo adventure you are sure to need images of warriors, either representing the character involved, foes to be defeated, allies to converse with, or just the random bystander.

These illustrations also demonstrate the different types an amounts of armor (and weapons) worn by warriors in different cultures and times. Most warriors were not armored from head to toe but may have only had a mail shirt (with or without sleeves) and a simple helmet, as illustrated by the Assyrian archer and Frankish spearman. Even that armor was expensive and difficult to come by. Greeks and Roman heavy infantry had what may be considered 'full suits' of armor with protection for the head, torso, arms, and legs, but this was by no means the rule. The soldier on the bottom left is one of my favorites because he is wearing a complex suit of armor which incorporates several different styles including scale, splint, and mail armor. He is the one warrior here that seems to shout 'Delver!' Of course most public domain illustrations of warrior are those of European knights, many shown in field plate. There are a few that show knights of the Early Middle Ages and Crusades wearing full suits of mail or scale. But these are wealthy nobles who could afford such high-priced items. Most delvers are far from noble.

So use your armor to do more than protect your warrior from swords, spears, and arrows. Use your armor to help define who he or she is and their place in the world.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Armor Wear and Tear

Once your character has plundered enough gold to buy a nice suit of armor, you are ready to take on hordes of monsters without worry for as long as he or she lives. Right? Wrong. Armor takes damage so you don't have to. As I mentioned in my last post, I was in the Society for Creative Anachronisms. After most fighter practices, I would have to spend time repairing my armor; and that's just after being hit by rattan weapons. What would real swords, spears, and axes do to a suit of metal, leather, or cloth armor?

In the first and fourth editions of Tunnels and Trolls armor was entirely ablative. The value of armor was that it took hits instead of your CON. When your armor took as many hits as it was able, it was destroyed. This is a little extreme in my opinion. Not every hit to a suit of armor causes catastrophic damage; but some will cut straps, slash leather, break mail links, or puncture steel plates. In some house rules, armor could be 'burned' by warriors whenever they chose to use their armor doubling ability. This tempers the destruction a little, since a warrior chooses when to sacrifice his armor to major hits. But of course, rogues and wizards never lose their armor protection, nor do warriors who do not choose to double their protection.

My own house rule for armor degradation affects all character types and is the result of being dealt more damage than your armor can deflect. Any time a character takes more hits than can be absorbed by body armor or a shield and loses CON, the armor or shield is degraded by one point. Spite damage is the exception to this rule. This assumes that the sword thrust or axe blow cut through your protection and hit flesh. Those excess hits represent major damage to your armor. If you are wearing a full suit of armor, simply subtract 1 from the total hits taken. If you are wearing pieces of armor, then the player gets to choose which piece takes the hit unless it was a targeted attack (see my post below). Shields may be sacrificed instead of body armor.

Of course, characters won't just hang onto their damaged armor until it finally falls apart. Damage can be repaired. New mail links can be added, rivets replaced, dents beaten out, leather and cloth restitched. Armor and shield repair can be a talent in the 7.x rules, allowing characters to make a SR to try to repair their damaged armor if they have the appropriate supplies. A SR failure would mean that the armor or shield loses another hit of protection (that happened a few times after a fighter practice when trying to replace one rivet caused two or three other to pop out). Characters may also take their armor to an armorer for repair. To repair each hit would cost 10% of the armors total value.

Armor degradation adds a bit more flavor to T&T combat and adventure. That warrior wearing a full suit of mail armor and carrying a kite shield can take a lot of hits without getting injured (12 + 6 * 2 = 36), but not forever. Eventually that nice suit of mail will take damage and it's protection will decrease. Soon that stout warrior who was always charging to the front lines may find himself lurking closer to the rear.

Damaged armor also gives characters something to do with all of the hard-earned loot they pull out of ruined temples, haunted crypts, and ancient castles. Armor is not a one-time investment. Sure you just dropped 500 gold coins on a suit of plate armor, but soon you'll have to pay to have it repaired and eventually replaced. Well, that's the life of a delver. Why else would you go back into that crypt to face those zombies again?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Armor By the Piece

In most situations, combat resolution in Tunnels and Trolls is fantastic. It's simple, fast, and flexible enough to allow for creative actions when playing in a group or even in a solo. When in doubt, make a Saving Roll to see if you can trip up your opponent, throw sand in his eyes, or hit him in the solar plexus (if he has one). One place I do like to add a little more detail and complexity (forgive me) is with armor. Again, for most situations the standard full suits of armor are great. You buy one set and it provides a certain number of hits of protection against any and all (or most) physical damage. But what about situations where your character is specifically hit in the head by a trap or a troll? Or someone shoots you in the leg with a crossbow? Do you get the full 12 hits of protection from the suit of mail you are wearing?

Traps often only affect a certain part of the body. I use a lot of targeted traps and hazards in the solos I write. Rocks falling on your head, razor wire strung at ankle height, iron spikes on the floor, spider bites to the hand, etc. There are also those situations where two combatants are equally matched and must rely on spite damage to slowly whittle away CON points until someone is nicked and bruised to death. But what if instead of trying to trip your opponent, you decide to target a specific part of his body? If the orc you've been fighting for the last five minutes is only wearing a steel breastplate, why not aim for his legs, or better yet, his head. That breastplate won't be much of use against a club to the cranium.

That's why I've always liked the separate pieces of armor available in T&T. The expanded armor table is another part of T&T 7.x that I really liked. Finally, a haubergeon. In the past, I've used my own house rule versions of armor pieces, and still do with parts not currently listed (coat-of- plates, brigandine, lorica segmentata). Personally, I am fascinated by armor. I was a member of the Society for Creative Anachronisms in the '90s and made my own set of armor. My armor included an arming doublet, brigandine vest, leather and steel splint cuisses, greaves, rerebraces, and vambraces (with plate elbow and knee guards), plate gauntlets, a mail coif, and a full helm. It was hardly a uniform set of armor, with different amounts of protection in every location. The same is true of just about every fighter in the SCA. So I enjoy picking a mixed assemblage of armor for my T&T characters. For me it's part of the character's personality and history, especially for a warrior.

If you purchase armor by the piece then dealing with the situations I mentioned above is simple. Each piece offers a certain number of hits of protection to a specific location. If you don't have a piece of armor for your legs, then you get no protection from that scythe trap that sweeps across the corridor at knee height. When buying armor by the suit, I usually use the following distribution (rounding up) to determine how much protection each body part gets:

Head: 25%
Torso: 50%
Arms and Legs: 25%
Hands and Feet: 10%

So, in 7.5 edition a suit of mail takes 12 hits. This would apply in any normal combat situation. But, if your torso were specifically targeted it would only offer 6 hits of protection; your head, 3 hits; your arm, 3 hits; your foot, 2 hits. Of course, warriors get to double these numbers as usual.

Buying armor by the piece also tends to be more cost effective, if you maximize your layers. Here is one of my favorite combinations from 7.5:

Arming doublet 2 hits 40 gp
Haubergeon 4 hits 150 gp
Vambrace 2 hits 10 gp
Greaves 2 hits 20 gp
Cuisses 2 hits 30 go
Coif 2 hits 10 gp
Open-face helm 2 hits 15 gp

Thats a total of 18 hits taken for the bargain price of 275 gp. It also gives you a well-protected head (4 hits) and torso (6 hits) when your troublesome GM decides to throw some targeted trouble your way.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Public Domain Friday

Illustrations of large-scale historical battles are abundant on public domain art websites. Most are depictions of famous battles in Greek and Roman history. However, there are a number of illustrations of battles fought during the crusades, in particular sieges. Many of these illustrations are quite good even if they are not exactly historically accurate. The one shown above is one of my favorites, depicting the Spartan phalanx engaging the Persian light infantry. It puts you right in the middle of the battle and demonstrates the chaos and ferocity of ancient warfare. How many of us could charge a row of armored soldiers with six-foot spears pointed at us?

Looking through these illustrations, I wonder how a solitaire adventure with a large battle as the focal point would run? The character could either be a soldier in the rank and file or an officer. This would make for two very different adventures. The soldier would have to fight for his life and the lives of his comrades, decide whether or not to follow the orders given to him by his superiors, and withstand the chaos of combat. The officer would be in charge of a group of soldiers, responsible for leading them effectively and defeating the enemy. Either way, the player would need to make many life or death decisions for himself and potentially others as well as fight with sword, spear, and axe. However, a field battle may be too open ended for an effective adventure. There would be few choices except to either fight those in front of you or retreat.

While an open field battle may not be an ideal setting for a solo adventure, a siege certainly would be. Once the character's army has breached the enemies walls (which would by no means be a certain outcome) the adventure almost becomes a dungeon crawl. The player must make his way from the breach to the interior of the keep. He must choose which way to turn; fight through streets, doorways, buildings, and corridors; decide whether to stop and loot or press the attack (ok, that may be a bit dark). Choices make the adventure; the more the better (a subject for a later post). A siege would certainly provide a lot of options and would be a good change from crawling through damp tunnels and ruins.

(All images obtained from Karen's Whimsy.)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Back to Writing

My writing was put on hold as I prepared my first two solos for publication (a time-consuming undertaking), but now I have some time for it again. I am currently working on two new solos for Tunnels and Trolls. The first is a full length (~200 paragraph), bounty hunting adventure that I have been outlining for a few months now. For this solo I'm drawing a lot of inspiration from spaghetti westerns. It won't be quite as dark as my previous two solos, but there will be plenty of action. The other solo is a short adventure (~50 paragraph) entitled, Just One of Those Nights. This adventure is based on a walk from a tavern back to the inn in the dead of night. What could go wrong? I am writing this solo for the second issue of the Trollzine, a fanzine being put together by a number of people at the Trollbridge. I'm pretty amazed at how quickly this project has come together. The first issue of the Trollzine was filled in a matter of days. It certainly says a lot about the drive and creativity of the people involved.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

New Solitaire Adventures Published

My test prints of the newly republished versions of House in the Hills and The Tomb of Baron Gharoth arrived from Lulu today. They look pretty fantastic, if I do say so myself. Both solos are now available in softcover print and pdf versions at my Lulu storefront ( and soon the Trollbridge storefront. Be aware that if you download a copy, it will not include the color covers. But if you send me a message with your email, I will send you pdf copies of the front and back covers. Here are the front covers and descriptions of each solo. The cover illustrations are by Jeremy Mohler (House in the Hills) and Joe Calkins (Tomb of Baron Gharoth).

House in the Hills

You were ambushed by a group of thugs on your way through the dense woods near your home. They took everything and left you for dead. You awoke to the sound of howling wolves and have been on the run ever since. It is now after sunset and your strength is failing. The wolves are closer that they have been all day. Suddenly, just ahead you see the outline of a small building on the next hilltop. It is illuminated by the moonlight, but all of the windows are dark. As you near it, you see the building is in a state of decay. But it may provide you shelter from the wolves until you can rest. There may even be weapons inside. Do you dare enter the HOUSE IN THE HILLS? House in the Hills is a solitaire adventure designed to be played using the Tunnels and Trolls game system. This solo adventure contains 138 paragraphs and is suitable for a single, low-level, humaniod warrior with 10-20 personal adds.

The Tomb of Baron Gharoth

The Baron has made you a very attractive offer. Enter his family tomb and retrieve the signet ring from the finger of his long-dead ancestor. He has offered you a substantial reward as well as the opportunity to keep any valuables you may find in your search of the crypts. It all sounds very simple until the Baron mentions that his great-great-great grandfather was also a necromancer. But before you can say another word, the Baron hands his guards a key and they lead you to THE TOMB OF BARON GHAROTH. The Tomb of Baron Gharoth is a solitaire adventure designed to be played using the Tunnels and Trolls game system. This solo adventure contains 249 paragraphs and is suitable for a single, low- to mid-level, humaniod warrior with 30-40 personal adds.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Level and Attribute Advancement

A while ago I posted some of my ideas about level advancement and increasing attributes in Tunnels and Trolls on Trollbridge. This topic was generating a lot of discussion on the 'bridge primarily due to the differences in these mechanics between the 5th, 7th, and 7.5 edition rules. As written in the rules, characters in 5th edition gain experience which eventually increases their level. The benefit of this advancement is that one or two attributes are increased. In the 7th and 7.5 editions, gaining experience allows characters to directly increase their attributes. As a side effect, this increases the character's level once a level attribute reaches a certain number (10, 20, 30, etc.). In both cases, levels and attributes are directly related. In 7th edition, however, advancing in levels offers some additional bonuses.

Here are some of the possible rewards of increasing an attribute (same for 5th and 7th editions):
  • Increased saving roll success (all stats)
  • Increased combat adds (STR, DEX, LK, SPD)
  • Wield better weapons (STR, DEX)
  • Cast more complex spells (IQ, DEX)
  • Cast more spells (ST or WIZ)
  • Survive more punishment (CON)
Here are the additional benefits of an increase in level in 7th edition:
  • + Level # to saving rolls (all types)
  • + 1 new talent (all types)
  • + Level # to combat adds (warriors)
  • - Level # cost to lower level spells (wizards - also present in 5th edition)
Of course, some of these level benefits have been added as house rules to 5th edition over the years, but this fact just points to the value of these mechanics. Increasing your level should provide some benefit other than simply improving your attributes. Ideally, some of these benefits should be unique to your type.

I see attributes and levels as functionally separate. Level is a measure of your character's skill in her or her profession, while attributes are a measure of his or her physical and mental capabilities. This separation is made mechanically feasible with separate level benefits other than just increasing attributes. Whereas increasing levels had no real advantage in 5th edition with the exception of lowering spell cost (as written), 7th edition introduced several benefits to increasing level. I liked these benefits because they made levels mean something on their own. Unfortunately, level advancement currently offers no special advantage to rogues.

To illustrate the difference between levels and attributes, first consider Strength. You can increase your strength to make yourself generally better at hand-to-hand fighting (hitting harder, wielding heavier weapons, tiring less quickly), but it does not necessarily make you a better 'warrior.' A wizard or rogue can also increase their strength for similar results. Your skill as a 'warrior' is gauged by your level and the resulting increase in bonus combat adds. Level is also an indication of your experience in dealing with dangerous situations and complex problems. This is reflected by the added bonus to saving rolls. Of course your additional world experience also results in gaining new talents which may reflect actions performed by the character in previous adventures.

My house rule for level and attribute advancement makes advancement in these two areas completely separate. Adventure points are used to increase either a character's level or attributes depending on how they were earned. As stated in the T&T rules, adventure points are earned from daring, combat, saving rolls, casting magic, or other actions at the GMs discretion. These categories can be divided between attribute AP pools and level AP pool.

Earning APs Toward Attributes
  1. Adventure points earned from saving rolls would go toward the attribute against which the roll was made. If the SR was against an average of multiple attributes, divide the APs between them.
  2. Adventure points for casting spells would go toward the WIZ attribute.
Attributes can be increased by 1 point when you accumulate 10x the current attribute value in APs.

Earning APs Toward Level
  • Combat
  • Daring (completing dungeon level or a mission or performing heroic deeds)
  • Other (GM discretion)
A character's level increases by 1 when you accumulate enough APs as per the 5th edition rules. An increase in level does not increase your attributes, instead it provides the following bonuses:
  • + Level # to Saving Rolls (all types)
  • + 1 new talent
  • + Level # Combat Adds (warriors)
  • - Level # Spell Cost (wizards)
  • + Level # Roguery Talent
Advantages of this system
Levels and attributes are unique measures of your character's capabilities.

Adventure points are spread out to avoid attribute inflation. Bonus APs earned at the end of an adventure, often amounting to 100-500 APs, do not count toward attributes.

When an attribute is increased, it is a direct reflection of the use of that attribute rather than arbitrarily raising whatever attribute is low or may generate the most new combat adds (like Luck in 5th edition). This means that if a player wants to improve some aspect of his or her character, then those attributes must be used. If you want a stronger wizard, you had better try bending some bars or kicking open a door. If you want a smarter warrior, try reading that book on the shelf or figuring out how that spike trap works.

Level will not be affected by changes in attributes due to combat or magic as is possible in the7th edition rules. This is a major problem I have with tying attributes and levels together. If a character drinks one of the potions in the 7.5 treasure table that increases an attributes by 1d6 thereby increasing one of his level attributes to 20, 30, or 40, then suddenly he is a new level. The character didn't gain any new experience that made him a more effective warrior or wizard, he just drank a potion. It might make him stronger or more dexterous, but not more proficient in his profession.

Final Thoughts
This system does require some kind of special bonus for Rogues. My suggestion (given above) is an increase of 1 per level on their Roguery talent.

Some players may find this system a little too complex. It does require more bookkeeping to keep track of APs in various pools. I have been using this system for my solo adventuring, however, and I am quite happy with the way it works. The bookkeeping is not that bad. You do need to add an AP column next to each attribute. These APs should not be awarded until the end of the adventure, so you just need to keep a running log of what saving rolls you have made, what attribute they were against, and how many APs you earned. When the adventure is over, you add up the APs for each attribute and record the value.

Here is an example:

Phineas Red decided to start off his adventuring career by raiding the Temple of the Timeless Serpent in search of the infamous Eye of the Serpent. In the course of the adventure Phineas slew a temple guard (20 AP), three serpent priests (24 AP each), and a giant snake (100 AP). He also overcame many obstacles amounting to seven L1-SRs on LK (95 AP), one
L1-SR on DEX (9 AP), two L1-SRs on the average of DEX and SPD (15 AP), and six L1-SRs on the average of DEX, LK, and SPD (64 AP). In the end, Phineas stole the Eye of the Serpent as well as a small fortune in other treasure and escaped with his life earning another 100 AP.

Using this system, Phineas earned 296 AP toward his next level, 38 AP toward DEX, 116 AP toward LK, and 29 AP toward SPD. Phineas has made a good start in his career as a warrior; two more such feats and he'll be 2nd level. With a starting LK of 14, Phineas is also well on his way to increasing that attribute. Given how much his Luck was tested in the burglary of the snake temple that is to be expected. Phineas experienced no great feats of Strength, Intelligence, Constitution, Wizardry, or Charisma so these abilities were not improved. In straight 7.5 edition rules, Phineas would have earned 479 APs to spend on improving his abilities. He could then raise his STR of 14 to 16 and still have 19 AP to spare. That's just after one short adventure and he never performed any great feats of strength.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Public Domain Friday

I wanted to have a fun weekly feature on this blog so I can have at least one guaranteed post each week. I decided to share some of my favorite public domain clip art.

I have to give credit to JongJungBu (aka Patrick Witmer) for pointing out some of the sites where these images can be found. Two of my favorite sites are A Clipart History and Karen's Whimsy. Both contain hundreds of public domain images of ancient to medieval cultures, animals, and some creatures from mythology and fantasy. All of them are of very good quality. Some can be used to illustrate writing projects. JJB has used these images to wonderfully illustrate two of his solo adventures (Barony of Sanris and Dark Side of the Desert). I've included a few in my solo adventures as well. Of course they're not all suitable, but they are at least good for inspiration. Getting an idea for a good solo adventure is often the hardest part. Looking through these pictures always gives me a few good ideas for an encounter if not an entire solo.

I think the first image I've chosen sums up the solo adventurer pretty well: a lone warrior moving through a ruined city. Then the questions start. Why is he there? What is he looking for? Did the ship in the distance drop him off or is it someone chasing him? What's that in the darkness behind the pillar? Good stuff.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Links, links, and more links

I'm working on posting some of my more frequently used links to T&T related sites, blogs, and online solo adventures. If nothing else, this will allow me to better organize them for my own use. Anything has to be better than my overflowing Bookmark folders. Ideally it could draw people to sites they might otherwise not have visited. That being said, what sites have I missed? I sure there are many, and I plan to update my links regularly.

I especially wanted to put together a complete list of online solos, since this blog is focused on solitaire gaming. There are a surprising number of them actually. Some are original Flying Buffalo solos (Buffalo Castle, Labyrinth, Sorcerer's Solitaire, and Dargon's Dungeon) and others are original creations. I must say my current favorite is The Eye of the Serpent by Andy Holmes (aka Boozer of Hobgoblin Tavern) located on Andrew James' Gristlegrim site. If you have not played it you should definitely give it a try. You just can't beat trying to sneak into a snake cult's temple to rob them; just don't get too greedy. Goblin Grotto by Dan Mattos is an excellent "learn as you play" solo adventure similar in style to the solos found at the beginning of Metzner's Basic D&D book. It is specifically designed for a starting character (and player) and is often (gasp!) survivable. It would make a pretty good addition to the Free RPG Day project, in my opinion.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Welcome to my blog!

As the name implies, this blog will be focused on solitaire adventure gaming using the Tunnels and Trolls game system written by Ken St. Andre and published by Flying Buffalo Inc. Although I have been a part of a few face-to-face gaming groups in the distant past, currently most of my gaming is done with solo adventures or online at the Trollbridge, the OD&D Discussion board, and Rpol. Tunnels and Trolls is a fantastic game system for solo play. It is rules light, easy to learn, and has a long history of solitaire adventures starting with Buffalo Castle written by Rick Loomis in 1976. The game mechanics of T&T are also incredibly easy adapt to almost any situation using the tried-and-true saving roll.

In this blog I will be writing about my views on solo game construction, my solo adventure ideas and updates on adventures I am currently working on, as well as reviews of previously published solo adventures from Flying Buffalo and independent designers. I'll also discuss my own House Rules and other ideas for the Tunnels and Trolls rules system.

I have written two solitaire adventures for use with Tunnels and Trolls: House in the Hills and The Tomb of Baron Gharoth. I am currently working to make these available as print-on-demand books and pdf downloads from my storefront at Lulu (