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