Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Itash Against Buffalo Castle - A Final Delve

"Maybe one more time," Itash said to himself while sitting in the tavern enjoying a tankard of his favorite ale. "It's been easy money for a wizard so far."

After weeks of resting, carousing, and resting some more Itash the Grim was once again feeling the itch of adventure. Riches were awaiting him in Buffalo Castle. He merely had to make the trek back to that haunted fortress to claim them from whatever foul beasts lie within.

Itash had not been completely lazy, however; he had been carving wooden rings. He had heard that such trinkets could be enchanted with simple magic, magic he knew, to increase his own powers. He meant to try that out.

"Alright, I'll go," Istash said finally to no one. He quickly finished his ale, dropped a silver coin on the table and walked out the door. Once outside, Itash pulled out one of his wooden rings and concentrated on it; with a few words the ring glowed with a strange energy. Itash chuckled and slipped on the ring. Knowing the way, Itash strode out of town toward Buffalo Castle.
Name: Itash the Grim
Type: Wizard
Kin: Human
Level: 1

ST 14
IQ 14
LK 14
DEX 12
CHR 10


Treasure: 295 sp, 525 gp, 1 jewel (300 gp), 1 ruby (1000 gp)
Adventure Points: 393

Weapons: Kukri (2D+5, 20 wu, 15 yd), Haladie* (2D+9, 15 wu, enchanted), Common sling w 100 stones (2D+0, 60 wu, 100 yds)

Armor: Back and breast (5 hits, 200 wu), Greaves (2 hits, 40 wu), Gauntlets (2 hits, 25 wu), Greek helm (2 hits, 35 wu) [Total 11 hits, 300 wu]

Equipment: Warm clothing and pack, calf high boots, 5 torches, 20' silk rope, Delvers package, 1 days provisions, 5 wood rings

Weight carried: 455/1400

Languages: Common, Elven

Magic: Detect Magic, Knock knock, Lock Tight, Will-o-wisp, Oh There It Is, Take That You Fiend, Vorpal Blade, Oh-Go-Away, Hocus Pocus, Teacher

A short hike brought Itash back to the all-too-familiar castle. Faced once again with three doors Itash decided to try his luck with the right-hand door. Feeling confident, Itash opened the door and stepped through (L1SR on LK, rolled 3, failure)...then the floor fell out from beneath him sending Itash to the bottom of a pit. Stunned but still alive, Itash rose to his feet and started to look around for a way out. A quick search of the walls revealed no hidden passages, but the stones were set loosely enough to provide finger and toe holds. Perhaps he could climb out? Setting himself to the task, Itash secured his gear and began to climb. Luck and skill were with him for soon Itash was back on the surface and inside Buffalo Castle.

Itash quickly checked his equipment to make sure everything was there, then drew his two daggers and began to examine his surroundings. Itash was in a large chamber with doors leading north and east. The room was empty with the exception of a large fountain in the middle of the floor. The fountain was spraying water majestically into a large basin. Itash was thirsty; the climb out of the pit had been taxing. But this was a magical castle. Perhaps the water was cursed? Or maybe it was blessed? Itash took a scoop of water with his hand and drank deeply. The water filled his stomach with an amazing warmth; he felt better than he had in his entire life. Boundless energy was his (+6 to CON!). Itash laughed heartily and finished his drink. "What's next?" he asked. Deciding on a straight path, Itash opened the northern door.

The room beyond was full of killer bees! Three swarms (MR 10 each) descended on Itash as soon as he stepped into the chamber. Itash cleaved the air with his daggers but the bees were too thick to stop. Most only stung steel, but one delivered a painful sting to his flesh at a joint in his armor (Lost 31 to 37, armor absorbed all hits, took 1 point spite). The pain of the sting enraged Itash and he struck out furiously with his daggers. Bees fell to the ground hacked in two (Won 39 to 32, delivered 2 spite). From there it was soon over, but Itash was once again stung by a lucky bee (Won last 2 turns, 31 to 24 and 37 to 23, took 1 spite). This delve was getting dangerous. Itash made a quick search of the room but found nothing valuable. There was only a door to the north and the way back south. Absently rubbing his stings, Itash made his way north.

The door opened into a corridor leading north. Itash followed the corridor but soon halted at a door in the west wall. The corridor continued north, but Itash decided to investigate. The chamber beyond stank of a sewer. The fetid water on the floor suggested that it may in fact be the castles sewer. Of course no sewer is without rats and this one had three of them; giant ones. The giant rats (MR 12 each) squealed at the sight of Itash and attacked. As the rats charged, Itash unleashed a bolt of energy through his wooden ring (Cast TTYF, L1SR on LK for makeshift wand, rolled 6, success, 14 hits) and blasted one of the rats to a red mist before it could close. With daggers ready, Itash met the charge of the remaining two rats. Itash stepped quickly aside and let the rats blunder past him. As one rat moved alongside him, Itash slashed it with his haladie (Won 29 to 22). The rat staggered and desperately tried to stay on it's feet. That was all the edge Itash needed; in a matter on minutes both rats were dead (Won two turns 32 to 19 and 29 to 7). Itash did his best to search the sewer but found nothing of value, only another door leading further to the west. Grunting at his misfortune thus far, Itash returned to the corridor and continued on his way north.

Itash soon came to yet another door in the western wall. Did he dare try another side passage? He did. Opening the door, Itash saw a nondescript room with a nondescript chest sitting in the middle of the floor. Entering cautiously, Itash prepared to open the chest. There was a quick flash of light and the chest vanished! But all of a sudden Itash felt quite lucky to be alive (+3 to Luck!). Another door lead to the west, but Itash was now quite happy with his northward path. Whistling a tune, he returned down the corridor.

Itash walked along the corridor (L1SR on LK, rolled 5 success) until it opened into a large chamber. Inside he saw a lady sleeping on a couch, her back to him. A dresser nearby the couch held a wonderful jeweled bracelet. But what really caught Itash's eye were the very lifelike statues scattered around the room. They were all dressed in a manner very similar to himself. "This is not good," Itash though to himself as he studied the sleeping woman from a comfortable distance. "Very suspicious looking lady." Itash stood and considered his options. Clearly the woman was bad news, otherwise why would she be here surrounded by foul creatures. There was also the bracelet. He could try to steal it, but he was not the most stealthy person. Best just to slay this creature in her sleep and rid the world of her. "She's likely a gorgon anyway," he thought. Dagger in hand, Itash crept quietly into the room (L1SR on LK, rolled 6, success) and plunged the blade through the creatures back piercing her heart. As the creature expired, Itash caught a glimpse of her serpentine hair. "Yep, gorgon." Without looking back Itash stepped over to the dresser, plucked the bracelet from the surface, and quickly left the room. Once safely in the outer corridor, Itash examined the bracelet. It was a thing of beauty; a masterpiece of gems and gold. He could easily get 500 gp for the piece of jewelry, more than enough to make this trip worthwhile on it's own.

Itash made his way back south (L1SR on LK, rolled 8, success) until he came to the chamber that was previously filled with bees. In the middle of the room now, barring any further progress, was a giant snake (MR 16). "Too big to kill with one spell," Itash thought. "Better use steel." The snake was not even a challenge. As soon as it lunged forward to strike, Itash sliced it's head off with one stroke (Won 34 to 10).

Itash stepped over the writhing carcass of the snake and back to the fountain room. He then tried the door leading east. Itash found himself in an east-west passage (L1SR on LK, rolled 5 success). Heading east, Itash soon found himself at a north-south passage. Itash tried the south passage which quickly jogged back to the east. The corridor led Itash to a room filled with smoke. The smoke did not seem to affect his breathing, but it made it hard to see. Itash groped around the room until he finally found a door in the north wall.

Opening the door Itash found himself in a corridor that bent to the east with a door in the western wall. Itash opened the door to the west and stepped into the chamber beyond. A large pool of water lay in the center of the chamber. What was most interesting, however, was that gold coins littered the floor around the edge of the pool. Itash approached the pool and plucked a coin from the floor. Suddenly eight tentacles erupted from the water. Two lashed out at Itash, who barely had time to draw his daggers. Itash ducked under one of the tentacles then straightened and loped the other in half with his kukri (Won 35 to 18). A third tentacle joined the fight. Itash managed to slice off both tentacles from the body of the giant octopus that now began to rise out the pool, but not before one of them gave him a nasty bruise across the forehead (Won 35 to 14, took 1 spite). The octopus continued to attack, adding one tentacle at a time. Each time a new tentacle lashed out, however, Itash chopped it off (Won all subsequent combat turns, took 3 spite). Soon the giant octopus, bleeding profusely from it's severed limbs, sank down into the pool never to rise again. Itash took a moment to bandage the several minor wounds he suffered in the fight then set about gathering up the gold coins. In all he gathered 20 coins. "It looked like more from the door," he said grudgingly. Looking around the chamber Itash saw doors leading west and back to the east. Itash opted for the western door.

Itash stepped into a north-south corridor that looked familiar. Setting off north, Itash stopped at yet another door in the eastern wall. "One last good score," he said, "then perhaps I'll get out of here." Opening the door, Itash was surprised to step out onto a grassy plain. In front of him a large herd of buffalo was charging right toward him.

"What?" he said in alarm. Readying his daggers, Itash starting slashing at the buffalo as they approached (MR 15 each). Three fell before him before the rest gave him a wide berth, but not before Itash suffered yet another small injury as a buffalo stomped on his foot as it fell (took 1 spite). A new door stood on the opposite side of the plain, but Itash chose to return the way he came. Limping ever so slightly, Itash continued his exploration north.

After a short walk, Itash arrived at a four-way intersection. "Stay north," Itash said to himself and continued on his way. Very shortly afterward Itash arrived at yet another four-way intersection. Hanging down from the ceiling, blocking his way was a giant spider (MR 16). The spider dropped to the floor and rushed Itash, forcing him back against a wall and into the spiders web (L1SR on LK, rolled 7, success). Itash stopped just in time and avoided getting caught in the web. The spider proved no match for Itash, and it was soon crumpled up on the hall floor (Won 42 to 15). Itash searched around the intersection hoping to find a jewel or at least a few coins but came up empty again. Forced to choose a direction yet again, Itash pushed on north. This led him to a three way intersection with new passages leading east and northwest. The northwest passage curved around to the south until Itash came to a door in the east wall. Opening the door, Itash entered a short passage that led east. Following the passage Itash came back to the intersection where he had just killed the giant spider. "I'm walking in circles," Itash grumbled. "I must have lost too much blood."

Itash went back to the north and then east at the three-way intersection. This led Itash to an intersection with a north-south corridor. As Itash entered the intersection he turned to see a large ogre stalking down the northern tunnel. The ogre (MR 20) saw Itash and charged. Itash killed the ogre quickly (Two turns, won 38 to 22 and 32 to 6) but managed to get clocked in the knee by the ogre's thumb (took 1 spite). Searching the ogre's body turned up nothing of value.

Itash trudged north to see where the ogre had come from. The passage turned to the west and then Itash stopped dead in his tracks as he saw a razor-sharp pendulum swinging back and forth effectively blocking the way. Whatever was beyond such a trap had to be good, Itash thought. Better try to get past it. Steeling himself, Itash watched the pendulum swing back and forth, back and forth. He then darted through (L1SR on DEX, rolled 6,6,2,1, success!) and made it across without a scratch. Breathing a quick sigh of relief and a briefer thanks to the gods, Itash walked toward an open doorway.

Walking through the doorway Itash found himself in a treasure room! Gold coins were strewn everywhere! At last! Laughing hysterically, Itash opened his pack and began filling it with coins. But alas, Itash had only collected 50 gold coins before trouble arrived. A mummy staggered into the treasure room through the open doorway. As it entered, all of the coin still on the floor vanished! "Nooooo!!!" Itash screamed and blasted the mummy with a bolt of arcane fire (Cast TTYF, 14 hits). The spell all but obliterated the mummy. Itash strode up the to staggering corpse and drove his dagger through it's head. "Bastard." As Itash kicked the body, he heard a faint jingle of metal. Rolling over the mummy he found a pouch; inside were 70 silver coins; not enough to replace the hundreds of gold coins that he just lost, but it was something.

Having had quite enough with Buffalo Castle, Itash decided that it was time to leave. No sooner had he thought this than he found himself standing in front of the door leading outside. The only thing between him and a cold pint of ale was a giant jellyfish (MR 10). Itash had faced one of these creatures before and he knew how to kill it. His daggers sliced through the sticky flesh with no trouble and soon the jellyfish was reduced to a quivering pile of goo. After cleaning the sticky mess off of the blades of his daggers, the wizard was soon back out into the fresh air.

A sense of elation fell over Itash. He had survived the horrors of Buffalo Castle three times and he had emerged luckier, healthier, and more skilled than before; not to mention richer. The Guild would certainly want to hear of his exploits and he now had the ability and the money to learn some new magic. Itash felt much less grim and smiled the entire way back to town.


Itash earned 877 Adventure Points for this foray through Buffalo Castle, more than enough to bring him to the second level. He also picked up another 577 gp in treasure, enough to pick up a shiny new second level spell and still have money left over for room and board for quite some time. In fact, with the gains from his previous expeditions Itash could acquire a total of five second level spells. In addition, Itash had his Constitution permanently increased by 6 and his Luck permanently increased by 3 over the course this adventure. All of these achievements will make Itash quite formidable.

I think that Itash is finished with Buffalo Castle; he has explored most of the monster-infested halls with the exception of a few and he certainly needs more of a challenge. I've managed to put together a rather nice map of the layout. I'll post some commentary on this classic solo a little later. I must say that I enjoyed it immensely and it is quite suitable for any character type.

One final note, I incorporated the use of spite damage in this run through Buffalo Castle to see how Itash would fare with this rule in place. He took a total of 10 hits to his Constitution from spite. That's quite a bit, and enough to kill him with his initial starting CON of 9. Gaining an additional 6 points of CON in the first room he entered, however, gave Itash the motivation and ability to go further. Otherwise he would have exited the castle much sooner.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Tavern by the Sea: UK Edition on RPGnow

Tavernmaster Games has released it's third solo in pdf format at RPGnow and DriveThruRPG. The Tavern By the Sea was written collaboratively between Ken St. Andre and Andy Holmes. A first edition of The Tavern was released by Flying Buffalo that included artwork by David Ullery and notes for converting the solo to a GM adventure. This new UK edition has completely new illustrations by Jeff Freels including the terrific full color cover and includes a new mini solo adventure that can be accessed within the Tavern adventure. Need one more reason to give this one a look? All proceeds from the sale of this adventure will go the the Jeff Freels Transplant Fund. Both Jeff and his wife are in need of kidney transplants. Jeff is a great guy and a true friend to the T&T and RPG community.


The Tavern by the Sea is a mini solitaire adventure for use with the Tunnels & Trolls™ role-playing system . It has been designed for use with version 7.5 of the rules but could be adapted for use with earlier editions.

A hundred miles south of Knor lies the fishing village of Frargg, home to the infamous Seven Ayes Tavern. The Seven Ayes has become synonymous with all manner of seaside tavern life including brawling, sea shanties, gambling, ruffians and pirates. It is also a good place for adventures to begin, and to end. Step inside, where your next adventure awaits, but tread with care my friend, as danger lurks within and death could be just a moment away…

This special UK version of this solo features additional material as well as completely new artwork by Jeff Freels. Jeff is a great friend to all of us at Tavernmaster Games and to the world of Tunnels & Trolls as a whole. He desperately needs a kidney transplant and all the proceeds from this project will be donated to his transplant fund.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tavernmaster Games at RPGnow

Tavernmaster Games, a collaborative effort between several T&T writers and authors including Andy Holmes, Sid Orpin, Simon Tranter, Jason Mills, Andy James, and Jeff Freels, has set up shop at RPGnow and DriveThruRPG. This crack team includes the best talents in the T&T community.

The two current offerings available are:

Devotion to Duty

Devotion to Duty is a mini solitaire adventure for use with the Tunnels & Trolls™ role-playing system created by Ken St.Andre. It has been designed for use with version 7.5 of the rules but can be used with earlier editions. Within its 90 adventure paragraphs you take on the persona of a novice of the great Goddess Hoepht in their struggle to pass the trials of progression. Succeed and you will become an initiate of your deity, fail and you will be cast back into the secular world from which you came.


You are a newly commissioned officer in the Royal Guard of the fairy kingdom of Cerinor. Captured by your sworn enemy,the batkin hordes of the Marble Mountains, you have been sent into a nest of giant fire ants to retrieve ant larvae for the delectation of the batkin hierarchy. Can you survive in the claustrophobic confines of the ant colony long enough to be able to attempt to escape or will the creatures of entomological nightmare within put an end to your adventures for good? Formication is a mini solitaire adventure for use with the Tunnels & Trolls™ role-playing system created by Ken St.Andre. It has been designed for use with version 7.5 of the rules but could easily be used with earlier editions.

Each solo is well-illustrated and includes covers with original full-color artwork. They're a bargain at only about $3 apiece.

Print copies of these and other adventures from Tavernmaster Games are still available at Lulu. But whether you like print or pdf, pick up your copies today and keep an eye out for new releases. You won't be disappointed.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Crypt of the Wolf Prince

I've just published my fifth solo adventure for Tunnels and Trolls, Crypt of the Wolf Prince. This adventure is designed for a newly created character of any type (yes, even wizards) and includes a magic matrix. Crypt of the Wolf Prince is the first in a continuing series of solo adventures I will be producing set in a massive ruined city outside the border town of Cheapham.

You can pick up a pdf copy at my RPGnow Lone Delver Games storefront.

The ruins of a vast and ancient city that lay just a few miles outside the town of Cheapham have always been the subjects of stories and legends. But while most people in town have a story to tell, none have ever made the trek to the ruined city. A few desperate adventurers have made the journey, but none have ever returned. You have also heard the tales of great wealth to be taken from the crumbling remains of ancient temples and palaces. In particular the locals have spoken of a great warrior prince who was buried in a tomb at the edge of the city. The legend says that he was buried with a great hoard of gold. The townspeople have warned you about the price paid by those that travel to the ruins, but the reward for success is very tempting. Do you dare enter the CRYPT OF THE WOLF PRINCE?

This solitaire adventure is suitable for a single, newly created, first level character of any type with up to 20 adds. You may use any weapons, armor, or equipment you can afford. Missile weapons and magic use are also allowed. Three pregenerated characters are provided if you do not have the time or desire to create your own.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Lost Continent = Campaign Gold Mine

I have just started reading The Lost Continent by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I'm only a few chapters in but I see the book as a potential gold mine for a science fantasy RPG campaign setting. Given the swashbuckling, seat-of-your-pants style of Burroughs, Tunnels and Trolls would be an ideal rule system to use and capture the spirit of the novel.

The Lost Continent was written in 1915 and was quite heavily influenced by the First World War. In this world the countries of North and South America united and enacted an extreme type of isolationism to protect themselves from wars raging across Europe and Asia. All communication was cut off, vast navies patrolled along 30 and 175 degrees W longitude, maps and histories were rewritten. The story begins in 2137, about 200 years after the isolation. The captain of a naval vessel is lost at sea with three crewmen after his ship is blown past 30 as a result of a storm and sabotage. Captain Turck then makes his way toward the shores of England. He hopes to find safe harbor and an equally advanced civilization; instead he finds the old world in ruins and new barbarous cultures still locked in bloody conflict.

This is a classic sword and planet style adventure set right here on Earth. The number of possible adventures available to a creative game master are almost limitless. I'm looking forward to finishing this book to see how ERB shapes this new world. It is rather short, so there are sure to be many unanswered questions, but that just provides more fuel for the imagination. Given the nature of the story it would also make a perfect solo campaign.

Adapting the T&T rules to this setting would be simple. Obviously magic does not exist in this world, but technology does so you can replace the Wizard with Scientist and Engineer. Warriors are still warriors and Rogues can continue as the jacks-of-all-trades having skill in fighting and technical know-how. Next you just need some firearms and gadgets. You can keep the amount of technology to a minimum, however, by employing the 'lost at sea' or a similar type of starting point. Maybe everyone has a loaded sidearm with 15 rounds. That would keep gunplay to a minimum. But this is T&T, so each weapon only needs some dice and adds and a maximum effective range. The rest of the T&T mechanics, attributes, saving rolls, and combat, are perfect as they stand.

From there you have ruined remnants of all of Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and countless Pacific islands to explore guaranteeing that no two campaigns set in this world need be the same. Sounds like fun to me.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Itash the...: Effects of Kin Modifiers

Just for fun, I calculated the attributes of Itash the Grim as a member of the other 5th edition kin. Each of these has an interesting effect on the effectiveness of Itash as a Wizard.

Itash the Dwarf
Type: Wizard
Kin: Dwarf
Level: 1

ST 28
IQ 14
LK 14
CON 18
DEX 12

ADDS +18

As I've mentioned previously, dwarves are the most ideal kin for solo adventurers in 5th edition and even more so in earlier editions. Their doubled Strength and Constitution given them a major edge in combat. With his two daggers Itash the Dwarf gets 4D+32 making him capable of taking on a MR50 (6D+25) monster in by himself in hand-to-hand combat with pretty even chances on winning. In addition, as a dwarf Itash can cast several spells without worrying about dropping to negative adds or becoming too weak to wield his weapons.

Itash the Elf
Type: Wizard
Kin: Elf
Level: 1

ST 14
IQ 21
LK 14
DEX 18
CHR 20

ADDS +10/+16

As an elf, Itash is a little more fragile, but the boost to IQ and DEX means that he wouldn't need to invest too heavily in these attributes when gaining levels; his current IQ and DEX are already high enough to allow the use of 6th level spells. The DEX boost also makes Itash the Elf deadly with missile weapons.

Itash the Hobbit
Type: Wizard
Kin: Hobbit
Level: 1

ST 7
IQ 14
LK 14
CON 18
DEX 18
CHR 10

ADDS +6/+12

Now we start to see the problem with spells being powered by the Strength attribute. Itash the Hobbit wouldn't be able to cast very many spells. A single Take That You Fiend would render him almost too weak to move. The boosts to CON and DEX do make him rather hearty and dextrous, but he would do far better as a bow-wielding Warrior or Rogue.

Itash the Leprechaun
Type: Wizard
Kin: Leprechaun
Level: 1

ST 7
IQ 21
LK 21
DEX 18
CHR 10

ADDS +13/+19

The same problem with Strength occurs with Itash the Leprechaun. Of course that does not mean too much starting out since Leprechauns know no spells when they start. But his high IQ, LK, and DEX do make him formidable especially with ranged weapons. Plus he's still doing more damage in combat than Itash the Human (4D+27 vs 4D+18).

Itash the Fairy
Type: Wizard
Kin: Fairy
Level: 1

ST 4
IQ 14
LK 21
DEX 18
CHR 20

ADDS +10/+16

Here's an even bigger problem with using Strength to power spells. Itash the Fairy cannot cast four of the ten starting spells including Take That You Fiend, Oh There It Is, Vorpal Blade, and Oh Go Away. These are by far the most important of the first level spells especially to a solo wizard (IMO). That Wizardry attribute looks even better now. The bonus adds from the boosted LK and DEX still makes Itash and effective fighter using two banks (requiring only 1 ST/DEX each) giving him 4D+16; he's also deadly at a distance. Given these attributes I would not make Itash the Fairy a Wizard; a Rogue would be a better choice here.

There you have it; five alternate views of Itash the Grim. Interestingly, in all cases Itash became a better fighter (i.e. had more personal adds) when played as a kin other than human. This again points out that Wizards can be capable combatants; it's all in the attributes.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Spell Casting Mechanics: Points vs Memory

I am currently running two play-by-post T&T games, one at the Trollbridge and another on Roleplay Online. One aspect of the T&T rules that I have had an issue with while running these games is how tedious and difficult it can sometimes be to keep track of Strength/Wizardry points expended by the spell casters and their eventual, slow recovery. In the T&T rules spell casters recover 1 point of ST/WIZ per 10 minutes spent in non-strenuous activity; this typically means nothing more taxing than walking. Keeping track of all of these points can be tiring to say the least. The alternate way of limiting the power of spell casters and eliminating the 'point cost' method is the 'memory' method. Wizards and similar characters memorize spells at the start of the day and they may only cast that spell once. Once it is cast, the word and instructions for that spell vanish from the wizard's mind.

Instead of choosing one of these options, I've thought of a new house rule for T&T spell casting that simplifies the current 'point' method:

Wizards, Rogues, and Warrior-Wizards may cast a number of spells per day equal to his/her Strength or Wizardry attribute. Each level of spell increases the casting cost by 1 point, so a first level spell costs 1 point, a second level spell costs 2 points, and so on. A day starts after the spell caster gets at least eight hours of uninterrupted rest (no moving, no fighting). Spells that are cast do not vanish from memory and may be cast multiple times. So if you have a WIZ of 15, you could cast Take That You Fiend 15 times in a day as long as you cast no other spell. When using the Strength attribute to power magic (1st-5th editions), Strength is not reduced and personal adds are not lost from casting spells.

Benefit of magic staffs: A magic staff increases the number of ST/WIZ points available to a Wizard each day equal to 1D6 + Wizard level. The die is rolled at the start of each day making the benefit of the staff somewhat unpredictable. Makeshift staffs can only be used once before becoming worthless.

Casting lower level magic: Wizards may cast lower level magic at a cost reduced by an amount equal to Wizard Level minus Spell Level. The base cost is always 1 point. So a 3rd level Wizard can cast first and second level spells at a cost of 1 ST/WIZ each. A 10th level Wizard can cast a 7th level spell at a cost of 4 ST/WIZ.

Powering up spells: A wizard can cast some low level spells at a higher level to greater effect. The spell simply costs a number of ST/WIZ points equal to this effective level. So a third level Take That You Fiend costs 3 points.

To me this house rule fits in well with T&T's basic KISS strategy. This approach seems to work out in my mind, we'll just have to see how it works in practice.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Hocus Pocus and Magic Staffs

The typical image of a wizard generally includes some kind of magic staff or wand. While this does not fit my view of a delving wizard (especially a lone delving wizard), magic staffs are extremely useful to a Wizard in Tunnels and Trolls. They are one of the major advantages that Wizards have over Rogues in spell-casting. Like most of them, the rules regarding magic staffs have changed over the editions and I have always had questions about them.

In the 5th and 7th edition rules, a magic staff reduces the cost to cast a spell by the level number of the wizard down to a minimum cost of 1 (Strength or Wizardry). This may not seem like a lot but it can be quite helpful even to a level 1 Wizard.

When selecting a magic staff a Wizard can buy two types from the Wizard's Guild, a staff ordinaire or a staff deluxe. The first is rather common and cheap (100 gp) but will never burn out. The second is pretty costly (5000 gp) and also mysterious. It reduces the cost of casting spells the exact same way that the staff ordinaire does, but it can remember the spells cast through it; so perhaps your shiny new staff has a few things to teach you? Some say that deluxe staffs have demons bound inside them.

Of course the Wizard always has the option of using a basic spell that every Wizard knows, Hocus Pocus, to create a makeshift staff. This requires no money at all, you simply need to find yourself a piece of wood. Here is where my questions begin.

First, the nature of the magic staff (often referred to as a focus) can vary according to the rules and may include "wands, walking sticks, sturdy quarterstaves, or even rings." So now it seems that your staff ordinaire may in fact be a ring or maybe a pendant hanging from a chain and not a 5' length of wood.

But, in 5th edition rules, the description for Hocus Pocus states specifically that it can be used to enchant any piece of WOOD into a makeshift staff. It does not say anything about any other items. So here is where house rules come in. Do you really only allow this spell to be cast on wood, or do you allow other items such as stone, ceramic, or metal? But while the description does say that the spell is cast on a piece of wood it does not say it must be a stick. It could simply be a chunk of wood; or maybe a wooden ring? That has possibilities. This caveat allows both rules to stand as is; Hocus Pocus may be cast on any wooden object.

The chief drawback of the makeshift staff is that it eventually will burn out and crumble to dust. This happens (in 5th edition) once the Wizard has cast a number of Strength points through the staff equal to twice his/her Intelligence. This is where my next question comes in: how do you count the Strength (or Wizardry, Mana, etc.) points cast through the staff? Is it the number of Strength points saved by using the staff or the total number of Strength points used to cast the spell? In other words, if you are a 1st level Wizard and cast Vorpal Blade using your makeshift staff, does that reduce it's Strength pool by 5 (the full cost of the spell) or by 1 (the strength saved by using the staff)? I've seen this rule interpreted both ways. Personally I prefer the latter. This really is not too much of a drawback since you can always find a new item to produce a makeshift staff. Besides, who says that you cannot create 10 or even 20 makeshift staffs the day before you set out to seek fame and fortune? There's no time limit on the enchantment after all. But then in 5th edition the makeshift staff may fail on the first attempt to use it unless you make a Level 1 Saving Roll on Luck. This is all the more reason to invest in increasing your Wizard's Luck attribute when you gain that first level.

At least one of these questions was answered for me in the 7th edition rules, where the spell (now called Hocus Focus) is now described as being able to "enchant ANY non-magical item into a magical focus." So in 7th edition you are not restricted to wood. That certainly increases the usefulness of this spell since according to this rule you could enchant a piece of lint you pull out of your pocket. Also, the chance of the makeshift focus failing on first use is not longer there. Even better. There is also an interesting change where it channels a number of Wizardry points equal to the Wizard's combined Intelligence and Dexterity. The combat effectiveness of the two different types of staffs is also addressed. The staff ordinaire is listed as a 2D weapon while the deluxe staff is listed as a 4D weapon due to the indestructible nature of the material (and the fact that there's a demon trapped inside).

So what does all this mean and why am I writing about magic staffs? Itash the Grim has been missing a magic staff in his adventures, but he really needs both hands free to fight with his daggers. The solution? Itash the Grim is going to get a small knife and make himself a pocket full of wooden rings to use a makeshift "staffs" on his next adventure and keep his hands free for his daggers while casting his spells for less Strength. Time to gear up for one last trip through Buffalo Castle. Take That You Fiend!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Itash Against Buffalo Castle - Delve #2

Before setting off on his next adventure in Buffalo Castle, Itash went shopping. He traded in his old suit of leather armor for a customized suit of armor. This new suit gave him almost twice the protection with only a 50% increase in weight! In game terms the different pieces take 11 hits total, require 6 ST, weighs 300 wu, and cost 300 gp. He also picked up some silk rope, a delvers package (you just never know), and one days provisions just in case he got hungry.

Name: Itash the Grim
Type: Wizard
Kin: Human
Level: 1

ST 14
IQ 14
LK 14
DEX 12
CHR 10


Treasure: 165 sp, 75 gp, 1 jewel (300 gp)
Adventure Points: 197

Weapons: Kukri (2D+5, 20 wu, 15 yd), Haladie* (2D+9, 15 wu, enchanted), Common sling w 100 stones (2D+0, 60 wu, 100 yds)

Armor: Back and breast (5 hits, 200 wu), Greaves (2 hits, 40 wu), Gauntlets (2 hits, 25 wu), Greek helm (2 hits, 35 wu) [Total 11 hits, 300 wu]

Equipment: Warm clothing and pack, calf high boots, 5 torches, 20' silk rope, Delvers package, 1 days provisions

Weight carried: 455/1400

Languages: Common, Elven

Magic: Detect Magic, Knock knock, Lock Tight, Will-o-wisp, Oh There It Is, Take That You Fiend, Vorpal Blade, Oh-Go-Away, Hocus Pocus, Teacher

After a little rest and relaxation in town, Itash became bored and headed back to the ominous castle. A short hike found Itash standing before the three doors once again. Itash decided to continue his exploration of the area through the left door. He opened the door and stepped into the familiar corridor. Itash arrived at the first chamber where he faced a troll and took his first treasure. Nothing remained of the troll or his empty chest. Two more doors now faced him, one leading north, the other west. The door leading north was familiar, so instead Itash opened the door leading west.

Itash walked into another simple chamber. Simple with the exception of the two swarms of bees buzzing around. As soon as Itash entered, the two swarms of bees attacked (MR 10 each). Itash raised his daggers and began swatting bees out of the air. With a little effort Itash was able to kill every bee without a scratch (Two combat turns, won by 15 and 24). Looking around the room, Itash saw no sign of treasure, only a door leading north and the door leading back to the east. Itash decided to continue his new exploration and went north.

Itash traveled down a short corridor until he came to an intersection with passages leading north and east. Itash continued to make his way north until he entered a small chamber. Standing in the chamber was a evil-looking character dressed in leather armor. He demanded that Itash pay him 1 gold piece or fight him. "One gold piece?" Itash said with a laugh. "You do not think very highly of yourself do you? Why don't we fight." Itash decided to save his strength and deal with this nuisance with his blades. The leather-clad man (MR 20) rushed Itash but the wizard easily side-stepped him and drove both daggers through his soft armor. The man, now heavily bleeding, pleaded for his life but Itash lived up to his nickname and finished him with a clean strike with his haladie (Two combat turns, won by 16 and 27). Quickly searching the man, Itash discovered a sack containing 400 gold pieces! "Thank you my friend," Itash said to the corpse, "that will be quite useful." The content wizard now walked out of the chamber through the northern doorway.

Itash strode down the corridor until he came to a 4-way intersection. Standing in center of the intersection was a dust-covered and rather frail-looking mummy (MR 16). As Itash drew closer, it howled weakly and began to shamble toward him. Itash worked quickly, easily dodging the mummy's clumsy attaks and soon knocked it's hollow head from it's desiccated body (Two combat turns, won by 15 and 28). Finding nothing of value on the mummy, Itash was faced with four directions; he chose west and found himself facing yet another door. "Odd castle," he muttered.

Entering the room Itash found it filled with spider webs. "Uh oh." Before he could make a quick exit, a giant spider was upon him (MR 16). Itash staggered back and stumbled into the webs. Itash flailed about struggling to get his arms free as the spider drew closer and attacked. Panicked but trusting in his armor, Itash shouted the words that unleashed a bolt of energy that exploded in the spiders ugly mouth but not before it was able to strike. Fortunately for Itash the spiders mandibles only found the steel of his new armor. A quick thrust with his haladie finished the smoldering arachnid (Two combat turns, lost first by 2 but delivered 14 hits with TTYF, won second by 16). With the spider dead, Itash was able to cut himself free of the spider webs. Itash made a quick search of the room a found a sack containing 130 silver coins among the scattered bones of less fortunate delvers. As Itash searched for valuables he was surprised to see no doors other than the one he came in through. Itash began a more thorough search for secret doors. In the end he found none, but he did begin to feel some of the strength he lost by casting his spell returning (Regained 1 ST). Itash left the room returned to the intersection and traveled north.

Itash soon arrived in a chamber with a chest sitting unguarded in the center of the floor. Itash approached the chest and carefully opened it; he'd had nothing but good luck with chests thus far after all. Looking inside the chest, Itash was at a loss for words. There was a massive ruby inside that must have been worth at least 1000 gp. What luck! Itash took the ruby from the chest and stored it carefully in his pack. (Note: This ruby is cursed and will cause any monster fought to fight with double strength.) Itash decided to continue his treasure hunt just a little while longer and exited the room through the north door.

After another short walk down a corridor Itash entered what looked like a bank vault. It seemed odd considering where he was, but the northern wall of the chamber was lined with safety deposit boxes. Somehow Itash knew that he could only pick one box and that he would then be forced to leave Buffalo Castle and could never return to this room again. There were 25 boxes to pick from. Which one? Itash had always been partial to the number 10, so he opened that box. Inside he found a neat stack of stocks and bonds. Rifling through the documents he determined that they were worth 100 gp. Itash stuffed these into his pack then felt himself hurtling toward the castle exit.

"Wonderful trick," Itash said now looking at the door leading outside. But Itash was not able to leave just yet. "Now that is weird," Itash said. In front of the door was a giant jellyfish. "Shouldn't you be in a nice ocean somewhere?" Itash asked the jellyfish. Instead of replying the monster attacked. As the attack came Itash realized that the creature was being excessively aggressive (MR 10 doubled to 20). Itash dodged a stinging tentacle and went to work. Despite the berserk fury the jellyfish fought with, it was still just a jellyfish. Itash's daggers sliced it up into small, harmless chunks of goo in a manner of minutes (Two combat turns, won by 14 and 23). The jellyfish had no treasure but it did leave a sticky residue on his daggers. Itash spared a few minutes to clean the blades wary of any other wandering creatures. None had stumbled in by the time he finished so Itash once again walked out into the sunlight. He had plenty of coins, some stocks and bonds, and a massive ruby to show for his efforts. "I could get use to this," Itash said. A smile briefly broke his normal grim countenance. "Who knew delving could be so easy and profitable."


Itash survived his second foray into Buffalo Castle! He earned 96 AP for slaying five opponents and walked out with a little over 1600 gp in treasure. Unfortunately until Itash goes up a level and has access to some second level spells he has little to spend this money on. Maybe some poison? Or perhaps he could hire a warrior to watch his back or a pack bearer to carry all of his treasure?

I'm finding the fights in Buffalo Castle to be rather easy. In his first delve the troll with a MR of 40 was the only real challenge. In the second delve the giant spider could have ended Itash's career due to the fact that he was ensnared in the spider's webs. This reduced all of his combat rolls by half. Luckily Itash had TTYF at his disposal and a good amount of armor. All of the other battles have been simple, facing monsters with MRs of 15-20. Two daggers seem to be all you need in Buffalo Castle; so far at least.

I'll plan one more delve into Buffalo Castle with Itash before moving on to a different solo. Perhaps "Sword for Hire." Any other suggestions? No meat grinders please.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Itash Against Buffalo Castle - Delve #1

Itash the Grim gathered his weapons and equipment and set off to seek his fortune at the famous Buffalo Castle. As he neared the massive fortress he saw three identical wooden doors leading inside.

Trusting in his luck, Itash opened the left hand door. He was faced by a corridor leading into the castle. Itash boldly walked down the corridor until it opened into a large chamber. In the middle of the chamber was a troll sitting on a treasure chest. It looked up at Istash in a bored fashion and yawned. Finding such behavior to be quite rude, Itash launched a bolt of energy right into the yawning trolls face (MR 40). The troll was momentarily stunned by the attack, but rose and charged the small wizard. Itash readied his two daggers and met the charge, although he felt rather weak after unleashing his magical energy. He fell back momentarily against the trolls charge, but Itash's leather armor kept the monster's claws from rending his flesh. Itash then turned the tables and delivered a rapid succession of blows with his daggers until the troll fell dead on the floor. (Cast TTYF for 14 hits against the sitting troll. Strength reduced to 8, trolls MR reduced to 26. Fought six combat turns, lost the first by 5, won the remaining five by 2, 8, 5, 5, and 16). With the troll dead, Itash opened the treasure chest. He laughed in delight as he extracted a large jewel worth perhaps 300 gold pieces!

Looking around the room more closely, Itash saw doors to the north and west. Itash walked to the north door and opened it revealing another corridor. Walking down the hall he eventually found himself in a small room. The only thing of interest in the room was a slot in one of the walls with a sign above it reading "Insert Sword Here." Shrugging, Itash inserted the blade of his Kukri into the slot. The dagger received a temporary enchantment (+20 adds for next combat roll)! Happy with the result, Itash inserted the blade of his haladie next. This time the dagger received a permanent enchantment (+5 adds)! "This is a nice castle," Itash said happily to himself, "very considerate." He also started to feel a little stronger since casting his spell (recovered 1 ST). Faced with two new doors to the north and west, Itash elected to continue his progress north.

Itash walked down yet another hall until he stopped at at door leading east. Itash opened the door and was faced with a mummy (MR 16) stalking toward him. Raising his daggers, Itash attacked the mummy. The temporary enchantment on his kukri proved too much for the undead monster and it fell immediately before him (One combat turn, won by 34). Looking around the room, Itash found nothing of value. A new door led east, but Itash returned to the corridor and continued his trek north until he came to yet another door in the eastern wall.

Opening this door, Itash saw a room with a chest sitting on the floor. Itash advanced carefully toward the chest; treasure or trap he thought. Hoping for the best, he knelled down and opened the lid; he was not disappointed. Inside the chest was jewel worth 100 gold pieces. Itash happily pocketed the jewel and returned to the corridor feeling stronger once again (recovered 1 ST). Finally the corridor branched at a T-intersection leading west and north. Itash chose to continue his northern path leading him to a room that took his breath away. In the middle of the room was a large tree with what looked like emeralds growing on it's branches and rubies lying on the ground. Itash could not believe his luck. Choosing to stay away from the tree, Itash picked up the rubies. There were three, each worth maybe 100 gp each. Itash's greed then got the better of him. There were far more emeralds on the tree so he reached out to pick one. Suddenly, the tree came to life and it's branches lashed out at the surprised wizard. Itash fought back against the enraged tree (MR 25). The wizard's daggers hacked and cleaved the trees limbs leaving it a broken hulk (Won in three combat turns by 7, 8, and 17). With the tree dead, Itash happily collected the emeralds. After a close inspection, however, he found that they were fake and threw angrily on the floor.

Itash now had five jewels and an enchanted haladie. It seemed like a decent haul for a day, so he decided to make his way back to the castle entrance. He moved quickly to the south ignoring the other doors until he finally came to the door leading outside the castle (recovered 2 ST). Unfortunately, coiled up in front of the door was a giant snake (MR 16). Not willing to weaken himself with another spell, Itash readied his daggers once more as the snake struck. His blades served him well again as Itash cut the snakes head off in a single stroke (Won in one combat turn by 17). Itash kicked the snakes body aside and saw a large pouch. Opening the pouch, Itash found 160 silver coins. A nice tip, he thought.

Itash threw open the castle door and strode out into the sunlight. He felt relieved to have survived his first foray into Buffalo Castle although he knew it would not be his last. After all, money does not last forever.


So ends a wizard's first adventure in Buffalo Castle. Itash did far better than I though he would. Itash received 97 AP for defeating four monsters and an additional 100 AP for getting out of the castle alive. He also recovered 700 gp and 160 sp in treasure as well as enchanting his haladie (2D+9). Not bad for a lone wizard.

Strength recovery after casting spells is always an issue for wizards or rogues in solos. Spell casters are supposed to recover 1 ST per turn not engaged in strenuous activity. For Buffalo Castle I made this equivalent to two paragraphs of movement with no fighting or some kind of searching or similar activity like inserting daggers into the enchanting slot or checking out an unguarded chest.

Itash will certainly head back to Buffalo Castle. There are so many more unexplored twists and turns to go.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Itash the Grim

Here is my newest character, a 1st level wizard created with the 5th edition rules ready to head off on his own.
Name: Itash the Grim
Type: Wizard
Kin: Human
Level: 1

ST 14
IQ 14
LK 14
DEX 12
CHR 10


Treasure: 5 sp
Adventure Points: 0

Weapons: Kukri (2D+5, 20 wu, 15 yd), Haladie (2D+4, 15 wu), Common sling w 100 stones (2D+0, 60 wu, 100 yds)

Armor: Leather armor (6 hits, 200 wu)

Equipment: Warm clothing and pack, calf high boots, 5 torches

Languages: Common, Elven

Magic: Detect Magic, Knock knock, Lock Tight, Will-o-wisp, Oh There It Is, Take That You Fiend, Vorpal Blade, Oh-Go-Away, Hocus Pocus, Teacher

As you can see I had some nice luck with the dice; the Eposic Animated Die Roller is generally kind.

I'll be putting this interesting fellow through some trials in various classic solo adventures whether or not they allow wizards or magic to see how well he fares. Because survival in combat appears to be the biggest question I'll be running him through some fights first.

More to come.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Wizards in Close Combat

In my last post I described 5th edition rogues, at least at low levels, as poor excuses for warriors. This may seem a bit harsh but it is only my opinion. It is certainly not the case for 7th edition rogues. In a comment to this post, Soren stated that while rogues were not as good as warriors in combat, a wizard in close combat was simply a dead wizard but not so for rogues. That got me wondering. Was that really true? It is certainly the common assumption; but how do the combat abilities of rogues and wizards stack up in 5th edition and how likely is either type to survive a typical solo adventure where they would be forced to fight at least once.

In 5th edition, wizards are limited to weapons with 2 or fewer dice. This includes all daggers, the manople, foil, baton, piton hammer, crowbar, bagh nakh, quarterstaff, assegai, javelin, very light bow, common sling, chakram, shurikin, war bola, and caltrops. That's actually not a bad assortment of weapons especially considering the starting funds of most delvers; it also includes a good number of missile weapons. The rules state that wizards must only use 2 die weapons, but it does not say that they cannot use two of these at the same time. At a minimum, a wizard can use two banks, getting 4D+6 in combat and only requiring a STR and DEX of 2. At best, a wizard can use two kukri and get 4D+10 in combat requiring a STR and DEX of 12. That's not bad in either case. Even with two banks the wizard should be able to handle a MR 20 monster single handed. Keep in mind that there is also nothing saying that a wizard cannot use poison to increase the effectiveness of these weapons. It is also important to remember, there is no limit on armor or shields for wizards in T&T. A wizard with enough money (and strength) can deck himself out in plate armor and carry a tower shield is he or she so chooses. The wizards of T&T need not rely on the protection of warriors, nor should they.

Now, what about the combat ability of rogues? They have no restriction on which weapons they can use just like warriors meaning they can use whatever they want in the lists as long as they have the money, strength, and dexterity. But what does that mean really? Will the rogue necessarily have a much higher strength or dexterity than the wizard? How many more dice and adds can the rogue bring to bear than the wizard? One most likely, maybe two. This lack of a difference is most evident at low levels. Rogues get the same use out of armor that wizards do, so they are completely even on that front.

What do wizards have that rogues do not in 5th edition? Ten spells. Starting wizards can blast their enemies to smithereens, freeze them in place, briefly enchant their own weapons doubling their effectiveness, panic their enemies so that they flee, locate hidden objects or invisible monsters, open locked doors, magically lock doors, make magical light without need for torches or lanterns, and detect the presence of magic. Oh, they can also enchant a piece of wood so that their spells require less strength to cast. True they also have a spell that allows them to teach spells to rogues, but why do that? That would cut down their edge. It is true that in 5th edition wizard spells are powered by strength and this can be a problem if the wizard is suddenly forced into combat. But it's all about being smart and conserving your strength, especially when you are delving alone. Use spells only when they will do the most good, otherwise save your strength and rely on your daggers.

Like Soren I had considered wizard useless in combat and therefore lost causes when it came to solo delving. I'm not so sure any more. As long as the mechanics of the solo allow magic to be used, a wizard should be able to survive as equally as a rogue or even a warrior. Well, most of the time.

Friday, July 22, 2011


I never gave much thought to the rogue type in 5th edition Tunnels and Trolls. Sure they could fight with any weapon and had the ability to cast spells, but their abilities in both were much less than warriors or wizards. The magical ability of rogues in particular always seemed to fall a bit flat to me. Sure they could cast spells, but they started with none and had to learn them from wizards that were forbidden to teach them to rogues. That means high prices. A single second level spell costs a wizard 500 gp from the Wizard's Guild. What would a wizard charge a rogue to teach him one on the sly? Rogues also did not have the ability to cast lower level spells at lower strength costs, use magic staffs or similar implements to reduce casting costs, or use spells higher than 7th level. This highly reduced the effectiveness of the few spells the rogue did manage to learn. In the end, a low level rogue was simply a poor excuse of for a warrior (in my mind at least), and certainly not the best choice for a solo delver. This was not likely to change until the rogue had amassed a significant amount of money to purchase some of the most basic first level spells.

But this attitude changed when I saw a 7th edition rogue in action during a play test on my upcoming new solo adventure. In 7th edition rogues get a new bell and a new whistle that make them rather formidable character types. First, rogues start with one first level spell. Now most players would probably jump at Take That You Fiend, but there are other first level spells that are much more effective and can lay waste to the best laid plans of a solo designer. One such spell is Hold That Pose. The second new feature of rogues that make them viable at low levels is the Roguery talent. Oh, how I hate the roguery talent. The Roguery talent is based on Luck. A Rogue gets this talent equal to Luck + 1D6. This score can then be used in place of any Saving Roll on Luck, Intelligence, or Charisma. That's three attributes covered by one score which is increased by an additional 1D6. Roguery is quite different from other talents which have to be used in specific situations. The Roguery talent covers any saving rolls based on any of these three attributes. This is incredibly useful in a solo adventure. Let me tell you, a certain rogue made off with a large pile of loot thanks to a high starting Luck and his Roguery talent.

So I no longer consider rogues a poor option as characters, at least 7th edition rogues. I'll just have to add three or four to my own stable of characters.

Friday, June 17, 2011

June's Lone Delver

This month's Lone Delver is a rather simple, but highlights one of the primary dangers faced by the solo delver: you're alone. The illustration is by Liz Danforth and is from Ken St. Andre's classic solo, Deathtrap Equalizer (2nd edition). There is no slavering monster or fiendish dark magic depicted, only a delver stuck at the bottom of a pit. Despite the "commonness" of the situation it can be just as deadly as a charging balrog.

A major hazard of solo delving is that there is no one around to help when you get in a tight spot, like the bottom of a pit. If you're with a group, you can rely on your comrades to help pull you out (at least you hope so). But if you're alone you can shout for help all you want; if you're lucky no one will answer your cries, if you're unlucky something might and your probably would not like the result. So what's a solo delver to do? Equip yourself. Bring a rope and a grappling hook. Bring a hammer and some pitons. Be self reliant. Make sure that if you fall into a pit you have the means to get yourself out. The only thing that goblin that wanders by is going to do is laugh at you, and maybe throw some rocks for fun.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Burning Luck

In a previous post I commented on the 'burning luck' option from the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. In burning Luck, a player may choose to permanently sacrifice points from his/her character's Luck attribute in order to raise a die roll by an equal number in a life-or-death situation. I thought that this was a perfect house rule for Tunnels and Trolls, especially when playing solo adventures where life or death often hangs on a single roll of the dice. Well it turns out that someone else thought that this was a good idea. Gaptooth over at the Trollbridge reminded me that just such a T&T house rule was described by JongJungBu (aka Patrick Witmer) over at his website. Patrick has an excellent T&T website and is well worth a look. Patrick has also written and published three excellent T&T solo adventures that you can download for free from his website (or from the links to the right). Patrick's website includes Seven Solo Spicing House Rules and Seven Solo Safety House Rules in which 'luck burning' is included as number 7. Here it is:

Luck: If at any time a fatal roll would kill a character, he/she may permanently spend his/her LK to make up the difference. This LK cannot be recovered like ST or CON but is lost permanently. To spend LK for a killing blow in combat, the player must bring his CON back up to 1 (exactly) and subtract that many points off of his/her LK permanently. Example: A killing blow in combat would reduce CON to -7, instead the player opts to use LK and therefore must spend 8 LK to bring CON to 1. To spend LK for a fatal SR, one must lose LK equal to the difference in the target roll. Example: A failed L1 SR on LK would have resulted in death due to being 3 under the target number, instead the player opts to spend 3 LK to make up the difference. Note that spending LK for a LK SR does not reduce the previous roll for such a case and LK spent on SRs only applies to those that would otherwise result in player death.

I like this house rule a lot for solo adventures, especially with the additional use to soak up damage that may otherwise kill a character. Of course if that character were still fighting, the loss of personal adds from the reduced Luck attribute would likely mean that the player is just delaying the inevitable. But if the damage were delivered by a trap or other one-time mishap rather than a MR300 troll repeatedly hitting you in the head with a club, this would be an excellent use of luck. Sacrificing Luck to make a Saving Roll may prevent injury altogether, or death in extreme circumstances. But again, one would have to use this option wisely because sooner or later you'll need to make a Luck saving roll.

There are two restrictions to Burning Luck that I would add, however. First, burning luck cannot be used to prevent a fumble or a natural roll of a '3' on 2D6 (or a 3 and a non-double 4 in 5th edition). A 3 always fails, period. Second, Luck may not be burned to less than 3. After all, an adventurer needs some luck just to survive from day to day. With a Luck less than 3 a character is certain to be struck by lightning, fall in a pit, hit by a meteorite, or all three at the same time.

Now I just need to put this rule to the test. If anyone else uses this house rule in solo or group play, let me know how it works for you.

Monday, June 13, 2011

10,000+ Pageviews

The Lone Delver has now exceeded 10,000 page views since the system starting counting in July 2010. Ok, I have no idea if that is a high number or not relative to other RPG blogs (certainly not Grognardia), but I'm pretty happy with the number.

Edit: Oops. I corrected the start date on the counter from May 2009 to July 2010. It seems a bit better of a count now.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG

Ok, so this has nothing to do with Tunnels and Trolls and little to do with solo gaming but I would like to join in the discussion of the recent Beta release of the Dungeon Crawl Classic RPG rules. I have to say that I was not really paying much attention to this system. I have a small set of games that I enjoy and my fantasy gaming interested are met by a few of them so a new set of rules did not interest me. But I read the post on Grognardia and the comment about the art piqued my interest so I downloaded a copy for myself to have a look.

The art is amazing. I am quite surprised that so much of the art was included in the free download. I suppose it speaks to how confident Goodman Games is in selling the final product. The art is definitely old school and you'll see a number of recreations of art from previous rule sets (Moldvay D&D in particular), but Earl Otus was one of the contributing artists so how can you go wrong. I would recommend downloading a copy simply to look at the art even if you have not interest in the rules. It's that good. I got five or six solid ideas for new solo adventures just by leafing through pdf once.

As far as the rules go, I cannot really see myself playing this one. The Beta version of the rules come in at 157 pages and it's only supposed to be an excerpt of what's to come. Oh my. I'm not sure I want to deal with more rules. There are also a large number of different tables which are required for use during game play.

But there are a few things which interested me at first glance:

1. The rules for character generation explicitly state that abilities are rolled by 3d6 in order. All other variation are not allowed. This can easily be ignored by those that prefer, but I like it.

2. Luck is included as an ability. Luck provides a modifier on actions, but the player rolls on a table with 30 possibilities to see what types of action his/her luck helps or hinders. The possible options range from attack rolls, agility checks, poison resistance, spell checks, and finding secret doors. Luck also has certain affect depending upon a character's class. A warrior, for example, may use his/her luck modifier to influence attack rolls with one type of weapon. What I really like, however, is the option to burn luck. Players can opt to permanently lose luck in order to influence a die roll in order to survive life-or-death situations. So to get a +6 on a roll, you permanently lose 6 Luck. This is a nice rule and one I may consider adding to my T&T House Rule list. Burning Luck to add an equal bonus to a Saving Roll would help in those extreme situations where death is only a roll away. It would also increase solo survival rates; for a while anyway. A permanent reduction in Luck would eventually come back to haunt you.

3. You start the game a Level 0 nobody. In fact you start in the hole with -100 xp. You have to work your way up to 1 xp at which point your character can choose a class. So what are starting characters? You roll on an occupation table to find out. There are 50+ possibilities including gambler, indentured servant, cooper, mercenary, grave digger, noble, woodcutter, shaman, dwarven miner, halfling gypsy, and elven forester. Each occupation provides a starting weapon and a piece of equipment. The mercenary, for example, gets a longsword and a suit of hide armor. The cooper gets a crowbar and a barrel. In addition you get a handful of copper coins; enough for some torches, sacks, and a bit of food but not much else. The rules state that these 0-level characters will have a high level of attrition. No kidding. They also state that a properly sized party of 0-level character is 15 individuals. Wow. I suppose each player has few characters. As member start to die, however, those that are left are better equipped. Suddenly the cooper has a longsword and some armor to go with his crowbar and barrel. I am really intrigued by this idea. There is always the question of where your character came from and this method serves to help answer that question. You in fact guide your character through those first steps of becoming an adventurer. But then there is the question of how your Level 0 Cooper suddenly becomes a Level 1 Warrior skilled in all manner of weapons and acts of martial prowess or a Level 1 Wizard capable of wielding magic and other arcane knowledge. I suppose we could assume the cooper goes off to train for some period of time, but that seems a bit forced. But the idea of a party of poorly equipped 0-level characters going down into a dungeon really sounds like fun. There is a pretty funny illustration in the book depicting just such a group. This idea makes me want to write a solo for Citizen types.

Those are my initial impressions. As I said, I'd likely never play this game but I can see it's appeal. If you have not done so, download a copy and have a look. If nothing else do it for the art.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Solo Design Part 8: Run Away!

Heroes never run.

Yeah, right; that's true of the dead ones at least. The truth is even the greatest warrior, rogue, or wizard may someday meet an opponent that is just too tough to beat. Unfortunately, this realization often comes only after combat has begun. In this instance, it's best to know when to pack it up and run.

In GM run games, retreat is always (or almost always) an option. A GM can easily assess the situation and decide if retreat is possible. With a good plan by the players and perhaps a saving roll or two it should be allowed. Solo adventures should also include the option to run from a fight if it is possible given the situation.

Unfortunately, providing the option to run from a fight and smoothly integrating it into the adventure is not always an easy task. The mechanics are simple enough, but coding such an option can produce a cascading series of consequences that requires several new paragraphs to account for that option. For this reason, the option of retreat is typically not offered in most solo adventures. I'm sure this has led to a number of dead delvers, although a creative player may go ahead and 'write in' an option to run rather than face eventual and certain death after a long series of dice rolls.

So how to do it? The first thing is to provide the option in any combat situation as long as there is a clear path of retreat. If the delver is in a locked room, has just fallen into a pit filled with zombies, or is standing on a narrow ledge with giant rats on either side, then retreat is not really an option. But if a fight is happening in a corridor, what's to stop the delver from turning and running the other way? But don't make running automatically successful. Require a Saving Roll on Dexterity or Speed. Maybe the character even has a Run Away! talent to apply. The level of the saving roll should reflect the difficulty of escaping the opponent (obviously). Is it fast or slow? Does it have extra long arms to reach out and grab the fleeing delver? Are there more than one opponent? Does the delver have to get around the monster to make it out a door? You should also consider the environment and its effect on the likelihood of losing that monster that is in pursuit. A Level 2 Saving Roll is usually good in most situations, but if the delver is fighting a zombie in an open corridor, turning and running should likely only require a Level 1 Saving Roll. Trying to run from something that can fly across an open field may require a Level 4 or 5 Saving Roll.

Failing the saving roll could simply mean that the delver has to keep fighting, but it can also have more interesting consequences. You could penalize the delver's next attack by some or all of his/her personal adds; no adds for Dexterity and Speed for example. A major failure indicated by rolling a 3 could have even more catastrophic results. Perhaps the delver tripped and fell while trying to run? Maybe the monster now gets a free attack? That delver better have some good armor.

If the delver makes the saving roll and manages to escape, then you have some new problems to deal with. Where and how far does the delver run? When given the choice to run, you should provide a direction as well; out the door behind you, back the way you came, down the passage to the right, etc. This makes it clear where the delver will be going. The simplest way to deal with this, although not the most satisfying in my opinion, is to send the player to the paragraph which describes the adjacent location. This may be right outside the room where the delver was just being pummeled by a gang of goblins. But why don't they just walk out the door and continue the beat down? In order to avoid this sort of issue, you may want to make the delver run as far as possible, perhaps to the last cleared room or an established 'safe zone' of some kind. A die roll could also be used to randomly determine where the delver manages to lose his pursuers and is able to stop running.

The next issue is what to do with that monster the delver just ran away from. If the encounter was random, then you can easily assume that the monster randomly wanders away from the scene and the delver may never see it again. No problems there. If it was a set encounter, however, you should leave it there waiting for the delver to return. If there is anything special about first encountering the monster (say it was hiding behind a curtain), you may need to add an "If you've been here before..." line. This line can then send the player to a new paragraph that redirects him/her to different paragraphs if he already defeated the monster or ran away. If the delver ran, then the monster is ready and waiting. See what I mean about cascading consequences. Another interesting but more complicated idea is to have the monster move to a new location or go out looking for the delver and become a wandering monster. Doing the latter is fairly simple; you can direct the player to use the monster as the very next wandering encounter or, if there is a wandering monster list provided, to replace one of the wandering monsters with the newly unleashed beast.

I'm often trying to come up with ways to make solo adventures as flexible as group adventures. Adding the option to run is one simple way to do just that.

Here is an example of including retreat as an option:

1. You open the door and enter a torch-lit room. If you've been here before, go to 7. There is another door in the wall on the opposite side of the room. It may be one step closer to freedom. Unfortunately, standing in front of the door are three large, ugly goblins each wielding an axe and a shield. The one in the middle steps forward and points at your with his axe. "That's him," he says."Get him boys!" All three goblins charge toward you. If you stand and fight them, go to 2. If you turn and run out the door you just entered, go to 3.

2. The goblins quickly surround you and attack. Each goblin has a MR of 30 (4D+15) and can take 5 hits. You can try to run out the door behind you at the end of any combat turn by making a L2SR on DEX. If you make it, go to 4. If you fail, then you must continue to fight, but you lose any adds you receive from DEX for the next combat turn. If you manage to kill all three goblins, go to 12. If your CON is reduced to 0 or less, then the goblins pick your lifeless body clean of valuables laughing all the while.

3. As the goblins rush you, you turn and try to run back out the door. Make a L1SR on DEX. If you make it, go to 4. If you fail, they catch you before you can get out the door. Go to 2.

4. You manage to break free and bolt out the door. You rush down the passage and you hear the heavy stomp boots behind you. The goblins are in pursuit. Make a L1SR on SPD. If you make it, go to 6. If you fail, go to 5.

5. The goblins manage to catch up to you and you find yourself cornered. There is no escape now; you must fight to the death. Each goblin has a MR of 30 (4D+15) and can take 5 hits. If you manage to kill all three goblins, go to 11. If your CON is reduced to 0 or less, then the goblins pick your lifeless body clean of valuables laughing all the while.

6. You are much too quick for the goblins and manage to outrun them. The sound of stomping boots behind is replaced by cursing and eventually even that eventually fades away into the distance. You eventually make it back to the four way intersection. You decide that heading back to the north would be a bad idea. If you go south, go to 20. If you go west, go to 30. If you go east, go to 40. Whichever way you go, you should choose quickly; those goblins could always catch back up with you. The next time you encounter a wandering monster, if you roll an odd number on the Wandering Monster Table you stumble upon the three goblins and should go to 80.

7. If you fought and killed the goblins, go to 8. If you ran from the goblins, go to 9.

8. The bodies of the three goblins you killed still lie on the floor. They are exactly where you left them, but they look stripped clean and a bit gnawed upon. There are two doors leading out of the room. If you go north, go to 60. If you go south, go to 70. If you search for hidden doors, go to 13.

9. There is no sign of the goblins that were here before. The room is a simple square chamber, no more than 20' square, with bare walls. There are two doors leading out of the room. If you go north, go to 60. If you go south, go to 70. If you search for hidden doors, go to 13.

Monday, May 23, 2011

May's Lone Delver

This one is a little late for May, but time has been short lately. Here is yet another illustration by Liz Danforth from the T&T 5th edition rulebook which features a heavily armored female delver. This is another scene that is open to interpretation. From my view she appears to be in a rather tight spot. The open chest may hold great riches, but she seems to be succumbing to whatever strange gases are coming from the two burning braziers and filling the air around her. She may have stooped down to open the chest only to have been overpowered by the gas. Are the skulls those of previous delvers that have fallen victim to this trap? The eye socket of the skull on the right has a jewel inside. Perhaps the chest is full of similar jewels? Whoever owns the treasure may place them in the cleaned out skulls of those who would try to steal it and places them around the chest like a trophy or a warning. This lone delver seems to have ignored the warning.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Solo Sequels

I was wondering what T&T players thought of sequels to solo adventures or series of solo adventures that were linked so that a character could progress from one to another within a set world. Most solos currently out there are stand-alone adventures. There are exceptions to this general statement. One is Tom Grimshaws' three part Secrets of Saxon series. The first two are available in TrollsZine or for download from his excellent T&T website, Tunnels of the Trollamancer. Ken St. Andre and others have done sequels of a sort in the original Flying Buffalo solos as well. In some solos, you may find yourself sent to another such as Arena of Khazan or Naked Doom if you are unlucky enough to be arrested and sent to 'prison.' So examples are out there, but I am wondering if this is something players would like to see more of in solo adventures.

Why am I asking this question? Two of my solos, The Tomb of Baron Gharoth and Temple of Issoth have potential for sequel adventures. I did come up with some basic outlines of these sequel adventures in my mind as I finished each of these solos and I intentionally left the endings a bit open. If you've played either of them, you understand what I mean. This is not to say that these solos are not fully resolved when you finish them, but there is room for more to happen.

Another solo that I am currently working on (very slowly) is designed to have multiple sequels. It's a nice, basic ruin crawl adventure with some good twists and turns (at least I think so). But once you finish the adventure, there are still more ruins to explore. I am thinking of this as a sort of solo 'megadungeon' where you can take a character from adventure to adventure within the same small world; assuming the character survives of course. Over the course of the adventures, the challenges and rewards get greater and you learn more about an ancient civilization.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Solo Review: A Traveler's Tale

A Traveller's Tale is a T&T solo by Ken St. Andre which is a revised version of the solo The Mad Dwarf first published in 1982. In A Traveller's Tale, your character is heading toward the city of Khazan with a pack full of treasure won from a recent adventure. You running through the wilderness in the depth of winter and suddenly find yourself being stalked by a pack of dire wolves. With the weight you're carrying you have little hope of outrunning them. Up ahead you spot a building with smoke rising from the chimney. Could this building be a refuge or is it just another death trap waiting to lure you in? My bet was on the latter, but it beats being eaten alive by wolves.

I made five different attempts at A Traveller's Tale using five different warriors of various strengths and weaknesses. I did not use a rogue or a wizard, since their spells would have been of minimal or no use as stated in the instructions. My adventures lasted an average of 15 minutes, ranging from 5 to 20 minutes. Out of these attempts, three warriors were killed but two managed escaped with their lives and a large amount of gold. The instructions for the solo call for a character with less than 100 adds. This is a bit vague, but I would recommend between 50-60 adds. Of course, there are several situations where adds alone won't help you. To get the most out the the adventure, a well-rounded character with fewer adds will fare better. If you're strong and lucky but dumb, you probably won't survive.

The concept for A Traveler's Tale is simple but well-executed and fun. The solo throws you right into the adventure, running for your life with no need for any complex back story or accepting of any quests. You're in the wilderness being chased down by wolves and see a house. You either enter or you don't. It's a concept I also used in House in the Hills; except the house there was much less welcoming. Whether you enter the house or stay out to face the wolves, the adventure stays simple. But despite the simplicity of design there are a lot of choices to be made, especially if you enter the house. It can be tough to fit a lot of options into a few rooms and Ken does so here quite well.

As usual for Ken, the writing in A Traveler's Tale is excellent. The writing really sets the mood for the adventure. It's tough to figure out what is going to happen and Ken's writing does a good job in not giving anything away. Ken's voice is obviously present and there is a good amount of humor. Did I expect to encounter anthracite used as a description for taste? No, but I loved it. That and the description of the dwarven dancing girls.

The presentation of A Traveler's Tale is pretty good. I only have the pdf version, so I can only really comment about the self-printed copy that I used. You can print the solo as a nice little booklet by folding double-sided pages. It's very legible even when reduced to this size. My only issue is that with the very large margins, you only get two or maybe three paragraphs per page. This make the booklet thicker than it really should be considering the length of the solo. A Traveler's Tale is well illustrated with original artwork by David Ullery, an up and coming artist in the T&T community. The cover illustration is one of my favorites. There are about nine major illustrations for the 40 page booklet, but these are dissected into smaller pieces (a closeup of a single face for example) so that almost every page has some art. Overall the quality of the art is very high, although it does get a little repetitive after a while. A Traveler's Tale also includes a nice random treasure generator at the end of the book which includes tables for different varieties of jewelry, statues, and gems that you could use for other adventures once you've finished the solo.

Editing of solos is always important; it's extremely easy to miss problems when you're trying to string together a large number of paragraphs. There are only a few typos in A Traveler's Tale which is nice. You'd likely miss them if you were not looking. I did encounter a couple of major problems while playing however; they were not fatal but they did require some searching. In two paragraphs you are forced to fight, however the details of your opponents (dice, adds, CON, armor) are not given or only partially provided. You can find these in other paragraphs within the solo, but you have to know where to look. For your information, the dwarf has a CON of 36.

Over all I would recommend picking up a copy of A Traveler's Tale. It was a lot of fun to play and does not take much time so it's great for a quick dose of T&T. The cost is low, only $2.99 for a pdf (my personal preference) from RPGnow or $8.95 for a printed copy from Flying Buffalo. Of course, it you want an autographed copy you should join the elite at Trollhalla and get one from Ken directly.


Now I present the adventure of one of the survivors of A Traveler's Tale, Aughmos Fyc, warrior and gambler extraordinaire. You might recognize this character as one of the pregenerated characters I provided for Temple of Issoth. He is a bit more seasoned at this point, having survived more than his share of horrors. If you don't want to spoil any of the surprised in A Traveler's Tale, you should probably stop reading now.

Aughmos Fyc, Human Warrior Level 2
ST 30 IQ 25 DX 30 LK 48 CON 30 SPD 30 CHR 20 WIZ 20 Adds +90

Equipment: Saber, bank, scale armor, backpack, flint and steel, 3 torches, small sack, second-aid kit

Aughmos heard the howling of the dire wolves again. They were definitely getting closer. Every now and then he caught a glimpse of their massive forms through the sheets of falling snow. Aughmos's pack dug into his shoulders. The weight of the gold inside was proving to be too much for his failing strength. He was going to have to make a decision soon. Suddenly he spotted a building ahead. Thin tendrils of smoke rose from the chimney, suggesting warmth and safety. Aughmos gathered up the last of his strength and ran for the door.

Aughmos made it to the door. An old sign showed a dwarf holding an axe and sticking out his tongue. Odd, Aughmos thought. Despite the strangeness of the sign, Aughmos knocked on the door. The door flew open and out stepped a grimy looking dwarf holding a large mug. His face was covered in hair, as with most dwarves, but he also had a jeweled patch covering his right eye. The dwarf snarled at Aughmos and said, "Come in or hit the road! It's cold out here and I hear wolves." Aughmos was not sure what to think of the obviously drunk dwarf, but he seemed less dangerous than a pack of dire wolves.

Aughmos entered the building. Inside was a large chamber with a low ceiling. There was a bar covered in bottles, vials and barrels. Hanging above the bar was a painting showing nude maidens dancing in the moonlight. Several darts were stuck in the picture. A large pot of foul-smelling stew simmered over a fireplace on the other side of the room.

"It will be 10 gold pieces to stay the night. Food and drink are extra!"

That seemed a bit steep, so Aughmos tried to haggle with the dwarf. Eventually Aughmos was able to convince the dwarf to include the food and drinks in the 10 gp price. Aughmos handed the dwarf the money and then went to stand in front of the fire to get warm. Standing by the fire, Aughmos started to get drowsy. The dwarf continued to drink and started to mellow out a little. Looking at the bar, Aughmos decided to join him. The drinks tasted awful, but Aughmos started to feel better and better after each one.

"Whatcha want to do now?" the dwarf asked. "We could play darts or I could bring out the dancing girls?"

"Dancing girls?" Aughmos asked. "That sounds like an excellent idea."

The dwarf stood and staggered through a curtain. You then hear him pounding on a gong. Suddenly you hear three dwarvish voice singing. Three female dwarves come through the curtains and begin to sing and dance before you. They wear very little and their dance holds Aughmos spellbound. After a long while, the dancers finish and run back through the curtain. Aughmos felt strangely different from watching the dance.

"Time for bed!" the dwarf said. He grabbed Aughmos's arm and led him to a cramped little room filled by a massive bronze bed.

"See ya in the morning crowbait," the dwarf shouted and left.

Aughmos stood alone in the room looking at the bed. It was certainly made for a dwarf. His legs would hang off the edge. Aughmos stepped up to the bed and gave it a closer look. As he looked at the footboard, Aughmos noticed that there was a razor sharp blade hidden inside of it. If he had stretched his legs across the footboard, they would have been sliced off. Aughmos felt the anger build inside of him. He drew his saber and left the room to find the dwarf.

The dwarf stood in the main room. He looked surprised but angry to see Aughmos. He quickly picked up an axe leaning against the wall and charged. Aughmos raised his sword and met the dwarf half way. In a quick exhange of blows, the dwarf was dead. His head lay on the floor near the fireplace. His body flopped against the bar.

"Serves you right," Aughmos said coldly as he sheathed his sword. Now that he was alone, Aughmos began to search the inn. Aughmos checked the bar first, but only found more of the dwarf's foul booze. After having one more drink Aughmos resumed his search. He eventually found the gong the dwarf used to summon the dancing girls. Aughmos considered ringing it, but decided against it. Better to just bed down in front of the fire for the night with his sword close at hand.

Aughmos woke in the morning refreshed. The wolves should have left by now, he thought. Looking over the carnage, Aughmos picked up the dwarf's axe and plucked the jeweled eye patch from his severed head. He then picked up his heavily laden pack and set back out into the wilderness headed for Khazan.