Friday, April 22, 2011

New Solos Published

A number of new Tunnels and Trolls solos have come out in the last couple of months. If this deluge is any indication, 2011 seems to be the year for new T&T solos. I'd better get back to work on my own.

A Traveler's Tale by Ken St. Andre

This adventure is a recreation of an oldy but goody, The Mad Dwarf, which originally appeared in White Dwarf Magazine in 1982. In Travelers Tale you are trying to make your way home with a pack full of treasure when a group of dire wolves starts to hunt you. As you run, you see a house appear in the mist with smoke coming from the chimney. Do you run for the house or try to face the wolves? A Traveler's Tale has been designed for use with the 7th edition rules and is suitable for a single human, elf, dwarf, or hobb character with less than 100 adds (1st-3rd level). I'm not quite sure what that means, so I'll have to send some scouts in first to test the water. The solo contains 49 paragraphs and a random treasure generator. It contains several quality illustrations by David Ullery. You can get a pdf copy from RPGnow for $2.99 or a printed copy from Flying Buffalo for $8.95.

A Sworded Adventure by Ken St. Andre
This is another reprint of a classic T&T solo which first appeared in Sorcerer's Apprentice #5 in 1979. In this solo, you're in the city of Khazan simply trying to get your sword fixed. What's the worst that could happen? Pickpockets, uruks, and undead that's what. A Sworded Adventure is also designed for the 7th edition rules and is suitable for a single human warrior with 50 adds or less. This solo can send your character to other Flying Buffalo solos including Arena of Khazan and Naked Doom, so be warned. A Sworded Adventure contains 31 paragraphs and is once again illustrated by David Ullery. You can get a pdf copy from RPGnow for $2.95 or a printed copy from Flying Buffalo for $8.95.

Escape from Khosht by Andrew Greene

This yet another solo that has been around for a while that has been given new life. Escape From Khosht has been available for FREE on Blue Frog Tavern since 2002. Now it has been revamped and republished by Fabled Worlds and is marvelously illustrated by Jeff Freels. In Escape From Khosht you and two comrades have just taken part in the theft of a valuable diamond, The Eye of the Beast. But once you obtain the gem things start to go very wrong and you are soon running for your life through the streets of Khosht. This solo has been designed for humans, dwarves, elves, and hobbs of any character type with 75-95 adds. There are some restrictions on the total number of weapon dice allowed (10) and hits taken (12). Spell casting is allowed and instructions for the use of combat spells and other spells are provided. There are three pregenerated characters available to use (a wizard, rogue, and warrior) as well as details for your two NPC comrades. Escape from Khosht contains 97 paragraphs and many nice illustrations. You can get a pdf copy from RPGnow for FREE!

Catch It If You Can by Brian Penn

This is a bit of a science fiction twist from the standard T&T solo. Catch It If You Can has been published by Peryton Publishing in it's Winter-Spring 2011 edition of Elder Tunnels. Each edition features a different theme, and this one was science fantasy. Catch It is a short solo where you find yourself working for a company that provides bio-enhancements. I'm intrigued about what can happen here. In the process of playing you appear to be able to purchase your own bio-enhancements and sci-fi gear. The solo is designed for characters of levels 1-3 of any type or kin (I think). Catch It contains 32 paragraphs but only one illustration. When you buy Elder Tunnels you not only get the solo but also two science fantasy GM adventures; it's quite a bargain. You can get a pdf copy from RPGnow for $4.99 or a printed copy from Lulu for $7.99.

Depths of the Devilmancer by Scott Malthouse
This new solo has been released today and is written by the author of the Trollish Delver blog. In Devilmancer you travel to Port Gloomstorm where strange devil-creatures have been carrying the good townspeople away. There is a cavern outside of the town said to contain untold riches. Could the two be connected? Devilmancer is written for the 7th edition rules and designed for a single warrior of level 1-3 with 30 or fewer adds. The solo consists of 40 paragraphs and some public domain artwork. You can get a pdf copy for FREE from Lulu or a printed copy for $4.53 also from Lulu.

I plan on playing through each of these solos in the coming weeks and posting brief play reports and reviews. I'll be doing the same with a couple of other solos that have come out this year and I've mentioned previously. I'll pull Phineas the Red out of limbo and use him where I can to see if he can obtain more glory and gold.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

So it appears both Scott from Trollish Delver and Gamecaster from T&T Liasha World (a new T&T blog on my radar) have awarded me with the Stylish Blogger Award a couple of days ago. Thanks guys. But it appears that there are requirements to fulfill when you receive this award (there's always a catch). First you have to acknowledge and link back to those that gave you the award. Done. Next you have to share seven things about yourself. Hmmm. Here goes.

1. I was a member of the Society for Creative Anachronisms in the late 80s and early 90s. I never really got into the costumes and personas, but I loved the fighting.

2. After high school I enlisted in the Army and served as a TOW gunner.

3. My favorite TV series is currently Battlestar Galactica, the new version, even though it's been off the air for some time. I own all of the DVDs.

4. I cannot stand raspberries.

5. My favorite band is Green Day, and it has been for some time.

6. I love to go hiking, especially with my wife. One of my favorites was to the Harding Ice Field in Alaska.

7. Ruins fascinate me.

Finally you need to nominate some additional blogs that you think deserve the award and then let them know. Let's see, here are eight in no particular order:

1. Trollish Delver: I'll hand this right back to Scott although I know you're already received one. His blog is cool and slick and has lots of great material for T&T. Plus he has a nice free GM adventure available to download and a solo on the way.

2. Troll Hammer: It's been a while since it's been updated, but the Creature Feature alone makes this a great blog for T&T enthusiasts to check out.

3. Maximum Rock and Role Playing: A cool blog on all things gaming and not with some great photos of minis. He's currently searching for miniatures to use in The Royal Armies of the Hyborian Age. Chad is also a fantastic artist.

4. Tran Eskoor an Doon: A nice mix of gaming related musings including lots of great random tables from one of the founding fathers of TrollsZine. He's also a fantastic GM no matter what he says.

5. Tenkar's Tavern: A nice assortment of gaming and gaming-related greatness.

6. Jeff's Gameblog: One of the first gaming blogs I started reading. Jeff is just awesome. His current project, the One Issue Campaign is brilliant and I can't wait to see more.

7. The Omnipotent Eye: Another one of the first gaming blogs I started reading; always great stuff on a variety of game systems to get the idea machine churning.

8. Turn to 400: I just learned about this one from Trollish Delver. This blog includes play reports and thoughts on various Fighting Fantasy game books. There are not that many posts, but they are fun to read.

Thanks again for the award.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

April's Lone Delver

This lone delver is in a lot of trouble. The illustration is by Peter Laird and is from the Flying Buffalo solo Arena of Khazan by Ken St. Andre. Arena of Khazan, as the name suggests, involves characters fighting as gladiators for the amusement of the citizens of Khazan and it's ruler Lerotra'hh, the Death Goddess. Characters might end up as gladiators in the arena as punishment for crimes they did or did not commit or they may simply be there to make some money. Either way, you must fight three battles against whatever the arena masters choose to throw at you before you can leave with your freedom and winnings. This can result in some pretty outrageous battles and some of the best "Oh sh*!" illustrations from a T&T solo, like the one above where a gladiator has been paired up with a Balrog. You only see the back side of the warrior, but I'm pretty sure I can imagine what his expression looks like at that moment. No one said it was going to be easy.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Alternative T&T Combat Methods

Combat resolution in Tunnels and Trolls is well known for being simple and abstract. Combat mechanics break down simply into each side rolling a handful (or bucket full as the case may be) of six-sided dice, adding them up, and comparing the two final numbers. Whichever side has the highest score wins and the loser takes damage equal to the difference in the two numbers. What could be simpler? Of course, some players are not completely happy with this system. It can create situations where only one side takes damage for an entire battle or never-ending struggles when two sides are evenly matched. This was partially taken care of by the addition of 'Spite' damage, where 1 point of damage is dealt for every six rolled regardless of whether who won or lost the combat turn. The system is also a bit too abstract for some players who prefer to have more complex combats resolved for each individual rather that sides. In response to this, there have been alternate combat mechanics suggested. I am aware of three that I like to some degree which I describe below. I have also been considering one of my own design.

Ken St. Andre wrote about adapting the rules of T&T to fit your own style of play in his essay "A World of Your Own" from White Dwarf #20 in 1982. Of course, Ken has always stated that players are free to change the T&T rules in whatever way they want; it is in fact the core tenant of the T&T rules. But in this essay, Ken specifically mentioned the combat mechanics of T&T and briefly described an alternate means of running combat to handle the 'problem' that only the losing side takes damage. In this system players and monsters have a percentage chance to hit, that way everyone has a chance to hit and score damage regardless of a winning or losing side. If a hit is successful, then the dice are rolled for the weapon, weapon and personal adds are accounted for, and that is the amount of damage dealt. Ken presents an example of a dwarf attacking a dragon. The dwarf has a 50% chance to hit with his axe, which does 5 dice + 3 damage in addition to his 10 personal adds. The dragon has a 65% chance to hit and has a Monster Rating of 200 giving him 21 dice and 100 adds. This is an interesting idea; Ken states that this is similar to the RuneQuest system of the time. It does require some way of determining the percent chance to hit for each character and monster, however. For characters, this could be based on character type and level. With only three basic types, this is fairly simple. A warrior type could start at 50%, a rogue at 40%, and a wizard at 30% for example. For simplicity, chance to hit could increase by 5% per level for all types. Monsters might be a bit more complicated, but it could be a simple formula like (50% + MR/4) rounded down to the nearest 5% (i.e. MR 1-19 = 50%, 20-39 = 55%, 40-59 = 60%, etc.). I like the idea of this system, particularly for solo adventures where you sometimes face monsters that you just cannot beat using the standard T&T combat system and where there is no option to flee. The damage potential of weapons and monsters might need to be altered for this system to work effectively, however; most battles might be over after a single die roll if starting Constitution is determined with 3D6 and most weapons do 3D6 to 5D6 points of damage.

In an article entitled "Elaborations, Variations, Complications" published in Sorcerer's Apprentice #17 (1983), Stephan Jones described another type of variant combat for T&T. Stephen indicated that his system solved the "all or nothing" method of normal T&T combat. In this system combatants have an Attack Total (AT) and a Defense Total (DT). The AT is determined by rolling weapon dice and then adding weapon adds and personal adds as in normal T&T combat. This number is compared to the DT of his/her opponent. The DT is equal to the defenders personal adds, the number of weapon dice, and the value of any armor and shield. If your AT is greater than the DT of your target, then you have scored a hit. To find the number of hits of damage dealt, you simply subtract DT from AT. Warriors are given the option of splitting their AT against multiple opponents. This is an interesting system that keeps the basic simplicity of the standard T&T combat system, but effectively separates attack and defense abilities. It also makes defense entirely static as opposed to standard combat.

John Harrington's Tunnels and Trolls Players Companion from Take That You Fiend! Magazine presented another alternate combat system with separate attack and defense scores. In this system, the combat total is rolled as usual (weapon dice rolled + weapon adds + personal adds), then each combatant decides how many points will be allocated to Attack and Defense. In this way, some individuals can focus on defending themselves while others may commit all-out-attacks. The attack scores are then compared to the defense scores for those involved in the battle. If the attack score is higher, then a hit is made and the difference determines the number of hits to be absorbed by armor and Constitution. Obviously, this does require the combat to be broken up into individual fights if there are more than three combatants. This is another simple but effective-looking system, but it does have one major drawback. Because it requires the combatant to choose how much they commit to attack and defense, it wouldn't do well in solo play. In group play, however, it seems like a good alternative.

My own current thoughts on an alternate combat system are based around the T&T Saving Roll. It works so well in so many situations including ranged combat, why not use it for close combat as well?

In order to facilitate this system a new attribute is needed to roll against. I have called this new attribute Combat Ability. Combat Ability is simply the average of Strength, Luck, and Dexterity (and Speed if you're using 7th edition). The level of the Saving Roll needed to hit in close combat is determined by the characters Level and the Monster Rating or Level of the opponent. A Level 1 character needs to make a L1SR to hit an opponent with a MR of 1-19, a L2SR to hit an opponent with a MR of 20-29, and so on (see table below). A Level 2 character needs to make a L1SR to hit an opponent with a MR of 1-29, a L2SR to hit MR 30-39, etc. The same progression is made as characters gain higher levels, adding 10 to the MR at each Saving Roll level. Players can also choose to use some of their character's Personal Adds toward the 'to-hit' roll, but this must be decided before the roll is made. In this way characters can focus more on hitting their opponent at the expense of doing less damage. In all cases, you need to make at least a L1SR to hit and a roll of 3 is an automatic miss. Doubles add and roll over as in normal Saving Rolls.


Example: Brion the Ugly is a 1st level warrior with a Combat Ability of 14, a Constitution of 12, 6 Personal Adds, wields a saber (3+4), and has soft leather armor and a target shield (takes 9x2 hits). He is fighting a goblin with a MR of 20 wearing armor that takes 4 hits. Brion needs to make a L2SR on his CA to hit the goblin which means he needs an 11 or greater on 2D6. To improve his odds of hitting, Brion's player opts to commit all 6 of his Personal Adds to the 'to hit' roll so that he only needs to roll a 5 or greater. Brion's player rolls a 7 and hits. He now rolls 3D6+4 for damage and gets a 14. Ten hits get past the goblin's makeshift armor, seriously wounding him.

Personalized monsters with attributes and levels can be easily used in this system. For opponents with Monster Ratings, you should assign a Combat Ability which could be equal to 3/4 of their MR or whatever the GM chooses. This caveat allows for the production of highly skilled but physically weak monsters in the Monster Rating system. The level of saving roll needed to hit is determined using the same table as for characters. As a rule, monsters cannot apply their adds to their Saving Roll.

As in regular T&T combat, attacks are considered simultaneous, and the effects of damage are not considered until the next combat turn.

Example: It's now the goblins turn. Since he has a MR of 20 and is facing a Level 1 character, he only needs a L1SR to hit Brion. He has a CA of 13, so he needs a 7 or greater on two dice. The goblin rolls a 9 and also hits. He rolls 3+10 for damage and gets 24. Luckily Brion's armor can absorb 18 hits and he only takes 6 hits to his CON. At the start of the second combat turn, the goblin has a MR of 10 and Brion has a Con of 6.

As you can see, this method of combat resolution can lead to quick kills. As with Ken's suggestion above, application of this system would require the reduction of damage dice and adds.

Another interesting aspect of this combat system, is that it allows a change in the way Adventure Points are awarded for combat. Traditionally all combatant earn APs equal to the evenly divided MR total of the opponents defeated. In a Saving Roll based combat system, APs earned in combat can be based on the the SRs. In the example above, Brion's attack on the goblin (L2SR) would earn him 2 x 7 = 14 APs. What I really like about this idea is that the number of APs earned in a fight is controlled by the challenge presented. A Level 1 character fighting a monster with a MR of 30 will earn significantly more APs than a Level 3 character fighting a monster with a MR of 10 (if he survives) and that's how it should be. Adventure Points are supposed to be awarded on the basis of overcoming challenges. Also, in this system, a character can earn APs from a battle even if he/she loses and survives or runs away after a few combat turns. One potential problem with this sytsem, however, is that those not actively involved in the hand-to-hand combat, like wizards, won't earn AP. But, they still could gain AP by contributing to the battle by casting spells or firing missile weapons (these SRs would now count toward earning AP). So this actually sets the stage for the different character types earning APs and Levels in different ways; warriors fight, wizards cast spells, rogues do both. I kind of like that idea.